The Reds today extended Jerry Narron's contract through the 2008 season with an option for 2009 and exercised the 2008 option on general manager Wayne Krivsky's contract. Narron was signed only through this season, so this certainly should put all the Lou Piniella silliness to rest. From the very beginning, there has been a very good working relationship among these two and Bob Castellini.I'm very pleased to see this development. It's a huge vote of confidence in what those guys have been able to do so far this season. Furthermore, it's is a statement that the tumultuous times of the past 5 years are in the past. Krivsky and Narron will be the guys to lead this team for at least the next three seasons. And I'm very pleased to hear that.
Obviously, Krivsky's moves have looked brilliant thus far. There's a certain amount of luck that goes into this sort of thing, but like Freel said recently, where would we be without the likes of the big three Krivsky acquisitions--Arroyo, Phillips, and Ross? Even more impressive to me has been his willingness to cut bait with players who are not performing, despite what we paid for them: Dave Williams, Tony Womack, Rick White, and perhaps even Brandon Claussen and Jason LaRue. It always seemed as though past leadership would just hang with a veteran guy no matter what. There is something to be said for being patient, but you can't go on waiting forever either. The one mark I'd hold against Krivsky to this point is that he hasn't been able to solve our catching logjam, nor bring in some meaningful bullpen help. Of course, if LaRue had actually hit this season, that might be different.
Now Narron is a slightly more controversial character, at least among the online circles. I often do scratch my head over his lineups, and sometimes have been known to scoff at his in-game strategic decisions. But he does a lot of things right. He seems to be an excellent communicator with his players, and has done a great job managing all the personalities on this team, keeping players fresh, etc. Furthermore, despite his absolutely miserable interview voice (the people in my office groan every time he comes on the radio with Marty--though I still think he's more interesting than Miley ever was), he is very good at communicating with the media and fans, and seems to consistently promote his players' virtues.
Finally, for an "old-school baseball guy," Jerry is surprisingly cognizant of modern strategic thinking. He likes to be aggressive on the basepaths, but always emphasizes success rates over attempt rates. He has rationales for his lineups that are based on strategy rather than just tradition (high on-base percentage at the top of the lineup, the need for a versatile batter in the #5 hole, the need for contact in the #8 hole, etc), even if I sometimes disagree with how heavily he weights certain factors. No, he's not Davey Johnson or Earl Weaver. But he strikes a balance between old-school strategy and modern analysis that I find to be pretty comfortable. His players trust him and like him, and he's been successful in striking a balance between a focused and a loose'n'easy clubhouse.
So kudos to Castellini for this move. Let's hope they can bring some solid playoff ball to Cincinnati soon...if it doesn't happen this year, they've set an expectation that the Reds will be serious contenders next year. And that's far more than I'd hoped for when the season started almost three months ago.