Archive for June, 2006

Reds History – How’s Wayne Measuring Up?

Thursday, June 29th, 2006


R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me

Reds’ brass praised.

The Reds got some high praise in the Sports Illustrated midseason report.

The club’s front office was named the best in baseball for the first half of the season.

The report, due on newsstands today, says: “New general manager Wayne Krivsky quickly made his mark with two moves that have been central to his club’s strong start: He traded outfielder Wily Mo Peña to Boston for right-hander Bronson Arroyo (9 -4, 2.58) in March, then dealt a lightly regarded prospect to Cleveland for second baseman Brandon Phillips (.314, seven homers, 43 RBI) in April. Both players should be in Pittsburgh for the All-Star Game on July 11.

Knock me down with a feather, if you ever pondered how quick a turnaround could be don’t waste your time, just look toward Cincinnati and check out the Reds.

Hired less then six months ago as the new General Manager Wayne Krivsky has made great headway in turning the Reds ship around. To many the proof will be in the winning record, from my vantage point that is a fringe benefit, and after 5 years of miserable, self induced mediocrity the Reds franchise is creeping out of the hole known as shame and standing tall in the world of baseball, and evidently they are getting noticed for something other than the stink that came from the front office and the historically bad pitching.

It’s about time.

Where does this current GM stand when measured against his predecessors in the GM office in Cincinnati?

Since the state of the game off the field has changed so much in the last 30 years it wouldn’t be fair to measure Krivsky against all the GM’s in Reds history, so well just slide back 22 years and start our study with the man who replaced Bob Howsam (when he left for the second time) Bill Bergesch and we’ll run it right up to the recently lauded Krivsky and his incomplete run at restoring confidence in a team that has lost more than just games the past five years.

Bill Bergesch – Hired October 1984
Former Title – Director of Baseball Operations – New York Yankees.

First Move – Keefe Cato to San Diego for Darren Burroghs. Bergesch made only 2 trades in his first 8 months on the job.

Most Famous Player Traded First – Cesar Cedeno was traded to the Cardinals in August for Mark Jackson. Cesar was out of the game the next year but strung together 76 magical at bats for the NL pennant winners.

Most Famous Trade Pickup – Buddy Bell, 10 months in to the job Bergesch made his first significant trade and it was steal, trading Duane Walker and Jeff Russell in mid July of 1985.

Best Young Player Pickup – Slow on the draw was Bergesch’s main problem it took him 15 months to pick up a future impact Red, once again though it was steal, with the Reds relinquishing Wayne Krenchicki and ending up with Norm Charlton.

See Ya – Who’d he cut? – Every GM usually comes aboard with a plan and often that doesn’t include the former regimes players. So the axe often swings freely, in Bergesch’s tenure the axe took down longtime Reds Frank Pastore.

Biggest Mistake – Being slow with the trade trigger was Bill’s biggest headache and it would eventually cost him his job as he held on to both the Reds shortstop prospects and the quickly multiplying outfield prospects.

First Draft – Bergesch endeared himself to Reds fans forever by being the GM who chose Barry Larkin with the 4th pick in the 1985 draft.

Murray Cook – Hired October 1987
Former Title: Montreal GM and Yankee Employee.

First Move – – Unlike his predecessor Cook started off with a bang, trading Kurt Stillwell for left hander Danny Jackson, who would be a major player for the Reds for the next few years.

Most Famous Player Traded First – Targeting pitching was Cooks first order of business, so he moved Dave Parker for Jose Rijo and Tim Birtsas.

Most Famous Trade Pickup – Danny Jackson was an established starter who immediately strengthened the Reds weak staff.

Best Young Player Pickup – Jose Rijo would go on to be one of the best pitchers in team history.

See Ya – Who’d he cut? – Cook was the man who sent Tom Hume into the coaching profession in the autumn of 1987.

Biggest Mistake – Saddled without a first round choice in the 1988 draft Cook took Jeff Branson with the number one pick, in a draft that was largely disappointing from top to bottom for the Reds.

First Draft – See above.

Bob Quinn – Hired October 1989
Former Title: Yankee Employee

First Move – – It almost seems common with Reds general managers, the first deal is usually a deal for arms, and in Cook’s case it was no different, in December he sent John Franco to the Mets for Randy Meyers and Kip Gross.

Most Famous Player Traded First – John Franco was the Reds closer and a fan favorite, evidently he was easy to replace.

Most Famous Trade Pickup – Billy Hatcher/Bill Doran. Not looking for big name players Quinn’s biggest names acquired would both play roles in the 1990 teams run for the title, and neither would cost more then a middling prospect.

Best Young Player Pickup – Quinn’s 2nd trade was a steal for the Reds as Quinn picked the pocket of his former employers the Yankees and traded Tim Leary and Van Snider for Hal Morris.

See Ya – Who’d he cut? – Quinn was the man responsible finally getting Dave Collins of the field of play.

Biggest Mistake – The man drove the bus to the World Series in his first season, we’ll give this one a pass.

First Draft – In Quinn’s first draft he created what some consider a cardinal sin, he drafted a catcher with his first pick. Holy Steve Swisher, it didn’t fail… nor impress many either.

Jim Bowden – Hired October 1993
Former Title: Reds Front Office (Via Yankees and Pirates)

First Move – Jim Bowden tried to reverse the jinx of the first round catcher pick by jettisoning Dan Wilson to the Mariners for Eric Hanson and Bret Boone.

Most Famous Player Traded First – Bowden’s most famous player move was a telltale sign of an obsession that still follows him to this day, the swift centerfielder type is Jim Bowden’s dream player, the man obviously has a weakness for centerfielders and his career is littered with examples, it starts with his first trade as a Reds GM when he traded Roberto Kelly for Deion Sanders, thus beginning the long back and forth between Deion and the city.

Most Famous Trade Pickup – Deion Sanders was celebrity, and a so-so baseball player, he made a splash in Cincinnati time and time again, but no more then when he first showed up.

Best Young Player Pickup – Bret Boone anchored the Reds middle infield until 1998 and helped the Reds get Denny Neagle for the 1999 team.

See Ya – Who’d he cut? – Bowden didn’t see a future in Chris Sabo and at over 3 million bucks a year he was willing to let him walk.

Biggest Mistake – Beginning the infatuation dance with Deion Sanders, a man who would visit the Reds roster 3 separate times and only give back a .665 OPS in over 900 trips to the plate.

First Draft – Bowden’s first pick was C. J. Nitkowski, a player later traded for David Wells in the midst of the 1995 pennant race.

Dan O’Brien – Hired October 2003
Former Title: Assistant GM Texas Rangers

First Move – – In the first 3 months of O’Brien’s tenure he signed 21 free agents before he focused on the Reds current roster. His first trade was Chris Reitsma for Jung Bong and Bubba Nelson.

Most Famous Player Traded First – Possessing the same paralysis that Bergesch had O’Brien can only claim to have moved pitchers in his first year and they were Reitsma, Jones and Lidle. By Default Reitsma is the most famous.

Most Famous Trade Pickup – Since he was so fun in the trade market to find his most famous pickup you’d have to point to the free agent signing of Cory Lidle, a Christmas present most Reds fans would rather forget.

Best Young Player Pickup – From where we sit right now this could only be Elizardo Ramirez, who 11 starts into the 2006 season has 67 IP and a 3.61 ERA

See Ya – Who’d he cut? – O’Brien shed the team of two Bowden’s last busts, Russ Branyan and Ryan Dempster.

Biggest Mistake – Fear, inertia, not realizing that the hub of the wheel was the major league club, not the minor leagues.

First DraftHomer Bailey, RHP, Texas HS, Currently making his way up the ladder, cross your fingers.

Wayne Krivsky – Hired February 2006
Former Title: Assistant GM Minnesota Twins

First Move – – In his fifth week as GM, Krivsky pulled the trigger, taking care of the long suffering outfield log jam and getting the Reds an established starter when he got Arroyo and CASH for Wily Mo Pena

Most Famous Player Traded First – See Above

Most Famous Trade Pickup – Bronson Arroyo gave the Reds a steady starter to go with Aaron Harang and man who has experienced what it’s like to be on a winning team is always good the clubhouse.

Best Young Player Pickup – Brandon Phillips has solidified the middle infield defense and added athleticism and speed to a team that could use it.

See Ya – Who’d he cut? – Krivsky cut bait on numerous Reds, Hudson, Bong, Nelson and even a message cut with an overweight Hancock (Jury still out on that)

Biggest Mistake – Many would picking up Castro or Hatteberg, but until either burn down the clubhouse or worse I’ll pretend that Hatteberg is Casey Lite and that Castro is imparting some wisdom to the younger infielders on the Reds.

First Draft – Drew Stubbs, CF University of Texas, can field, and has pop and a ceiling.

So, there we have it. Measure it, ponder it, and remember it. In a year we’ll have a bigger picture of where the Reds are heading and how these moves affect them and the future of the team.

But right now the current path looks like it’s being trodden by someone who has a clue about what might be around the next bend.

All I can say is….thank you, it’s about time.

Have the Reds ever had pitching? 1960-1966 – The Hutchinson/DeWitt Years

Monday, June 26th, 2006

“You know how much stuff he had? He had a nickel curve, a nickel fast ball, a purpose pitch and a million dollars worth of heart, that’s what he had.”

Gene Mauch On Fred Hutchinson.

Do you know your team?

Do you know the patterns that they drag you through, the whims that the men who run the team lean on? Every team has their quirks, repeat performances, twists; they all go through moments that define them, moments that cause future moves, or future patterns for the fans to fret over or boast about.

Want a goofy pattern?

For the Reds it was pitching, plain and simple, pitching was and has always been the problem since Lucy and Rickey took the country by storm. As we delved into the fifties we found the Reds awash in rumors of moving to New York City, and signing pitchers.

The success of the 1956 team was similar to the success of the 1999 team, it threw the team that was not expected to compete into a competing phase, this led to a couple of seasons of success and then a crash and burn a year after the Reds manager made the cover of Time Magazine for his calm demeanor. After hiring Mayo Smith the Reds pitching spiraled to the bottom of the league, despite leading the league in almost all the offensive categories. It was then that Gabe Paul made perhaps his best executive decision as a the Reds General Manager, when in 1959 Paul fired Smith and threw the keys of the franchise to former pitcher Fred Hutchinson, it was Hutchinson’s 3rd job managing in the majors, and he was determined to make the best of it.

After struggling to form a cohesive staff throughout the 50’s it was up to Hutchinson to turn the team around, and to Hutch that meant the pitching, and to Hutchinson pitching was not just throwing the ball, it was a war between the batter and the hurler and that meant anything goes, which in this case applied to the Reds who were a team that was looking for pitching.

During Hutches first season, the Reds (In the eight team National League) came in next to last in allowing runs. In his second season they allowed the fewest in the league as the Reds surprised all of baseball by taking the NL Pennant.

Despite the fact that the 60’s were the pitching era, the era wasn’t really an era the Reds franchise can look back at fondly for that particular aspect of the game. If they do it’s mostly because of Hutchinson’s influence.

When he took the helm there wasn’t much to work with, some bonus babies and some guys that probably reminded Hutch a lot of the older Hutch who had to abandon his fastball and go to his slider and change. This aspect of the game stuck throughout his tenure and by the time he left the team in 1964 almost half of the Reds starts had been manned by men who depended more on breaking balls and guile, then on speed and overpowering movement and during the Hutch era 46% of the starts were by pitchers who used a curve as their money pitch.

CINCINNATI REDS
1960-1964
GAMES STARTED                   GS
1    Jim O'Toole                 162
2    Bob Purkey                  150
3    Joey Jay                    116
4    Jim Maloney                 102
5    Joe Nuxhall                  66
6    John Tsitouris               47
7    Jay Hook                     38
8    Ken Hunt                     22
9    Cal McLish                   21
10   Don Newcombe                 15

This approach worked great for a couple of seasons during the Hutch era, garnering first rate staffs in 1961 and 1964 and a couple of 4th place finishes in 62 and 63, but it was a crapshoot to lean on so many touch pitchers, everything has to go right for those types of pitchers as evidenced by the 2006 version of Bronson Arroyo, and when half your innings are coming from those types cross your fingers and make a wish.

A tough pitcher and a tough man, Hutchinson was the last Reds manager (aside from the brief 1966 appearance by Don Hefner) who was a throwback player and had played before the players union changed the game forever. Hutch (the former pitcher) hated walks. This was perhaps the reason behind the slow emergence of Jim Maloney, who took several years to get his k/bb ratio to an acceptable level before he was slotted in to the rotation. In the early part of the decade when the Reds were the surprise team the anchors of the staff were curveballer Joey Jay and preeminent junkballer Bob Purkey, added to that mix were one of Gabe Paul’s bonus signings Ken Hunt who sported a curveball as his primary pitch, in what would be his only season in the big leagues, spot starter and reliever Jay Hook also was a curveball artist and when Hunt went south late in 1961 DeWitt went out and got curveballer Ken Johnson to take his starts. Enriching the staff with even more junk.

Also factoring in to the Reds surge on the pitching side of the ledger was the departure of Ed Bailey, this plus the emergence of Johnny Edwards and a trade for Darrell Johnson might have solidified the younger Reds pitchers state of mind on the mound. Bailey was said to be a hard man to reason with on the field of play and according to Jim O’Toole he intimidated the young Claude Osteen (who was traded in 1961) and attempted to do it to O’Toole as well. O’Toole also credited Darrell Johnson with helping him take the leap to the next level as a starter. Part of this is evidenced by O’Toole’s, 2.03 August ERA and 2.53 September ERA, all after Darrell Johnson was acquired in mid August.

As with most Reds teams that we have come to know the early 60’s teams had strength in the bullpen. With Bill Henry on left side throwing heat and Jim Brosnan coming from the right side the National League was getting a different look at the Reds late inning pitchers, a completely different look than the starting staff junkballers were giving them.

Several years of these combinations buoyed the Reds up in the early part of the decade, but in a decade of power pitching almost every team had a hurler that was known for unhittable stuff, and the Reds were one of those teams, unfortunately his emergence coincided with the demise of the Reds bullpen mojo.

This of course is Jim Maloney and it’s in Maloney that we can see a bit of the magic of the pitching era on the west end.

Fact:

Jim Maloney is the only other Red aside from Mario Soto to have consecutive 200 strikeout seasons. Maloney did it four straight seasons.

Jim Maloney pitched 3 no hitters in the 60’s and won 15 games or more 6 straight seasons.

In short if the Reds have had a long running ACE in the course of my lifetime it was Jim Maloney.

The year Maloney arrived as a player to be reckoned with Bill Henry and Jim Brosnan departed as the stalwarts of the Reds vaunted BP, Henry became mediocre and Brosnan the writer became replaceable. Even then the strength of staff could only be lifted as high as the bullpen could reach. The Reds won 184 games in 1962 and 1963, unfortunately the Dodgers won 201 games and the Giants won 191 games.

It was a hard time to win in a league that was fast over taking the American League as the premier league in professional baseball.

In 1964 the Cincinnati Reds were close enough to print ticket to the World Series, close enough to taste the flavor of 1961 again. The 64 team a team ERA of almost half a run better than the league average, and in the end it hinged on one game on the last day of the season against the Phillies, a team throwing their ace Jim Bunning. Maloney who had thrown eleven innings three days prior had begged off the responsibility of the start, he was ready to go if a playoff occurred, but not that day.

So the starters flipped a coin and John Tsitouris was chosen.

Tsitouris who had been obtained from Kansas City prior to the 1961 season for Joe Nuxhall (who was now his teammate) was a short right-hander with one good pitch.

A curveball.

On that October day the Reds lost 10-0 and the pitchers who got in the game represented a laundry list of the type of pitchers Fred Hutchinson preferred (or was stuck with) starters who threw junk and relievers who threw smoke.

Tsitouris
Nuxhall
McCool
Jay
Henry
Purkey
Ellis

But Hutch wasn’t there to make Maloney pitch, Hutch wasn’t there to make the last week better so that the last game of the season wasn’t falling in the lap of John Tsitouris.

He was dieing and a month later would succumb to cancer.

After Hutch died the Reds traded Purkey and from the list above by 1966 only Sammy Ellis and Billy McCool were major contributors to the Reds, a team that had finished 7th in runs allowed in 1965, but rode a magnificent offense to a 89 win season. By 1966 it was worse and the team would fall to 8th in runs allowed, even with the inclusion of fastballer Milt Pappas, an arm obtained to compliment the fast rising Maloney, plus the magnificent offense waned and the Reds fell to .475 winning percentage and were put up for sale by Bill Dewitt, whose deals with the city (and Baltimore) had led to an impasse that couldn’t be repaired. Entering the 1967 season under new ownership and with a new General Manager (Bob Howsam) the Reds could claim only Jim Maloney as being a pitcher who could be called a Hutchinson product. Perhaps that says more about what the Reds were giving Hutchinson to work with then it does about Hutchinson.