If I have ventured wrongly, very well, life corrects me with a penalty. But if I haven’t ventured at all, who can help me then?   —Kierkegaard

The philosopher in all of us is crying out for Walt Jocketty to do something—anything—to deliver us from the evil of another Cardinal coronation come October. Pay any price. Sacrifice any prospect. Just get it done, Walt.

We’re all Kierkegaardians, now. Some of us more than others.

It should come as no surprise that we all think we know the ins-and-outs of this GM stuff. After all, we’ve mastered the art of setting our 2010 MVP straight on the vagaries of plate discipline. We’ve shown him a thing or two about expanding the zone, yeah? After that, managing a baseball team is child’s play. Anybody with a cell phone, a big league rolodex and a prescription for AndroGel can get the job done. Not a believer? Just ask us.

My guy Lance McAlister weighed in last week, insisting Jocketty MUST make a trade; that to STAND DOWN—as Lance put it in his feisty “you need me on that wall” manner—was not an option. As Mr. McAlister is fond of telling his listeners, “teams don’t choose the year they contend, the Baseball Gods choose them.” And 1 1/2 games out at the All Star break was a divine sign from above signaling this was the Reds’ year. And because anything could happen next year, as Lance kept repeating (although it’s hard to see how things could possibly go worse in upcoming seasons than they have this year) you simply can’t pass when you’re this close with nearly 70 games left.

Make a move, big guy.

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And yet, if the Baseball Gods were saying anything to Lance, acting as proxy for the Cincinnati Reds, surely they were hinting this is NOT “the” year, assuming, of course, that gods engage in such subtleties. If a hospital ward’s worth of injuries, enough to test the resolve of Marcus Welby, Hawkeye Pierce and Bones McCoy combined weren’t enough, if LEFT DISTAL MVP QUAD wasn’t the river card dealt by Beelzebunt himself, surely the cruel on-field smote-ing from above of Brandon Phillips on the very day it was revealed that Darth Molina was likely done for the regular season, well… wasn’t that a message from on high that 2014 is perhaps just not the year?

The real truth lies amongst the rich platelets injected deep into the soft tissue of Joey Votto’s left quadriceps. The 2010 MVP surely won’t be able to come back 100% in 2014, that much we know. But should he come back and give the team real value at the plate, the offense might be bolstered enough to partner with this wonderful pitching staff and perhaps carry the Reds to the playoffs and who knows where.

That’s assuming the Reds can hold the fort until the cavalry comes and add the kind of bat that can improve the offense above what it was when Joey was here. But without Votto’s return down the road, who believes the Reds have enough juice to run with St. Louis and/or Milwaukee in September?

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There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”     —Kierkegaard

After six straight losses, and a scout telling him that making a bad trade could be catastrophic in ways he admits he hadn’t considered, it appears Lance has folded his ALL IN hand for the moment. And truth be told, this was never going to be a slam dunk decision simply because the Brewers were faltering and the Cardinals were stuck in neutral. It is and always was going to be a seller’s market after all. The extra wild card almost guarantees more teams will play the role of buyer, with even those knowing hope is all but lost still refusing to sell for fear of seeing the turnstiles slow to a crawl in August and September, choosing to carry on as if in the hunt—leaving everyone fighting over a handful of make-a-difference players for a two-month sprint to the finish. So, the buyers with the winning bids will almost certainly overpay. Can the Reds afford to part with Stephenson? Or Lively? Or Lorenzen? Or Winker? Or more? When parting with cheap, good starting pitching would surely mean jettisoning the future? For what? For Ben Zobrist?

As if to complicate matters further, the Reds probably won’t give up on this season with the All Star Game in Cincinnati now just a handful of calendar pages away. Bob Castellini isn’t going to allow this club to look like the Little Engine that Couldn’t in front of all of America. Which means selling off chunks of the team would seem to be out of the question. And the Reds need to keep the revenue flowing. Like the wheels on the bus, the Reds need the aforementioned turnstiles to keep going round-and-round.

The Danish philosopher’s words fairly ring in the ears:

I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations – one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it – you will regret both.”

Jocketty finds himself in a situation he cannot win. For the narrative portraying Jocketty as a “do-nothing” executive has reached herd-mentality status. Perform his due diligence, wait for Votto, decide that Godot isn’t coming, choose to hold his cards—and a fan base goes berserk.

” It would be unwise for both Lettuce Bob and Wally Jockstrap to underestimate the intelligence of their new fan base, should they decide to fiddle once again while Rome burns.”

If you want to be loathsome to God, just run with the herd.”

The masses have already spoken. What comes next is a roar:

Sleeping is the height of genius.”

“He’s an asleep at the switch baseball suit.”
“Here’s hoping I didn’t wake up Jocketty from his 162-game nap.”
“Walt will not be making any trades. You can bank on that.”
“The fan base is getting restless. I’m balking at buying tickets at this point, and I know there’s thousands of people out there just like me. I like supporting the team, ABSOLUTELY…..but I can’t spend $50 to see Pena play first, Santiago anywhere but 9th inning defense, and even Skip playing everyday.”

Release the hounds on an old guy who didn’t make enough moves to satisfy a growing fan base frustrated with decades of losing. And should he give up the future while watching just one more unforeseen injury tip the scales towards catastrophe in September and Jocketty never escapes the local media gallows and their comment section minions.

If you are younger than 42 years old, you haven’t seen the Reds in the World Series since you’ve come of age as an adult. That’s more than 3,800 games. Since that outlier season of 1995, the Reds have not so much as won a single playoff series. Frustration in 1999, losing a play-in game to the Mets. Frustration in the form of a lost decade until Jocketty’s efforts, laid upon the foundation Wayne Krivsky built, brought Cincinnati back to prominence.

Joey Votto’s glittering MVP season and Jay Bruce’s clinching home run would both portend the return of the franchise to the national stage and leave and a fan base hungry for more. But the setback season of 2011 left many feeling betrayed—a promise reneged as it were. The GM didn’t do enough to push the franchise over the top in the off-season. The following year, a cost-controlled Latos for blocked and over-valued prospects, two of whom have long since been abandoned by the team they were traded to—not good enough. The best lead-off hitter in a generation at a cost of a center fielder who never developed despite years of coddling, plus a backup shortstop—not good enough. Scott Rolen, Jonathon Broxton, Aroldis Chapman, J.J. Hoover, Sean Marshall, all players who at one time or another helped the Reds win 91, 97 and 90 games between 2010 and 2013—simply not good enough. Successful draft after successful draft that added Mike Leake, Yonder Alonso, Billy Hamilton, and Robert Stephenson, while avoiding the draft mistakes of past administrations, the Chad Mottolas and the Ty Howingtonsnot enough, Mr. Jocketty.

Walt Jocketty builds a lousy bench, the herd says. The stark reality of the game—that bench players are by definition players that cannot hit, but rather provide value almost exclusively with their gloves—is lost on the frustrated Reds fan who ignore the baseball truism “the bat plays.” The NY Met Daniel Murphy is a player who looks like he got his glove at a junk yard. The Mets organization spent untold hours agonizing over where they could put Murphy in the field to get his bat into the lineup while compromising the defense the least. Bottom line: Daniel Murphy could hit. Bats don’t sit.

Baseball’s version of a Park Avenue ATM—the NY Yankees—have had to live with an infield made from tin, not gold. They’ve had to rely on players like unknown 26-year-old rookie, Yangervis Solarte (.500 OPS in June) and cast-offs like Dean Anna (.136/.200/.318) and Brendan Ryan (.235/.273/.255). Brian Roberts and his slash line of .244/.307/.373 has gotten over 300 ABs this season playing next to Derek Jeter for goodness sakes.

The best team in Baseball this year, the Oakland A’s, has Eric Sogard dragging around a 40 OPS+ in 175 plate appearances like a broken wagon, Jed Lowrie is sporting an 88 OPS+ as an everyday player with a leaky glove; and don’t forget Nick Punto (209/.303/.288).

The defending world champions—the Red Sox—have an outfield that as late as June had the second lowest OPS of any team since 1974, and according to Peter Gammons have been looking all season for outfield help. Jackie Bradley, Jr., Jonny Gomes and Grady Sizemore—the player that got Jocketty unfairly ripped for being unable to seal the deal to bring him to the Reds—well, they’ve all been underachievers this year. Sizemore can no longer see the Green Monster from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

In short, the best team last year, the best team this year and the team with a silver spoon in its organizational mouth—all could use help in the infield or outfield—and for the most part cannot find it. Yet Jocketty is brutalized because he didn’t build a bench to carry a team that has been strafed with injuries to its key players month-after-bloody-month.

If anyone on the verge of action should judge himself according to the outcome, he would never begin.”

Walt Jocketty overspends on his bullpen. Grossly. That’s the charge, Your Honor. And there’s some merit to it. They paid too much money to Jonathan Broxton to be a setup man some say—omitting the not insignificant fact that he was supposed to be the heir apparent to the closer role once Aroldis Chapman moved to the rotation—a move that had to be scuttled when Dusty Baker howled to the moon and the local media in objection. Even highly thought of GM Billy Beane spent $10M for a year of closer Jim Johnson, while the big brains in Tampa spent $12M for two years of Grant Balfour. By June, Balfour and his 6.46 ERA were no longer closing for the Rays, while Johnson found himself being shopped around by the A’s.

Yet Jocketty sees no reprieve from ridicule for investing in 2 years of Logan Ondrusek for $1.25M per year.

Good grief.

Even noted seam head Russell Carleton suggests that traditional reliever metrics don’t accurately measure a pitcher’s worth; and that investing in relievers may be a small market way of managing risk while still providing an avenue to hitting the jackpot:

Betting on relievers is most certainly risky, but the point of risk isn’t to avoid it. The point is to properly manage it. The starters on the WPA leaders list make (or will eventually make) much more than the relievers on the list will, but the starters are also a safer bet to get the kind of performance that produces that sort of WPA year after year. It’s a lower cost, high-risk, high-reward bet, but when you live in a “small market,” sometimes those are the only bets you can afford.”

Other organizations, noted for the sharp and clear-eyed stewardship of their franchises, have made sizable mistakes steering their ships. Dave Dombrowski may have ultimately driven his Tigers onto the rocks by shipping Doug Fister off in a trade widely panned by baseball watchers everywhere. The Atlanta Braves, long praised for their wildly successful front office moves and decades of success, whiffed to the tune of 5 years/$62M on Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton’s 5-years/$72.5M contract has rewarded the Braves with a two-year OPS+ average of 62. Now that’s uggla.

Fans look toward Louisville and lament the lack of reinforcements available, another sign from the herd that Walt has mismanaged the organization. They point—as always—to the St. Louis Cardinals and their always on spigot of talent flowing to the top. But, the Reds, like all organizations have different situations and differing considerations. The Cardinals have always had the extra money flowing from a fan base that fills up the park night after night. They’ve been able to spend on free agents and fill holes, leaving the farm system alone long enough to bloom. The Reds by contrast have had to eschew the free agent market and continue to rely on the farm system to produce most of the players you see at Great American Ball Park or trade them to fill holes, as they did in obtaining Choo. As the Cardinals rely more and more on their system for players, their farm system will too fall back, just as the Reds has. As St. Louis Director of Scouting Dan Kantrovitz has said, “Look, let’s be realistic. Once we graduate guys to the big leagues, we’re not going to always be perceived as one of the top farm systems. We’ll regress to the mean.” It’s the way the business works. This is simply where the Reds are in the development cycle.

None of this is to suggest Walt Jocketty hasn’t made missteps. He gave Brandon Phillips money for what he’d done in the past, not what he’s going to do in the future. The Jack Hannahan contract is a loser. Clearly, Jocketty is in love with pitching and players who can defend at multiple positions; sometimes to excess. But, 2-year/$4M contracts don’t cripple clubs. Players haven’t panned out, like Ryan Ludwick. But Ludwick, like almost all of Jocketty’s failures, have been the victim of untimely injuries. The moves that brought Ryan Madsen and Sean Marshall to the Reds would all be seen in a different light had their arms not imploded. I don’t blame Walt Jocketty for that any more than I blamed Bob Howsam—who also left the Cardinals organization under a cloud—for the injuries to Jim Merritt or Gary Nolan.

Fans shouldn’t either. For ultimately, when second-guessing GMs for the moves they do or do not make, we are largely in the dark about the motives, consequences and unseen obstacles that make these decisions good, bad or impossible to make at all.

Like Sergeant Schultz in that old TV series Hogan’s Heroes, “We know nothing.”

Well, we know this much:

We know Jocketty rebuilt an Oakland A’s farm system that would produce Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Walt Weiss, then go on to win three straight AL pennants. We know that within three years of taking over the job in St. Louis, he returned the Cardinals to the post-season for the first time in 9 years in 1996. We know he rebuilt the Cardinals again to win the division in 2000. When St. Louis won 105 games in 2004, Jocketty was named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News—for the second time. We know that two years later, the organization he built won the World Series. A quick Google search will tell you that Walt Jocketty was one of the founders of the Arizona Rookie League, a venue for the development of Latin and high school baseball players. And we know that the last Reds team to win at least 90 games in three out of four seasons before Walt Jocketty came on the scene had a nickname:

The Big Red Machine.

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk.”

And now we know that Kierkegaard was a huge Joey Votto fan.

Join the conversation! 89 Comments

  1. Nicely written, Richard. And I agree with nearly every word.

  2. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

  3. I don’t know what the point of this article is really. Fans are idiots for wanting their team to get better? Fans are sheep for second guessing the GM?

    Isn’t second guessing the GM part of baseball at this point?

    Haven’t many other teams made moves in the past offseason and this year? If it’s possible for them, is it not reasonable to assume that a different GM in charge of the Reds may have made some moves?

    I don’t like it when players on the Reds rip the fans for not showing up, and I don’t like it anymore when Redleg Nation brings out the high horse to tell everyone that they’re stupid for wanting improvements and being disappointed in more than a year of inaction when the team has a lot of talent.

    • Most of the point was to allow Richard to tell everybody that he has read Kierkegaard.

      His points about the trade situation is pretty much correct, though, because there isn’t much out there that the Reds can sensibly afford.

      Jocketty has had zero production from the Dominican and Venezuela as Reds GM. That is inexcusable. The system has produced one hitter under 26 (Hamilton) who is playing for the Reds or in the majors, unless you want to count Lutz and the .212-hitting Yasmani Grandal. Jocketty has no prospects at AAA, and the next generation of Winker, Waldrop, Ervin, etc. are all at least a year away.

      The Reds are in this predicament primarily because Jocketty has under-performed in drafting, international scouting, and development.

      • I cannot like this comment enough. As someone who values prospects highly (they’re cost controlled players for six years if they pan out), the thing I’ve been most disappointed in with Jocketty is that he hasn’t been utilizing international scouting enough. For all of the noise surrounding Chapman and Iglesias, the international signing money the Reds have been allotted has gone mostly unused in the last few years. I believe Carlton Daal is the only player of note that they’ve signed with that money so far.

        I think part of the problem in regards to prospects is that the Reds seem to either A.) rush players through the minors (Lutz, Cingrani, Corcino), or B.) are extremely cautious with them (assigning new, college draft picks to lower levels, etc.).

        At this point, I’m hoping he sets the Reds up to go for 2015, and sells some of his more valuable assets while their value is high (Broxton, Chapman, Simon). I wouldn’t mind the Reds trading Cueto if they got an offer that blew them away (three top 100 prospects, one of which is at least in the top 10-15, plus another lower level one).

    • I don’t agree that Richard is calling fans stupid. Richard is asking the mob to be reasonable, which rarely works.

      • I don’t think so, he’s asking fans to not second guess the GM because we don’t know what really goes on.

        I live in Oakland. You know who gets ripped here all the time for Jim Johnson? Billy Beane. Do those fans go around saying, “well, it doesn’t matter that we made this horrible deal, because look at the mistakes that these other teams made..” Absolutely not. That’s called accountability.

        • You know who gets ripped here all the time for Jim Johnson? Billy Beane. Do those fans go around saying, “well, it doesn’t matter that we made this horrible deal, because look at the mistakes that these other teams made..” Absolutely not. That’s called accountability.”

          No. That’s called the Herd Mentality. I don’t live in Oakland. Neither do the millions of baseball fans who, although they are not from Oakland, recognize Beane as one of the brightest GMs around today. Maybe that’s because of his unparalleled success with limited resources. Maybe it’s because a best selling book was written about him. Maybe it’s because Brad Pitt is a handsome guy.

          Whatever the reason, you have to wonder why anybody who would bash Walt Jocketty for failing to live up the the following description–and these are your words: “Wanting a smart savy GM that does everythign possible to make the team better seems like the ideal, right? … then would attack Beane for doing just that.

          Isn’t that what Beane was doing with the signing of Johnson. He’s got a team poised to go deep into the playoffs and he’s swung for the fences, he’s being savvy, he’s doing everything possible to make his team better. Beane is in fact by your definition the ideal GM, right?

          But your fellow citizens want to kill him for making a mistake. For whiffing on Johnson. For being active. Even as they know he’s one of the best GMs around.

          You call that ACCOUNTABILITY.

          It’s really just another example of The Herd Mentality.

        • Dude, don’t talk about stuff you don’t know anything about, isn’t that the point of your article?

          I didn’t say fans out here (some of the smartest I’ve ever met) wanted to kill Billy Beane, geezus. I said they ripped him for that move. Fans absolutely love him out here!. But they aren’t scared to question him when he makes a mistake.

          Yes, I do call that accountability, because it’s keeping the standards high.

        • Yeah, Al. Ripping one of the best GMs in the business because a player acquisition didn’t work out, as if he’s supposed to get it 100% all the time is the mark of a truly smart fan.

          Accountability? It’s called being a jackass. The notion that a few idiots screaming about a bad move by a guy who gets it right the overwhelming majority of the time is somehow keeping Billy Beane honest is laughable.

          Some fans sure have an inflated view of themselves.

        • And there were plenty of fans and analysts who hated the Johnson deal when it was made, and they said that it was a very un-Billy Beane move to make. When it didn’t go well, most of the fans were like, yeah, that’s why Billy Beane taught us not to pay closers like that. And yes, that is keeping someone honest.

          When your GM makes a mistake, it is not wrong to point it out and express dissatisfaction/hope he won’t do it again. That’s being a fan.

          I guess I’ll stop commenting on your articles, since you clearly can’t handle critiques.

        • Al, you don’t so much critique as attack.

          Look, you said you didn’t understand what I wrote. You said you didn’t like it. You took my remarks as a personal affront. When I replied that my remarks weren’t meant to be taken personally, it still wasn’t good enough for you. You didn’t just argue with me, you argued with 3 other people who pointed out they didn’t believe I was calling anybody stupid–people who understood the spirit in which I wrote the piece.

          I encourage you to comment. But, if you insist on being unreasonable, I agree that you should stop.

    • I guess I need my glasses because I did not see the word(s) idiots, sheep, stupid, or high horse mentioned in the article.
      Maybe those words reflect a fans self-loathing, who knows.

      What I did read was reality based and a understanding of what managers do who have a pragmatic view of the team and their job.

      Thank You Mr. Fitch

      PS; This doesn’t mean I will agree in the future. 🙂

      • “Walt Jocketty builds a lousy bench, the herd says.”

        That’s one example. You know what else the “herd” said? Bring up Jumbo Diaz early in the season. That was second guessing the GM, and it looks like the herd was right.

        I just don’t like when any pundit/commentator feels the need to tell the fans that they shouldn’t want improvement and that they are just a mob.

        • Still didn’t read anywhere in this piece where he says fans shouldn’t want improvement. But I guess that’s in the eye of the beholder.

        • The whole piece is about this:

          “For the narrative portraying Jocketty as a “do-nothing” executive has reached herd-mentality status.”

          What that is saying is that people who think that Jocketty has not done enough to improve the team are just some thoughtless mob.

          So no, he’s not saying we fans shouldn’t want improvement, he’s just saying there’s no way we could possibly know what’s actually going on with the team, we’re all just a herd of (whatever) following the call of talk radio, and we should be thankful with whatever improvement we get and stop second guessing the guy.

          That’s pretty high handed to me, and I disagree with the sentiment entirely.

        • You’ll have to ask Richard if that’s what he meant when he used those words but to me, they don’t mean “thoughtless” but rather one-sided. Isn’t it fair to suggest that we don’t have all the facts to really judge whether Jocketty could have done more or could have done better? I’m just not seeing how he or any other GM was going to solve every weakness the Reds have had. I’m still trying to identify any other team in MLB that can claim they have no weakness. But what I do see is that the Reds have been one of the most successful teams in the last several seasons and they still could be for the next several more.

        • Gee I didn’t see the statement that wanting improvement was beyond a fans right to whine. Not having the knowledge or foresight to see beyond today is what Fitch is describing. No matter what Walt does or doesn’t do will not change the complaining. Good managers see beyond todays needs, the customers are only involved/ interact with a business for, let’s say, less than 5% of their time over a life time. Managers spend 100% of their time trying to make that 5% exposer to the customer have the highest satisfaction rate possible, but they also know that you can’t please everybody all the time no matter how smart or how hard they try.

        • No one said he had to solve every problem the Reds have, most people have just said that he hasn’t made many moves, most of the moves he’s made have been minor, and some of the moves he’s made have been pretty bad.

          How is that whining?

    • Open your ears and mind a little more and you’ll hear his point loud and clear. Wanting your team to “get better” does not = making unsubstantiated claims or bellyaches that the GM is asleep at the wheel or not is not looking for ways to improve the team the best way possible.

      We simply don’t know what goes on in the front office but we can judge from the past moves or non-moves that Jocketty has made that he has, in large part, done right by this team.

      Of course you can share your opinion and second guess Jocketty; no one is saying he is infallible. But don’t expect everyone to agree with you or hold that opinion in high regard if you’re not offering substance along with that opinion.

      Folks want to bring up last year’s inactivity that failed to bring Byrd here when the division race was headed down to the wire. Fine. But that miss is more than compensated by the fact that Jocketty brought in Choo and jettisoned Stubbs or bringing in Latos for players that weren’t going to contribute to the Reds going forward. Those moves have allowed the Reds to be in the running in the first place. Speaking of Choo, Jocketty’s decision to let him walk looks pretty smart considering the contract he got and the season he has had this year. Could the Reds have afforded to pay Choo and get that kind of production this year or going forward? Not if they want to win year in and year out.

      So no, I don’t think Richard and others are claiming that fans are idiots. He is offering a reasoned perspective that most folks appreciate if they are willing to consider all angles.

      • I’m not the one telling people that disagree with me that they are a herd.

        I have watched other teams improve substantially more than the Reds have over the last season and half. Why is it unfair to critique the man/administration that is in charge of establishing the roster for that?

        We have spent the majority of the season without a backup first baseman. Jay Bruce has played games at first. The roster has been a mess this whole year. We did nothing to get better at the deadline last year. We brought in guys with .642, .654, and .710 career OPSs in the offseason. The best thing you can say that we’ve done over the last 12 months is bring in Skip Schumaker as a reserve.

        So why is it not ok to want a more active GM? Other teams have them, some of those teams are better, some are worse. Wanting a smart savy GM that does everythign possible to make the team better seems like the ideal, right? Do you believe, based on the evidence that that is Walt Jocketty?

        I don’t.

        • Isn’t the reason that the roster has been in such a mess because the Reds have had an unprecedented amount of injuries? Who could have predicted that? Let alone do anything about it? No team has a bench or minor league system of above replacement caliber players. Sometimes injuries derail a season and this has been a historic spate of injuries. So it’s really not accurate or fair to say that Jocketty has dropped the ball when considering all the facts.

        • You think having a qualified backup first baseman is an unreasonable thing to expect your team to have? Then we just see this thing way differently.

          Jocketty said that he didn’t get anyone else because of Jack Hannahan, who has always been terrible and was known to be out for half a year. That does not seem like good GMing to me.

        • The herd mentality exists wherever large groups of people come together. That’s just a fact. If you’re upset, Al, and I can see you are, I would just posit that maybe you see my words as calling you out as being part of the herd.

          You missed my point. Maybe that’s on me for not being a better writer. I don’t know.

          I believe we as fans all run with the herd from time-to-time. I also believe we should fight that urge at every opportunity. In my opinion, the whole Jocketty as failed GM was a dirty snowball that has just grown in size as the team has floundered this year because of injuries. I’ve watched this mentality play out on this site when the subject has turned to the Reds medical staff as well. Every time a player suffers an injury, a dozen comments pop up ridiculing Kremchek and the trainers, which is pretty dopey considering these are some of the most highly thought of people in the business.

          That’s the herd mentality at work again.

          My hope is that we all (me included) keep reevaluating our opinions as new and previously unknown evidence rolls into our view. If you want to blame the roster mess on the GM without recognizing the staggering number of injuries and the impact that has on a roster, that’s your right.

          But it doesn’t make you right.

          I just got done writing above that teams with very smart GMs and endless supplies of money have been playing all year with under performing players and backups who are no better than replacement level. Yet, you either glossed over what I wrote or don’t believe it. Yes, Walt brought in guys with poor OPS numbers. That’s because that’s what’s available. That’s because guys that can hit are already starters somewhere else. If better players were out there, wouldn’t the A’s and Red Sox have gone out and gotten them–improved their teams the way you say Jocketty has not? Why is Brian Roberts playing next to Derek Jeter? Because they can’t find anybody better.

          You want an ACTIVE GM? I want one builds a good team. 91, 97 and 90 wins over the last 4 years suggests we have one.

          But I could be wrong.

        • What I’m saying is, if you think Jocketty is a great GM, then make that argument. If you think he’s an average GM, and that that’s just fine, make that argument.

          But when you set up your piece with the suggestion that arguing that he is a bad GM is now part of the herd mentality, you are clearly trying to undercut people who believe that he is a bad GM, without making an argument. You’re just criticizing them, not their argument.

          I think Jocketty has not done a very good job over the last year. I have examples to support that. You think that he’s been hamstrung by injuries etc, and you have examples to support that. All well and good. The difference is that I didn’t suggest that you have a problem with your reasoning because you disagreed with me.

  4. This is a fantastic article. Excellent job rattling our perspectives. I don’t think we know how good we have it with Walt.

  5. I liken assessments of MLB GMs to assessments of US presidents and the economy. Some are the victims of circumstances beyond their control and some are the beneficiaries of circumstances beyond their control. Some make solid decisions that have a favorable outcome and some make reasonable decisions that do not have such a favorable outcome.

    Walt was the beneficiary of some prospects that were already in the system prior to his arrival and he was the victim of some contracts and players that were not the best. He has made some very solid moves (Simon, Choo, etc.) and has made some rather dubious ones (the Phillips contract, spending on relievers, Chapman in the bullpen).

    Sometimes, it is the moves that are not made that are consequential. The Byrd situation simply reeks of someone asleep at the wheel. I am sure there are some moves that Walt did not make that, if we had full disclosure, would make us think he was the best/worst GM in the world.

    However, if all of this ambiguity leaves us wondering whether or not Walt has done a great job or a terrible one (I tend to lean softly toward the former), I believe that the next week will be the penultimate moment in Walt’s career as Reds GM. Standing pat, unless it results in a playoff spot and subsequent run through at least one round, will make up the minds of those who believe that they need to deal to contend this year as well as the “sell high” crowd (myself included). In my estimation, dealing strictly to contend this year is the equivalent of organizational hara-kiri and would prove Walt’s desperation in the face of an expiring contract. Is there a “middle way,” a kind of “soft sell” that allows the team to contend this year without sacrificing the future? I don’t know. Personally, I believe the only sensible play is a strong sell with an eye toward averting the abyss that is 2016 as it presently looks.

  6. At certain points during this, you credit Walt for trading prospects (Grandal, Alonso, etc.) who haven’t panned out with their new times, while also giving him credit for drafting the same players. I’m not so sure that makes sense. Unless you are saying he drafted good players who were then ruined by other organizations.
    The Broxton contract should not be excused because Dusty wouldn’t move Chapman to the rotation. Walt Jocketty is the general manage. It is IMPERATIVE that he understands how his field manager will use the talent he gives him. ONE conversation with Dusty should have been enough to figure out he’d never move Chapman to the rotation. Hell 95% of the fan base understood that. If he somehow didn’t realize it, that is an enormous failure on his part.
    As was mentioned above, the Marlon Byrd situation last year is, if it’s possible, even more inexcusable than the Broxton/Chapman debacle. Was he unaware the Pirates would want him? If so that’s a failure. Did he think the injured Ludwick would be better? If so, that’s another failure. On top of the failure that was the Ludwick 2 year deal in the first place.

    • Eric, I credit Jocketty with making the final decision to draft players that turned out to have significant value in trade and yes, I guess I’m giving him extra credit for getting players out of the organization who so far haven’t been all they were projected to be.

      Things change. You draft a player and he doesn’t turn out to have the intangibles you’d hoped. Maybe they thought Alonso would be able to develop into a better fielder and when he didn’t, they decided he was expendable.

      Or perhaps it was none of the above and just a case of giving up perceived quality to get quality. This is in fact what goes into good trades–players that work out for both sides. Maybe for San Diego, they simply guessed wrong. Fans kill Jocketty for guessing wrong on Taveras and Patterson. I’m just giving credit for guessing right on Grandal and Boxberger–and guessing right on Latos, who has been a stud for the Reds.

      As for blaming Jocketty for his handling of Baker, chalk that one up to Castellini. Bob hired Dusty before Walt got here. One thing you have to know about the Reds front office: the owner is very, very involved. And not just when it comes to money. DBaker had the owner’s ear. You can bank on that. And I think that being the good GM that he is, he ultimately wanted to give his manager what he wanted. If you think your manager is often getting it wrong, why did you hire him in the first place? This might also explains the acquisitions of players like Taveras and Patterson. These are the kinds of skill sets Dusty coveted.

      As for Byrd, the Reds were never going to give Ludwick’s job away to Marlon Byrd for two reasons I can cite off the top of my head. One, money. You can bet Castellini had a say there. Two, clubhouse harmony. Ridicule it all you want, but it always comes into play when considering bringing in another player, particularly mid-season. This is another area fans either don’t understand or don’t value. The entire clubhouse watched Ludwick suffer sitting on the bench, not able to help his teammates, feeling as if he was letting everyone down, working his hind quarters off to get back into game shape in August and contribute. The front office wasn’t going to deny him a chance to come back. Was Jocketty supposed to guess that Byrd was going to hit .318/.357/.486 in 30 games for the Pirates? Marlon Byrd was a 35 year old PED user who had a 2011-2012 slash line of 260/.305/.358.

      If you’re harping on Jocketty for missing on Byrd, you don’t want a GM. You want a fortune teller.

      • So, why not simply put a claim in on Byrd, with no intention of working a deal, in order to block the Pirates?…..This is what makes the inaction on Byrd unacceptable.

        • Probably because Walt didn’t think Byrd, a PED guy with lousy numbers the previous 2 years was going to have the impact he did. Jocketty already said he didn’t think the Pirates were going to grab him. He probably thought the Pirates would look at his mediocre past 2 years and PED past and draw the same conclusions he did.

          You call that unacceptable. I call it not being Kreskin.

        • What was the harm of putting a claim on Byrd?

        • Richard,

          I’m still not clear what cost/harm would come from not claiming Byrd. If Walt didn’t want him on the team, just don’t come to terms on a trade. What predictive powers does it take to know to block the Pirates, regardless of their intent, from getting Byrd?….I am generally a Walt apologist, but to call this anything but an error that likely cost the Reds (at least) home field advantage in the play in game is, indeed, unacceptable and inexcusable.

        • With my last sentence, I did not mean to say that is was “inexcusable and unacceptable” to explain the lack of a Byrd claim in a certain way. I meant to say that Walt’s inaction was, indeed, “inexcusable and unacceptable.”

        • Maybe there would have been no harm in it. I don’t know. But, GMs don’t usually go around blocking moves they don’t think have a reasonable chance of happening. Again, this is the kind of unreasonable criticism this GM seems to engender.

          I do know that at one time there was a gentlemen’s agreement that you didn’t block other GM’s minor moves. By doing so, you ensured nobody would in turn block yours.

          So, there’s one explanation. But to be clear, we really have know idea what goes on in these situations. Conjecture is nothing more than that. Conjecture.

        • At the time the claim was put in by the Pirates, Byrd was hitting .285 with 21 bombs and 71 RBIs. I’m not sure if that would qualify as a “minor move.” However, you are certainly correct in that we are doing a bit of guessing either way. The fact that Walt seemed surprised that the Pirates claimed Byrd is quite telling to me. This seems to make the “gentlemen’s agreement” part of the argument moot and points instead to a lack of awareness.

          Also, I do not typically criticize this GM. Overall, I believe he has done a good job. He has benefitted and suffered from some things that were beyond his control and has, for the most part, gotten the big things right. Given its ultimate impact, however, the Byrd snafu resonates as the time that, in retrospect at least, the GM may well have cost the Reds dearly.

      • Understanding the personal relationships within an organization are the traits and skill sets of a good manager (field or operational) and until a person has sat in that chair it is almost impossible to grasp the importance. Your writing about Bob C. and Dusty is dead on. The look on Bob C during the play-in game was him realizing that Walt had been right.

      • thank God the atmosphere in the clubhouse trumps the on-field performance in the long run, then!!! Unfortunate that Ludwick got hurt, but the idea is still to win….

        • Allowing Ludwick a chance because you don’t want to hurt feelings? That’s the reason the Reds can’t get over the top, right there.

          Sports is a ruthless business, and the list of championship teams with some clubhouse discord is too long to count.

          The Red Sox traded Nomar away before they won it all – do you think they took his feelings into account?

          As stated many times on this site last year, Ludwick would not be at 100% until after 2013 – yet waiting four months giving him a chance rather than trading for a healthier option? For fear of hurting feelings?

          If that really is the case, then the Reds do not deserve to win anything at all.

        • Beautifully put. Playing apologist for Ludwig is like saying Hitler had nothing to do with WW2.

          Completely false. One more example of Richard trying to talk us into something untrue in order to gloss over another mistake by Walt. Luckily we are not nearly as dumb as he prays we are. But after reading that comment of his, I had to wonder how dumb he is.

      • I’m not saying specifically that Walt should have fired Dusty earlier (though I think the Reds should have). I am saying you can’t call the Broxton deal a good deal simply because Walt wanted him to be the closer. It’s part of his job to understand the manager, and it was very obvious to everyone that unless Mariano Rivera walked though that door, Chapman was going to close. And if Rivera walked though that door, Chapman would be a set up man (or a, shudder, LOOGY).
        There is simply no good reason to refuse to find a replacement for an aging outfielder who is injured on DAY 1, and who you know won’t even be on the field until at least August and who, because of the nature of the injury, has no chance to regain his form from the previous year. We just disagree on the wisdom of that non-move.

      • Jocketty was right on Boxberger, but not the way you think. Boxberger is a very good relief pitcher and I wish Jocketty would get him back. Jocketty didn’t jettison Boxberger, but it was that Boxberger was a late and reluctant addition to that trade.
        I remember Jocketty saying he had a deal with SD for Latos that only included Volquez, Alonso and Grandal. But another team got in on Latos and made SD a better offer. SD wanted Jocketty to include Boxberger and they’d do the deal without going back to the other team. I remember Jocketty saying it killed him to have to include Boxberger, but that Latos was their #1 target and they wanted him.
        Boxberger could be re-acquired from Tampa Bay for Broxton in my estimation. We’ll see if Jocketty still likes Boxberger or not. He has a chance for a Mulligan now.

  7. With the Reds, Jocketty has made more mis-steps than good moves. The 2014 Jocketty in no way resembles the 2004 Jocketty. You seem to forget the Wily Taverases, the Corey Pattersons, the Wilson Valdezes, the Jim Edmundses, the Ryan Ludwicks, the constant black hole in LF, the constant black hole in the #2 spot in the batting order, etc., etc.
    If you could apply sabermetrics to the GM job, Jocketty is in more of a decline than BP will EVER be in. If 100 is league average for a GM, then Jocketty’s wGM+ sits at about a 40.
    The playoff failures of 2012 and 2013 lay right at the feet of Jocketty and his do-nothing job performance of those 2 years.
    Jocketty does not merit a new contract. He is the architect of this mess we call the 2014 season. In 2012 and 2013, the injuries came early and Jocketty had time to make a move to improve the team and did NOTHING!!!!!!!
    The absolute best thing Bob Castellini can do for the Reds and the 2015 season is to NOT re-new Jocketty’s contract. As Jocketty’s GM ability declines into the abyss, he is taking the Reds with him.

    • Yet with all these mis-steps, why have the Reds been more successful than at any time in the last nearly quarter of a century? Tell me which teams don’t have weaknesses or holes. You’re complaining about the Pattersons and Valdezes (bench players no less) while failing to acknowledge the Latos and Choo deals and securing long term team friendly deals for Cueto, Bruce and others.

      I would agree with you if you said that Jocketty has made some mistakes but we’ll have to disagree on the magnitude of those mistakes because for the last several seasons, I have enjoyed some of the best baseball I’ve witnessed since I began following the Reds.

      • And that best baseball has netted exactly zero playoff success. Betcha like how the Bengals are doing as well.

        I contend that with a more proactive GM in season, the Reds would have made a deep run in the playoffs.

        If you are happy with all these regular season wins, fine. Just don’t be surprised to see what it gets you.

      • Ironically, Jocketty finds himself in a similar situation that Dusty Baker was in a year ago. One exception is Jocketty doesn’t have 1 year left on a contract. Jocketty, like Baker, has elevated the Reds to a certain level. But it has leveled off, and with both, started to regress a bit. The GM position, like the manager’s position last year, needs new blood brought in with a younger fresher approach. Castellini should look no further than the A’s, Rays or Pirates for a new GM. Lure the current GM away with a monster offer or hire an assistant GM from there. He could get a star GM for what he pays a bench player.
        I listened to Clint Hurdle and a few of the Pirates players talk the other night before one of their games about the Pirates hitting philosophy, what they teach in the minors and how the players have bought into the philosophy, the whole organizational approach to hitting, working the counts on pitchers, and smart baserunning was refreshing. With an emphasis on smart baserunning. It seemed to be the opposite of the Reds hack attack at the first pitch they see and TOOTBLAN of the game approach. I’d like to see them get a GM that emphasizes smart baseball.

        • How ironic would it be if the Reds were to go after Billy Beane? He was trained by Jocketty. Or how about Mozeliak? Also a Jocketty disciple. Richard’s comments are quite accurate. Some people get too “close” to the day to day vagaries of baseball and cannot see the forest for the trees.

      • Wayne Krivsky

        Josh Hamilton, Brandon Phillips, Johnny Gomes, Lance Nix.

        Look at who he drafted as well

        The team was well on it’s way to being a winner. Wayne took over a team that was a loser and made it better. Walt took over a team that was a winner and we have yet to see one thing he has done other than trade for Latos, and sign Chapman as a starter turned closer

        • ….or to bring in Choo and then let him walk when the price vs. return wasn’t acceptable, or get rid of Stubbs, or find Simon off the scrap heap, or draft Leake, or lock up Cueto and Bruce for team friendly deals. You’re right, he hasn’t done much. And time will tell on how successful Walt’s drafts over the last few years have been. Hamilton hasn’t looked too bad so far and several players in the low minors show great promise.

          I liked Krivsky and think he should have been given more of a chance but I wouldn’t say that Jocketty has done a bad job, in fact, he has done well.

  8. “…it’s hard … and we are working hard … because we have an enemy who is working hard to defeat us.” — President Bush
    “.. we are working hard … working late .. working weekends” — Saturday Night Live Parody of Bush
    I would like to say I support Jocketty because I know he is working hard.

  9. Despite the good deeds, my perception of Jocketty will always be colored by his inability to get one more bat. To think that he completely whiffed on this – during the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons… I want to scream.

    The most egregious crime was sitting on his hands while Ludwick was hurt, and watching the Reds division title chance get scuttled by the myriad of paper cuts that losing 1-0, 3-1 and 2-1 ball games gave them.

    Then this year. LF again a WAR disaster. No help in sight.

    So, give a pass to Walt because he got the team close? NO. Can’t do it, though this post was a very well-argued.

    winning matters. find a way to win, or let someone else do the job.

    • If league and WS championships are your standard for how he has done, fair enough. Except you’ll be dissappointed with just about any GM given that only a couple of teams each year will reach the summit (and some of those teams weren’t arguably the best teams, they just got hot at the right time).

      Not saying you have to be happy about it. God knows I’ve been miserable myself these last few seasons when the Reds failed to get out of the first round. But I’m also not complaining about 91, 97 and 90 Ws in 3 of the last 4 seasons. That’s a long summer of winning baseball. And I’m guessing you’re old enough to remember how uncommon that has been around here and most other baseball towns.

      • Yup – been a Reds fan since 1978, and I do remember the bad decade of the 1980s. I also remember how things began to turn around in 1985. In 1987, the Reds had a legit shot to win the west, but could not trade for a top tier starting pitcher. they faded in the second half. When hope seemed to be lost after a string of 2nd place finishes, they caught lightning in a bottle and won it all in 1990. That was really exciting, but not after some significant frustration of not being able to improve the team when it mattered.

        Winning is fun – but when you have the talent and the pitching that this Reds team has, winning without a deep playoff run is not satisfying. Teams like this do not come around often, and people are fooling themselves if they think the Reds will have the same talent in 2015 and 2016. Maybe lightning in a bottle will happen again, but given the change in financial and playoff landscape, it will be exponentially harder to catch.

        If you go all out and still can’t dent the playoffs? You tried, and maybe this team just didn’t have what it took. Fine – endure a lean year and start again.

        But not to try, not to get that one missing piece? It’s a waste. It’s a waste of 2012-14, and the previous years spent developing that talent. Walt has wasted time and talent. I can’t accept or respect that.

    • The LF situation has just been absurd and I don’t know how anybody can defend Walt for that. I give jocketty credit when he deserves it. But the reds have had some of the worst production in LF in all of baseball since the beginning of last year. He doubled down on ludwick after 2012, signing him to a multi year deal despite the fact that he was in his mid 30’s, hurts the team on defense and on the bases, and had been a mediocre hitter in every year of his career except 2007 and 2012. And it’s not just that he hasn’t been able to find a decent hitting outfielder on the trade market for the last year and a half, even though any decent gm should be able to do that. It’s the fact that the reds are getting horrible production in LF and he’s content with it. Won’t even try anybody new. It amazes me that a guy like Felix Perez hasn’t been able to get a shot. How long did it take for him to give Diaz a chance. What about when cozart was tearing up aaa in 2011, but they stuck with janish and renteria for a really long time.
      Jocketty has a clear pattern of sticking with replacement level veterans instead of trying a player in aaa that has a higher ceiling.

  10. Richard, you make a very good point regarding some of the moves WJ did make. The Sean Marshall trade was brilliant at the time of the trade. The Ryan Madsen signing was brilliant at the time of the signing. Both of the Ryan Ludwick signings were excellent at the time of the signings. None of those situations panned out for the Reds due to unforeseen injuries. Poop happens.

    The issue I have is WJ’s inability to cut his losses and move on from bad situations and locking in marginal talent on multiyear contracts. Signing Ondrusek to a 2 year/$2.3MM contract was unnecessary and counterproductive. Ondrusek was under team control and had done nothing to justify a 2 year guaranteed contract. Signing Hannahan to a 2 year/$4MM contract was unnecessary and counterproductive. A weak hitting utility player signed for his defense can be obtained every season if needed and no one is available to promote from in house. Signing Parra to a 2 year/$5.5MM contract was unnecessary and counterproductive. Parra had a marvelous rebound season in 2013, but Zack Duke was sitting there and available, if the Reds wanted a LH reliever, and a 1 year minor league contract or even a cheap 1 year major league contract looks much better that Parra’s contract. The guaranteed, multiyear contracts simply fill up the 40 man roster and block other, cheaper marginal players from filling the same roles with equal effectiveness. Although each of these types of individual contracts have minimal bottom line impact, eventually the cost of these unnecessary, guaranteed, multiyear contracts have a bottom line impact and end up blocking other players from making equal, if not better, contributions at less cost.

    • Parra was one move I agreed with.

      The Reds do have to overpay free agents to play for them, so I do understand the 2 year deals.

      but not for Hanrahan. His you don’t understand even if he is healthy.

  11. Great Article!
    I think Walt does great trades in general(there’s always a flop for even the best). I think his problem is we see the trade deadline and the winter meetings as Christmas morning and we really want a new toy. And when there’s nothing there we get angry.

  12. Mr Fitch

    First off, great article.

    As a frustrated fan I’d like your opinion on the following:
    1. ludwick extension. I personally believe all of Reds-dom cried “WHY???!!!” When this was signed.
    2. Philips extension… Again most understand this was an over pay; despite what BP himself believes (I do think you touched on this in the article.
    3. Broxton extension. Again you touched on it.

    My thoughts. If you take this $$$$ and re-allocate it I belive you easily acquire an above avg 2B and stud LF. And these are extensions I believe most thought we’re bad from the get-go.

    Thank you!

    • Thanks for reading it and commenting.

      Ludwick extension was probably a product of Jocketty’s comfort level with players he personally knows, the fact that there probably weren’t many alternatives at the time the Reds could afford. I do know that at least on GM offered more money than the Reds did. He actually took less to come back to Cincinnati. Character seems to mean a lot to this organization. More than it should, IMO. But it seems to be the prevailing opinion in Baseball. It’s not like Walt is alone in overvaluing clubhouse bonhomie.

      The Phillips deal was really bad. I don’t blame anyone for killing Walt for this. I will say that Castellini might have had a hand in this also. After the Votto contract, he seemed determined to show the public he was serious in building a winner and I think doubling down on BP was part of that PR. But that’s just my opinion. Might be entirely off base.

      Broxton I had no problem with. You always overpay in the middle of the season. I think that’s why you see the Reds do so few deals mid-season. The off-season is where deals get done that are wins for both sides. Deals at the July 31 deadline are often holdups. Some GMs should wear a ski mask.

      • If character really mattered, BP would have been gone last winter.

        And Waiting four months for Ludwick because of his character? Ha. The Yankees didn’t even give Wally Pipp one day. And that turned out ok for the Yanks.

  13. Well reasoned historical perspective with philosophy woven in. That’s how you make a baseball blog worth reading every day.
    Thank you.

    • Yes, despite my disagreement, this was a well argued point of view that has generated thoughtful discussion. This blog is terrific, because pieces like this are becoming the norm.

  14. I don’t generally fault Jocketty for his major-league level trades, nor for the deals he didn’t make. Yeah, they could have gotten Marlon Byrd last year and Nelson Cruz this year, but the smart money was probably that they couldn’t duplicate their PED-inflated stats. The Latos deal was excellent, the Simon snatch was done well, and the decision not to sign Choo at that price was prudent.

    He’s had his share of dumb deals, too, though. I challenge anybody to look at Ludwick’s career stats and tell me when he was more than replacement-level, except when he hit in front of or behind Albert Pujols in his prime. (And yes, he did have a 6-week hot streak in 2012.) Locking him in for 2 years after 2012 was a failure by Jocketty to understand age-related declines, and was just a general overall over-estimation of Ludwick. And Jocketty clearly over-values relief pitching, or more specifically, does not understand that relief pitchers yo-yo to high heavens and that it isn’t wise to over-invest in them.

    The mediocre minor-league system is WJ’s fatal weakness. One hitter under 25 (Hamilton) is producing; no hitting prospect appears even close to ready. Mike Leake was a good pick, but he pretty much came as a MLB-ready product and is likely just a 4th starter. The jury is still out on Cingrani and Stephenson. The Cardinals are in the hunt for David Price, to meet their big need, precisely because they have a more fertile farm system than the Reds. That is 100% on WJ.

    The injury excuse is overstated. Most were short-term. Votto is the exception, but the Cardinals didn’t packed it in when Yadier Molina and some pitching went down.

  15. “Successful draft after successful draft that added Mike Leake, Yonder Alonso, Billy Hamilton, and Robert Stephenson…”

    So you listed 4 players.. only 2 of which are actually playing for the Reds. This is his seventh year as GM of the Reds and you had to mention a AA player and a player for another team who has 0.3 WAR in 75 games and is a PED user, as evidence of his multitude of successful drafts.

    Scraping the bottom of the barrel there. Fact is, Walt’s drafts haven’t really contributed a ton to the major league team. He’s in his seventh year. Seven drafts. Hamilton, Leake, and a bunch of people in AA is what he produced and they were both in the same draft.

    Really don’t think you can call it “successful draft after successful draft” when you’ve not had a ton of major league contribution in 7 years. Not when the year before Walt they drafted Mesoraco, Frazier, and Cozart. Year before that it was Stubbs and Heisey. Year before that it was Bruce, Travis Wood, and LeCure.

    THAT is what successful drafting looks like. Not 2 players in 7 years and a promising AA team.

    • Good points, one and all. We had some interesting pitching staffs during those years, but the sweater man did know how to evaluate young talent.

  16. Richard you have hit a home run. You have brought everybody out of the wood work on an off day. Good job 🙂

  17. “Soft bigotry”? Is that like frozen butter, or a rubber hardball?

    This article reminds me of people who buy a house in Hyde Park with rotten floors, cracked foundations, tumbling walls, and termite damage everywhere. They ignore all the structural problems and instead cover everything up with the most expensive Victorian wall paper and Martha Stewarts paints. A few months later they list it as rehabbed and dump the beast for a tidy but dirty profit on some poor unsuspecting soul. Lots of pretty words, and nice blue quotes, but nothing addressing accurately the underlying structural problems of the Reds.

    The first few paragraphs were loaded with so many assumptions and false premises it was hard to go on. Here’s a few

    “The philosopher in all of us is crying out for Walt Jocketty to pay any price, sacrifice any prospect.”

    -Uh, no, not in me, and not in most people I know of. Completely false, Very few, if any, people are saying that, based on readings and conversations. Maybe a couple extremists. That’s both false premise and bad projection. What most people want is a good solid trade.The Reds have some chips on the big club that are expendable and valuable to another team. Walt is failing here, You have a blind eye.

    “We’re all Kierkegardeans now,”

    -Nope, sorry, never been one, will never be one, dont even know what one would look like if it walked by.

    “It should come as no surprise that we all think we know the ins-and-outs of this GM stuff.”

    -Well, now that’s about as self-contradictory a sentence anybody could ever write. I find it humorous that you, Richard, claim you know what the rest of us are thinking, yet we are silly to think we could possibly know what Walt is thinking. Or course we don’t know what Walt thinks every minute of the day. Nor do you know what any of us thinks, either. You come across like you think you’re smarter or more psychic than the rest of us. There is a glaring conceit in that sentence. It’s dumb to insult your readers.

    “Managing a team is child’s play (sarcasm)”,

    -Well, it seems to me you like toi second guess Dusty Baker to death. Again, you contradict yourself..

    “My guy Lance McAllister…”

    -Well, maybe you and lance are tight, but I listen to Lance all the time and have never heard him mention you. Odd statement. But whatever.

    The rest of the article continues on with so many false assumptions, global statements (as though you know what we’re all thinking), and just plain inaccuracies (Boxberger has a 2.22 ERA for the Rays in 39 games, and a 1.5 K rate per inniing, almost like Chapman, while Alonso hit ,329, .286, and .281 before injuries held him down this year. Grandal hit ,399 till he blew out his knee, and Volquez is still a starter) that I won’t comment further for now. I’ll let others pick out the olentiful comments of yours that are full of bad assumptions and false premises.

    Next time you want to tell us a pretty fairy tale, at least provide us with cookies and milk. Tall tales always sound better with good snacks.

    • Wow 500+ words of cheeky rebuttal. I’m flattered nonetheless. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      Lance McAlister and I tweet back and forth on a regular basis. He’s good enough to reply on a regular basis because he’s a good sport and likes to engage his listeners. The “my guy” ref was tongue-in-cheek. Sorry you missed it. I’ve come to like Lance more and more as I listen to him, even as I sometimes think he plays to the prevailing temperature of the fan base. But, that’s his job. So, while I disagree with him at times, I’ve tried to cut him some slack. He did a tremendous job interviewing Votto over the winter and bringing Joey to the fans in a way we heretofore hadn’t seen.

      Love the Hyde Park analogy. Not sure how it relates to the topic at hand, but well done.

      Like another reader, you seem to have taken my remarks personally, as if I had directed them at you. I did not. I’m glad to hear that you don’t want the Reds to make a trade just to be making a trade. However, a week ago, you would have been in the minority. The prevalent narrative around here is that Jocketty is a bum because he doesn’t make enough moves. He’s a do nothing GM. He’s asleep at the switch. And make no mistake, if he doesn’t make one and the Reds don’t fall off a cliff, he’s gonna get killed. To not understand that is to not have your ear to the ground. Perhaps you should widen your circle of friends. 🙂

      I have no interest in insulting my readers. I do have an interest in challenging them, of expecting that they rethink what they already are sure of what they know. From the first sentence, I could tell you were interested in nothing so much as putting me in my place. But I read all the way through because you might have had a point I haven’t considered.

      Then you went on to cite a bunch of small sample size stats to refute the idea that the Padres got by far the lesser of the Latos deal. And you used Volquez to make your point, which I found eminently delightful. Edinson had the next to worst ERA in all of Baseball by any pitcher who logged at least 150 innings last year. That’s 75th out of 76.

      Dude.

      I offer Redleg Nation readers my opinion. Sometimes that comes in the form of flowers. Or bourbon and a kick in the butt. You want cookies and milk. But, I’m not your mom.

      Thanks again for reading. I really mean that.

    • Wow, spot on Jim Maloney. Except for the stuff about the Latos trade, I agree with everything you say. I mean there are a bunch of “Farr Dusty” type people in the reds fan base that criticize the manager and GM for everything that goes wrong, usually in hindsight. These people are obviously idiots. But then you have other people who react to any criticism of jocketty by patronizing the person who is criticizing even when it’s a valid criticism. Ever since the choo trade, Walt has been extremely conservative and inactive. Richard even acknowledges some of Walt’s bad moves, but then goes on to insinuate that anyone critical of jocketty is a sheep following the pack that can’t make up their own mind. I understand the annoyance with the “Farr Walt” people, but there is a big difference between valid criticism backed up with facts and just blaming the gm for everything.

      • Thank you for noticing and making that distinction (the difference between valid criticism and just blaming the GM). There are many Reds fans who feel Walt has fumbled the ball more than a few times lately. To belittle us as some kind of herd is very poor journalism by Richard, who sometimes seems to let his emotion and anger overrule his intelligence.

        Walt’s early days here were pretty solid, although you cannot ignore how he depleted the minor league system extremely quickly in some pretty lopsided deals. Lately it’s my opinion he is being passed by, and it’s OK, in fact, important to bring it up. He has built a beautiful pitching staff, but he has ignored developing and trading for hitters. It has been a very bumpy ride in big games and post season as a result.

    • They were not small sample size stats on the players the Reds gave up for Latos.. That is false. Please correct your comment. The stats I gave represent the majority sample size of each player’s career when healthy, although Boxberger has only come into his own this year. But he’s always been a strike out machine with a major upside.. If you’re going to play the injury card tre this year’s performances, you have to play it the same way with the players in the Latos deal, too, You didn’t, which is not being accurate and is a form of arguing out of both sides of your mouth, in my mind.

      Latos has been up and down here. He has glittering stats in some areas, but in other areas something is missing. I’ve heard he is an immature guy in the clubhouse. I guess we can take that with a grain of salt, but he does behave often like a guy who needs to grow up, and he has yet to show the moxie of an ace. He’s been overrated, in my estimation. Without him, Chapman would have started and pitching staff would have been just as good, if not better. He really wasn’t needed, and the Reds gave up controlled salary guys, which also hurt..

      The analogy of covering up a bad house with pretty wall paper and paint meant this. You put together wrote a lot of pretty rhetoric today and had all sorts of blue highlighted quotes, but that wasn’t enough to cover up the many flaws in your arguments, which was the real focus of the piece. Compelling prose, but in the end more fantasy than fact, in my opinion.

  18. I agree with the posters who feel that WJ’s drafts the past seven years have not been nearly as strong as Wayne Krivsky before him.

    • In fact, I would go as far as to say that WJ had the good fortune to inherit a lot of young talent with a finate window of opportunity that is about to close with no substantial accomplishment to show for it. The reasons? Mismanagement of Baker. Inconsistent drafting. Poor and unnecessary contract extensions (Broxton, BP, Ludwick, Bailey, Ondrusick, etc.). Constant failure to solidify top of the order (continual foolishness with Stubbs, Cozart, Patterson, Taveras, etc.). Constant weak bench. Infinate black hole in LF. Too loyal to vets past prime (Ludwick, Rolen, Cairo, BP, etc.). Trades have been a wash (gained Latos and Broxton but lost Encarnacion and Wood for nothing). Losing Encarnacion for Rolen cost us the one bat we’ve been needing for three years. In-season inactivity to make small moves that have potential upside. Our window is about to close and WJ has wasted a lot of talent that he inherited (Votto, Bruce, Cuetto in particular).

      • Another thing that is so frustrating is that the few moves for position players over the years has been for marginal or past-prime Cardinal players. Ludwick. Schumacher. Rolen. Edmonds. That is very frustrating and very weak. It gives the perception that the game has passed WJ by. And maybe it has.

      • Encarnacion was released by the Blue Jays before they picked him back up. He had a war of 1.6 and .09 the first two years after cincy. He was not much of a player for a few years before bursting on the scene so that is hard to hold against Walt. Wood has been a solid starter but is not a starter in this rotation.

  19. Walt has been placed in a no win situation this year. No matter what he does or doesn’t do he is going to criticized. I read this article and find myself agreeing with Richard. If Jocketty goes out and picks up Zobrist the fans will go insane for Jocketty trading away stephenson…. Or worse Jocketty trades away 3 other prospects in total at AA or higher. The fans will go insane if Jocketty does nothing, assuming that he is headed out of town to join Larussa on a new building venture.
    My conclusion is that most Reds fans are insane, unreasonable, and short sighted.
    Lets blame the injuries to Latos, Mesoraco, Cingrani, Phillips, Bruce, Votto, Bailey, Ludwick, Marshall, Ondrusek on Jocketty also why we are at it.

    I love the passion we put out there when we are winning but when things go wrong… We are looking for blood and a goat to sacrifice. Walt makes a great one because he isnt kissing the media ever day and we don’t know what restrictions he is placed under.

    • Whatever Walt does or doesn’t do in the next week is irrelevant. It’s what he didn’t do in the regular season from April 2013 to the all star break of 2014. The team needed offensive help, and he didn’t bring it in, despite having a chance to obtain at least one player (byrd). There is no defensible excuse for that level of inaction when you are competing for a pennant.

      And now it’s too late.

      • Or perhaps as the K man stated it:
        Imagine a captain of a ship the moment a shift of direction must be made; then he may be able to say: I can do either this or that. But if he is not a mediocre captain he will also be aware that during all this the ship is ploughing ahead with its ordinary velocity, and thus there is but a single moment when it is inconsequential whether he does this or does that. So also with a person-if he forgets to take into account the velocity-there eventually comes a moment where it is no longer a matter of an Either/Or, not because he has chosen, but because he has refrained from it, which also can be expressed by saying: Because others have chosen for him-or because he has lost himself.

  20. Oh, and I would have really liked watching baseball with Soren. He would have loved the ‘subjectivity’ of scouts when it came to evaluating players. Statistics as a way to evaluate truth made him very cranky.

  21. Richard: I really enjoy your writing, even when I (rarely) disagree. I agree this time, across the board. I think that most fans like trades for their own sake–let’s do something even if it’s wrong–because they give us something to talk about and break up the monotony of a bad season or bad stretch of games. A gm, of course, can’t make trades because he or the fans are bored.

    • I appreciate that. Writing has little value if no one reads it. So, thanks for reading, even when I’m wrong. 🙂

  22. First off, let me say thanks for a very well written article by you, Mr. Fitch. As usual, I’m in agreement.

    Secondly, there is a herd mentality that exists here, and of course, everywhere. The buzz words here are Wily Taveras, Walt is asleep at the wheel, the Reds medical staff, and recently, we got Jack for that. I’m somewhat surprised that people are coming forward to take offense. Following the herd is hardly the worst thing I’ve ever been called; perhaps some here are a bit thin skinned. Or perhaps they want to take credit for leading the herd …

    Some of the critics here cited Corey Patterson, Willy Taveras, Chapman as a reliever, Ryan Ludwick, Marlon Byrd, and Nelson Cruz to bolster their argument that Walt Jocketty is a poor GM. A cherry picking list if I ever saw one, but in response:

    Corey Patterson: He was signed when Krivsky was the GM.

    Willy Taveras: Signed as a FA on 12/27/08. WJ was looking to fill the leadoff spot which had long been a problem for the Reds. Taveras never produced for the Reds and was traded on 2/1/10 to Oakland (yes Billy Beane Oakland) with Adam Rosales (career OPS+ of 69) for Aaron Miles. What lured WJ and Billy Beane? Taveras was 2nd in ROY voting in 2005 with Houston. He had the following slashes: 2007 = .320/.367 with 33 SB’s. 2008 = .251/.308 with 68 SB’s. Some acquisitions just don’t pan out.

    Aroldis Chapman: Signed as a FA on 1/11/10. WJ does not get credit in some circles for the signing itself, to a contract that has proved to be very team friendly. The team’s commitment to make him a starter was not undermined by WJ, or even Dusty Baker for that matter, at the start. What torpedoed the conversion was the 2012 spring training injuries to Ryan Madson, Nick Masset, and Bill Bray. Suddenly, Chapman was needed more in the bullpen than in the rotation. Walt tried to address this again at the trade deadline by acquiring Broxton on 7/31/12, but by that time Chapman (backed by DB) wanted to remain in the closer’s role.

    Ryan Ludwick: Signed as a FA on 2/8/12. WJ tried to address the hole in LF and in the middle of the lineup with this signing, betting that his down year in 2011 was a function of playing in SD. RL was very productive in ’12, slashing .275/.346/.531 with a 130 OPS+. He was re-signed on 12/10/12 to a back loaded contract (2 yrs/15 Mil., but only $2 Mil. in ’13). Got hurt on opening day 2013, and was ineffective upon his return late in the season (140 PA, 70 OPS+). A favorite whipping boy here, his 2014 has not been bad: .261/.322/.392 with a 98 OPS+. His power numbers are down, perhaps a function of his ’13 surgery (?), though they should improve somewhat with the warmer weather. His numbers are still better than a certain RF’r …

    Marlon Byrd: Didn’t block the claim by the Pirates. I’m sure WJ would like to have a mulligan on this one. Critics wave this flag a proof positive that WJ is a poor GM. Some of these same critics probably play fantasy baseball and football, and fail to remember their bad decisions therein. Yes, fantasy ball is not their full time jobs, but apparently those same critics are perfect at work, and never make a mistake.

    Nelson Cruz: Signed by Balt. on 2/24/14. Cruz was suspended for 50 games in 2013 for PED, and was booed by his home town fans upon his return on 9/30/13. It was the common consensus here that no one wanted any part of signing/trading for Alex Rodriguez, but Nelson Cruz seems to get a pass in this regard. Cruz turned down a qualifying offer of $ 14 Mil. by Texas in the off season. He garnered very little interest from other clubs due to his PED history and the fact that he had draft pick compensation tied to him. He lasted until 2/24/14 when Baltimore gave him a $ 8 Mil.,1 yr. contract.

    Of the six decisions above, only one was a legitimately bad decision by WJ. It’s easy to identify other bad decisions by supposedly top GM’s in just the past year. Oakland’s trade for Jim Johnson, St. Louis’s trade for Peter Bourjos, and the NY Yankees off season decisions to go with Brian Roberts at 2B and Kelly Johnson and Yangovise Solarte at 3B. Not to mention their decision to pay a 37 yr. old Carlos Beltran $45 Mil. for 3 yrs. Boston’s decisions to rush some youngsters up from the minors before they were apparently ready, with poor backups behind them, as well as going with that dreadful OF (and thank you so very much for out bidding the Reds for Grady Sizemore, another criticism of WJ until it ended badly for Bos.).

    Meanwhile, WJ has had blockbuster acquisitions over the past few years:

    Chapman: Signed as a free agent on 1/11/10, beating out all of the larger market teams (most of which would love to have a mulligan on that one). WJ signed him to a very team friendly contract, and he has been very productive for the team.

    Latos: Traded for on 12/17/11. Somehow, someone above tried to say that SD got the better end of this deal. Not even close. The Reds got a front of the rotation pitcher, that was club controlled for 4 !!! years. Gave up spare parts and position blocked players, plus a young Boxberger in return. Edison Volquez is a talented pitcher stuff wise, who has seldomly produced over the years. Yonder Alonso has a career 102 OPS+, with little HR power, and is strictly a first baseman. Yasmani Grandal is not as good as Mes, and has a PED suspension and injury history. He’s a decent hitter, with meh power, and poor defense. Brad Boxberger (the only piece that SD got that had much value to the Reds) was subsequently traded to the TBR, where his FIP has gone down from 4.41 to 3.21. Latos, on the other hand, has given the Reds two very good seasons in ’12 and ’13, with 33 and 32 starts, before getting hurt this spring. Upon his return, he has again pitched very well. It’s very hard to trade for a young stud starting pitcher, but WJ got it done with minimal cost.

    Choo: Traded for on 12/11/12. Like starting pitching, the leadoff spot had long been a weakness for the Reds. WJ was able to trade for perhaps the best MLB leadoff hitter at the time. Choo rewarded WJ with .285/.423/.462 and a 143 !!! OPS+. In return, he gave up Didi Gegorius, who is a backup behind Chris Owings and Aaron Hill, and Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is finally having some success this year after poor years in ’11, ’12, and ’13. Anybody here really miss Drew Stubbs? WJ wisely treated the Choo trade as a one year stopgap. Walt was smart to pass on re-signing Choo for what eventually became 7 yrs., $ 130 Mil. He had Billy Hamilton move from SS to CF in ’13 at AAA, and wisely had BH as the de facto starter for ’14. This proved to be very well done for 2013, plus 2014 and beyond.

    The Reds draft success has been very solid during the Jocketty tenure, as well.

    We’re fortunate to have WJ, who has continued to solidify this ball club.

    • “The Reds draft success has been very solid during the WJ tenure as well.” What????? Um, no.

      • Your answer: is not?

        My view, by year:

        ’08: Rd 1 (Pick 7) Yonder Alonso (hit – in majors/trade bait)

        ’09: 1 (8) Mike Leake (hit – solid mid rotation guy/played in majors from spring ’10 forward)

        1s (43) Brad Boxberger (hit – in majors/trade bait)

        special mention: Billy Hamilton, Rd 2

        ’10: 1 (12) Yasmani Grandal (hit – in majors/trade bait)

        ’11: 1 (27) Robert Stephenson (hit – top prospect in system/’12 = Rk/A ball/’13 = A/A+/AA/’14 = AA)

        special mention: Tony Cingrani, Rd 3

        ’12: 1 (14) Nick Travieso (TBD – rated #6 prospect in system/in A ball)

        1s (49) Jesse Winker (hit – rated #4 prospect in system/in AA ball)

        1s (57) Jeff Geblich (possible miss – in A+ ball)

        ’13: 1 (27) Phillip Ervin (hit – rated #3 prospect in system/in A ball)

        1s (38) Michael Lorenzen (hit – rated #8 prospect in system/already gone form Rk to A to A+ to AA ball)

        ’14: Just getting started. Signed top 18 picks.

        The baseball draft is a crapshoot, moreso than in any other sport. Baseball history is littered with top draft choices that never panned out. The Reds drafts under WJ have produced 6 productive major leaguers in the first 4 years, as well as the current #1 prospect in the system. The next 2 years have produced the # 3, # 4, # 6, and # 8 prospects in the system, and time will tell with them, but so far, so good. The results of the past draft in June are to be determined. The only possible miss, at this point in time, was drafted just in 2012, with the 57th pick overall.

        The Reds have indeed drafted well during WJ’s tenure.

    • Wow. Strong stuff, there. It’s always amazing to me how facts fail to turn opinion, but that is human nature I suppose. The narrative of Jocketty, the failed GM, has hardened at this point and isn’t going to change, especially in this current climate where feelings are still plenty raw about the disappointments of this 2014 campaign.

      I wish you had written this earlier, so that other readers would have been forced to deal with some of the facts you presented above. Would have made for a lively debate. For that matter, I wish this piece had remained at the top of blog rotation longer than it did. But, for some reason I don’t understand, it was yanked and buried amongst the other daily postings less than 24 hours after it first appeared at the top of the page.

      Thanks for weighing in.

      • Hi Richard. Thanks. Unfortunately, I was working our charity’s event all weekend, and that plus the remnants of a case of pneumonia pretty much slowed my response.

        Keep up the great writing.

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