Jocketty puts pieces together
Cards general manager built strong and resilient squad
ST. LOUIS -- A month ago, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty wasn't sure this night was going to come to pass, not with his team struggling to the finish line."Just ask my wife, Sue," Jocketty said. "I was pretty grouchy around the house. But my job was just to support Tony [La Russa] and the players and reinforce what we were trying to do." What the Cardinals were trying to do was get into the playoffs, and they barely made it. But then Jocketty saw something else in Game 1 against the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series. "It all seemed to come together that first game in San Diego," Jocketty said. "We knew we had the talent but we had so many injuries and so many problems. But when we saw that team on the field with [David] Eckstein at shortstop and [Jim] Edmonds in center field, Chris Carpenter on the mound, it all came together. It was a big lift, psychologically." Thus began the run that finally ended on Friday when the Cardinals won their first World Series championship in 24 years by defeating the Detroit Tigers, 4-2, in the fifth and deciding game of the 2006 World Series. Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski was among the first to congratulate Jocketty, the 55-year-old native of Minnesota who -- early in his career -- had once represented the entire Oakland Athletics front office under owner Charlie Finley. He survived that, took the Cardinals job 12 years ago, hired manager La Russa one year later and finally, on Friday, achieved his goal of bringing a world championship to St. Louis. "This is what we all strive for as general manager," Jocketty said. "We've had a number of teams in the playoffs but we were never able to achieve a world championship. If nothing else ever happens to me, at least I can say I was once a part of a world championship club. "But, to bring a world championship to St. Louis, it's really special." They probably don't make it without some of the moves Jocketty made during the course of the season and he had to take special satisfaction in having Jeff Weaver on the mound for Game 5. Jocketty, with his starting rotation struggling with injuries, acquired Weaver from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 5 for Minor League outfielder Terry Evans. It may be that Evans turns into the next Edmonds or Albert Pujols. But Weaver was terrific on Friday night, holding the Tigers to two runs, one earned, in eight innings. "You try to put together a club in the offseason and then try to adjust during the season," Jocketty said. "You have holes that come up and you have to adjust but it can be very difficult to make moves. Weaver was a guy we liked. [Cardinals pitching coach] Dave Duncan had a chance to look at some video and felt there were some things he could correct. He was outstanding tonight." So was Adam Wainwright, the rookie right-hander who closed out Friday's victory by striking out Brandon Inge in the ninth inning. Wainwright was one of three players acquired in a 2003 trade with the Atlanta Braves for outfielder J.D. Drew and he stepped in as the Cardinals closer in mid-September. "We don't make that trade without Adam Wainwright in there," Jocketty said. There were other moves. Jocketty, the guy who brought Mark McGwire to St. Louis, has always been an aggressive general manager. Edmonds and third baseman Scott Rolen were acquired via trade. Eckstein -- the Most Valuable Player of the World Series -- was signed as a free agent. This season the Cardinals traded for Weaver and second baseman Ronnie Belliard and signed Preston Wilson after the Houston Astros had released him in August. They were all a part of Friday's celebration. "We had to make a lot of adjustments," Jocketty said. "We lost a lot of key guys. But like I said, it finally came together in that first game in St. Louis and now this. Tony and I, we've been through a lot of tough times together. But our goal was to bring a World Series to St. Louis and I'm glad we finally did it."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.