||12-26-2006 11:32 PM
Looking Back on an Odd 2006
A new owner, a new general manager and a whole lot of new players. Not to mention the new uniforms that came following the season.
Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Phillips, Scott Hatteberg, David Ross and Kyle Lohse were just a few of the 46 player acquisitions busy general manager Wayne Krivsky made in 2006. Some of the holdover players, like Aaron Harang and Edwin Encarnacion, took steps forward.
The year of transition also brought an unexpected run for the playoffs. While the club ultimately finished 80-82 after a horrible stretch run, there was still some optimism brewing about the Reds for the first time in several years.
Ushering in a new era and promising a contender, the ownership group led by Robert Castellini was formally approved by Major League Baseball. Castellini took over as chief executive officer the following day and immediately sought to reach out to Reds fans frustrated by recent losing seasons. "We're buying the Reds to win," said Castellini.
It didn't take long for changes to follow under the new regime. Shortly after Castellini took over, he dismissed general manager Dan O'Brien.
After nearly 30 years as a baseball executive, which included finishing second to O'Brien for the job in 2003, Krivsky finally became a big-league GM when he was hired by Castellini.
Krivsky wasted no time getting to work. Within days of his hiring, he signed several free agents, including veteran first baseman Hatteberg. He also signed slugger Adam Dunn to a two-year contract extension.
The Grapefruit League season opened March 2, with news that pitching coach Vern Ruhle was diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer. Ruhle took a leave of absence from the club and returned for a handful of games late in the regular season. He was re-assigned to a new position after the season as he continued his recovery.
Krivsky pulled his first major trade of his tenure late in Spring Training, when he sent slugging outfielder Wily Mo Pena to the Red Sox for starting pitcher Arroyo. The move helped the Reds bolster what was seen as a questionable rotation. Later, catcher David Ross was acquired from the Padres just before starting catcher Jason LaRue went down with a knee injury that required surgery and derailed his season.
Featuring a ceremonial first pitch from President George W. Bush, the Reds opened the 2006 season with a loss against the Cubs.
In a trade that surprised many, infielder Phillips was acquired from the Indians for a player to be named. The acquisition gave Cincinnati four second basemen on the roster, but Phillips quickly emerged as a breakout star.
In each of Arroyo's first two NL starts of his career, he managed to hit a home run. Both came off of Cubs left-hander Glendon Rusch. In the April 11 game at Chicago, Cincinnati hit six homers overall in a rout.
A right knee injury suffered at Wrigley Field put center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. on the disabled list. Griffey missed a month of action.
Griffey returned from the DL a hero, however. His May 11 walk-off, three-run home run in the bottom of the 11th gave the Reds a 5-4 win over the Nationals.
In a telling sign that the club was willing to do what it took to get better, lefty Dave Williams was designated for assignment after the pitcher got off to a slow start. Williams, who was acquired in the Sean Casey trade from Pittsburgh in December 2005, was making $1.4 million.
In the midst of an eight-game winning streak during the club's 2006 zenith, Griffey hit the game-winning homer in an 8-7 win at St. Louis' new Busch Stadium. It was the record-tying 43rd Major League ballpark in which Griffey had homered.
Arroyo picked up his ninth victory with a complete game over the Mets on June 19, but he didn't earn another winning decision until Aug. 16.
Happy with the start of the Reds' season, Castellini moved quickly and extended the contracts of both Krivsky and manager Jerry Narron on June 28.
Scoring all of its runs in the eighth and ninth innings, Cincinnati earned a dramatic, 9-8 win over the Indians. It was Dunn's thrilling, walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth that finished Cleveland.
As part of a huge bullpen renovation, Eddie Guardado was acquired from the Mariners and installed as the Reds' new closer. A week later, what would eventually become the most controversial trade of the season was finalized when Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner were sent to the Nationals for Gary Majewski, Bill Bray, Royce Clayton and two Minor Leaguers.
One night after Ryan Freel's spectacular diving catch helped rob Albert Pujols and the Cardinals of a victory, Ross' two-run homer over the center-field batter's eye provided Cincinnati with an 8-7 walk-off win over the Cardinals on Aug. 9.
A playoff-derailing 2-8 West Coast road trip knocked the club out of the Wild Card lead. No loss hurt more than the 6-5 defeat to the Dodgers that lasted 16 innings. Ryan Franklin threw one pitch in relief for the loss -- and allowed a Ramon Martinez walk-off homer.
Arroyo's three-hit shutout of the Giants on Sept. 5 was one of several big games the right-hander had down the stretch.
But not to be eclipsed was Harang, who threw two of his league-leading six complete games in the season's final full month. Harang won his 16th game in his last start on Sept. 29.
One of the most dramatic moments of the Reds' season came on Sept. 25, when Griffey returned from a three-week absence because of a toe injury. Pinch-hitting in the eighth inning vs. the Cubs, Junior's three-run homer gave the Reds a 5-4 come-from-behind win.
Already eliminated from the postseason on the second-to-last day of the season, the Reds ended the 2006 campaign with a loss at Pittsburgh and missed out on a .500 record.
October brought two new hires to the Reds' broadcast team and plenty of buzz. First, Thom Brennaman was signed to team with father and Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman in select games on WLW. At the end of the month, former reliever and ESPN analyst Jeff Brantley was also hired as Marty's primary partner.
The Reds filled two spots on Narron's coaching staff when Brook Jacoby was hired as the hitting coach and Dick Pole became the new pitching coach.
Nov. 20 was a busy day for the club. First, free agent shortstop Alex Gonzalez and free agent reliever Mike Stanton were signed. Later, the club traded its longest-tenured player when LaRue went to Kansas City for a player to be named.
A new and improved RedsFest was back after a two-year hiatus. The event was kicked off by the unveiling of the club's new-look uniforms during a special fashion show with the players.
The Reds lacked making a major splash during the annual Winter Meetings, but were able to re-sign reliever David Weathers.
On the final day of the Meetings, the club took a calculated risk by dealing for former overall No. 1 draft pick Josh Hamilton during the Rule 5 Draft. Hamilton has missed most of the past four years because of injuries and a drug problem.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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