The Amazing Krivsky
BY PAUL DAUGHERTY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Right now, he's the smartest man in the room. Don't play cards with him, don't test him at the track. Just listen to what Wayne Krivsky says, and nod.
Wily Mo Peņa for Bronson Arroyo: Anybody have a problem with that? Scott Hatteberg? Second on the team in on-base percentage. Krivsky just brought in Cody Ross, a kid from Los Angeles who had a seven-RBI game for the Dodgers, 11 days ago. And then there is Brandon Phillips.
If you don't live within 50 miles of downtown and/or date your existence to 1975, you looked at the headline two days ago and said, "Huh?" Brandon Phillips named NL Player of the Week, it said, or some such. Seventeen RBI in seven days. Phillips is on that 374-RBI pace.
Krivsky got him for a prospect to be named.
The Reds' rookie general manager takes very little credit for swiping Phillips from Cleveland. Krivsky saw Phillips play once in March. "I don't know him personally. I never scouted him," says Krivsky, "but I might have to change my story if he has another week like he just had."
Regardless, if this deal illustrates how Krivsky works, the Reds are in for better days. Phillips-for-prospect is the kind of move that will take the mid-money Reds from 75 wins to 85, and from 85 to October. It's shrewd, thorough, lucky and smart. Just very smart.
It shows Krivsky as a consensus builder. He consulted half a dozen people in the Reds organization, everyone from bench coach Bucky Dent - who managed at
Triple-A Columbus last year and saw a lot of Brandon Phillips - to Louisville manager Rick Sweet. He asked Johnny Almaraz, the Reds' player development director, if the team had a player the Indians would want. He heeded the urgings of a scout named Bill Harford, whom Krivsky had known for 11 years when each worked for the Minnesota Twins.
Former GM Dan O'Brien kept his own counsel. James G. Bowden IV was a cowboy. Krivsky knows what he knows. More importantly, he knows what he doesn't know.
He knew Phillips was out of options. The Indians had to keep him or waive him. He knew Cleveland had another middle infielder they were high on, Ramon Vasquez. He knew Phillips had some baggage. He was a little cocky, a little too highly praised, too soon.
But Krivsky kept coming back to this: "He's 24. He's talented. He gives us something we don't have."
All of March, Bill Harford filled Krivsky's ear. Harford scouts for several clubs. He works the Orlando area during spring training, near the Indians' base in Winter Haven. The rest of the year, he's based in Chicago. He'd seen Phillips many times.
After a month of telling Krivsky, "You have to take a chance on this guy," Harford called the Reds GM in late March. The Indians were playing the Houston Astros. Roy Oswalt was pitching for Houston. "Wayne," Harford said, "I just saw Phillips turn on a Roy Oswalt fastball, 94 miles an hour on the inner half (of the plate). He yanked it about 400 feet. I think this guy's starting to figure it out."
"I vacillated on it quite a bit," says Krivsky, "because of the makeup of our roster." Phillips is a second baseman. "Where was he gonna fit? I kept coming back to the same thing: He was young and talented and might need a change of scenery. Plus, he was defensive-oriented. Good quickness and range, good hands, could turn a double play. What if he doesn't hit? I went back and forth and finally I said, 'You've got to take a chance on someone this young and athletic.' "
Phillips hit .208 in 2003, in 370 at-bats with the Indians. The next two years, he went 4-for-31 in the big leagues, combined. Maybe he's hitting .208 by this July. Phillips doesn't take many pitches. He hasn't walked yet, in 47 at-bats. Maybe pitchers figure that out and stop throwing him good pitches.
Or maybe he's an everyday player making not much money. What matters most is that the Reds have a general manager who seems both aggressive and smart, and whose ego is small enough that he welcomes help. All good characteristics for someone running a team without money to toss.