Reds new GM won#039;t go for glamourous stuff

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 28, 2003

CINCINNATI - In the most important ways, Dan O'Brien is the antithesis of his predecessor.

The Cincinnati Reds chose O'Brien as their next general manager on Monday, an abrupt change of course from the last 11 years under his high-profile predecessor.

Jim Bowden loved the grand gesture - sign Deion Sanders, trade for Ken Griffey Jr. - and the spotlight. He had his own radio show, complete with his own theme song. He also was inclined to change course overnight.

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By hiring O'Brien, the Reds have chosen the anti-Bowden.

The former Rangers assistant general manager won't grouse about a limited payroll, chase a two-sport celebrity like Sanders or spend $116.5 million on a superstar like Griffey.

Instead, he'll try to rebuild his boyhood team by concentrating on the unglamorous stuff - fortify the farm system, unify the front office, figure out how to make do on a limited budget.

During his first day on the job, he promised to be steady.

''You've got to have a plan in place in order to get you where you want to go,'' said O'Brien, who got a three-year contract. ''The one thing we won't do is be haphazard in our approach. I can promise you that.''

For the first time since the 1980s, the Reds are now run by a chief operating officer and a general manager who share the same vision.

Chief operating officer John Allen is committed to developing talent through the farm system, a small-market approach that clashed with Bowden's expensive taste for stars. Allen fired Bowden and manager Bob Boone last July, then presided over a spree of money-saving trades.

The Reds lost 93 games in their inaugural season at Great American Ball Park, alienating fans who funded the place through a sales tax and expected a contender.

In a roundabout way, O'Brien asked for patience as he rebuilds.

''We have a lot of work to do in regards to the construction of our major league club as well as our baseball operations department,'' O'Brien said. ''The challenges are significant. I cannot and will not underestimate the task at hand.''

O'Brien knows what it's like to start at the bottom.

His father, Dan O'Brien Jr., was a longtime executive in the minors before serving as the Rangers' general manager from 1973-79. His son grew up in minor league ballparks around the country, learning the sport from the ground up.

''My father was always the type of individual that there was no menial task that was too menial,'' O'Brien said. ''I did everything. I worked on the grounds crew. I did the laundry. I sold the peanuts, the programs. I worked in the concession stands. I loved it.''

He spent part of his youth in Columbus, one of the stops along the way. He and his father often made the two-hour drive to Cincinnati to watch the Big Red Machine.

''I know that Cincinnati has tremendous pride in this baseball team,'' O'Brien said. ''I also know that at one time, the Cincinnati Reds were the model franchise in major league baseball. And I know that the ownership and management of this organization want to achieve the same results in the 21st Century.''

The Reds opened last season with a payroll of $57 million but are expected to slash it for the 2004 season. The July trading spree depleted the bullpen and the infield but brought pitching prospects who will be counted upon heavily in the next few years.

O'Brien has no timetable for hiring a manager but plans to interview Dave Miley, who finished the season as Boone's replacement. He's also shying away from any questions about when the Reds might contend again.

''We are committed to refocusing the organization,'' he said. ''We do understand there are no shortcuts to success.''