I haven't mentioned it before, but I encourage you to read Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?'s series The Road to 17, where WHYGAVS author Pat Lackey reviews the seasons since the Pirates last winning season in 1992 and tries to get a grasp on how it has all happened. Obviously it's a little heavy in Pirate details, but there are parallels to the Reds situation that might be a cause for concern - and no, I'm not just talking about Cam Bonifay.
For those not interested in reading the whole set of posts - he does one for each year - here is a quick summary of the last 2 Pirate GMs:
The reality is that the past two GMs here failed not because they were terrible talent evaluators (Bonifay was a good scout before becoming the Pirates' GM and is still a scout in the league for the Reds and I'll still argue that Littlefield was actually incredibly good at what his primary goal was, which was staying employed), they failed because they misplaced their priorities. Instead of focusing on what they thought the Pittsburgh Pirates needed to do to get better, they both fixated on what they thought other people wanted to see from the Pirates, be that the fan base, the ownership, or whoever else.
This paragraph resonates with me as a Reds fan. The last 5 years seem to have been a jumbled mess of varying goals with similar outcomes. Whether it was committing to rebuilding and then spending money just to look like it wasn't rebuilding. Or building for the future while telling the public that the priority is to win now. It never seems like the Reds have a clear, stated goal about the direction of the organziation. In an attempt to placate everyone, they've managed to make nobody happy.
And it was with that in mind that my first reaction to the word that Hairston will be the starting shortstop next year was one of frustration at the impending failure of the move. On the surface the move seems shortsighted because 2008 was a clear outlier in Cherry's career. But then I realized that this move isn't shortsighted. This move is definitely looking at the long term. That is to say, Jocketty is not playing for 2009. Signing Cherry to play shortstop is in essence Jocketty saying, well, we need someone to play the spot and Hairston is cheap.
This doesn't mean that Jocketty hasn't made mistakes this off-season. Given that Burrell's agent contacted the Reds (i.e. he had some interest), it's a shame they couldn't have worked out a reasonable 2-year deal with him, even if it wouldn't be quite what the Rays gave him. But it looks clear to me right now that Jocketty's goal was to be conservative this off-season and give the farm system another year to mature.
And you know what, I'm cool with that. Not because it is necessarily the right thing to do in terms of planning, but because it is an actual plan. As we've seen, trying to keep your feet in two different streams only gets you knocked over. Committing to a single path, even if only for one year, may do wonders for this organization over the long-term. Sure I'd like to win now, but I'll be much happier to win for a long time starting a year from now.