By Hal McCoy | Wednesday, April 23, 2008, 05:05 PM
The first thing that came to mind when Bob Castellini spoke was former Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe on a podium at the United Nations and saying, “We will bury you.”
Castellini, his face a solid concrete etched in solemn passion, looked down when asked, “Why now? Why fire general manager Wayne Krivsky now?”
Then his head shot up and he said, “We’ve come to the point where we just aren’t going to lose anymore.”
You could almost see Krivsky’s successor, Walt Jocketty, cringe at those words, although he later said, “I’m not worried about it, I do it because I want to do it, not that I need to do it.”
Castellini said the reason for Krivsky’s dismissal can mostly be found in the won-lost column. Is that fair? 9-12? Twenty-one games. Even Tony Perez lasted longer than that into a season, 44 games as manager before Jim Bowden fired him.
“Nobody in the organization is happy with our 9-12 won-loss record,” Castellini said. “We’ve had two losing seasons under our new ownership and we’ve started out this season poorly, on a won-loss basis, and that’s the primary reason we made the change.”
Castellini was testy when asked about continuity — four managers and six general managers (two were co-GMs on an interim basis in the last six seasons.
“We haven’t had six, we’ve had two,” he said, using semantics. The organization has had six GMs since 2002 — Jim Bowden, co-interims Brad Kullman and Leland Maddox, Dan O’Brien, Krivsky and Jocketty. “The franchise has…yes.”
So is he concerned about continuity? “Absolutely I am. Absolutely. I respect the question, but this has been a very tough decision. Krivsky did a whale of a job in some areas.”
Jocketty jumped to Castellini’s rescue.
“I believe in continuity,” he said. “Very much so. But sometime it takes a little time to get thins the way you want. There are a lot of quality people and quite a few quality players here and now we have to find a way to make it work.”
Jocketty says he is impressed with the staff, on the field and in the front office, and doesn’t anticipate any changes.
Manager Dusty Baker, the fifth manager in six years (Bob Boone, Dave Miley, Jerry Narron, interim Pete Mackanin, Baker) addressed the continuity issue, too. Asked about the importance of continuity, he said, “I think it is very important. Wayne did some great things here. He built our farm system. It is very important to keep some consistency, which is one reason I kept the coaching staff.
“I mean, you listen to quarterbacks complain about four offensive co-ordinators in four years. Doesn’t work. Good organizations keep a lot of the same people for a long period of time,” Baker added.
Krivsky appeared in the back of the press box after the Jocketty press conference and said his removal was a shot out of the dark. He said Castellini asked him Tuesday night to meet with him Wednesday morning at 8:30 and Krivsky didn’t see the axe above the door.
“It came out of the blue, it really did,” said Krivsky. “Completely shocked. I didn’t see this coming at all. What hurts so much is not to be able to see the job through. I had visions of being in the clubhouse with people pouring champagne over everybody. I’m hugely disappointed I’m not able to finish the job.
“I fought for an hour to keep my job,” he said. “I fought hard for my job. I love it here. I loved my job. And I had laughs. You have to have laughs in this job and I did in two years. I only wish it was 22. It wasn’t my call. But I disagree strongly with the decision. I still think I’m the right guy for this job. But Bob will admit he is an impatient man. I’ll sleep good tonight…well, maybe not tonight.
Jocketty is confident he can do in Cincinnati what he did in St. Louis, turning a similar market from moribund into a winner, seven playoffs in 13 years.
“This franchise is very similar to what we had in St. Louis, a winning tradition, great fans, great community, but they hadn’t won in a long time in St. Louis, either,” sjaid Jocketty. “There are a lot of similarities between St. Louis and Cincinnati. This is a storied franchise with tradition. Dusty Baker and I are very motivated, guys with a vendette and a little chip on our shoulder.”
That’s because Jocketty was fired in St. Louis after last season and Baker was fired in Chicago after 2006.
Asked about his basic philosophy, Jocketty said, “Win.”
That’s what they all say.
“Look at an unbiases source like Baseball America, who had the Reds farm system rated 27th to 30th when I got here, now they rank us in the top three or four,” said Krivsky. “In two years? Dam right I’m proud of that. I’m humongously proud of that. We’re one of the most respected organizations in baseball and I’m damn proud of that.”