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Thread: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

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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

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  3. #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.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rally-...24872650873160

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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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    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

    Well said.

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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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    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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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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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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    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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    Unsolicited Opinions traderumor's Avatar
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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.
    So far there's just one big league decision, Chris Reitsma. Terrible timing to sell when your team subsequently plays well.
    as far as I can tell, you don't like O'Brien because he traded Reitsma.

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    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Nice post :GAC:
    Go Gators!

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    Charlie Brown All-Star IslandRed's Avatar
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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    I like O'Brien for the reasons you've stated -- bringing professionalism and dignity back to the front office. To the extent that he's the anti-Bowden where Bowden's management-style flaws were concerned, that's perfect.

    Still, the concerns are there. O'Brien may run a sound organization on well-thought-out principles, but talent -- identifying it and acquiring it -- is where the rubber meets the road. We can respect the notion of a new GM not making deals willy-nilly with an imperfect understanding of the organization's talent base, but we've seen other new GMs move more quickly and improve their clubs. We respect the notion of building a strong farm system through the draft, but the recent draft didn't give us much of a clue of what type of player O'Brien likes. The in-season roster management has been OK, but there have been a few head-scratchers.

    Obviously, we don't always have complete information, but we do the best we can from our armchairs. When he was hired I said I'd reserve judgment until at least after the first draft. Well, I still don't know what to think about him. Ask me again in six weeks, after he's had to make the call on our contending status (or not) and what he does about it.

  15. #14
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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Great post Dugout-- don't agree with all of it, but very thoughtful. You should post more often.

    I am holding judgement on DanO as well. What I don't like is the sometimes circus-like atmosphere with which we run our daily business. The delay to put Kearns on the DL, leaving Miley short-handed a few times, etc.... are things that make me wonder about DanO.

    However, those are small beans compared to the big burrito here:

    Bowden's biggest failure as a GM was most certainly his inability to develop or acquire starting pitching. It kept us spinning our wheels from year to year to year with little change.

    DanO has NOT had enough time to tackle this major issue yet.

    I will judge him based pretty much on ONE thing:

    Does he realize that starting pitching is our first, second, and third priority, and does he make the necessary moves to address it?

    The bad part is that in order to address this glaring need, he will most likey have to become less popular than he already is. I havea hard time seeing the Reds land the arms we need w/o parting with at least one of our top offensive players, and probably more. The day we trade any of those guys for a AAA pitcher, DanO will most likely get crucified by the masses. But as long as that AAA pitcher is LEGIT and not a real long-shot, I will be all for it.

    DanO has one goal right now if I were in control of his every move:

    DO WHATEVER YOU NEED TO DO TO PUT 2-3 LEGITIMATE YOUNG PITCHERS IN THE ORGANIZATION (guys that will be ready within 1-2 years) AND LET EVERYTHING ELSE SORT ITSELF OUT.

    If that means we lose games 2-1 for the next couple of years, then so be it. Because fixing the "1" part of that score is a lot easier than fixing the "2" part.

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    Re: In Defense Of Dan O'Brien

    Quote Originally Posted by M2
    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.
    He didn't do more because every player he could have possibly considered dealing (along with several he wouldn't) was injured last year and their value was about as low as it could be. The guys that weren't hurt last year got dealt at the deadline.


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