Excellent column Edskin.
The "small market" excuse for mediocre seasons no longer works for me. Four of the seven teams that had lower payrolls than us in 2002 (Oakland, Minnesota, Montreal, Florida), all had better records than us. Each of these markets is equal to or in some cases signficantly worse than Cincinnati. It has been proven quite a few times through the nineties that you can win if you spend your money wisely, even if you have a low budget. Carl threw a fork in all those plans by giving Larkin a $27 M extension despite the fact that his baseball people told him that everything that is happening now would eventually happen. Not only is that bad spending, it is indicative of an owner who is not at all in tune with the salary structure of the team, or where the deficiencies in the team lie (read: starting pitching). I was reading about Mark Cuban this morning, who personally I think is an immature nut, and he had a really good quote: "If you are not an involved owner, you are an idiot".
I am not trying to pretend that I have any clue about the responsibilities of being a CEO, but one thing I know to be true is that you have to care. Your name is being stamped on everything. Every time a player doesn't try, or every time Bowden plays managerial musical chairs, or every time Allen blames the fans, it is a reflection on you and your business practices. Every time you hand out a big contract, you have to believe that not only is this person good at their respective field, but they are solid in character and will represent you well. That has not happened at all the last five or so years. The Oester incident, random opinions of Oester notwithstanding, was an incredibly embarrassing episode for the team, and it was barely addressed. It made us come off as crass and manipulative. That is just one example of the charades that go on down there. Why are all of our good FO people gone? Doc Rodgers, Gary Hughes, Kasey McKeon?
Redsfaithful summed up just what I was thinking extremely well. I don't need a Yankee level or even a Cardinals level payroll. All I want to see is sound baseball decisions and a little flexibility. We were not allowed to add a cent of payroll last year in July despite being in the thick of it. Finley was a really good move, as proven by his stint with the Cardinals. If we have the opportunity to get a bona fide, proven, stud commodity, I don't think it is too much to ask for a little leeway and flexibility. There were several deals on the table that would have SIGNIFICANTLY improved our team, yet we passed them up because of small financial considerations. As a fan, that is very, very tough to swallow.