Now that we've had almost a week to shake off the shock, to gain a little perspective, to mull over the most jaw-dropping July trade in a long time, I decided to give Wayne Krivsky a call. Just to see how things are going in Cincinnati these days.
You know, just to see if he can show his face around town yet.
"They're burying me," the Reds' new general manager said on Tuesday with what, I swear, sounded a little bit like a chuckle. "I expected some of that. But it's probably gone beyond what I expected."
Oh, it's beyond that, all right, and then some. Krivsky has been ripped from foul line to foul line since he pulled off the trade last Thursday that sent two of his regulars -- starting shortstop Felipe Lopez and starting right fielder Austin Kearns -- to the Nationals for two relievers (26-year-old righty Gary Majewski and 23-year-old lefty Bill Bray) and an aging shortstop with no pop in his bat (36-year-old Royce Clayton). Talk radio has been all over Krivsky. The newspapers. The Internet. Even Krivsky's friends are turning on him.
"I've gotten hammered," Krivsky said. "Steve Phillips [the former Mets GM, now an analyst for ESPN] is a good friend of mine, and he smoked me. He smoked me!
"There's a lot of passion. There's a lot of head-scratching."
It's no wonder that everyone is a little perplexed. Krivsky swapped two young, relatively cheap, fairly productive every-day players for two young, pretty much unknown bullpen grunts -- neither of whom is a closer. Two regulars for two players who, when things are going right, may get into only a couple of games a week.
Of course, things almost never go right in baseball, and in Cincinnati they've gone wrong for way too long. So Krivsky -- it's really this simple -- dealt from his strengths to shore up a glaring area of need in an attempt to keep the Reds in the race for a playoff spot.
That doesn't necessarily make the trade a good one for the Reds. At best, it's a bold move by a rookie GM that might -- somehow -- work out. At worst, Washington GM Jim Bowden fleeced Krivsky.
Still, Krivsky is at peace with the deal. He thinks the Reds are better off for having done it. No matter what anybody says.
"We're in a good position. We need to take advantage of it," Krivsky said. "I wouldn't be doing my job, I don't think, if we didn't put our best foot forward."
The Reds lead the National League wild-card race, but they are -- and Krivsky knows this better than anyone -- lucky to be there. Their winning record (49-45) belies the fact that they have been outscored by 13 runs. From June 9 to the All-Star break they were 9-20, which took them from 12 games above .500 to one over. Their biggest letdown was the bullpen, which has blown 14 saves. Only three other NL teams have blown more.
The Cincinnati pen had a particularly bad stretch just before the break, losing two late leads in Milwaukee and dropping a game in Atlanta after scoring five runs in the ninth to tie it up. By the time the Reds stumbled in Atlanta, Krivsky already had made one move, trading for former Mariners closer Eddie Guardado . Before they began the second half, Krivsky pulled off the stunner: Majewski, Bray, Clayton and a couple of throw-ins from the Nationals for Lopez, the slugger Kearns and minor league reliever Ryan Wagner.
No matter how the trade is viewed, no player in it is without blemishes. If they're not young and largely untested (Bray, Wagner, the throw-ins) or too old (Clayton), they strike out too much and have health problems (Kearns), struggle defensively (Lopez) or are just barely good enough, in some people's minds, to make a major league pitching staff (Majewski).
It's hard to argue that the Reds haven't improved their bullpen with the addition of Guardado, Bray and Majewski. The question is whether Krivsky hurt the team by subtracting Lopez and Kearns from the mix.
Of course, that's not a question in the minds of those filleting Krivsky.
Some charge that Krivsky -- considering the youth of Kearns and Lopez and the fact that the Reds had them locked up through the 2008 season -- is mortgaging the team's future. ("Well, we're not," he says.) Others criticize the idea of trading valuable every-day players for a couple of so-called "middle" relievers. ("They're not middle relievers," he says.) Others simply declare that he was taken by Bowden, the Reds' former GM. ("People are already evaluating the trade after four games," he says. "It's ludicrous.")
The way Krivsky sees it, if Majewski and Bray work out, the Reds have actually strengthened themselves for the future. They'll have two setup men, an increasingly valuable commodity in the game, for years to come. And the club had to find a spot for Chris Denorfia -- who was hitting .347 in Triple A Louisville -- sooner or later. He'll get a lot of playing time in right, splitting time with Ryan Freel.
Maybe most importantly, what critics of the trade seem to gloss over is this: The Reds had no chance at the postseason with their old bullpen. Even in the weak-kneed NL, the Reds were on a skid to nowhere.
"I really feel like if we wouldn't have made this move, we'd have very little chance to stay in the race," manager Jerry Narron told reporters. "It might not work out, but this gives us our best chance."
The Reds won four in a row after the break, which has quieted the Queen City critics a little. But with a long stretch left to be played and seven teams within four games of the Reds in the scramble for the wild card, the rumblings are still there.
If the Reds slip, the ripping will resume like never before.
"I think it's great that the fans here care so much," Krivsky insists. "It's fun to hear everyone talking about the Reds instead of football season starting. It's baseball season."
And open season on Krivsky, too.