Graves made obscene hand gesture toward fan

Updated: May 25, 2005, 2:57 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Closer Danny Graves was let go by the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, a day after he made an obscene hand gesture at a fan taunting him over his latest poor performance.

The club's career saves leader was shocked by the decision to designate him for assignment, a move that ended his eight-year career in Cincinnati. The Reds have 10 days to trade him or put him on waivers.

FANTASY: GET WAGNER
Certainly, it's no shock that Danny Graves is out as the Reds' closer, but any time there's an opportunity to get saves in fantasy, one must act. So don't waste time; grab Ryan Wagner now.

Wagner's a good strikeout guy -- 21 K's in 23 innings, and 83 in 96.1 career innings -- who is among the league leaders in holds. But he's also 22 and doesn't have a career save. How desperate are fantasy owners for saves? Adam Bernero, who still hasn't officially been named Atlanta's new closer in the wake of Danny Kolb's problems, went from 1.1 percent owned in ESPN's leagues to 97.6 in a week, and still doesn't have a save!

Expect Wagner, who is owned in 14.7 percent of leagues, to be up near 100-percent ownership in a few days. As for Graves, he was 10-for-12 in saves, and as recently as last season he was leading the majors in saves -- he had 33 saves at the All-Star break -- before a brutal second-half slide. He continued the slide this season, with an incredible 42 baserunners allowed in 18.1 innings (2.29 WHIP) and 12 walks against eight strikeouts.

Fantasy owners can cut Graves; the likelihood another team picks him up is good, but not as a closer.
-- Eric Karabell

"I always knew this day would come," Graves said. "I didn't think it would be so soon."

Graves gave up five ninth-inning runs in Cleveland's 9-2 victory Sunday at Great American Ball Park, then was booed and taunted by fans as he left the field.

He didn't react to the jeers as he walked off and got a drink in the dugout. When he moved to the end of the dugout by the bat rack, a man in one of the high-priced seats next nearby yelled at him. Graves yelled back and made an obscene hand gesture.

Graves spoke by telephone on Monday with general manager Dan O'Brien, who was out of town preparing for the amateur draft, and with other Reds officials.

"A lot of the off-field emotions had something to do with it, and last night when I flipped the man off had something to do with it," Graves said. "A fan cussed at me. I regret doing it. I planned on apologizing today."

Graves' latest tough outing raised his ERA to 7.76. He was 1-1 and had 10 saves in 12 chances.

The Reds had lost 18 of their last 23 games, falling out of contention in the NL Central. O'Brien said that Graves' encounter with the fan wasn't the main reason for the move.

"His performance has been unsatisfactory and unacceptable," O'Brien said, in a conference call. "It hasn't been up to the standards we've come to expect for the Cincinnati Reds organization. We appreciate Danny's contributions to the organization, and we hope he finds an opportunity with another major league club."

Graves, 31, hasn't been the same since he agreed to help the team by moving into the rotation in 2003. A career reliever, Graves wore down during a 4-15 season that took several miles per hour off his fastball and took a toll on his body. He was throwing around 88 mph this season, down from 94 mph in his prime.

"I changed roles and probably ruined my career," Graves said. "I don't know. I don't have the answers. I felt like I've been given up on. It's a shock to me. If I can recall, I'm not the only closer that has struggled."

Graves is in the final guaranteed year on a $17.25 million, three-year deal, making a base salary of $6.25 million. There was a mutual option for next season at $6.25 million, with no buyout.

If he clears waivers, a club could sign him for a prorated share of the $316,000 minimum, with the Reds paying the remainder of his salary.

Stunned teammates sat in folding chairs in the clubhouse after learning of the move, which leaves the team without a proven closer. Several players said Graves should have been given a chance to work out his problems.

"This is not his fault," first baseman Sean Casey said. "We stink. For us to be 15-28 has nothing to do with Danny Graves. That's the frustrating part for me.

"I know I'm a little emotional right now, but I think the Cincinnati Reds as an organization owe a lot more to Danny Graves for the eight years he stepped up every year. They owe him more than to just release him like this. I just disagree with it."

Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. said he's never seen anything quite like the move.

"It's tough," Griffey said. "He's not a troublemaker. He's not a guy that complained. He wants the ball. It's just upsetting. It's a tough way to lose a guy that's been here and dedicated himself to the organization."

Graves criticized Reds fans for booing after the bullpen blew a six-run lead in the ninth inning against St. Louis on May 2, resulting in more boos and catcalls every time he appeared in a game the rest of the month.

"It became a confidence factor," manager Dave Miley said. "His confidence has been shaken in the month of May, and we weren't comfortable bringing him in certain situations. We weren't seeing what we were accustomed to seeing."

The rest of the bullpen has gone 0-for-3 in save situations this season. Miley isn't sure who will get the job.

"Without pinpointing one guy, we'll look at the matchups and different things like that," Miley said. "Hopefully somebody will run with it."

Casey said the move would hurt the team.

"No doubt about it," Casey said. "This is just like getting hit in the head with a shovel, basically. Guys love Danny Graves. I don't know how it doesn't affect you a little bit negatively."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press