Jocketty: Not too late for '08
BY JOHN ERARDI | JERARDI@ENQUIRER.COM
Walt Jocketty is the kind of person people tell things to - a terrific listener, a communicator, a "people person." At least one Reds insider has compared the team's new general manager to a parish priest, even though Jocketty's a Methodist.
Ultimately, Jocketty's ability to inspire those who work for him might be why he got the job when he did, 21 games into the Reds' new season.
"He just has a wonderful way with people," said Bob Castellini, the Reds' president and chief executive officer. "He's a people guy."
Jocketty, 56, is in his 34th year in pro ball. He was fired last October in St. Louis with one year left on his contract because he wasn't on the same page with the Cardinals' vice president of player development and scouting, who was a proponent of statistical analysis and had the ear of the team's ownership.
Jocketty helped lead the Cardinals to the postseason seven times in 13 years. They twice played in the World Series, winning in 2006. Jocketty twice was named Baseball Executive of the Year (2000 and 2004) by The Sporting News.
"This organization is farther along than in St. Louis when I took over in '95," Jocketty said. "(In St. Louis), there weren't really a lot of prospects ... and a lot of money hadn't been spent in scouting."
Richard Justice, a longtime baseball writer who writes for The Sporting News, wrote Wednesday that Jocketty "didn't do a great job in player development (in St. Louis), but by getting Chris Carpenter, Larry Walker and others for almost nothing, he did his job."
Jocketty said after his news conference Wednesday that the Reds can win the division this year if things go right. He talked about creating a "culture of winning," but nobody is quite sure how Jocketty can create that so quickly given the team opened the season 9-12.
Can he do what needs to be done to turn things around?
"I think so," Jocketty said. "There are probably a couple of things we may have to do yet, but I felt when we started the season that this would be a contending club, and I still believe this division is very winnable."
He talked about the need for the organization to have patience, which is ironic since Castellini showed no patience by replacing Krivsky 21 games into the season. Jocketty said he has always tried to build his teams on pitching and defense.
But the Reds are notably weak on the latter, and two of their biggest offensive threats are defensive liabilities. One of them never could go get the ball (Adam Dunn), and the other no longer can go get it as well as he once could (Ken Griffey Jr.). Jocketty believes in "scoring runs, however ... your ballpark is built - whether it be with power, or the running game or small ball."
The myth is that the Reds have a good enough offense to win. They were the seventh-best offense in the league last year. But the Reds scored 70 fewer runs than they allowed last season in finishing nine games under .500 (72-90).
Stat analysts say that for every 10 runs your team scores more than it allows, that's worth one victory over .500. That means the Reds must score 40 more runs than they did last year, combined with improved pitching, to give the team the necessary plus-60 run differential to achieve an 87-win season. That's probably what it will take to win the NL Central.
If the pitching staff can shave a half run off its ERA - which is viewed as feasible, given the emergence of young stud starters Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez, and a considerably improved bullpen - it will allow 90 fewer runs than last year.
Jocketty's immediate attention probably will turn to the offense. Griffey is 38, Dunn's slow start has people wondering if he can achieve another 40 homer/100 RBI season, and the Reds' offensive player of the future - Jay Bruce - is still in Triple-A. Expect Jocketty to call up Bruce within a few weeks.