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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Krivsky Fired, Jocketty Hired

Wayne Krivsky has been fired. He'll be replaced by former Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty, who was hired in January as a special advisor to Castellini. Krivsky's hiring came just before I started this blog, in February of 2006. So, he survived just over two years in his position.

A lot of Reds bloggers are describing this as unsurprising move. But I'm frankly very surprised.

I think any GM deserves a good three years to make a difference, unless they are obviously and grossly negligent (and yes, The Trade probably counts, but that was several years ago). And five years is not an unreasonable tenure given that GM's often take over a team with a rather sparse major & minor league system (as did Krivsky, Dan O'Brien's two drafts notwithstanding). So I think that it was too early to bring down the axe due to "not winning."

Furthermore, I think it is far too early to read much into the standings, given that there are 141 games left to play in the season and all. And yet, not "starting well" was among the reasons that Castellini cited for the firing. I'm not saying that the Reds will be contenders this year. Just that the first 21 games don't tell us a whole lot, in and of themselves, about who will win this division.

Long-standing rumors of Bob Castellini's reputation for being unnecessarily impatient seem supported.

On Krivsky

I think Krivsky was a decent general manager. Not great, but decent. He continued what Dan O'Brien started in refurbishing the farm system. It is now among the top 25% in baseball, and is going to make Jocketty look good over the next few years with all the talent finally reaching the big leagues. He made several excellent pickups for very little cost: Brandon Phillips, Josh Hamilton, Jeff Keppinger, David Ross, Kyle Lohse, Jared Burton and Scott Hatteberg. He also did a good job of locking up some of the ballclub's core talent, including Harang, Dunn (he'd otherwise be gone by now), Arroyo (that contract isn't as bad as some make it out to be), and most recently Phillips.

The Trade really stands out as the single biggest mistake he's made, and it was unquestionably a complete disaster--even given Felipe Lopez's dive into atrociousness. There have been other mistakes, of course, but none that in my mind (judging from my posts) were particularly terrible moves at the time they were made (Well, maybe the Cormier trade, but whatever).

The other possible problem with Krivsky is his reputation among his employees. It's hard to know much about this on the outside... but some people seem to love him, while others seem to hate him. After his first year, there were two high-profile departures from the front office who left on a bitter note: Larry Barton and Johnny Almarez. Almarez's departure, in particular, bothered me, as he cited some rather bizarre-sounding non-exclusiveness and secrecy on Krivsky's part during the winter meetings as a big part of why he left. Less than a month later, Almarez took over as the Braves' Director of Latin American Operations. He has since been promoted to Director of International Scouting and Operations. So you know he was a good asset. Apparently Paul Daugherty is citing "people skills" as a reason for Krivsky's firing...though I'm pretty skeptical of anything coming out of Daugherty's mouth.

Here's a decent resource: MLB Trade Rumors' summary of Wayne Krivsky's tenure.

On Jocketty

I'm not sure if he'll be all that different. He'll probably be a better public speaker (wouldn't take much), and he certainly has more experience. But my understanding of the guy is that he's a fairly traditional "baseball man" (like Krivsky), with a primary emphasis on scouting (like Krivsky). He did have the services of Sig Mejdal for many years with the Cardinals, though, so maybe he's a bit more open to the input from statisticians than I give him credit for.

There was a nice GM in a Box article about Jocketty in the Hardball Times 2007 Annual, but unfortunately my copy is packed away in storage. What I remember from it: Jocketty built his Cardinals team around Albert Pujols (who was a "lucky" find, more than anything), and some successful trade-and-signs of guys like established Jim Edmonds and Chris Carpenter. It's a fine strategy, but doesn't strike me as a particularly unique philosophy either. I'm also not sure how consistent it is with a team that has the kind of minor league system the Reds have right now.

Jocketty's had success in the past, so hiring him certainly isn't a bad move. But I have a feeling that most of the success that he hopefully will have in the coming years will be built upon the core of young talent that Krivsky has assembled. Such is baseball, though...

Update: Wayne Krivsky's comments, courtesy of Hal's blog:
“It came out of the blue, it really did,” said Krivsky. “Completely shocked. I didn’t see this coming at all. What hurts so much is not to be able to see the job through. I had visions of being in the clubhouse with people pouring champagne over everybody. I’m hugely disappointed I’m not able to finish the job.

“I fought for an hour to keep my job,” he said. “I fought hard for my job. I love it here. I loved my job. And I had laughs. You have to have laughs in this job and I did in two years. I only wish it was 22. It wasn’t my call. But I disagree strongly with the decision. I still think I’m the right guy for this job. But Bob will admit he is an impatient man. I’ll sleep good tonight…well, maybe not tonight.

“Look at an unbiased source like Baseball America, who had the Reds farm system rated 27th to 30th when I got here, now they rank us in the top three or four,” said Krivsky. “In two years? Dam right I’m proud of that. I’m damned proud of that. We’re one of the most respected organizations in baseball and I’m damn proud of that.”
He should be. Building the farm system is definitely Krivsky's #1 accomplishment during his time here. As I said above, any success that Jocketty has over the coming few seasons--and obviously I hope he has a lot of success--will be built largely upon Krivsky's work. It's unfair. ... And that's ok, assuming that Jocketty is an upgrade in that position. I'm just not sure that he is. Time will tell.