Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Slouching Towards Piratesville

As our newer readers may not know, I'm a long time Cincinnati Reds fan. I grew up loving how Pete Rose played the game, cheered for Jose Rijo and the 1990 team, and in general was privileged to see a competitive teams at Riverfront Stadium almost every year. Even when they stank, at least they did so interestingly, and you still had some hope for next year as there was still talent around. Heck, last year they were near or at the top of the NL Central for the first couple of months of the season. But, that's not happening this year.

When Dan O'Brien was hired as GM, many saw it as a mediocre hire. I did as well. And, on a team with a limited budget, a mediocre hire means you start to move towards a number of wins relative to your budget. For the Reds, that's around 70 or so. If you can't get a high quality GM, you have to at least take a chance on someone that is a bit different. Hire a Moneyball guy. Hire an anti-Moneyball guy. Hire someone with some vision, even if that vision has flaws. I haven't seen any vision from O'Brien. I think that's his biggest failure.

And when you take the day to day controls of a team away from a manager, it's no wonder that the team would quit on that manager. It seems that Dave Miley was not allowed to make the line-up changes he wanted to, including doing something (anything!) about Eric Milton's poor performances this year. He had to ask permission to bench freaking Rich Aurilia. I see a very disturbing pattern emerging. Milton was brought in by O'Brien (a move I highly supported, like the Griffey deal, even though neither worked out), and now O'Brien will stick by that deal regardless of the consequences. The new "temporary" manager, Jerry Narron, was the only member of Miley's staff that Miley did not bring in himself; he was O'Brien's hire. It's okay to make mistakes as a GM if you can admit you were wrong. It's also very common to make the right move and then have it not work out. So far he seems to want his way, regardless of what's working, and with no ability to reverse previous decisions that aren't working. Add that to the way he kicked Larkin out the door this off-season (a very unpopular move, and a poor one I think), and I'm beginning to think O'Brien wasn't even a mediocre hire.

I want to say this very clearly - Dave Miley should not have been fired. He has been with the organization for over a decade, and maybe even longer. He has been a winner at every level, from A ball up through his first year as the Reds manager. In 2001 he won the AAA title at Louisville, and was well respected there. The nice run they made last year was partially due to his work. His firing is the outward signs of a dysfunctional organization. Getting rid of Miley, Larkin, and Don Gullett show a lack of respect for the history and tradition of the team, taking many of the emotional connections of the fans away. I expect several 90+ loss seasons in the next few years. This must be what Pirates fans felt about ten years ago. Something is rotten in Cincinnati, and my interest in the team is plummeting rapidly.

UPDATE: Here's Dave Miley's record as a minor league manager. In 14 seasons as a minor league manager, he had a .570 winning percentage and one losing season (and he had been with the organization for 26 years in some capacity). I saw a Rob Neyer column a few years ago (before he went "Insider"), and he made a very good case that if you can win at the minor league level, you can win at the major league level. I think another team would be smart to hire Miley, but I doubt they will. Too bad.


At 6/22/2005 01:09:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I really hate seeing classic franchises struggle like this. The Tigers are another one of those. Ego is certainly the enemy of perfection. It shouldn't be long, however, until the Reds brass discovers that the problem is the GM. If he gets schooled on trades made at the trading deadline, I'd expect him to be gone.


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