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O'Brien gets gig after 26 years

10/27/2003 - Cincinnati Reds

CINCINNATI -- Dan O'Brien was hired as the Cincinnati Reds'
general manager Monday and immediately set baseball's first
professional franchise on a new course.

Pursuing superstars is out. Developing minor leaguers is in.

O'Brien, an assistant general manager at Texas, fills a job that
has been vacant since the Reds fired Jim Bowden on July 27 and
embarked upon a money-saving trading spree.

O'Brien received a three-year deal and will try to revive the
team following one of its worst seasons.

"We have a lot of work to do," O'Brien said. "The challenges
are significant."

Like Bowden, O'Brien went to Rollins College in Florida and
comes from a background in the minor leagues. The similarities end
there.

Bowden was the youngest general manager in major league history
when he was promoted in 1992 at 31. O'Brien, 49, is finally getting
his break after spending 26 years working his way up with Seattle,
Houston and Texas.

Bowden was expected to win right away, then was given the job of
rebuilding the club for its move to Great American Ball Park. The
Reds went 69-93 and the disastrous inaugural season in the new
ballpark cost Bowden and manager Bob Boone their jobs.

Bowden pursued such high-profile position players as Deion
Sanders and Ken Griffey Jr. O'Brien's emphasis will be on
developing starting pitching through the farm system _ Bowden's
biggest failure.

"It starts and ends with starting pitching," O'Brien said.

O'Brien's first task will be deciding whether to keep Dave
Miley, who replaced Boone as interim manager. He said there is no
timetable for picking a manager.

O'Brien, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, was one of three
finalists for the job. Montreal general manager Omar Minaya and
Minnesota assistant GM Wayne Krivsky also were brought in for
second interviews last week.

The Reds lost 93 games last season for only the 12th time in
franchise history. Realizing they were out of contention in late
July, they traded closer Scott Williamson, All-Star third baseman
Aaron Boone and leading hitter Jose Guillen, along with some of
their most valued relievers.

O'Brien will try to revamp a farm system that has failed to
develop starting pitchers, forcing the club to acquire them through
trades.

He sidestepped questions about how long it will be before the
Reds contend but cautioned it will take time.

"Ideally you'd like to have success tomorrow, but it will never
be at the price of long-term success for this franchise," he said.

The Reds are expected to slash a budget that was $57 million on
opening day.

Griffey has five years left on his nine-year, $116.5 million
deal. Bowden considered the 2000 trade for Griffey the crowning
moment of his career. Instead, it turned out to be the beginning of
his downfall.

The Reds tried to trade Griffey to San Diego last December, but
Phil Nevin blocked the deal. Bowden was working on another trade in
July when Griffey suffered a season-ending injury.

Chief operating officer John Allen hasn't ruled out another
attempt to trade Griffey, who would first have to prove in spring
training he has fully recovered from ankle and shoulder operations.