Lonnie Wheeler's column this morning/afternoon.
Not easy being Wayne
Whether it's deal or no deal, he'll be criticized
Column by The Post's Lonnie Wheeler
Wayne Krivsky neglected to patch me into the conversations, so I don't know what went on at the trading deadline. Neither do you.
I do know that he tried mightily to revise the dysfunctional mix of players at Pete Mackanin's immediate disposal, and for whoever manages the Reds in 2008. I'm pretty sure that Adam Dunn's name came up, and Ken Griffey Jr.'s. Evidently, the bargain driven by the Cincinnati general manager was too hard for the other clubs to swallow.
As to whether there was wisdom in Krivsky's reluctance, I can't say with certainty. As to whether opportunity was left standing at the gate of Great American Ball Park, nobody can positively vouch. As to whether the entire scenario is saturated with irony, I can assure you in the affirmative.
The complaint I hear constantly about the Cincinnati GM is that he didn't get enough in return last year when he traded two young, talented, everyday players. A case could be made that Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez have shown themselves to be no great shakes, and that horrible luck has attended Bill Bray and Gary Majewski, who were both highly regarded at the time and essential to the Reds' reeling bullpen; but that's not the point. The point is the nature of last year's bellowed objections. And this year's.
This time around, Krivsky's antagonists accuse him of not doing anything at all with the veteran inventory in his cupboard, save the obvious move of trading Kyle Lohse for a prospect. Maybe the current condemners are a different lot than last year's - but don't you see the contradiction?
Does Krivsky settle for too little or demand too much? Which is it?
Granted, it could, from time to time, be both. It's conceivable that Krivsky's courage has been compromised by the pummeling he took in 2006. But the bottom line is that, on this occasion, he did the very thing his critics charged him previously with failing to do: He asked for a lot and held his ground.
Party to all of this is the conspicuous prospect that Dunn and Griffey might not be the hot properties that Cincinnati takes them for. General managers listen to scouts. Scouts know the tough outs. In the Reds' lineup, there aren't many.
But these days, everybody thinks he's a GM. With the cosmic alignment of cyberspace and sabermetrics, all the numbers are truly at the fingertips of the diamond-minded mavens. They have access to enough statistical analyses to advance the arguments of their choosing. They can read scouting reports and even listen online to the live broadcasts of the farm teams. They can calculate and project a ballclub's payroll, all in all carrying on with enough intelligence to amplify any and every debate.
What they can't do is tap a cell phone and hear what Jim Bowden, Bill Stoneman or John Schuerholz has to offer. What they can't do is trust the GM and tolerate the inevitable taints of his track record.
And that's where I continue to be baffled by the smart, serious and studied followers of the Cincinnati Reds. If Krivsky were given any less slack, he couldn't make it to the coffee pot in the corner.
Essentially, the Reds' major-league roster includes three players whose services might he considered precious and indispensable. There's Brandon Phillips, whom Krivsky acquired by taking advantage of Cleveland. There's Josh Hamilton, whom he finagled by Rule 5. And there's Aaron Harang, whom he signed to a long-term contract in the offseason. (The brightest gems below - pitchers Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto and outfielder Jay Bruce - were all brought in on Dan O'Brien's watch.)
The ranks also include three heavily paid players whom Krivsky inherited. Eric Milton is out for the season and finished in Cincinnati. Dunn and Griffey, the only Reds who have been around for all seven of the consecutive losing seasons, flank Phillips in the middle of the lineup and whoever's in center field.
It can assuredly be said that, in his determination to shore up the bullpen, Krivsky lost his gamble on Bray and Majewski - at least for the time being - and overpaid for Mike Stanton, who stands to make $3 million next year. It should also be pointed out that, in addition to the inspired acquisitions of Phillips and Hamilton, he did well by bringing in, for negligible outlay, Bronson Arroyo, Jeff Keppinger, Scott Hatteberg, Alex Gonzalez, David Ross, Jeff Conine, Jon Coutlangus, Jared Burton, Eddie Guardado and Bobby Livingston. Maybe even Jorge Cantu.
The latter represents a classic case of the curious disapproval that envelops Krivsky. Cantu, a 25-year-old infielder of dubious defensive skills, was brought in a week ago for relief pitcher Calvin Medlock, who had recently been promoted to Louisville. Medlock, 24, is a compactly built hard thrower who, in order to make the Cincinnati roster in 2008, would have had to overtake or somehow separate himself from at least eight relievers in a scrum of 14 that consists of David Weathers, Guardado (if the Reds pick up their option on his contract), Stanton, Burton, Coutlangus, Bray, Majewski, Brad Salmon, Marcus McBeth, Tyler Pelland, Michael Gosling, Todd Coffey, Josh Roenicke and Carlos Guevara. (Unlike Medlock, Roenicke and Guevera were appointed as closers at Chattanooga.) Meanwhile, Cantu, who suffered an injury last year and fell out of favor with the Tampa Bay organization, is a much-needed right-handed hitter two years removed from a season in which, at 23, he set a Devil Rays record with 117 RBIs. Goodness.
Cantu has been placed at Louisville, where the Reds' readiest prospects have lately been globbed together. Bailey is there, joined now by Cueto, another 21-year-old sensation. The golden Bruce has been promoted there at the age of 20. First baseman Joey Votto has spent the season there, joined along the way by shortstop Paul Janish, outfielder Chris Dickerson and such closely watched pitchers as Pelland, McBeth, Richie Gardner and Elizardo Ramirez. Phil Dumatrait was with the Bats until he started Thursday night for the Reds.
It all has the appearance of a movement, a concerted gathering of the young and highly regarded. Clearly, Krivsky has a plan.
Depending on how the phone calls go, the grand scheme may yet include waiver trades of Hatteberg, Conine, Stanton or even, though less likely, Griffey or Dunn. Disaster has not yet set in.
Nor will it. At the least, the Reds will embark on next year with accomplished sluggers in the corners of the outfield.
At the most, Krivsky will still be able to rearrange the roster in a fashion that gets the hackles up on less than half of you. If he's lucky.