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  1. #1
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    In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    I visit Redszone almost everyday - have done so for years - but I very seldom post anymore unless I feel strongly about something that merits an significant investment of time and energy. Today I'd like to address our perception of Dan O'Brien. It seems as though most posters have a distinctly negative disposition towards him; the bitter tonal seeds were planted in spring training when he was labeled by many as being too inactive. The comments I read from Redzone posters are not unlike the calls I hear on 700WLW when Tracy Jones and Andy Furman are on air. Not many people seem to like our new GM too much. No doubt the scrutiny is intensifying right now as O'Brien faces his first July 31st trading deadline as the Reds' GM. But before I really address the perception of O'Brien, let's put things into a miniature historical perspective:

    It's cliche to say that Rome wasn't built in a day, but it makes the point nonetheless, and I think this cliche really surmises the tragic flaw of the Bowden era. He wanted to build his empire too quickly. That is precisely why he fired a rookie manager 44 games into the season. That is why he signed aged pitchers and coveted the infamous five-tool outfielders who seemed to represent the quickest, most reliable route to glory. Perhaps that is why Bowden was infatuated with Deion Sanders; Bowden wanted the bricks of his empire to go up at Prime-Time speed. Lastly, that is precisely why Jim Bowden let a promising team crumble away so that he could, supposedly in his defining moment of glory, bring Ken Griffey Jr. home from Disneyland.

    History has shown that Jim Bowden was no Alexander the Great. Of course, it's really unfair to compare the two because afterall Alexander the Great had a larger operating budget than Bowden, plus Alexander had people training his infantry years before he rose to power, which Bowden did not. I could go on. You get the point.

    But in the end I think Bowden's greatest legacy to the Cincinnati Reds was that he provided his successor an effective non-example. Dan O'Brien doesn't have to look real hard to learn from Bowden's mistakes, which is why O'Brien's plan is the exact antithesis of Bowden's plan. The Bowden plan: Talk a good game, buy sexy players, and hope for the best. The O'Brien plan: develop a plan that your organization can commit to, build around pitching and defense, and "stay the course," as current President Bush would say. The O'Brien plan isn't going to come to fruition overnight. Why? Because right now he is evaluating, assessing, and forming opinions. Does that really take a whole season? Yes. If you were one of those who cried outrage when Bowden fired Tony Perez after 44 games - and most of us did cry - then you have some sense of where I'm coming from. 44 games is not nearly enough time to evaluate a manager, right?!!? ESPECIALLY a rookie manager. A few weeks ago O'Brien took some heat for not offering Miley a contract extension based upon his performance after...you guessed it, just a little bit more than 44 games. I guess Miley is learning from Bowden's example. Not ONLY did Bowden fire Perez after 44 games, but he also gave Bob Boone a contract extension in 2002 because the team was still in contention in late July. A little more serious evaluation and assessment just might have saved Bowden's job in the long run.

    For many people, O'Brien's head was already on a stake before the Reds even broke spring training camp because all he did was trade Chris Reitsma without ever acquiring any major-league-ready talent. (At least not the kind of talent that didn't get hurt shoveling snow.) And it's probably a lot of the same people who are criticizing O'Brien now because, in all probability, he's not going to make any significant upgrades to this year's team. This year's team, though it may be fun at times, is not the team that you bank on. This isn't the team that's chilling wine for October. This isn't the team that's keeping the Westin ballroom or Fountain Square reserved for a special team reception in November. This year's team isn't that good. That's the reality of it.
    If the recent road trip didn't make that point clear to you, you probably quit reading this post a long time ago anyway. But I'll tell you something. Due to the surprising nature of this team's performance thus far, I would sure hate to be Dan O'Brien right now. I really would.

    This next month is really going to test O'Brien's mettle. This next month will tell us how effectively he can commit to his plan. This next month will tell us whether he's going to cave into fan sentiment, or if he's going to stand his
    ground and "stay the course" because he trusts the professional opinions of his staff. This next month may well tell us how Dan O'Brien defines the future of this ballclub, and which players are part of his definition. I would sure hate to feel the pressure he must be feeling as the first-year GM of a team and a city whose pride has been suffering from open wounds for over ten years.

    So to those of you who have already decided you dislike O'Brien I ask you: what is that decision based upon? Has he been irrational, unclear, or whimsical thus far? I argue that we cannot even begin to assess him until we wake up on August 1st. And even then it may be premature. I give him until the GM meetings next winter. Until then, I'll say this for Dan O'Brien: I appreciate his professionalism, his temperament, and his tendancy to avoid sexy soundbytes that stir up the locals. It's a welcomed change from the previous administration. His quiet nature has restored a little decent respect to the organization, and that's a good thing when you consider what Cincinnati has endured in the recent past. I would hope others might share this sentiment with me.
    "It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come out, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
    -A. Barlett Giamatti

  2. #2
    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    How can you defend the indefensible?

    Nice post.
    The Rally Onion wants 150 fans before Opening Day.

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    Hey Cubs Fans RFS62's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Excellent post.

    There are plenty of people here who agree with you.

    :GAC:

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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    I appreciate his professionalism, his temperament, and his tendancy to avoid sexy soundbytes that stir up the locals. It's a welcomed change from the previous administration. His quiet nature has restored a little decent respect to the organization, and that's a good thing when you consider what Cincinnati has endured in the recent past. I would hope others might share this sentiment with me.
    Sure do.

    Grandma always said you can tear down something in a short time, even if it took a lifetime to build. In baseball a half a decade is a 'short time' and the stench of the 5 years since 1999 has soured the fringe fan.

    Currently the Reds are trying to get back to them, with talk in the papers on the focus on ML growth and Linders ticket program. It's slow process to regain your reputation.

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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Well said.

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    Unsolicited Opinions traderumor's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Nice thoughts, dugout. Your time invested in the thoughtful post is appreciated.

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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    as far as I can tell, you like DanO because you want to like him and because he's done nothing.

    I can see why you'd welcome noncontroversy. On the other hand, we're just marking time so far. And by the looks of the draft, we'll be marking time for a number of years.

    I want to like DanO, too. But he's going to have to do something before I can give him that.

    I want decisions to be made and I want them to work out as well, if not better, than the decisions that I'd have made in DanO's place. That's not asking too much.

    So far there's just one big league decision, Chris Reitsma. Terrible timing to sell when your team subsequently plays well. Oh, well, there's be more decisions. And I'm sure that some will work out better.

    But I smell a five year plan, and while I'm patient, I also think that five year plans usually mean five bad years. As they've shown, the Reds have some players now. Make something out of them. Don't wait five.

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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Thanks to all for the feedback so far. Another thing I intended to include in the original post is a list of what Dan O'Brien has done so far in his tenure with the Reds:

    (1) Hired Dave Miley, who in turn hired a solid, professional coaching staff (Chambliss, Whisler, O'Berry) to complement Tom Hume, and Don Gullett.

    (2) Hired Ron Oester as minor league field coordinator

    (3) Restructured the scouting program and invested more in scouting the Dominican Republic, which is a treasure-ridden resource the Reds have never effectively tapped into before.

    (4) Has instilled a professional attitude that starts at the top

    Now maybe these actions don't translate into wins for the Reds in 2004, and perhaps it creates the appearance of "marking time" as Princeton says. But O'Brien is laying a foundation that certainly could mean wins in 2006, 2007, and beyond. Yeah sure, it stinks that we have to wait because Bowden asked us to wait until last year - but we can't blame O'Brien or hold him accountable for what Bowden did.

    Speaking of what Bowden did, have you all really thought about the severity of the attrocity that O'Brien inherited from the defunct Bowden regime?
    O'Brien hasn't gone out to sign Vladimir Guerrerro or other big-name free agents because right now it's not going to help. One player - even if he is a pitcher - does not a contending team make. Let's face it, if O'Brien wants to win now he needs to sign /trade for several big league-caliber players: a second baseman, a shortstop, a third baseman, five starting pitchers, a left-handed reliever, and a closer. (I'll take my chances with Casey, LaRue, and the outfielders.) We all know that the reality of the market and the Reds ownership is such that O'Brien is not enabled to do this right now, so we cannot fault O'Brien there. Consequently, O'Brien has to depend on the draft to develop this team, and common sense tells you that this will take time. I don't care if your name is Dan O'Brien or Billy Beane; nobody who was just hired as the Reds GM is going to make this team win in 2004 as long as Carl Lindner and his cohorts remain the ownership group. So let's not confuse the issue.

    M2, you said that O'Brien needs to do more roster manipulations before we can know too much about him. "Roster manipulation" makes me think of Bob Boone, who manipulated his roster daily: playing Dmitri Young at 3B, batting Adam Dunn leadoff or any number of places in the batting order, putting Graves in the rotation, etc., etc. The players have made it no secret that such manipulation lead to poor play because people's roles were confused and no routine was established. Roster manipulation doesn't sound like a good thing to me, and not overly manipulating the roster gives players an opportunity to get into a routine to establish their role and their playing ability. If this isn't what you mean, can you clarify what you do mean by roster manipulating???

    O'Brien has surrounded himself with guys who were connected with the Reds during their glory days of the 70s: a team that won with mostly homegrown products like Bench, Rose, Perez, Gullett, Griffey, Concepcion, etc. etc. I would much rather see the Reds win with homegrown guys in 2008 than win with a bunch of purchased veterans now and then lose them to free agency. O'Brien has said he wants to get back to that model, and if he comes anywhere close to achieving that then I think it's well worth the wait.

    As for O'Brien's decisions in the amateur draft, let's discuss that in 2014. Was I shocked and maybe even a little disappointed that our first round selection was a high-school player? Yes. But do I even pretend to know what the Reds scouts know? No. Have I seen what they have seen? No. Do I trust their opinion? Maybe. Is it way too early to tell? Yes.
    "It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come out, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
    -A. Barlett Giamatti

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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Quote Originally Posted by Dugout
    M2, you said that O'Brien needs to do more roster manipulations before we can know too much about him. "Roster manipulation" makes me think of Bob Boone, who manipulated his roster daily: playing Dmitri Young at 3B, batting Adam Dunn leadoff or any number of places in the batting order, putting Graves in the rotation, etc., etc. The players have made it no secret that such manipulation lead to poor play because people's roles were confused and no routine was established. Roster manipulation doesn't sound like a good thing to me, and not overly manipulating the roster gives players an opportunity to get into a routine to establish their role and their playing ability. If this isn't what you mean, can you clarify what you do mean by roster manipulating???
    I'm talking GM roster manipulation. Not that I want to turn this into another Billy Beane discussion, but one of his central tenets is that as a GM you get roster full of players to mold to the best of your abilities.

    DanO did next to nothing to manipulate the major league roster. He signed Cory Lidle, which was a BAD idea, and brought in Javier Valentin, ugh. It's just about as close to taking a pass as you can get. This is still JimBo's team in terms of construction. Honestly, if this team was so good and needed such little tweaking, then why on earth was JimBo sent packing? If anything, at the major league level, the Reds have been heading in the exact same direction as during JimBo's regime.

    And O'Brien can't depend on the draft alone to build the club. He need look no further than his assistant Dean Taylor if he doesn't think that's the case. Taylor managed to restock the minors for the Brewers, but got canned before it paid off. DanO has got to figure what to do in the interim or he's going to be a footnote.

    He's got to figure out to how to get what he needs with what he's got. In short, he's got to manipulate his roster.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

    I'm witchcrafting everybody.

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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Quote Originally Posted by Dugout
    Another thing I intended to include in the original post is a list of what Dan O'Brien has done so far in his tenure with the Reds:

    (1) Hired Dave Miley, who in turn hired a solid, professional coaching staff (Chambliss, Whisler, O'Berry) to complement Tom Hume, and Don Gullett.

    (2) Hired Ron Oester as minor league field coordinator

    (3) Restructured the scouting program and invested more in scouting the Dominican Republic, which is a treasure-ridden resource the Reds have never effectively tapped into before.

    (4) Has instilled a professional attitude that starts at the top
    The counterarguments are that he hired a scouting director with a long and terrible history, that Latin America is overfarmed and overpriced, that he brought in nobody with a proven history of developmental success, and that the one relative innovation-- the idea that the Reds can spin OF straw like Jason Romano into a new golden generation of MIers a la Davey Lopes -- is unproven.

    finally, the big thing with any GM is whether he can convert contender into champion. DanO hasn't tried, and I understand the reasoning. It's unlikely that the three or four moves that were minimally required (in addition to good health) all could have happened, yet moves like acquiring a better IFer (Carlos Guillen or Juan Uribe), a top starter (Jered Weaver) while keeping the rest of the team intact (Chris Reitsma) were possible, and might have put this team about one July move away. Instead, we remain several moves away. When the system is rebuilt in five years, we'll be better able to deal young talent for established talent. But the guys that got us into this contending position will be long gone.

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    Member Eric_Davis's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Quote Originally Posted by princeton
    as far as I can tell, you like DanO because you want to like him and because he's done nothing.

    I can see why you'd welcome noncontroversy. On the other hand, we're just marking time so far. And by the looks of the draft, we'll be marking time for a number of years.

    I want to like DanO, too. But he's going to have to do something before I can give him that.

    I want decisions to be made and I want them to work out as well, if not better, than the decisions that I'd have made in DanO's place. That's not asking too much.

    So far there's just one big league decision, Chris Reitsma. Terrible timing to sell when your team subsequently plays well. Oh, well, there's be more decisions. And I'm sure that some will work out better.

    But I smell a five year plan, and while I'm patient, I also think that five year plans usually mean five bad years. As they've shown, the Reds have some players now. Make something out of them. Don't wait five.
    Princeton. Dan O'Brien had nothing to work with. The Cincinnati REDS were one of the worst, if not the worst organization in Professional Baseball. There is so much that he had to clean up first. He needed a wrecking ball for his first duties. O'Brien has been excellent. Get your focus off of the Major League ballclub. That's not where you can measure O'Brien's efforts this year. That's not his club. Those aren't his players, and he had no one, no money to make any changes to that portion of the organization.

    O'Brien has been brilliant, but you have no way of knowing that because what he's done is rebuild the structure of the organization. That's invisible to you.

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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric_Davis
    Get your focus off of the Major League ballclub. That's not where you can measure O'Brien's efforts this year. That's not his club. Those aren't his players.

    exactly. He's had a negative impact on a GM's no. 1 priority. Understandable if we were losers, but we're not.

  13. #13
    Smells Like Teen Spirit jmcclain19's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    History has shown that Jim Bowden was no Alexander the Great. Of course, it's really unfair to compare the two because afterall Alexander the Great had a larger operating budget than Bowden, plus Alexander had people training his infantry years before he rose to power, which Bowden did not. I could go on.
    Classic

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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Very nice post. I've thought the same things you have, luckily you put it down better than I would.

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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Sturdy, well-thought out defense Dugout.

    Certainly I agree that DanO's in a tight spot with an overachieving team which he probably intended to gut this summer.

    My criticism of that, though, is if he felt that way about the team heading into the season, if that was the course he set, then why didn't he do more in the offseason? Clearly that would mean he'd assessed what he had and I think it was a mistake not acting in a more definitive fashion from the outset.

    I also think he has repeated some JimBo mistakes in conducting a very old school, toolsy draft. JimBo's regime had actually gotten away from the model in 2003 and my initial take on the 2004 draft is that it represented some serious backsliding.

    One area where DanO can distinguish himself from JimBo will be in how minor league arms are handled. The JimBo model was to promote with abandon. I'd like to see greater restraint shown with young (sub-24) pitchers, particularly starting pitchers. A recent article made it sounds like Tim Naehring's chomping at the bit to crank up the promotions. He's certainly doing a fine job of huckstering the organization's few pitching bright spots. This should give us some solid proof of whether DanO's really got a different system and the temperament to run a less panicked organization.

    I'm still not sold that DanO's more than a process-obsessed middle manager who's over his head in terms of providing direction and leadership. He simply hasn't done enough in terms of roster manipulation to prove himself one way or the other.

    My other criticism of DanO is that he's not showing good self-preservational instincts. I appreciate the focus on organizational structure, but that's a bureaucratic function which, if it ever generates results, won't make a lot of difference at the major league level for years. He's probably got three, maybe four years to deliver an annual contender, a team that can stay in the race through September Perhaps this year's model will do that, but there are substantial indications that such a scenario is unlikely. At some point, he's going to have to get major league starting pitchers from another organization. He's not going to get an above-average homegrown staff in his window, which could get extremely small if Lindner decides to sell.

    Outside of Bob Howsam and Jim Bowden, the Cincinnati Reds GM job has been a Siege Perilous for most of its occupants. I for one will be pleasantly surprised if DanO shows any kind of flourish by August 1, whether it be rebuilding, rebuilding on the fly or going for it. My guess is that we'll see only minimal activity and that this offseason we'll still be kicking around questions of how much does DanO like what he's got and in what sort of direction does he plan on leading this team.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

    I'm witchcrafting everybody.


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