After the Cincinnati Reds’ 2013 season ended with a loss in the NL Wild Card Game to the Pittsburgh Pirates, manager Dusty Baker was fired by the organization. Many Reds fans rejoiced, thinking that Baker’s in-game decisions had held the Reds back from playoff success in the early 2010s & hoping that a different perspective in the manager’s chair would lead the Reds further than Dusty was capable of taking them. Dusty had been the target of mass complaint for quite some time, and while I didn’t think he deserved a lot of the heat he got from Reds fans for most of his time as manager, I agreed that a change was necessary at that time.
However, I also warned my fellow Reds fans to be careful what they wished for, as there was no guarantee that the next manager would take them to the next level.
We’re three seasons into Bryan Price’s time as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, and the Reds have certainly gone to the next level since 2013. Unfortunately, that next level was not upwards. The Reds won 76 games in 2014, then crashed into the NL Central cellar in 2015, going 64-98. The positive news here is that the Reds already have 66 wins in 2016, but will finish with over 90 losses for the second straight season.
Is it all Price’s fault? Of course not. 2014 was the season that Joey Votto only played 62 games due to injury. I don’t like to use injuries as an excuse because every team in every sport has an injury factor to deal with, but Joey Votto is as important to the Reds organization as any player is to their team in any sport. Had he been healthy, the Reds would have finished closer to .500, and maybe management wouldn’t have been motivated to start trading all of their good players for prospects. The 2015 & 2016 Reds can’t be compared to the 2010-14 Reds because outside of Votto/Phillips/Bruce (until his trade of course), they by & large weren’t the same team. The talent level has dropped at almost every position on the field except left field, where Adam Duvall is better than Chris Heisey & a washed up Ryan Ludwick.
As for the lack of talent in the Reds organization, we can’t really put that on Price either. That goes on Walt Jocketty & the scouts responsible for bringing in talent, and the managers & coaches in the minor league system responsible for developing talent. They have all failed in their jobs for the most part. Jocketty will be moving on after this season so he’s already paid his price.
I think the main thing we can blame on Bryan Price is the lack of enthusiasm surrounding the Cincinnati Reds product right now. There’s no excitement around the team. People in Cincinnati are more concerned with the Bengals & FC Cincinnati than they are with the Reds. Reds ownership talks about how Cincinnati is a baseball town, but the fact of the matter is that they’re getting beat at the box office by soccer right now.
Hey, I like soccer. Or football, as they say everywhere else in the world. Spurs are second in the Premier League and can get closer to the top of the table if they beat Manchester City on Sunday. But it’s hard to imagine that the Cincinnati Reds, the first professional baseball team in existence, can get outdrawn on a regular basis by a first-year soccer team. It’s a thing that’s happening thanks to the excitement of a new franchise & the boredom of an old franchise clinging to its past & kinda sorta rebuilding but still running Brandon Phillips out there every day & subjecting us to the likes of Ross Ohlendorf & Alfredo Simon.
Bryan Price’s contract expires after Sunday, so the title here is somewhat misleading. The Reds don’t actually have to fire Bryan Price. They can just hire somebody else instead. I’m not going to come out here with suggestions, but one thing I would suggest is interviewing as many people as possible. The top candidates last time were Price, the pitching coach, and Jim Riggleman, then the Reds’ AAA affiliate manager & current Reds bench coach. You might want to consider outside voices if you actually want a different perspective.
There are some folks that still want Price around. I’ve given voice to many of their arguments in this column. He can’t be blamed for injuries. He can’t be blamed for the talent or the lack of talent in the system. Let’s be honest, there’s very little we can actually blame on a baseball manager.
He calls for the bunt a lot. That’s pretty bad.
Maybe my argument comes down to one simple sentence….
When you’re a manager that used to be a pitching coach and your team gives up the most home runs in the history of Major League Baseball, you have no business being a manager.