For the Cincinnati Reds, general manager Walt Jocketty has been one of the key components to the franchise’s drastic turnaround in the last five years — despite fans’ sometimes angst with him. He has helped spearhead a new era for the storied franchise that has brought winning baseball back to the Reds. While his time in Cincinnati has been very reminiscent of his time with the St. Louis Cardinals, there seems to be a faint scent of rumors circulating Jocketty in the Queen City. Jocketty is working for a close friend in Cincinnati, owner Bob Castellini; is it possible that he could leave his employment of one good friend for that of another?
The Arizona Diamondbacks made news this weekend as they hired Tony LaRussa as Chief Baseball Officer — basically a way of removing power from the general manager (Kevin Towers) without actually firing him. This news affects Jocketty a few different ways. First off, while his Reds team has had success in recent years, his tendency to deplete farm systems is catching up with him (as it did in St. Louis). With the Reds struggling, it could put pressure on the club to make a decision regarding the future. Secondly, Jocketty and LaRussa are close friends and have been for years. LaRussa was not too pleased when Jocketty was removed as general manager of the Cardinals and rumors of their collaboration since have been ongoing.
Think about this — LaRussa loathes sabermetrics (or “Moneyball”). Jocketty’s unwillingness to work based on that type of baseball is what led to his demise in St. Louis, which is the same reason that ultimately led to LaRussa willingly leaving the organization. His type of baseball was stripped from him, as was evidenced by the increasing amount of pressure by the Cardinals’ front office for he and pitching coach Dave Duncan to accept this new type of baseball evaluation.
Current Arizona general manager Kevin Towers has shown a willingness to accept the ways of sabermetrics to run the club. With his club 10 games under .500, his ways of leading the franchise are proving to be unsuccessful. The writing is on the wall with the LaRussa hiring. Whether the front office is willing to admit it or not, LaRussa will be given total control. And, as the control freak he is, he will be wanting to bring in his own people — and who better to start with than his old pal Walt Jocketty?
For the Reds, it could be the perfect way for the story to play out. Castellini can take the franchise in a new direction without before forced to part ways with his friend on bad terms. This could be a breath of fresh air for the Reds much like the transition for the Cardinals’ ignited a new era of success once Jocketty left as well. With a team as miserably stagnant as the Reds have been in 2014, it could be the shakeup that is much needed (and arguably should’ve happened in 2013 instead of a managerial change).
On the other hand, for Arizona, Jocketty could be the perfect man to re-start the franchise successfully. While Reds and Cardinals fans might complain about Jocketty, there is no denying that he brought both organizations back to respectable levels of success; he just didn’t quite have the long term plan to sustain it. Jocketty is a great hire for a rebuilding franchise in need of an eight-year start-up plan like Arizona. He can quickly bring the organization back to relevance and competitiveness, something Towers has failed to do.
Oh, did I mention that Jocketty’s contract with the Reds expires after the 2014 season?
It seems too perfect to be true for all active parties. While nothing will happen until the offseason (except the high likelihood of Towers and manager Kirk Gibson‘s firings), expect the rumors to heat up. Jocketty is great at building winners, and the Diamondbacks are in need of that. Meanwhile, the Reds are ready to take the next step towards greatness and out of complacency. Could the timing be any better for this to happen?