We’ve been bad. We’ve been petty. Okay, we’ve been downright unreasonable. We’ve called you names. Joke-etty. Mr. Crickets. We admit it.
You came to Cincinnati with some serious baseball bona fides, but in this day of Show Me What You’ve Won For Me Lately—that wasn’t enough. You came preaching patience, all the while talking about building a culture of winning, something that hadn’t been a part of Reds baseball since dinosaurs like Doggie and Charlie Hustle roamed the earth along Mehring Way.
“This is the oldest franchise in baseball,” you said. “There is a history of winning here. People still remember the Big Red Machine, and that’s huge. But other than 1990, there hasn’t been a whole lot in between. It’s now important to get people believing that this can be similar to that era, and that it’s going to be a lot of fun to be a Reds fan.”
And truth be told, you delivered a nice down payment on that promise sooner than we had a right to expect when you brought in Scotty Rolen. He provided leadership long missing in a clubhouse full of big red couches and relaxed expectations. You delivered unto us Mike Leake. And let’s not forget Mr. 106, the erstwhile reliever Chapman. Yet, when you brought in one too many former ex-Cardinals in an attempt to provide more veteran leadership at a cheap price, we ridiculed you. When you were outbid for that rental of Cliff Lee, we thought maybe you were out of your league, a bit past your prime.
But mostly, we just felt uneasy. We’ve had some of what I can only explain as a little bit of buyer’s remorse. I mean, you’re a great guy and all. You’re thoughtful and not prone to impulse, like some GMs I could name. You rock those Tommy Bahama shirts. You wouldn’t be caught dead wearing naugahyde pants. You mostly say all the right things, except for that time you committed the heresy of commenting on the open GM position with the Stupid Cubs. Some of us wondered if you were flirting with the Weasels on Waveland, thinking of going all Pujols on us and trading us in for a little more carrying around money—or if you were just angling for a raise. When it came right down to it, we were just beginning to think that maybe you couldn’t pull the trigger any more. That maybe the game was beginning to pass you by.
Stupid us, eh?
I have to admit, I was driving around Northern New Jersey when I turned on the radio and heard the news. Remember Bud Fox in Wall Street when he got the call from Gordon Gekko? Well, my reaction was pretty much the same:
“Walt just bagged the Elephant!”
While all us were fretting about Shields or fussing about overpaying for another #3 or #4 starter like Jair Jurrjens, you were quietly going about your business, a/k/a, taking other GMs’ talent on your terms.
Ironically, it was a former San Diego GM, Kevin Towers, who once joked, “Some of the worst trades I’ve ever made were with Walt,” Towers said. “He’s the one guy, every time we made a trade I’d end up saying: ‘You know what? This is not going to be good.’”
It wasn’t going to be quite the same this time around. Rivals know what the Reds need. They know you don’t have time on your side, that prospects go from highly valued to replacement value faster than a Drew Stubbs at bat. We lambasted you for your inactivity. Your perceived willingness to go with the status quo. Yet, you did the deal on your terms, not ours. “Sometimes the best deals are those that are never done,” you reminded us. We smirked at that one, too.
“You don’t do a deal just to do a deal.” Yeah. Tell us something we don’t already know, Walt.
You stuck to your guns. You did the right deal, even if you didn’t take the latest San Diego GM to the cleaners. You filled the Reds biggest need, kept the team intact, and gave Bob Castellini a chance to splurge for a little something extra under the tree this year. Some will say you paid too high a price. Don’t listen to them. Once we get past our romance with Yonder and our angst over Joey, we’ll realize that Alonso’s worth (and Grandal’s for that matter) weren’t the same to us as they are to the Padres. That Boxberger is a prospect, nothing more right now. And as much as we loved the antics of that lovable lug, Edinson, sometimes it’s just time to move on.
So, we get it now, Mr. Jocketty. Can you ever find it in your heart to forgive us?
P.S. Uh, now, when are going to take care of that little matter in left field? We don’t have all day, you know.