The Cardinal Nation Blog top stories of 2010 #20: Marty Mason’s firing

The St. Louis Cardinals fired their bullpen coach and promoted his replacement from within.

Beginning with the hiring of Jeff Luhnow six years ago, there were undercurrents of dissent within the St. Louis Cardinals organization over new initiatives led by the baseball outsider.

After Luhnow took over scouting, the draft and the minor league system and general manager Walt Jocketty was fired following the 2007 season, much of the publicly-visible discord seemed to die down, as a more business-as-usual mode appeared in place.

There were still underlying issues, however. For example, late in the 2009 season, major league pitching coach Dave Duncan went public with concerns over minor league preparation of youngsters arriving in St. Louis.

Apparently, while the messages were being delivered, organizational change was not occurring fast enough for some.

Following the 2010 season, long-time bullpen coach Marty Mason, Duncan’s right-hand man, was let go by the Cardinals. The primary reason stated had little or nothing to do with Mason’s performance in his job. Instead, Mason was sent packing because of his ongoing and outspoken criticism of the organization’s player development processes.

Mason had been in his job for 11 years and employed by the organization as a coach for a quarter century. In an unusual stretch following a long period of continuity, the 52-year-old became the second member of Tony La Russa’s staff to be fired in two seasons. Hitting coach Hal McRae departed one year ago to make room for Mark McGwire.

A side benefit presented for Mason’s removal was to open up a job promotion for a deserving minor league coach, an opportunity missed when McGwire was hired from outside the organizational ranks. Mason was replaced by Jupiter-based minor league pitching coordinator Derek Lilliquist.

Lilliquist was the first internal promotion to the Cardinals major league staff since Joe Pettini was moved up from minor league field coordinator to bench coach nine years earlier. That same year, 2002, Lilliquist first joined the organization. At the age of 44, the former major league left-handed pitcher becomes the youngest coach on the staff.

Through the actions surrounding Mason’s dismissal, general manager John Mozeliak made it clear that he is expecting his entire organization to pull together.

Update: On Thursday, December 16, the Chicago Cubs named Mason their 2011 pitching coach for Double-A Tennessee.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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