Cincinnati Reds fans want to know now. Not tomorrow. Yesterday. Who will be the next manager to lead their team to the promise land? The worst thing that has continued to frustrate the fan base is the never changing list of candidates that have come from all the usual media outlets. That will change right here, right now.
Why was Dusty Baker fired? Long story short, the last 5 games of the season which resulted in lackluster losses and the nail in the coffin Wild Card Game loss versus the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates. So the all too often mentioned candidates are Bryan Price, Chris Speier, & Jim Riggleman. Well, what do all those names have in common? They’re all “in-house” candidates. What was the problem with the team down the stretch? I would argue clubhouse culture. By promoting one of these well deserving Cincinnati soldiers, it basically does nothing to fix the problem that everyone in baseball could plainly see.
Now you could tell me that Jim Riggleman isn’t “in-house” because he was technically manager at AAA in 2013 and AA the year before, but he is still within the organization. The other problem with Riggleman is his record as a major league manager is significantly worse than Baker’s at 662-824 which is a .445 winning percentage and get this; is a full 162 games under .500. Let that sink in for a minute.
Another reason Bob Castellini won’t approve the hiring of Riggleman is it’s clear through whispers that the Reds will reverse course from a Dusty Baker led old school strategy and will go with a younger manager who’ll embrace sabermetrics which “Dusty Ball” couldn’t coexist with. So Riggleman being 61 this November and current bench coach Chris Speier turning 64 next summer, you can essentially cross these two off the list.
That all leads to the favored current Reds pitching coach who has been called the best pitching coach in the majors, Bryan Price. You cannot argue with the results, Price at 51, has been a pitching coach for 3 different teams, helping to develop Felix Hernandez and turning the corner for Homer Bailey. The Reds pitching staff is one of the best in the majors and all credit is due to Price’s attention to detail and demand for execution. But if you listen to Sam LeCure’s interview with Lance McAlister, the one concern is, you know what you have in Price as a pitching coach. Why weaken that part of the coaching staff?
Not convinced yet? Back to the main point. All these candidates do not do anything to address the Clubhouse Culture which directly attributed to the disaster which was basically the last month of the season, highlighted by the last 6 games played in 2013. Want to know a realistic list of Candidates? Well, here ya go…
Dave Martinez – Current Bench Coach for Joe Maddon’s Tamp Bay Rays.
Talk about a change of atmosphere in the clubhouse? The Rays are arguably the majors best grinders and if you haven’t seen Chewbacca on the field celebrating, you need to cross it off the bucket list. These guys play hard, are loose, and Martinez has been Maddon’s right hand man since becoming bench coach for the 2008 season. Martinez, 49, played 16 years in the majors and has spent the last 6 years learning from one of the best in the business. Talk about a team built on work ethic, imagine that “breath of fresh air” in the Reds manager’s office.
Brad Ausmus – Special Assistant to Baseball Operations for the San Diego Padres.
How about another catcher turned manager for the Reds helm? Ausmus turns 45 next April and spent 18 years in the big leagues as one of the best defensive catchers ever, finishing with a .994 fielding percentage. He was the Boston Red Sox choice for replacing Bobby Valentine last winter if they couldn’t work out a deal with Toronto for John Farrell. In 2010, Sporting News named him the 9th smartest athlete in sports, so he’s got the best baseball acumen you could ask for in a skipper. With analytics being such a huge part of the game today, Ausmus fits the bill moving through this century of America’s pastime.
Matt Williams – Current Third Base Coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks
Is intensity what the doctor ordered? Matt Williams brings it, a lot of it. “Matt the Bat” hit 378 Home Runs, was a 5 time All Star, 4 time Gold Glove winner, has 4 Silver Slugger Awards, and won the World Series with Arizona in 2001. Unquestioned in his leadership skills, Williams, 48 in November, has the ability to rally the troops and lead men which the Reds desperately need. He single handedly led that loaded Cleveland Indians team of the 90’s who never could get out of the ALCS to the World Series in 1997.
Barry Larkin – ESPN MLB Analyst
So you say the Reds need accountability in the clubhouse? Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, 49, ruled that very same Reds clubhouse with an iron fist. Larkin brings instant credibility with the players as a guy who came up in the Pete Rose managerial era and was a cog batting .353 in Lou Piniella’s Wire-2-Wire 1990 Reds sweep of the much favored defending champion Oakland A’s to bring a World Series winner back to Cincinnati. 12 time All-Star, 9 Silver Sluggers, 3 Gold Gloves and you can’t ignore the fact that Larkin won the NL MVP in 1995 not on numbers, .319-15-66 with 51 steals, but for the leader he was on the field. Larkin became the first shortstop ever to go 30/30 in 1996 and a year later was named “Team Captain” for the first time in Cincinnati since Dave Concepción’s retirement after 1988. It was quite evident that Barry Larkin was the de facto Reds manager in 2003 after Bob Boone was fired and replaced by Dave Miley. This past spring, Larkin managed Brazil’s team in the World Baseball Classic’s qualifying round. Despite having virtually no international experience, Brazil won its qualifying group unbeaten and clinched its spot in the WBC with a surprising 1-0 victory over Panama. Natural born leader.
It’s time for a new brand of baseball in Cincinnati. Take your pick.