Sunday, August 8, 2004

Reds insider: Has Lindner had enough?

Nuxhall soap opera had potential to be last straw for oft-criticized CEO

Click here to e-mail John
Shortly after the Joe Nuxhall mess started, I honestly thought it could lead to Carl Lindner selling the Reds.

Since things have calmed down and Nuxhall himself has tried to sweep it away, I think that's less likely.

But it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

Lindner is not a man who needs more aggravation in his life, and my guess is the Reds are creating much more aggravation than joy for the CEO.

Lindner was lustily booed on Opening Day. Based on the e-mail I get and the talk radio I listen to, he is the chief target of Reds fans' frustration. And they are a frustrated group.

And all that was before the Nuxhall episode.

So what's it going to be like the next time Lindner shows up to use his seats?

Cincinnati fans are generally polite, and Lindner is a respected figure. But many fans forget about his philanthropy, look past the fact that he gave away all those student ticket vouchers and see only a man who cut the payroll by $15 million this year.

Then came the "little episode" with Joe. Nuxhall said - without naming names - that Lindner tried to force him out. In Cincinnati, a guy who tried to push aside Santa Claus would be more popular.

Nuxhall is unarguably the most beloved figure employed by the Reds. Nuxhall is a celebrity without ego. An Everyday Joe who happened to be a tremendous athlete. You can argue his merits as a play-by-play man, but the fact is the vast majority of Cincinnati fans like to listen to him.

So when Lindner tried to end Nuxhall's radio days - and you have to assume he did, because the Reds haven't denied Nuxhall's assertion - Lindner started a battle he could not win.

And it seems to me, Lindner has no chance of winning back the Reds fans' - short of a tremendous bump in the player payroll.

Winning heals all wounds in sports. But if the payroll stays in the $46 million range, it's hard to imagine the team competing in the $90 million world of the National League Central.

So could all this lead to change in ownership? Only Lindner knows, and he isn't talking.

What we do know is the Reds are in the early stages of trying to turn around the franchise.

They were very clear about that when they hired Dan O'Brien as general manger.

O'Brien's long-range plan might work. But we won't know until 2006 at the earliest.

That means the Reds are likely to create a lot more aggravation in the near future for Lindner before they bring any more joy.

WALKER ON: Speaking of rebuilding, the Larry Walker giveaway, or trade, by the Colorado Rockies to the St. Louis Cardinals showed to what extremes teams will go to get out from under contracts.

The Rockies reportedly will pay $8.25 million of the remaining $17.5 million owned to Walker.

The Reds might be willing to do something similar to get out from under Ken Griffey Jr.'s contract, particularly with the emergence of Wily Mo Pena.

A deal is more likely to happen in the offseason - if Griffey has a healthy September, thus raising his trade value.

AUSTIN POWER: It's absolutely stunning to me that the Reds want Austin Kearns to get 50 at-bats in Triple-A.

If it were my club, he'd be on the roster Tuesday for the start of the homestand.

Having Kearns on the roster means the Reds could play Ryan Freel at third on a daily basis. Third has been an offensive black hole since Juan Castro began slumping.

SCARY STAT: Anderson Machado, the shortstop obtained in the Todd Jones trade with Philadelphia, had four errors in his first four games for Triple-A Louisville.



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