Walt Jocketty should bring October baseball back to Cincinnati
April 23, 2008

Richard Justice

Wednesday was a good day for the Cincinnati Reds. They didn't just hire a new general manager. They hired one of baseball's most successful general managers.

Walt Jocketty has both credibility and a terrific track record. Years from now, that's the part of the story people will remember. Departing GM Wayne Krivsky might have had his feelings hurt, but that's going to happen when franchises are rebuilt.

Mark it on your calendar. This is going to be remembered as the day the Reds began their climb back to prominence.

The Reds desperately needed stability, and now with Bob Castellini as CEO, Dusty Baker as manager and Jocketty as GM, they've got it. In the last six years, they've had four general managers, four managers and two owners.

Now the pieces are in place. The St. Louis Cardinals went to the playoffs seven times in 12 years with Jocketty in charge. He acquired or developed the core players on two National League championship teams, one of which won the World Series.

He didn't do a great job in player development, but by getting Chris Carpenter, Larry Walker and others for almost nothing, he did his job.

He was stripped of some of his power after the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, and his departure seemed a foregone conclusion.

Castellini, who had once been part of the ownership group in St. Louis, brought in Jocketty as a consultant last January.

Some of Jocketty's closest friends swear he didn't want to be GM; rather, he wanted to help Krivsky any way he could.

Problem is, Krivsky apparently saw Jocketty as a threat no matter how many people tried to tell him he was anything but. Krivsky seldom sought Jocketty's advice, and he froze him out of the decision-making process.

Krivsky did some good things for Cincinnati before his firing. He made nice deals to acquire Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Phillips and Edinson Volquez. He was methodically rebuilding the farm system.

He also made plenty of mistakes. In the end, those mistakes did him in. He signed Rheal Cormier and Mike Stanton and ended up paying them $6.5 million not to pitch.

He gave Corey Patterson $3 million even though Patterson was out of work and probably would have signed for the minimum. He overpaid Ryan Freel and Josh Fogg, as well.

His $46-million deal for Francisco Cordero may end up being a bad signing.

Bad contracts could have been forgiven if the Reds had been winning, but the team looked like it was headed toward its eighth straight losing season when the axe fell of Krivsky.

Plenty of baseball people were glad to see Krivsky get the chance to be a general manager. He was a grassroots baseball man, working his way up the ladder with the Rangers and Twins.

He had contacts and years of institutional knowledge. What he didn't have and might never have was the credibility that Jocketty brings to any discussion with other general managers.

Jocketty and Tony La Russa were the perfect team in St. Louis. Around this time last year, some baseball insiders believed both would end up working for Castellini in Cincinnati. But La Russa re-signed with the Cardinals, and Dusty Baker got the Reds' managerial job.

Now Jocketty is being given the task of resurrecting baseball in one of America's best baseball cities. At the moment, the Reds don't have enough hitting or pitching.

They do have two premier prospects in outfielder Jay Bruce and lefthander Homer Bailey. Jocketty's track record says he will succeed. There aren't many things better than October baseball in Cincinnati -- and it's going to return.