Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Castellini to put his stamp on Reds

The knot in Robert H. Castellini’s tie isn’t always set straight but - in a shrewd business sense - he always seems put-together.

As he addressed fans and the media for the first time after being formally introduced as new Reds CEO, Castellini didn’t appear completely comfortable as a public speaker. He stumbled over his words and, at times, hesitated mid-thought.

But, when reporters asked Castellini about his plans for the Reds, he offered a cold stare and delivered a stern response.

“We didn’t get the ball from the Reds to wallow in mediocrity,” he said. “If that’s all we have to offer, we shouldn’t be hanging around long.”

This is the type of reply Reds fans have been eagerly awaiting from club ownership during the course of five consecutive losing seasons.

Castellini followed that up with a query for the circle of reporters that enveloped him.

“Fellas, don’t you get upset when you have to cover a ballclub that’s not a winner, not even a .500 club?” he asked. “I’m a lifelong Reds fan. I get upset. But … you guys have to swim in it everyday.”

The general objectivity inherent in our jobs prohibits us from fretting over wins and losses.

But, the Reds’ boss does have a point.

Controlling interest in the Reds was offered to Castellini’s group back in November. But, it took more than two months for Major League Baseball to formally approve the sale despite the group’s track record of more than 30 years of baseball ownership.

The complete list of partners will be announced in a few weeks. It may include a group of minority investors led by Ed Rigaud, a former P & G executive and president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

The transfer of ownership came less than one month before the start of spring training leaving little time for any sweeping changes. But, less than 72 hours after assuming control of the Reds, Castellini swung the bat for the first time and promptly belted GM Dan O’Brien out of the park.

Castellini made it clear that he wanted to hire his “own guy” for the general manager position. A list of potential candidates for the job was beginning to emerge late last week.

By the time he approached the podium at his introductory new conference, Castellini had already begun to reshape the Reds organization.

“The biggest thing we’ve done is to separate the business side from the baseball side,” he said. “This business model is very comparable to the Cardinals. I think the business side of the Reds is very responsible. In the past, we had too many people trying to do too much.”

On the surface, this would appear to be a vote of confidence for Reds COO John Allen whose responsibilities now rest solely on the business side. We’ll see.

Castellini wants to name a new general manager within a few weeks. The new GM may have his own ideas about who should manage the club. The team is in Jerry Narron’s hands for now.

Interim GM Brad Kullman has been given Castellini’s blessing to pursue trade options. Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena have drawn interest.

Nothing is certain as pitchers and catchers prepare to report to spring training. Reds fans, who bought Opening Day tickets in a record 12 minutes last season only to watch their team stumble to a fifth-place finish, are facing yet another rebuilding plan.

But, Castellini shares their pain. He handed over his tickets and luxury suite out of frustration. He now says he wants to build a team “worthy of the unwavering loyalty of our fans”.

Major League Baseball made him wait for more than two months before singing off on the deal. Meanwhile, Castellini sat chomping at the bit to put his plan in place.

He does not hold patience as a virtue.

“We’ve got an ownership group that is passionate, energetic and hands-on,” Castellini said. “We’re going to give 110% to put a winning team on the field. We will not rest until the fans are happy.”

The Reds CEO insists that reporters call him “Bob”. Reds fans hope to soon refer to him as “savior”.

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