O'Brien gets gig after 26 years
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.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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