By: Eric Schneider, Staff Writer
With the bitter taste of first-round playoff losses starting to take its toll on the Cincinnati Reds organization, the front office executives in the Queen City decided it’s time for managerial change.
The Reds lost a wild card elimination game to the Pittsburgh Pirates, courtesy of a combined 0-8 effort from first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips—the top two highest-paid players in the organization. Starting pitcher Johnny Cueto didn’t help with a poor 3.1 innings pitched, allowing three runs.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise to Cincinnati fans, as the Reds dropped three games in a row to the Pirates’ squad just days before the end of the regular season. The team as a whole looked worn out from their 162-game season. On top of that, the Reds haven’t exactly achieved success over the last four years under the reign of Dusty Baker.
After a poor 2-7 record in the playoffs under Baker, the Reds gave him the boot to make way for savvy pitching coach, Bryan Price, officially hiring him Oct. 22.
The Reds kept the managerial responsibilities within the clubhouse, which has received approval from not only the Reds fan base, but the players themselves.
Starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, one of the few veterans in the Reds’ clubhouse, vouched for Price as he remarked to Reds.com, “He’s as organized as anyone in the game, he holds people as accountable as well as anyone I’ve seen … Price looks at evidence. He’s a freaking smart guy.”
Maybe the Reds are transitioning into the “Moneyball” attitude with Price. This type of game intelligence is becoming more of an emphasis for many Major League Baseball organizations. With apparent rumors of a Phillips trade, along with the hazy futures for Arroyo, starting pitcher Homer Bailey, and centerfielder Shin-Soo Choo, Price’s intelligence was sought after immediately.
The Reds’ divisional rivals—the formidable St. Louis Cardinals—found themselves in the World Series for the second time in three seasons. With a young pitching staff and loaded lineup, they aren’t stopping anytime soon. This is only the beginning of a dynasty.
So is Bryan Price the answer?
It’s evident the Reds did not live up to their potential this year, or even the past three or four years. Price is aware of this.
He was quoted by Redlegs Review saying, “It’s a team that’s capable of doing even more. I think we certainly should talk very optimistically about the three playoff appearances in the last four years, which were maybe somewhat discredited because we hadn’t gotten past the first round. Considering the 15 years prior, it was definitely a huge step in the right direction. But we all have expectations of getting beyond that.”
It’s a true statement. Everyone is setting higher expectations.
When a team wins 90 games, like the Reds did in 2013, you can expect to pull together for a playoff run, or at least a good effort at one.
After being no-hit by starting pitcher Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010, losing three games in a row at home to blow a series against the San Francisco Giants in 2012, and a pitiful effort against Pittsburgh this season, the expectations surely cannot submerge to a lower level. The team lacked motivation and the players seemed scared.
This leads back to leadership in the clubhouse, which is typically directed toward the team manager.
Price played a major role in grooming pitchers Bailey, Cueto and Aroldis Chapman. He was the major factor behind the team’s improved pitching staff, which led the National League in strikeouts in 2013, backed with the fourth best ERA at 3.38 in the entire Majors. Compare that to Reds pitchers ranking seventh, 13th and 15th in league ERA the three seasons prior to Price’s hiring.
Price has clearly done positive work with this staff. The hope is this influence can be extended to the entire ball club.
He has no managerial experience, and never played in the majors. This may raise some doubts he that is the answer for the Reds’ underachievement. Cincinnati’s players aren’t getting any younger, and many believed this was the year for the Reds to pop the champagne in October.
Price now finds himself in the hot seat. The Reds have a lot to figure out with limited time to do so.
Can Price get the job done? The answer will come next October.