Thursday, February 12, 2004

Despite best efforts, Reds get it right

But another big hire is dwarfed by management's bungling ways

Paul Daugherty

The Cincinnati Reds keep bumping into the furniture. Baseball's oldest franchise is becoming the pre-Marvin Bengals, right before our astonished eyes.

That trend didn't begin Wednesday, when the club introduced Steve Stewart as Marty Brennaman's new partner in the radio booth. For a few years now, the Reds have parlayed clumsy and frugal into a wonderful case of fan disenchantment. Wednesday just offered some of the best evidence yet.

This isn't about Stewart. He could not have been more gracious Wednesday. Stewart is capable and qualified. "He has my solid endorsement," Brennaman said. That's good enough for me.

It's the way the team went about hiring Stewart. The process, if that's what you call it, revealed the Reds again to be amateurish. It showed a shocking lack of understanding for what a good pair of radio announcers can mean to a baseball franchise. Especially this baseball franchise, at this particular lost point in its history.

For starters, the Reds wanted Joe Sunderman. Rather, CEO Carl Lindner wanted Joe Sunderman. Good man, Joe Sunderman. He announces Xavier basketball games. Of the six candidates, he was the only guy with no baseball experience. Sunderman wasn't even interested in the job, until the Reds suggested he should be. The reason? Sunderman's wife has worked for many years in Lindner's office.

Thankfully, Sunderman turned down the job. Having him in the booth would have been like hiring a juggler to swallow swords.

The Reds met with Chris Welsh. Currently, Welsh does 100 Reds games on TV. Welsh is smooth and smart. He has great chemistry with Brennaman. The discussion got as far as Welsh's back pocket. The Reds have no concept of spending a little to make a lot, so Welsh didn't make the last cut.

Dan Hoard, the WXIX-TV sports guy and play-by-play man for UC football and basketball, was interested. Interested? Hoard would have taken a curve to the cranium for the job. Hoard is professional, always prepared and easy on the ears. The Reds talked to him a month ago. Money wasn't discussed.

At least Hoard got an interview. Tracy Jones, the people's choice, never got a call. Jones is honest about the team's shortcomings. The Reds didn't want that.

To recap: Of the four local possibilities, the Reds offered the job to the least qualified guy. Then, in a town as provincial as any in America, they gave the job to someone from Baltimore.

As for the club's exhaustive national search? Steve Stewart said he discovered the job was open a month ago, when he read a story in the Enquirer. Here's a question: Why wasn't Thom Brennaman considered? Spend some money, create some buzz, hire one of the best young talents in the business. Who wouldn't be talking about that?

That's way too visionary for the people who run the Cincinnati Reds.

Someone way up high in

Redsland needs to be reminded of this: Right now, Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall are the Cincinnati Reds. No one tuned in the Reds last summer to listen to the games. By August, the Reds were dog meat. Given they've done next to nothing this offseason, there is a very good chance the Reds will be dog meat by this August, too.

Marty and Joe have owned a significant part of the fabric of our summers. They are goodwill ambassadors and marketing dynamos. For six months, they are the soundtrack of our lives.

Players come and go. Managers leave without a trace. Locate Bob Boone, win fabulous prizes. Marty and Joe have always been there. Even in the worst of years, those two on the radio are balm for the soul on a hot summer night.

Here's hoping Marty and Stew can maintain that tradition. It's not Steve Stewart who has me worried. It's the Reds. They keep bumping into the furniture.


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