Search This Blog


Friday, April 25, 2008

Irony all around in Jocketty's hiring

It was last June 29 that Al Hrabosky let slip during a Cardinals-Reds game that Walt Jocketty's friendship with Reds owner Bob Castellini might translate into Jocko succeeding Wayne Krivsky as Reds general manager.

The Slightly Irritable Hungarian received a quick trip to the broadcast woodshed, where he was admonished for saying something so speculative, so irresponsible and, as events have proven, so absolutely true.

Krivsky may well have been the only person in Cincinnati surprised by Jocketty succeeding him Wednesday. After all, in baseball oftentimes the only thing stronger than two confirmations of a rumor is 10 denials. Jocketty's sudden installation didn't represent a beginning as much as an end to six months of intrigue.

Jocketty responded last June to Hrabosky's comments by downplaying his relationship with Castellini, insisting he only planned to return as Cardinals general manager since the club had picked up the option on his contract for 2008.

"I was told that, but it's not accurate," Jocketty said one day after Hrabosky's double sin of not just reporting edgy news, but making it.

"I haven't spoken to Castellini in over a year. I don't know how people are making that connection."

Here's how: Hrabosky and the entire baseball universe knew Jocketty was unhappy about the club's fiscal constraints and a new front-office model imposed by ownership.

After word reached Bill DeWitt that Jocketty had laid his angst on the street, the October "hit" carried out at the chairman's Clayton residence became inevitable. Jocketty realized he was a goner when he entered an open front door to find team president Mark Lamping seated in the living room.

The three-time major league executive of the year later confided he had perhaps made mistakes of his own, experienced relief from his Oct. 3 ouster and was unsure he wanted a similar position with another club.

Still, friends who commiserated with Jocketty at his West County home that night (his son Joe's birthday) saw a proud man crushed by his first firing. They were not surprised when Jocketty spoke at Wednesday's press conference of a "vendetta" against his former employer.

Castellini, a minority partner with the Cardinals before heading a group that purchased the Reds, considered Jocketty largely responsible for the franchise's turnaround from a neglected brewery toy to an industry gem.

All sides denied a report in December that Castellini had approached Jocketty about a position. Of course, on Jan. 11 the Reds announced Jocketty's hiring as special assistant to the owner, an "extra set of eyes" and not a challenger to Krivsky's job. Those listening knew better when Castellini referred to his GM as "a plugger."

Barely scratch the surface and there is irony all around.

Krivsky, a former assistant to Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan who regularly scouted the Cardinals, increasingly isolated himself, according to some of those around him. Jocketty's arrival initiated a self-fulfilling prophecy Krivsky recognized but was powerless to avoid.

In his final year in St. Louis, Jocketty likewise grew more irritable to some, even paranoid, while fulminating over Jeff Luhnow's rise and perceived lack of accountability. Left to dangle for several months without a contract after the 2004 World Series, the situation cemented Jocketty's sense that he was little appreciated by higher-ups smitten with new-wave scouting, quantitative analysis and Ivy League outsiders.

Krivsky, a personable baseball man as assistant general manager, tried to control so tightly his first chance as a GM that it squirted from his grasp.

The imminently qualified Jocketty now holds a position he insisted last July was irrelevant. His break from the Cardinals and its aftermath strained or severed numerous once fast relationships. His current manager, Dusty Baker, in September 2003 glared across Wrigley Field, pointed at Jocketty ally Tony La Russa and promised to "(mess) you up."

The Reds and their new general manager hit town Monday for a three-game series at new Busch. One only wonders what Hungo says next.

No comments: