The Cincinnati Reds announced Bryan Price as their new manager Tuesday afternoon, making Price the 61st manager in Reds history.
The rookie skipper, relieved of his pitching-coaching duties, is now faced with the challenge of unifying a good-not-great team and improving on a 90-62 record.
In the press conference announcing his promotion, Price spoke a lot about accountability:
“When I talk about [accountability], I talk about it uniformly. I’m not talking solely about our players. We have an organization that is looking to take a step beyond what we’ve been. That’s not just asking the 25 guys in the clubhouse to do better. It’s asking all of us to do better — myself included. This will be my first year as a major league manager. The expectations should be high. I’ll kind of have a foot on the back of my own butt. That’s just how I do things.”
Price also spoke about what “normal” looks like as far as what the team’s expectations should be and how to hold players accountable. “Normal” meaning taking that extra base or working the count a bit. Step up your own game in order to influence your teammates. Reading between the lines, it sounds like Price suggested the Reds under Dusty Baker lacked a true leader and didn’t have a system of accountability in place.
Good teams, like the Reds, can win 90 games and make the playoffs but great teams win in the playoffs. When games matter a bit more, teams that have leadership, discipline, and drive will succeed.
Take the last couple weeks of the regular season for example. The Reds lost five straight to close out the regular season, including a sweep at home by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team they were set to face in the one-game Wild Card playoff. They played with no energy, no motivation, and most importantly, no leadership. If you’re a Reds fan and watched them play the last week of the regular season, you’d be right to be doubtful about the team’s chances of going anywhere in the playoffs.
I think Price will be a good fit for the Reds. He has good rapport with the players and the media, and seems like he has a plan already to polish this team up a bit and get the city the championship they’re practically begging for.
The hiring of Price is indicative of a new trend in the hiring process of MLB managers. As Anthony Castrovince points out in his article, the two managers in the World Series were low-profile hires with no record of big-league managerial success.
The system of hire from within is gaining popularity with ball clubs because these people are already ingrained in the club’s system, which makes for an easy transition with not a lot of ego floating around. While I think the role of manager is often overplayed, there are certain decisions that stand out when a team doesn’t meet expectations.
The specific decision I’m talking about? Dusty Baker’s unwillingness to use Aroldis Chapman, one of the best pitchers in the game, in any inning but the ninth with the lead. This is the main decision facing Price as incumbent manager. Considering Price was Chapman’s pitching coach and knows more about him than Aroldis knows about himself, I’d expect Chapman to enter Spring Training preparing as a starter. A weapon is a weapon and it shouldn’t be reserved for just one inning of work. Chapman often went days without pitching in 2013, begging the question of how many more games the team may have won if he had factored in somehow. The Reds could have avoided the one-game Wild Card if they perhaps won the division.
I know there’s no use in what-ifs, but with hindsight 20/20, I’d expect more Chapman in 2014, with a knowledgeable Bryan Price pulling the strings.