With Walt Jocketty, the question was when.
When would the Cincinnati Reds decide to switch general managers and give Jocketty the chance to turn them into winners?
The answer: 21 games into the season.
Off to their worst start in five years, the Reds fired Wayne Krivsky on Wednesday and replaced him with Jocketty, who built consistent winners during 10 seasons running the Oakland Athletics and 13 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
"We've just come to a point where we're not going to lose anymore," Reds owner Bob Castellini said emphatically.
Jocketty is the fourth general manager in six years for a team that has gone through seven straight losing seasons. The Reds have been through four managers (plus an interim manager) and two owners since 2003, when they moved into Great American Ball Park. It's their deepest slump in a half-century.
Jocketty's job is to provide direction. He'll likely get more of a chance than Krivsky, who walked into Castellini's office on Wednesday morning anticipating a regular baseball meeting.
He was shocked when told he was fired.
"I fought for an hour to keep my job," Krivsky said. "I did not see this coming at all. I still think it's a gold mine. That's what hurts so much, not to see the job through to the end and bring that winner to Cincinnati. I've had visions of being in the clubhouse with champagne being poured all over everybody."
Castellini said a 9-12 start was the main reason he turned to Jocketty, a move that was expected at some point. Krivsky, who was hired before the 2006 season, was in the final year of his contract. Jocketty was hired as a special consultant in January. The two were friends from Castellini's days as part of the Cardinals' ownership group.
When he brought him in as a special assistant in January, Castellini insisted that it was no threat to Krivsky's job. However, he talked to Jocketty about becoming director of baseball operations after this season, giving him time to ease into a major role.
Jocketty was surprised when Castellini asked him to become general manager on Wednesday.
"I knew this was important to Bob," Jocketty said. "I'm charged up and ready to go. I think this organization is going in the right direction."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Jocketty has no weaknesses in running a team.
"His track record speaks for itself, so it was just a matter of time before he was back doing a position he's proven he can do very well," La Russa said.
The move marked a significant change for the Reds.
When Castellini hired Dusty Baker in the offseason, it was the first time the Reds had gone outside the organization for a manager since Lou Piniella came aboard for the 1990 season. The days of trying unproven managers were done.
Same now with the general manager's job.
The last three general managers _ Jim Bowden, Dan O'Brien and Krivsky _ were new to the job. Krivsky was the only one of the three hired by Castellini. Jocketty comes with a lot of experience at turning a struggling franchise into a winner.
"I think this organization is a little further along than St. Louis was when I took over in '95," Jocketty said. "This organization has a lot better base to work from."
Jocketty left the Cardinals last year, only one year removed from winning the World Series. Front-office friction left him out of a job even though he'd helped the Cardinals get to the playoffs seven times in 12 seasons.
The Reds haven't been since 1995.
Before going to St. Louis, Jocketty spent 14 years with Oakland overhauling the A's farm system and working in baseball administration. He also was an assistant general manager in Colorado.
Jocketty's job will be to set a course for the impatient owner, who has increased the payroll and expanded the front office during his two years in charge but hasn't been able to produce a winner. Cincinnati's payroll increased from $69 million at the start of last year to $74.3 million on opening day, 18th in the majors.
Krivsky showed a fondness for signing older pitchers and making a flurry of trades. Outfielder Josh Hamilton and second baseman Brandon Phillips resurrected their careers in Cincinnati.
Some of Krivsky's contract decisions backfired. For instance, reliever Mike Stanton was owed $3.5 million when the Reds got rid of him during spring training. Castellini said big contracts that the team absorbed were a factor in the firing, but the 9-12 start was the overriding one.
Krivsky's most high-profile move was an eight-player deal with Washington in 2006 that sent outfielder Austin Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez to the Nationals for relievers Gary Majewski and Bill Bray. The deal hasn't made much of an impact for either team.
Jocketty will have a couple of major decisions in the coming months. Ken Griffey Jr. is in the final year of his contract _ there's a club option for next year at $16.5 million _ and Adam Dunn is making $13 million in the last year of his deal.
Krivsky said he's proud of how the farm system has turned around during his two years as general manager, now rated one of the NL's best. He got tears in his eyes when he talked about how he wouldn't be around to see the results.
"Baseball people recognize the Reds have come a long way," Krivsky said. "I wish more focus would have been on the whole body of work than the 9-12 record, or whatever went into the decision today."
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