Agree or Disagree?
Quickest way to fix Reds: Cancel Wayne's World
By Larry Dobrow
In these prescriptive baseball columns O' mine, I throw a couple of ideas out into the ether and promptly wash my hands of them. Never once have I entertained the possibility that I could do a better job running a baseball team than the dudes/dudettes currently in charge of whatever franchise I'm evaluating.
That said, after conducting a full-body franchise physical, I am reasonably certain I could do a better job running the Cincinnati Reds than Wayne Krivsky.
So could you, you and you -- that's right, you over there, with the hair and the teeth and the prosthetic appendage. Well, maybe not you, Mom; your affinity for "toolsy" players doesn't fly in this era of Moneyballing and imprudent spending.
Not only can I Save This Franchise!™©®?, but I'd like to be considered for the gig when Cincy ownership gets wise to Krivsky's contractual and asset-swapping impotence within a year or two. Assuming Les Rouges are general-managed with even the barest hint of competence over the next 12 months, they've got a narrow window for contention in the two or three seasons to follow. Seriously, where should I send my resumé? I won't ask for much in the way of perks, outside of an on-call Town Car and generous grooming stipend.
Short-term outlook: No team that calls the NL Central home can be deemed a non-contender; as we've discussed, even the Pirates could possibly luck/bad-hop their way into 85 wins. The Reds' problem is that they don't project to score a whole lot of runs, which will put a ton of pressure on their shallow-as-a-starlet rotation, 642 middling middle relievers and clunky defenders to keep runs off the board. Given that they're slated to play 81 games in Un-Riverfront and a bunch more in homer-happy Minute Maid and Wrigley, that's wishful thinking.
Assets: For all the yapping about how the Reds lack starting pitching, few NL teams boast a more consistent top-of-the-rotation tandem than Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. You can't like the 59 dingers they gave up between them in 2006, nor their particular facial-hair predilections, but they look set for another 425-450 above-average innings in 2007 and beyond (I'm assuming the team will soon attempt to sign Harang to a long-ish deal that buys out his first year or two of free-agency). Meanwhile, I offer the following warning in the interest of the greater good: If you see erstwhile rocker Arroyo reaching for a guitar or a mic, pull the nearest fire alarm and take cover under a desk or against an inside wall.
Homer Bailey. Homer Bailey. Homer Bailey. More on him in a bit.
Liabilities: During Krivsky's long tenure in the Twins organization, the team always seemed to have a gaggle of prospects at the offing (of course, they consistently logjammed those prospects behind the Shannon Stewarts and Doug Mientkiewiczes of the world, but that's fodder for another story). Krivsky started strong in Cincy with the Arroyo acquisition. Since then ... yeesh.
Giving up two young, cheap, everyday bats in Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns for a bunch of middle relievers -- one of them, Gary Majewski, with a bum shoulder -- was short-sightedness at its worst. Then came the free-agent additions of Alex Gonzalez (nice glove and a teensy bit of power, but $14 million? Did I read that wrong?), Chad Moeller (a guaranteed contract?) and Mike Stanton (two guaranteed years for a 39-year-old dude who looked cooked two seasons ago?). He also chirped that Adam Dunn might have to go because he strikes out a lot (as opposed to most of his peers in the lineup, who don't whiff as much but can't get on base or drive the ball past the pitcher's mound).
I dunno. Krivsky has only held the gig for a little while, but he hasn't left anybody brimming with optimism for what comes next. And that's before he drove longtime player-development guru Johnny Almaraz out of town.
Paying $9 million per year for Eric Milton's particular brand of artistry is akin to paying $650 for a cup of coffee -- a cup of coffee prone to skin-scalding spasms. The bottom-of-the-rotation candidates (Milton, Kyle Lohse, Elizardo Ramirez) inspire nothing if not knee-weakening fear. The team will be hard-pressed not to rush Bailey (relax, we'll get to him in a second).
Totally non-helpful and semi-realistic suggestions:
1. Start worrying now about where their next run will come from. Offensively, they won't be anywhere near as soggy as the Astros (when, pray tell, will somebody in the 77001 zip code realize that Brad Ausmus hurts a team more with his bat than he helps it with his decent glove/arm and polite discourse with pitchers?). But some days they'll field a lineup that includes the eminently platoonable Scott Hatteberg, the roto-world-good/real-world-mediocre Brandon Phillips, the aforementioned Mr. Gonzalez and fluke-2006 supadupastar David Ross. Oh, and the pitcher, too. The Reds could really have used a big honkin' righty bat to play first base or left field, but the ship has long since sailed on all candidates fitting that description.
2. ... so take Dunn off the trade market, posthaste. I know Krivsky et al have yapped about the strikeouts, which Mr. Dunn provides in almost biblical abundance. I'm also aware that as a left fielder, Dunn is a mediocre first baseman. At the same time, the guy gets on base and still might have a 50-dinger season in him, regardless of whether sabermetric gurus no longer get all squishy downstairs when they ponder his power/patience mix.
3. The mayor of Cincinnati (Jerry Springer?) should pass a local ordinance barring any sports franchise in the area from hiring retread middle relievers. Stanton, David Weathers, Matt Belisle, Brian Shackelford, Todd Coffey, Rheal Cormier ... where does it end, man? Where does it end? It's fitting that the highest-upside guy in the group, lefty Bill Bray, is currently listed 14th on the Reds bullpen depth chart at MLB.com.
4. Force Ken Griffey Jr. from center field to right, even if it means that he'll play the 2007 with a sad little frown on his bedimpled mug. It's time for some tough love: At this juncture in his Hall of Fame career, he lacks the arm to play the position; his legs respond as well to the day-to-day pounding in center as fast-food napkins do to flamethrowers. To replace him, a platoon of Ryan Freel and Chris "Da Norf" Denorfia should work well enough.
5. I realize that as a citizen of the United States of America, super-prospect Bailey has rights -- "inalienable" ones, as they say in the biz. That said, the Reds must do everything within their power to protect this kid and his gilded right arm. I propose hiring a handful of Guy/Gal Fridays to accompany him during his every waking moment. They could shop for his groceries, brush his teeth, fend off fetchingly fertile groupies and confine him to small, windowless rooms free of pointy objects between starts. Think Purple Rain's Jerome, but heavily armed.
Odds of becoming the next Detroit Tigers: Not all that horrendous, assuming 100 percent health and an early arrival by Bailey. Is there a single National League team that looks even mildly intimidating right now? All AL Central teams not based in Missouri would be anointed the NL favorite should they mysteriously experience a Freaky Friday-ish league juxtaposition.
If the Reds somehow make it to October -- and, as in 2006, it will only take 80-something wins to claim the NL Central's pity berth -- their best-case scenario starting troika of Harang-Arroyo-Bailey matches up well against any other NL starting trio. Hey, stranger things have happened ... within the past two months, in case you weren't paying attention.