Q&A with Wayne Krivsky
By Paul Meyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Cincinnati's GM turned a team pegged as a contender for the NL Central cellar into one that contended for the division title until late in the season.
Most experts figured the Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds would battle each other for fifth place in the National League Central Division this season.
At least, that's how it seemed Feb. 7.
The next day, the Reds hired Wayne Krivsky as their general manager, and Krivsky almost immediately began retooling the team.
With the acquisitions of Scott Hatteberg, Brandon Phillips, Bronson Arroyo and scads of relief pitchers, the Reds wound up battling not the Pirates for fifth but the St. Louis Cardinals for first for much of the season.
The Reds also led the wild-card race for a while. They began a 10-game West Coast trip with a win in San Francisco Aug. 24. That put them in a virtual tie with the Cardinals for the Central lead and kept them 1 1/2 games ahead of San Diego in the wild-card chase.
The Reds, however, went 1-8 on the rest of that trip and pretty much fell out of contention.
Still, Krivsky -- in his first season as a general manager -- was aggressive in acquiring players and changed the atmosphere around the Reds. Krivsky, 52, has acquired 36 players since being named GM.
Krivsky, a Duke graduate, worked for the Texas Rangers for 17 years, then went to the Minnesota Twins. During his 11-year stint under Twins general manager Terry Ryan, he learned a great deal about operating with financial constraints and was a keen student of baseball's labor and salary arbitration processes.
Paul Meyer caught up with Krivsky during the Pirates' recent trip to Cincinnati.
Q. How long did you actively pursue a general manager's job before getting this one?
Krivsky: It's hard to pursue them. Someone has to want you first. It gets to the point where the longer you're in the game, the more you can learn from various people. The 11 years learning from Terry Ryan really put me in a good position to be fully prepared for one of these jobs -- if there is such a thing as being prepared. Over the past five or six years, I think I was in a decent position, but I think the more I worked with the Twins, the more I learned and, hopefully, the fewer mistakes I'll make here.
Q. Talk a little bit about what you learned from Terry Ryan.
Krivsky: Terry, gosh, where do you start? You start with hiring quality people, give them a job to do and follow up. It's accountability. It's preparation for a game. It's collective wisdom. It's including everybody. It's getting everybody's opinion and getting all the best information you can and to make a final decision.
Q. I know, too, you admired Terry's preparation for making a trip to the minor leagues.
Krivsky: That was one thing I really learned from Terry. When you go to a minor-league park, you've done your homework statistically. You know the backgrounds of all the players, whether they're eligible for the Rule Five draft, if they're going to be a six-year minor-league free agent. You have that information at hand. It's not just showing up. You've done statistical work and background work on both rosters -- particularly your own, but also the opposing team. It puts you in a better position to make decisions at the end of the year.
Q. That would seem to be a difficult thing to do -- keeping track of all those minor-leaguers.
Krivsky: No, it's not. It's just sitting down and carving out time in your day to do it. We had a game card that Terry developed that helps you with that and, with the Internet as far as getting statistics, it's a lot easier than it ever was.
Q. You started your career in baseball as a ticket salesman with the Texas Rangers. How did that prepare you for becoming a general manager?
Krivsky: It helped me appreciate the job the people do in those departments whether it's selling season tickets, which I did, or in group sales during the season. During the games, I ran the radar gun, so that kind of got my foot in the door with the scouting and player-development people.
It was a tough sell back in those days. The Rangers weren't quite on the map. When I asked people if they wanted to buy season tickets, the response was, "Well, why are you calling me about season tickets? You're the Texas Rangers. Aren't you law enforcement?"
Q. How much of the Minnesota experience can you implement with the Reds?
Krivsky: It all starts with people and hiring quality people and giving them a job to do. We had a lot of good people here when I got here. We have made some changes, which is inevitable any time you come into a new situation. We're just trying to hire the best people we can and give them a scouting language and a grading scale that's simple and that everyone can understand, so you're all talking the same language whether it's scouting or player development. Then, you're all on common ground and you understand what everybody's talking about.
Q. You've made a lot of player changes almost since the minute you got this job. Why so many?
Krivsky: We were in contention. We got off to a good start (36-24), and you start to take a little different outlook than if that record were reversed. Then, we went into a skid for about a month, where we went 9-20 up until the All-Star break. Right then and there, it was pretty obvious our bullpen was the culprit for a lot of those losses, so we wanted to address that over the All-Star break and beyond. You never have enough pitching, and I just decided to keep adding and tried to upgrade the team since we were a contending team. Every chance I could, we took advantage of that.
Q. When you were with the Twins, you scouted the National League for 11 years. How did that prepare you for taking over this team, having scouted this team?
Krivsky: All the players who are still in the National League, I would have scouted. But rosters change and players come and go, so you have a lot of turnover. The players still in the league, obviously I have some background on, but I haven't seen everybody from a scouting standpoint like I would have had I sat on a team like the Pirates, say, for seven days. I'm relying on the people in the field who cover those teams, but, coming into this year, I felt I had a good knowledge of a lot of the National League players.
Q. Being the general manager of a team that doesn't have unlimited financial resources, is that frustrating? How does it impact what you do?
Krivsky: It's not frustrating. I'm given tremendous support here by ownership. They've been very fair about money. They said from day one if we're in contention they would add and free up extra dollars. They've been true to their word on that. A lot of the moves we made this summer added money to our payroll. I think it's plenty of money to win with. The two [World Series] teams last year -- the [Chicago] White Sox and the [Houston] Astros -- had mid-level payrolls in the $65 to $70 million range. One thing, there's a lot less margin for error when you're a smaller-market team.
Q. Will the Reds still be in that $60 million range next season?
Krivsky: Wait and see. We're still putting together budgets right now, and I haven't gotten word from ownership. And it's not something we'd probably make public.
Q. What was the first thing that went through your mind when you knew you had this job?
Krivsky: It was very emotional. They gave me the job the day of the second interview. The interview ended about 2:30 and then at 3:30 they told me I got the job. And then at 6 o'clock, there's a press conference. So things happened a little fast, and things continued to be a little fast for a few days before spring training started. It was kind of unique -- getting the job a week before spring training started. There was so much on your plate -- get familiar with people -- but the game was a little fast for me back then, but we got through it.
Q. How will all the player changes you made this year impact next year?
Krivsky: I think for the most part pretty much everyone we've added has been a good influence in the clubhouse, starting with Bronson Arroyo. Scott Hatteberg is a tremendous pro. They're veterans who have been around and know how to win. I think we've added quality people and a lot of quality players, too. I think any time you acquire a player, part of the equation is how they fit into your clubhouse. That's very important.