So what is “The Grand Plan?”
By Hal McCoy | Thursday, August 20, 2009, 02:30 PM
Nearly every day WLW, the Cincinnati Reds flagship station, plays a sound bite from CEO Bob Castellini in which he says, “We’re just not going to lose any more.”
That sound bite comes from two years ago and was an answer to a question I posed on the day general manager Wayne Krivskhy was fired early in the 2008 season.
The question was, “When are the Reds going to consider some stability in the general manager’s office and in the manager’s chair.”
Castellini wasn’t happy with my question and snapped out the answer, “We just aren’t going to lose any more.”
How is that working so far? As today’s game unfolded, the Reds were 19 games under .500 and the only team below them in the NL Central is the Pittsburgh Pirates.
And that’s all the Reds have left to play for this season - staying out of last place. The Reds and the Pirates play 13 times the rest of the season, beginning tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.
The theme: The Battle for the Bottom.
Since the Reds last had a winning season in 2000 and the manager was Jack McKeon and the general manager was Jim Bowden, the team has been managed by Bob Boone, Dave Miley, Jerry Narron, Pete Mackanin (interim) and Dusty Baker.
The GMs have been Jim Bowden, Dan O’Brien, Wayne Krivsky and Walt Jocketty.
Since McKeon and Bowden left, the theme has been rebuilding through the minor-league system. That’s the stated theme, The Grand Plan.
Well, it has been nine years of losing now and how is that working? The old Brooklyn Dodgers had a chant every year when they were eliminated, “Wait ‘til next year.” With the Reds, it is more like, “Wait until the next decade,” and even that doesn’t work.
The Reds and Jocketty keep saying they have a plan and that plan is the same plan they’ve told fans over and over, “We’re building from within.” They never saw how long that plan will take. Probably won’t happen in my lifetime.
What bothers me is the trade for Scott Rolen - a great guy, a great player. But he is 35 and injury-prone and has played only four games since the July 31 trade. To get him, the Reds gave up two young pitching prospects, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart.
Is that building from within? Jocketty says he hopes Rolen sticks around for three or four years.
Why would that be? One of the Reds’ top prospects is third baseman Juan Francisco, who was recently promoted to Class AAA Louisville. He isn’t far away and one wonders, “If Rolen is around, where will Francisco play?”
Hopefully, somebody with the Reds is watching and studying what the Florida Marlins do. The Marlins spent about $90 million before the 1997 season on free agents and bought themselves a World Series trophy.
After that season, the Marlins got rid of most of their high-priced players and began building from within. And with one of baseball’s lowest payrolls, they won another World Series.
And they keep doing it. Low payroll, high return. They compete every year with one of baseball’s lowest payrolls, doing it mostly with homegrown talent. They are in the hunt against this year, in second place in the NL East, chasing the Phillies.
Why can’t the Reds do it? They could. Easily. If they’d only stick with the plan instead of constantly veering off course to sign players like Corey Patterson, Willy Taveras and trading for a player like Rolen, who will hinder the advancement of Francisco, unless they move him to left field. Then what are they going to do with shortstop-third baseman-left fielder- second baseman Todd Frazier?
Krivsky did a lot of good things in his short time with the Reds, especially in the development department. Krivsky, a long-time development guy with the Minnesota Twins - another team that does it right - was perfect for the Reds “Grand Plan.”
But Castellini became impatient and wanted Jocketty in the GM’s chair. Castellini was a minority owner with the St. Louis Cardinals when Jocketty was GM there.
Yes, the Cardinals were, and are, successful. But they aren’t a developmental team. They spend money. They sign free agents and they make trades for established players.
Perhaps Krivsky’s only curious move was to sign closer Francisco Cordero to a $47 million contract. A team building for the future doesn’t need an expensive closer.
Now he is an albatross on a team that doesn’t win enough to need an established closer. That’s a job that should be handled on the Reds by a young, inexpensive talent - Josh Roenicke was one. Jared Burton could be one. Nick Masset could be one.
If they can, the Reds should trade Cordero - the Phillies and Cubs could use a closer and have the cash to do it. That would save the Reds $25 milion over the next two years and make room for more young pitchers to develop.
I’m still scratching my head over why the Reds spent $10 million last off-season to buy a new HD scoreboard. It’s a nice trinket, but what was wrong with the old scoreboard?
You have to have fans in the park to see that scoreboard. The Reds were counting on 2 to 2.5 million fans this year but are headed closer to 1.5 to 1.7 million and there are indications the team will lose close to $15 million this year, according to a person close to the inner workings.
I don’t profess to be as knowledgeable as a club owner or a GM or a scout, but I do think that coming up with a plan and sticking with it would be beneficial.
And then prove to the fans that there is a plan that won’t take another decade to produce a consistent contender - like the Marlins or the Twins or the Tampa Bay Rays.
That is the best article I've ever seen written about the REDS, probably because it's everything I've said a 1000 times here over the last 2 years.
Hal McCoy, you go out a Champion. If only Castellini will heed the criticism and fix things.