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Friday, April 25, 2008

Baseball | Reds Owner Castellini Getting Hammered Nationally

Reds owner Bob Castellini is getting hammered by the ESPN.com crowd. In the past couple of days, both Jayson Stark and Buster Olney have devoted significant column space to the unexpected firing of GM Wayne Krivsky:

From Stark's column yesterday:

Reds owner Bob Castellini has no idea how many people in baseball he alienated by firing his GM, Wayne Krivsky -- as well-liked and highly respected a man as you'll find in the business. "They just went from a team you root for to a team you root against," is the way one veteran baseball man put it Wednesday. Sure, Krivsky made his share of mistakes. Goes with the turf. But have there been three bigger steals in the past two years than Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena, Brandon Phillips for Jeff Stevens, or Josh Hamilton for 50,000 bucks? And Jeff Keppinger for Russ Haltiwanger is right up there, too.

So why was this guy fired again? Because this team came out of spring training with a little promise and then started 9-12? Ridiculous. The Yankees, Phillies, Cubs and Rockies were all 9-12 or worse last year this time -- and made the playoffs. "There's nothing worse than these owners who treat the national pastime like it's the frigging stock market," said an official of one team. "They think it's got to keep going up, up, up, every day. But that's just not the way of works. This is a game of human beings."

From Buster Olney's daily blog:

Wayne Krivsky didn't see his firing coming at all. Nobody did, other than Reds owner Bob Castellini, because even after Castellini hired Walt Jocketty to be the heir apparent to Krivsky -- and created a tense atmosphere that rival general managers thought affected Krivsky -- the assumption was that no change would be considered until after the 2008 season.

Because, after all, what sense does it make to make a change 21 games into the season? If Castellini ultimately intended to install Jocketty, if he intended to dump Krivsky at the first sign of failure, then he should've made this move last fall. By waiting, Castellini became part of the problem.

According to sources, one of Castellini's major internal complaints about Krivsky's work was his spring signing of Josh Fogg, who subsequently pitched poorly for the Reds before being dropped from the rotation. But Fogg was signed out of desperation, with Krivsky seemingly reacting to Castellini's win-now dictum. If Castellini had simply made the change he wanted to make last fall, Jocketty could have made the deliberate, big-picture decisions that the Reds needed at that stage in their development. Or Castellini could have decided to wait until the end of this season to evaluate Krivsky, who has been on the job a mere 26 months.

But instead, Castellini straddled the decision-making process, and the Reds are worse off for it.

At worst, Krivsky's grade in operating the Reds would be a solid B. He swapped for Brandon Phillips just before the second baseman blossomed. And while Krivsky would modestly say he did not see stardom coming in Phillips, a rival GM says this: "The bottom line is, he went out and got the guy for nothing, and he deserves credit for that."

Krivsky essentially got Josh Hamilton for nothing, picking up the center fielder for relative pennies in the Rule 5 draft. And at a time when you cannot get good young pitching through trades, Krivsky pried Edinson Volquez away from the Rangers for Hamilton. "In this market," said an assistant GM, "that's a steal to get a pitcher who can make an impact."

He got Jeff Keppinger for nothing. He made a great trade in his first month on the job, swapping Wily Mo Pena for Bronson Arroyo, who gave the Reds a couple of good years. The Reds probably overpaid for Francisco Cordero and have probably hung on to both of their lumbering corner outfielders, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, when they might have been better off moving one or the other. But it is unclear if those decisions were, in fact, made by Krivsky, or above him.

Within the industry, the Reds' swap of Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez for relievers Bill Bray and Gary Majewski is widely regarded as a terrible deal, because evaluators feel Krivsky didn't get equal value for position players and very much overrated the prospective impact of middle relievers. But Kearns and Lopez really haven't made much more of an impact for Washington than Bray and Majewski have for the Reds; we are not going to look back in the same vein as Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio or Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez for Adam Eaton.

The Alex Gonzalez signing was a gamble, and appears to be a bust. The Mike Stanton signing turned out to be a $7 million mistake, and signing Corey Patterson to a $3 million deal for 2008 was odd, given Patterson's track record. But the only team that has a perfect record in the free-agent market recently has been the Florida Marlins, who choose to play the nickel slots. Every team has made free-agent gaffes, and you can credit Krivsky for this: As Jocketty considers changes moving forward, he won't be saddled with any Zito or Soriano or Giambi contract albatrosses. Almost all of Krivsky's signings have been two- and three-year deals.

The Reds have pieces they can build on: Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Volquez, first baseman Joey Votto, and star prospect Jay Bruce, who should be called up in the next month or so. Jocketty is in an excellent position to make this team better. And while Castellini might not think so, Krivsky deserves a lot of credit for that.

Firing a GM is not like firing a manager, writes Paul Daugherty, who notes that the draft is not far away. Jocketty says it's not too late to win this year, and he's looking to establish a winning atmosphere. It wouldn't be surprising if one of the first things he does is to gauge the trade value of Dunn; rival evaluators say that the Reds need more athleticism in their outfield, and Dunn might bring back some return in a deal. The losing must stop, says Castellini.

Tags: Baseball, Reds

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