Jocketty backs off “vendetta” talk in return to St. Louis
ST. LOUIS (AP) - While viewing Busch Stadium from the visitors' dugout for the first time, new Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty backed off brash comments that both he and manager Dusty Baker had vendettas.
Jocketty agreed Monday before a three-game series against the Cardinals, for whom he had a highly successful 13-year run before getting fired last October, that beating his old team would be especially sweet. Just as it must be for Baker and the Cubs.
But he'd like a do-over regarding his perhaps inflammatory choice of words at his introductory news conference last week.
“That's too harsh,” Jocketty said. “I said afterwards that it was probably not the right word. What I meant is both Dusty and I want to win, especially being in the Central Division, and we think it's possible.
“I still have great admiration for a lot of people here and certainly the fans, and my family's still here.”
It appears a bit of a rift remains, however, between Jocketty and new Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak. Mozeliak was the assistant GM for six seasons under Jocketty, but hurt his former boss when he said in his introductory news conference in October that he wasn't going to be “Walt Junior.”
Jocketty bristled just a bit when asked whether it was difficult that Mozeliak took over his old office, although he attempted to lighten the mood by paraphrasing Mark McGwire's memorable no-comment from Congress' steroid hearings in 2005.
“I don't want to get into that, OK?” Jocketty said. “I'm happy for Mo, I thought he should be a general manager someday and I'm glad he is.
“What is it: I don't want to talk about the past?”
Jocketty slept in his own bed for only the fourth time in the past two months on Sunday night. He had to call to arrange parking before the series, and said he spoke only briefly to Cardinals manager and longtime compatriot Tony La Russa before leaving to work on an advance report.
The Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, won 100 games in consecutive seasons in 2004-05 and made it to the postseason seven times under Jocketty. He was let go with a year remaining on his contract not long after last year's 78-win season amid an organizational rift over Jocketty's old-school method vs. statistical analysis favored by vice president of player development Jeffrey Luhnow.
After only a few months off he landed with the Reds as a special adviser to chief executive Bob Castellini, and replaced Wayne Krivsky as the GM on Wednesday after Cincinnati's sputtering 9-14 start.
La Russa said it's old news, even if this is Jocketty's first time back in St. Louis.
“I've already gotten over that,” La Russa said. “It was strange when it first happened, but not anymore.”
Apparently, Jocketty hasn't quite gotten over the Cardinals. The first St. Louis team in recent memory that wasn't expected to contend for the division title was 16-10 and a half-game behind the first-place Cubs.
“A lot of the so-called experts didn't think they'd get off to that (start), but you have a nucleus here of a great team,” Jocketty said. “The thing that has been the biggest part of their success has been their starting rotation, and the bullpen has been solid.
“When you've got Tony and Dave Duncan and the rest of the coaching staff, you know they're going to give you a competitive effort.”
During his final season in St. Louis, Jocketty dismissed rumors that he would land in Cincinnati because of his relationship with Castellini, who had been a part of the Cardinals' ownership group before purchasing a controlling interest in the Reds in November 2005.
“Believe me, if I'd have known this I would have taken it a lot easier,” Jocketty said. “I would have taken it a little bit differently, I think. This is something that has developed and it's been a great situation for me.
“I was ready for a change, and I'm rejuvenated and ready to go.”