Modern Baseball

The loser now will be later to win

Dick Williams gave a lengthy and eye-opening interview to David Laurila, published at FanGraphs yesterday. Williams talked about improvements the Reds are making based on a top-to-bottom review of the organization he conducted in 2016, his first year as Reds general manager. Read this closely:

“Last year, we went through a thorough analysis of our business. We met with each department head and effectively examined where we thought dollars would have a better return on investment than at the major league payroll level. Then we went back to ownership and said, ‘This is our next couple of years, this is what we’d like them to look like, and this is where we’d like to take money out of major-league payroll and put it to use in other areas.’”

Again: Take money out of major-league payroll and put it to use in other areas with a better return on investment.

One could look at Williams’ statement with healthy skepticism and read it as simply a rationalization for ownership cutting payroll. As putting lipstick on a poverty plea.

But Williams continues on in the interview to detail a wide – breathtaking – array of specific new initiatives where more resources have been committed. Areas range from obvious to obscure. The Reds committed millions more to the amateur draft and international player acquisition “three times our largest commitment” and implemented a “quantum leap” in pre- and post-game nutrition for all the minor league affiliates.

Other areas of new spending include: Latin American scouting, domestic area scouts, scouting rookie and independent leagues and adding a fourth coach for all the minor league affiliates. Alongside a new, optimistic perspective on the Asian player market, the club has initiated a scouting program and hired several staff for that role. Anyone watching the Dominican Republic dominate the World Baseball Classic realizes the importance of a first-class presence on that island. The Reds have added “a new weight room, training room, classrooms, housing, and training facilities” for their Dominican program.

The organization is investing in science and medicine, including adding a specialist in biomechanical device evaluation, supplementing the full-time strength coaching staff, more trainers and physical therapists, and paying for continuing education for those staffs. The Reds are offering research-based advice to players in the areas of rest-and-recovery and nutrition. The Reds analytics department is now more than just Sam Grossman. Grossman’s staff numbers in double digits and continues to grow. Turns out you can buy plenty of cool stuff with free agent salaries.

The Williams’ interview is truly humbling for those who have equated the commitment of ownership with the size of the team’s major league payroll. The Reds new president leaned on his non-baseball background to produce vast change. Williams believes his outsider background gave him a helpful perspective.

“My first job in the game came when I was 35. My jobs before baseball were in investment banking, politics, and finance, so I kind of started fresh with no preconceived notions about how things should be done. I was able to ask a lot of questions and challenge people. I think that’s been a good ingredient to the soup, so to speak. You can’t build a baseball front office with all people who come from outside the sport, but having someone come in who is willing to challenge the status quo can be a positive. It can help free people up to think outside the box.”

Innovation is never easy, particularly here. Cincinnati has a well-deserved reputation as being a buttoned-down city. For years, the Reds ball club has operated in a conservative manner befitting its hometown. From the capital letters we use to spell Opening Day to the mustache on Mr. Redlegs, Cincinnati Reds baseball oozes tradition. Nostalgia for the Big Red Machine is coin of the realm.

But like any coin, there are two sides to tradition. One is warm sentimentality. The other is debilitating paralysis. Change requires a new way of looking at a problem. Adherence to tradition can stand in the doorway, block up the hall, and get in the way of new ideas.

More Dick Williams in FanGraphs, channelling his inner George Bernard Shaw:

“Some things are only crazy if you approach them from the perspective of, ‘What was done before was totally sane.’ That makes the new stuff sound crazy, but maybe we should challenge the notion that everything we were doing before was sane. Maybe there are better ways to do certain things.”

Music to the ears of this Bob Dylan fan.

The Wheel’s Still In Spin

The Reds rebuild hasn’t been part of a brilliant, long-term master plan. The sudden, noisy collapse of the Cincinnati Reds in 2015-2016 was the product of old-fashioned stubbornness and creaky management. There’s never a great time to be weighted down by older ways of doing things, but the Reds organization picked a bad moment to fall in love with its own players and howl like King Lear at the shifting currents of baseball.

Outside, the battle was raging. Professional baseball was remaking itself by the terabyte. The Reds competition in the NL Central adopted modern analytical approaches. The Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates stocked their front office leadership with people committed to new thinking about baseball. The Reds stuck to the old road, rapidly aging. They resisted change so long the front office had to manage its own generational transition at the same time it was turning over the major league roster. The fits and starts we’ve witnessed the past two years were predictable fallout.

Walt Jocketty has now been replaced by Dick Williams. The FanGraphs interview is all the evidence you need to recognize the times have a-changed at 100 Joe Nuxhall Way. The front office remake is noteworthy itself. But with far greater impact than the personnel turnover is the sea change in thinking. We should welcome the sweeping generational transformation.

It may not have been planned even a couple years ago, but the Reds are taking advantage of the rebuild-enabled pause in major league payroll spending to do other important things. Williams and his young front office team are making a large bet with Castellini money. They’re wagering a small-market team can find a stronger rate of return – measured by winning games – spending its ample dough at the margin on inputs other than major league salary. Given the bloated nature of player paychecks, that doesn’t seem crazy, to use Williams’ word.

Dick Williams says in the interview this phase won’t last long. Ownership cash will soon start flowing back to the major league payroll. Tens of millions of dollars. That’s when the new front office will have to demonstrate that curiosity and its chosen metrics can assemble a successful major league roster. That’s not the same as identifying improvements in Dominican weight rooms and minor league coaching staffs.

We talk about The Next Good Reds Team all the time. But there’s an important question to answer before it’s realized: Can the front office’s non-baseball skill set succeed at pure-baseball decisions? Will they have the right judgment in deciding between pitching and hitting, between speed and power, between contact skills and patience, between pitch velocity and spin rates? We’ll have to wait and see. There’s no telling who that it’s naming.

82 thoughts on “The loser now will be later to win

  1. Great and entertaining overview, Steve. And it sounds as though we have legitimate reason to be hopeful.

  2. Again, Steve, you have mentioned the Cubs in reference to a team built according to “the new way of thinking”, (ala sabermetric theory).
    The Cubs had a top ten pick in the draft for 4 or 5 straight years. The picked up Bryant, Almora and Baez via draft.
    They traded for Rizzo, Arietta, Montero, Hendricks, and Russell.
    They signed as free agents Fowler, Hayward, Lackey, Lester, and Zobrist.

    Seems building a team in this manner, (aka spending lots of money), has been around awhile.

    The Cardinals, historically, have not built their teams via trade but have relied on their “model farm system”.

    • You forgot Schwarber. They drafted/acquired hitting over pitching, prioritized on-base skills. It’s not just sabermetrics, it’s new thinking. Ex.ignore RBI totals. You should read up on the Cubs and Cardinals front office. If you think the Cubs are this far ahead of the Reds because of money, you’re just sticking your head in the sand.

      • The Cubs ARE “far ahead” of the Reds based on available monetary resources. I don’t seem to be the one with my head in the sand.

        • The Cubs have been ahead of the Reds…and everyone except the Yankees and Dodgers financially for 2 decades. That didn’t matter until recently.
          Why?

        • Their best player made less than a million bucks last year. They didn’t buy their way to a WS championship. But, if you want to think that, why even be a Reds fan? They’ll never be able to outspend the coastal teams and Chicago.

          • Would the Cubs have won without the free agents they signed? (Fowler, Hayward, Lackey, Lester, and Zobrist) If the Reds get themselves into a similar position as the Cubs, will they be able to sign similar free agents?

          • I am a little late in responding. My question is why Patrick are you not an A’s fan ???? Are the A’s not the Mecca of Sabermetric pholosophy?

            With respect to Eddie’s question. The Red’s were in a similar position after the 2012 season. Grenke was out there. They picked up Choo.

      • That is what I was going to point out. The Senzel selection gives me hope. The Reds have very little young hitting and we are seeing the pains of young pitching. Acquire and develop hitting and add pitching when ready.

        Sure the Cubs made trades, but, they had the young talent to make those trades when they were ready. Also, if you have the available information, you can make great trades like Rizzo, Arietta, Russell, and Hendricks.

        The Yankees spend a lot of money and do not make the Playoffs anymore.

        • The theory of developing hitting and acquiring pitching seems to have some currency, and I can only point out the logical fallacy: If all teams followed that sensible path, there wouldn’t be good pitching to acquire. Given the Reds evident surplus of young pitchers, I agree that focus should be on position players for a time, but I don’t see the fragility of pitchers as a good argument against drafting and developing them. It is, in fact, a good argument for drafting and developing more of them. Like it or not, a team needs pitching, and the pitchers acquired from other teams aren’t likely to be less fragile than the ones we develop.

        • Always better to have money to spend. But not as big of a factor as it used to be. Depends on how it is spent. Front offices have to be smart and modern. Correlation between payroll spending and wins is pretty low.

    • And notice how many of those players the Cubs “hit” on in the draft or identified before they hit the majors and established their skill set. That’s a game changer and why they’ll be tough to beat for the next several years.

      As the Reds rebuild currently, and we get “kinda” excited about the youth… I think, but man, compared to the monster talent the Cubs had coming up, it doesn’t compare very well. There’s no Schwarber or Bryant here. Maybe Peraza can be Russell. Hopefully these changes in organizational approach will help with that. Glad to hear about it.

    • They also almost certainly used a fair amount of analytic data to choose the people that they signed or traded for. It’s also possible they have analytic based draft models. You think hitting on Rizzo, Arietta, Montero, Hendricks and Russell was an accident? What about the contracts to Lackey and Lester? Those look like money well spent. Hayward was clearly an analytical signing but who knows if that will end up being a good deal or not.

  3. Nepotism is almost never a good thing, especially on this grand a scale. Luckily, it looks like we’ve got a GM that not only knows what he’s talking about, but realizes the importance of the on-the-field product. Not always easy to do when there are that many zeroes in your paycheck.

  4. Great analysis and synopsis of that interview, Steve.

    I tell you what, even after hearing about Disco’s elbow, I’ve got more optimism than usual about this team. The way DW speaks just resonates with me, I suppose. He speaks like a man who analyzes each decision before it is made; his finance background, I suppose. Instead of valuing options and swaps, he’s valuing prospects and infrastructure. I love it!

  5. This was a good read. Thanks Steve. Have been enjoying watching the Williams era from afar. See a light. Pretty sure it is not a train.

  6. I read the entire interview and liked all of it. Hopefully they are heading to a point where the full support services of the analytics, sports medicine, and sports science departments are applied throughout the minor leagues in the course of day to day operations.

    Currently, the depth and quality of the performance data captured no doubt decreases as one moves down the chain. Still there is enough available to get started; and, I’m guessing it would be a losing bet to bet against Baseball Advanced Metrics type systems starting to show up in MiLB venues sooner rather than later.

  7. Steve,
    Great read on Dick Williams. Little by little warming up to the new GM.
    DW would be the quintessential guest speaker at the next RLN gathering, if that could be somehow be worked out. Would love to have Mr. Krall and Mr. Grossman back too, as they were stellar. Having Mr. Williams there would certainly be a coup. Last year’s gathering was such a great event and day, that having Mr. Williams and maybe Chris Welsh there might be the only way to improve upon last year. It would certainly be an interesting Q&A session.

  8. That was a refreshing article Steve. Gives me a lot of hope that Williams’ regime as GM will be different. Thanks for the perspective from the Fansgraph interview.

  9. The best question a leader can ask is
    ” Why do we do things the way we do
    them?” If you can’t outspend people, you
    need to be able to outthink them.

    What’s ultimately more valuable: 10 million spent on a player that may help you win 3 more games or a 10 million infrastructure investment that hopefully enables a more consistent pipeline of able replacements?

    The Cubs reportedly made over 100 million in profits over the 3 ” tank” seasons. They easily could’ve signed Prince Fielder or Puljos during that period. Instead they invested in infrastructure…and now they have a chance to put together a 96′-00′ Yankee like run. Their financial Fire power is important…what they did with it is more important.

    • Chuck,

      Spot on.

      The additional financial firepower also allows a large revenue team the ability to overcome signing mistakes. If Jason Heyward is a bust, it doesn’t cripple the Cubs. They could actually afford another Heyward contract this year, and still stay under the luxury tax. The Reds are not in that position.

      The Cubs TV deal expires in 2019. They were earning $65M in the current one, more (?) or on par (?) with the Reds NEW TV deal.

      The Reds are always going to be the “have to outsmart, can’t outspend” club. Good to see in the article that the club is fully committed to exploring that mantra.

  10. Whatever. I’m tired of being hopeful and I’m tired of talking about the next good Reds team(s). I read that article and what jumped out at me is where Williams basically said that 2019 is now the target for contention. What happened to next year? And all these young players keep on getting injured ain’t making me feel good about the “future”. Not counting the injured vets trying to return.

    • In 2016, the target was 2018. Now that 2017 is here, the target is 2019. When 2018 gets here the target will be 2020. The target always moves.

      All this other stuff is great. That being said, what they need is better players. All throughout the organization. Even after 2 years of rebuild and sell off, the farm system is only in the middle of the pack. The Braves just started their rebuild and there farm system is rated #1.

      It all comes down to having the best talent. Bottom line. It is like when you get invited to a grand banquet. The tables are laid out with beautiful arrangements, the best place settings, crystal wine glasses and silk linens. Then they bring the food and it sucks. Without great food, the rest of it doesn’t mean much.

      • Double, I know it’s getting infuriating that they seemingly keep pushing the year of contention back. But as far as our farm system goes, I think our farm system is in the top 10 (I think 9th to be exact), now.

      • “The target always moves.” That’s what real targets do, though, and targets in this context are guesswork. The hopeful takeaway is that the groundwork is being laid for consistent excellence.

      • “The target always moves.” That’s what real targets do, though, and targets in this context are guesswork. The best that the Reds or any other team can do is to get (and keep) their own house in order.

    • Injuries are a cost of doing business. Sports science and sports medicine working together in the (hopefully near) future should be able lessen the number of injuries and reduce the longer term impact of injuries which happen. However bodies being asked to do the things required to play baseball at the MLB level are going to break from time to time. Teams need to budget to cover those contingencies as best they can.

      • Jim, From time to time? Disco’s been dealing with elbow issues for a few seasons now. Hamilton, 2 yrs in a row, ends season on DL. Bailey & Mesoraco 2 or 3 straight years. This ain’t “from time to time”, it’s, “every year” for these plyrs.

        • The injuries to both Mesoraco and Desclafani appear to be wear and tear injuries versus traumatic injuries. These types of injuries are going to keep reoccurring until the underlying problem is fixed.

          Mesoraco has had three of the four major ball joints in his body reworked in the last 24 months. They acknowledged that one of the hips was done as a “preventive” procedure. Indications are very clear he was predisposed to have these injuries. This is exactly the sort of problem advanced sports science and medicine will be able to predict ahead of an actual injury. Maybe there is a workaround. Maybe if the guy is a talented enough prospect they go on and do preventive surgeries before the fate of the MLB club hinges largely on his contribution. Or, at the least, a club will know their risk and not sink big guaranteed money on such a player.

          Figuring out the precise development and mechanics of elbow injuries has to be at the top of the list for baseball sports science and medicine. Once they’ve done that, they’ll move on to figuring out how to prevent as many as possible and even more effectively deal with them when the injuries still happen despite best efforts to avoid them.

          But yeah, it is frustrating right now.

          • Jim, the question is how close is sports science to being able to predict and prevent injuries.

    • The Reds have had 15 losing seasons out of the last 20. Their payroll spending from 2010-2015 was middle of the pack despite being in the lower third in revenue. They strung together 3 nice seasons out of 6 but it wasn’t sustainable.

      What they’re doing now at least positions then for sustainable and more consistent success. They may screw it up….they may be imperiled by bad luck…. They may get it right. All we know is that what they were doing before didn’t work and they can’t spend their way to sustainable success. They’ve chosen a path that has a higher probability of success than what they did in the past.

      What’s the alternative?

      • Yes, and that makes the case for a GM like Williams who will focus on internal things rather than a traditional GM like Jocketty who was more focused on trades and just the major league roster. The one aspect of this still hanging, that I mention at the end, is that eventually hard choices will have to be made about the roster. Agree with you that there’s no sustainable alternative to building from within. Jocketty paid that concept lip service, but what we’re seeing is Williams being more aggressive (and able?) about it.

        • That’s where, we as fans hope, that he turns to those advising him and that those advisors know what they are doing.

        • Look no further than the draft as one exhibit of evidence. The Reds 2011-2015 drafts (Jocketty years) were very suspect in the first rounds of the draft. Williams, in his first year as GM with Jocketty still on board as President of Baseball Operations probably had oversight of the minor league system and draft as his main responsibilities. Jocketty had final say on major league matters, but Williams was in charge of the minors, scouting, and the draft. That gave Williams a year to evaluate and institute any changes he saw that might be needed. That 2016 draft might be the best ever for the Reds. Draft positioning played a part in that of course. But other teams have drafted quality ML players in the teens and 20’s of the first round, while the Reds couldn’t from 2011-2015. Lorenzen and someday soon Winker are the only 1st round players to amount to much from those 2011-2015 draft’s first rounds. And both were supplemental 1st round picks, meaning the Reds had selected another player higher.
          This year’s #2 overall pick wiil hopefully be as good as a pick as Nick Senzel was.

          • Here is what I came up with for 2011 thru 2015:

            2011 Robert Stephenson #27
            2012 Nick Travieso #14; Jesse Winker #49 (compensation type A)
            2013 Phil Ervin #27; Michael Lorenzen #38 (competitive balance)
            2014 Nick Howard #19; Alex Blandino #29
            2015 Tyler Stephenson #11

            Unless things turn around 2014 stands a chance of being a complete bust; and both of those guys were college players at high level D1 schools which to me makes it even worse that the Reds missed on them.

            I know we are not quite on the same page over RSteve; but, at least barring injury, he is not going to be a complete bust.

            Nick Travieso is looking iffy due to a string of injuries. Drafting high school power pitchers is a known high risk venture.

            Phil Ervin is looking more like a 4th OF than a regular.

          • FWIW Jim, you left off Jeff Gelalich, an OF from UCLA, that was a 1st/supplemental #57 overall in 2012. He was taken a handful of spots after Jesse Winker at #49. That was a big supplemental round in 2012.
            Gelalich is still in the organization, has shown signs of a 1/s pick, but has been rather inconsistent and has had a couple of injuries. That downgrades 2012 a bit.
            And it is too early really on TStephenson to make any assessments.
            RStephenson is trying to prove me wrong. He’s looking a little better as spring goes by.
            Keeping fingers and toes crossed for Phillip Ervin. This might finally be his breakout year in hitting.
            But yeah, 2014 was not good. Just look at who was drafted between #19 Nick Howard and #29 Alex Blandino. #21 OF Bradley Zimmer-Cle, #22 P Grant Holmes-LAD, #24 SS Cole Tucker-Pit, #26 3B/SS Michael Chavis-Bos, and #27 P Luke Weaver-STL, all set to be stars for their teams.
            Something was different with the 2016 draft other than draft position, and maybe that can be attributed to Williams.

    • CORRECTION: I misread what Williams was saying about competing again in a couple of years. What he meant was competing for higher dollar free agents in a couple of years. Using my deductive reasoning skills (I really have none, lol) I’m assuming this means we’re still on track to win next year. If I could delete my previous comment(s), I would.

  11. Williams clearly demonstrates the ability to be open minded about organizational structure and decision making in all areas. This “open mindedness” allows him to look at all areas for attempting to improve the organization. But will he make the right decisions that result in W’s. As you said we’ll have to wait and see.

    One big factor is injuries, a wildcard that very little can be done about (although the Reds organization seem to be applying all information to prevent and diminish this effect). Imagine this years team without any of the past two years of injuries.

    Mesoraco is still an all star level player, Bailey is a solid #2 starter, Iglesias is a solid #2 starter, Lorenzen maybe becomes a solid starter, Desclafani is a solid #3 starter. We would be competing possibly this year for a playoff spot.

    My point is our past few years of decision making has not been as bad as we think from a standpoint of drafting, signing and trading for quality players (excluding the chapman trade, which even if Davis turns out ok was still not good enough, this was done for pr reasons not withstanding).

    Can science and open mindedness allow the Reds to make decisions to avoid these injuries? Some have argued that we have signed players who we should have known where susceptible to injuries or who we should have known couldn’t handle the workload of a starting pitcher. I think we signed these players based on the expectation that this would be a reboot and if all things worked out as planned we are in good shape in 17′ & 18′ & a few years beyond. It appears the injuries may have derailed our 17′ season, will they derail the 18′ season also?

  12. This is great news. I’ve been saying for years that the Reds need to (1) develop a much better Latin American presence, having almost impossibly not produced a good hitter from Latin America since Tony Perez; and (2) pour TONS of money into development, by better nutrition, coaching and training, evaluation, language development, etc. As I’ve said, the cost of one lousy relief pitcher (Ryan Madson?) pays for most of it. (And pay every minor leaguer much more than the minimum salary; a first-class operation needs to act like it and pay like it. Every team needs “organizational players”; get good ones.)

    There is no excuse for the Reds’ management not to work harder or be smarter than other teams. What Williams has said is remarkably similar to what the Ricketts family has said it did to evaluate the entire operation of the Cubs. A little business management ability goes a long, long way.

  13. “Last year [2016], we went through a thorough analysis of our business. We met with each department head and effectively examined where we thought dollars would have a better return on investment than at the major league payroll level. Then we went back to ownership and said, ‘This is our next couple of years [2017 & 2018], this is what we’d like them to look like, and this is where we’d like to take money out of major-league payroll and put it to use in other areas.’”

    That statement tells me there was a disconnect between current and future philosophies regarding baseball operations. WJ was still running and controlling all baseball operations last season. DW was planning for future running and controlling of baseball operations. Until November 2016, I don’t think DW had any real input regarding current decisions. He had a serious learning curve and he needed/wanted to utilize that time to accumulate the knowledge and expertise to make intelligent decisions when the puck dropped in his zone. In November 2016, there was a clean break with full control of baseball operations moving from WJ to DW.

    • If that interpretation is acccurate, and the view from the outside looking in is always fuzzy and frought with error, then the book for the reboot/rebuild was authored by WJ, exclusively, and DW is left to salvage that process. As fans, we have no contol of how that process works/worked and the way it appears to have worked…sucks. It is what it is and I guess that just leaves us at square one and moving forward from this point.

  14. The only way to gauge DW is going to be with the number of World Series titles he brings to Cincinnati. Right now he is at zero. If he can get one in the next 5 years he’ll be considered a legend. 1990 was a long time ago. Imagine how many fans now have never seen a Reds championship. Some of us are tired of the excuses, whining, and “bad luck” rhetoric.
    It is put up or shut up time for this organization. They are either first class or a bottom feeder farm system for other teams.

    • The 1990 team was built on a lot of high draft choice players that made it to the Bigs.
      Eric Davis, Barry Larkin, Paul O’Neal, Rob Dibble, Tom Browning, Jack Armstrong, Chris Sabo.
      Jose Rijo, but he was traded from another organization (the A’s, if I remember correctly).

      Drafting is really the only way you can build a team. You can sign free agents to fill the gaps (Which is what the Cubs did with their pitching staff and Zobrist), but you cannot build a winner with free agents. The Yankees have been trying that for years and failing.

      Johnny Cueto came out of the Dominican. If the Reds can get one Johnny Cueto quality player (pitcher or position player) a year out of the Dominican with better scouting and preparation, then this is a win for the organization.
      You will also recall that the Reds signed Yorman Rodriquez and Juan what’s his name for big bonuses out of Venezuela as 16 year olds, and they were a both a bust.

    • I haven’t been aware of a lot of whining or excuses, and there has been some bad luck. Yours seems a strange comment to an article about a change in course for the Reds.

      • Oh just about every day we here a complaint lodged against this organization about Jocketty, Castellini. This player, that player. This organization has sucked for a long time. Even if we critique the 90 team one would conclude that we should have had 1 or 2 more titles in that era. The Reds need to build a legacy of winning instead of a legacy of excuses claiming all their woes on the small market. If that is truly their excuse they should move the Reds to Brooklyn.

        • So the whining you reference is coming from the fans? I’m not sure why you consider that important. Particularly in the era of free-agency, winning multiple WS titles is a crapshoot. We can feel aggrieved any year that they don’t win the whole deal, but that isn’t a recipe for enjoying baseball. Being a fan of a 4th-place team, or even a last-place team, shouldn’t affect our sense of self-worth.

    • Other ‘bottom feeder farm system’ teams by this reasoning:

      O’s
      Rockies (1995)
      Tigers
      Astros
      Dodgers
      Brewers
      Mets
      Pirates
      Mariners
      Rangers
      Rays (1998)
      Expos/Nationals
      Padres

      That’s almost half the teams in MLB that haven’t won a World Series Since 1990.

        • Ok, maybe those teams should be in some sort of tier 2? That has been discussed around here… I will note however that some of those teams have spent bit money or are spending big money, and still no World Series wins to show for it. Some of those teams have been really good in some of those years too and still no World Series wins. If a sports fan is strictly going on number of championships one, I’d say they are going to be consistently disappointed as only 1 in 30 can win it all.

  15. Of all the people to get a FanGraphs story written about them, Sal Romano has one that just went up over at FG. Go check it out! If Romano can keep pitching well, that’ll lessen the sting of Disco’s elbow.

  16. Thanks for pointing us to this article. It’s all encouraging stuff, although much of it seems so basic–e.g., “having more coaching and better nutrition in the minors might be a smart investment”–that it makes you wonder why it took so long.

    • “Some things are only crazy if you approach them from the perspective of, ‘What was done before was totally sane.’ That makes the new stuff sound crazy, but maybe we should challenge the notion that everything we were doing before was sane. Maybe there are better ways to do certain things.”

      Nuff said…

    • Yep, wrote exactly that to Chad this morning. Wanted the post to be mostly upbeat rather than all Jocketty bashing. Leaving the implication to the readers.

      • I was thinking some of this is so bloody obvious that a reasonably curious owner would have noticed. I think you’ve brought up the issue of minor league meal money before. You don’t get where Bob C has gotten without asking a few smart questions along the way….like “are our minor league guys eating well and getting enough coaching?” Oh, well, at least it’s getting better.

        • We’re just trading speculation, obviously. But I think a bunch of owners see their role as staying out of day-to-day operations except for what their GM/President of Baseball Ops tells them is important and needs to be addressed. May be making all this up, but it’s sure easy to imagine profoundly different management styles (generational?) between DW and WJ. Still, DW has to make baseball decisions eventually. For a small market team, strengthening things internally is necessary but not sufficient.

          • I’ll be interested to see where our edge comes from vs other organizations. If we catch up on some obvious things that’s great, but we’re going to have to be better at some things. Or invent new things. I definitely like the new focus on building the infrastructure to be successful long term.

      • You know, believe it or not, I noticed the lack of bashing in it’s entirety.

        And I appreciate it! I think back to the courtesy and candidness the Reds showed at the Redleg Nation meetup and I think possibly DW might’ve had a hand in that seeing his openness in the FG interview.

        And now for the baguette Tori doing reference: I am looking for some Crimson flames to start burning in the NL Central this year.

  17. Thanks for this reference Steve. Without you I’d have no clue that the hypnotic splattered mist may be slowly lifting from our Reds’ front office. Maybe the new GM won’t try to hide what he don’t know to begin with. The Reds are gonna have to serve somebody.

  18. I read the Fangraphs article. I then went back to re-read it, and read between the lines too. I will go out on a small limb and say that the Reds will be serious players for the services of the 19 year old Cuban phenom OF Luis Robert. That is if MLB will grant Robert free agency status before June 15. This will be a once in a several year opportunity for the Reds to snag a high caliber prospect on the international free agent market. It may take up to $12M-$14M to sign him (6-7 yrs.), plus the same amount to MLB for spending over the limit fees.
    The Padres blew past the spending limit $50M ago. I think the Reds can go over just this one time regardless of price. On June 16, the new CBA Intn. free agent spending rules change. The ball is in MLB’s court. Hopefully the act quick enough and declare him a free agent before June 15. Some of the larger market teams are serving their reduced spending penalties now and can’t sign Robert for what it’ll cost. Much like the Reds will have to do the next 2 years. After June 16, the Reds won’t have much of a chance on signing him. Very, very remote chance.

  19. Just when the Reds will have money to spend on free agents, Johnny Cueto is expected to exercise an opt clause in his contract and become a free agent after the 2017 season. Hmmmmm.
    If we are using the Cubs as an example of re-builds, this would be the equivalent to the Cubs signing of Jon Lester, but with a better pick off move.

    • If he opts out, he’ll be walking away from 4 years and 85 million guaranteed. I’m not sure guaranteeing 100 million to a 33 year old pitcher is the best use of resources. Half the payroll to an aging Cueto and Votto could curtail things rather quickly.

      The Cubs can make a 25 million mistake and they can just raise the price of beer by a nickel and recover. The Reds would be toast.

      • You speak the truth….Who wouldn’t pay another nickel for a large old style Wrigley. I sat behind the Reds dugout in 2012 for less than value when the cubs sucked….I needed that Old Style to endure Coco Cordero’s 9th inning….

  20. The most important observation I read in this whole thread is that the Cubs drafted hitters- not pitchers. The Reds have been drafting pitchers heavily and those pitchers still haven’t produced much. The Big Red Machine was built by drafting hitters and adding pitchers as needed. I hope the Reds do more of that starting now.

  21. If we look back over 30 years at teams that had WS success (able to string together consistent appearances/titles for a period of years), we have Oakland (86-90), Minnesota (87-91), Toronto (92-93), Atlanta (91-96), NYY (96-03), SL (04-13), Boston (04-07), & SF (10-14). I’m not including the teams that captured lightning in a bottle – although the 90 Reds could’ve been on this list had they stayed the course (kept Sweet Lou at the helm)!

    There are several trends as I see them (unscientifically established of course);
    1. core of 5-6 position players (from within the org)
    2. core of 5-6 pitchers (from within the org)
    3. brilliant/smart manager
    4. front office able to fill gaps
    5. money

    If the first four are in place, you can make some waves.

    The only way to get 1-4 is to have information. DW’s approach looks to be “information-oriented”. Increased scouting, increased teaching, increased draft intel, increased emphasis on player development, increased awareness of free-agent “gems”, etc. All of this increases the opportunity to develop a deeper & stronger core group.

    The Twins were once the darlings of baseball – with a stockpile of 90+ mph arms in their small-market system. But they lost sight of item 1. And while Gardy was a solid manager, he was not quite the manager Tom Kelly was.

    Look at Bruce Bochy with the Padres – great manager, but never had the core group of players to make a run. Put him in SF and give him a solid core – now you can talk championships.

    Number 5 is debatable, because it can lead to so many unwanted attitudes/ consequences. It can help secure #4 when the gap is ready to be filled. And it can occasionally lock up a franchise player (Derek Jeter/Mike Jordan) for their entire career – but those are rare players who perform well and money doesn’t change their approach/ playing style. But most of the time it breeds laziness and complacency.

    Do the 2017 Reds have any of these “core” ingredients? They might have some ingredients, but can they gel simultaneously, stay away from injury, and produce at championship levels consistently? Do they have a brilliant manager? Can the FO identify/motivate talent up & down the farm system? It is way too early to tell.

    • Well written post, but how do you determine a smart/brilliant manager? Bochey’s record in San Diego wasn’t exactly HOF worthy. Torre was fired from 3 teams in 13 years before inheriting one of the best situations in the history of the game. Tom Kelly was bad at the beginning, great in the middle and bad at the end. Francona inherited a team that was 1 run away from the World Series. Cito Gaston somehow never worked again. LaRussa and Cox had sustainable success…..and consistent talent.

      I tend to be in the “managers don’t matter” camp. All of those guys did well when they had talent at their disposal and lost when they didn’t. Would Bryan Price have won the WS with the 1998 Yankees? Very Likely. Does Joe Torre lose over 90 with the 2016 Reds? Almost certainly.

      • Your points are good. I could agree #4 could be ahead of #3. And maybe #1 & #2 are more heavily weighted – maybe #1 & #2 have 80-90% of the impact (remember – highly unscientific!).

        But my experience in baseball (only HS & College), is that the manager creates an atmosphere. They understand when/where to push, when to shake-up, who needs a nudge and who needs a kick in the pants. They posses an intensity/drive that can bring out the best in their team. They recognize leaders and followers.

        It’s not to say that a brilliant manager has it from day 1, or is able to sustain it – they’re human just like all of us. And many a brilliant manager will never win a world series – maybe the ingredients didn’t align. Billy Martin had some brilliance (& also a few flaws). He’s an example of a manager that came to win every day and his teams at NY & Oakland mirrored his fiery personality.

        And I certainly don’t mean to imply this is easy – there are injuries, unfortunate luck, draft picks that fizzle, another slightly better team… I think of the mid 90’s Cleveland Indians. They did a lot right but never quite got a WS title.

  22. Management in a business or corporate setting is different from a sports team. But I think non-measureable things like personality, spirit, attitude, from the manager can make a difference on a baseball club, be it ML or minor. It’s often reflected in the, so-called, chemistry of the clubhouse.

  23. Great article, Steve. (Maybe the best on the Reds that I’ve read in a very long time.)

    On the one hand, the generational change is a healthy one. (For all the reasons you mentioned.) I appreciate nostalgia as much as the next fan, but it’s not a sufficient raison d’etre for a team. A steady diet of nostalgia doesn’t fill a stadium night after night in August or September. A winning team does.

    On the other hand, I’m frustrated that the Reds didn’t replace Jocketty with someone with previous GM experience.

    In a sense, it’s the Bryan Price hire all over again. Instead of doing an exhaustive, nationwide search for the successor (to find someone with the very best skills for the job), they picked someone they already knew. This sort of parochial mindset is still there. (Which reminds me of the excellent article you wrote about ownership’s tunnel vision a while back.)

    The other thing that worries me is that, if Williams is a disaster, he can always go back to investment banking or politics. It’s not like he’s spent his entire life in baseball and his reputation swings on success or failure here. He doesn’t quite come across as a dilettante, but I have to confess that I have concerns in that direction.

Tell us what you're thinking...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s