More often than not, a change of coach or managerial position usually means taking two steps back before taking three steps forward. When getting a new manager, you’re implying that a change was needed but you always give the new manager time to build. Such is not the case with the Cincinnati Reds.
The end of the 2013 season saw the end of Dusty Baker as manager of the Reds. Throughout his time with the team, Baker was always a cause for concern, a constant complaint. Controversy seemed to follow this guy with every baseball decision he made.
It was believed that Dusty was responsible for the ultimate downfall of this team, and rightfully so. Cincinnati trailed off at the end of the season, backing into the “playoffs.” A luck-luster performance (to say the least) against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the one-game playoffs all but sealed the deal. A change was needed.
The culture of the Reds baffled fans. After playing every day all spring and summer long, how can you treat the end of the season with such little urgency? Where was the passion? You can’t blame Dusty for Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips’s lack of passion, per se, but he is to fault.
Let me explain.
As a manager, you set the tone in the clubhouse. Players know what is expected of themselves because of you. If you lose your edge, your control starts to slip. Players start to question your decision, and lose respect for you. You’re managing 30 plus grown men. If you lose their respect, you lose everything. They stop playing for you. And that’s what happened in the case of Dusty Baker.
The passion was gone. Nobody believed in Baker. Too many questions were in the air. The cloudy judgment of Dusty overshadowed the urgency of the end of the season. The team just simply lost focus. And that’s on the manager. He shouldn’t have to give you a “rah-rah” speech every day to pump you, but his presence, his style should bring with it the culture of urgency, of success.
And it didn’t anymore.
With the final out of the season came the final out of Dusty Baker’s tenure as the Redlegs’ skipper. Questions arose on who would take his spot. Name after name was rumored, but the guy everyone thought would get the nod ultimately did. As was reported earlier, pitching coach Bryan Price will be named the Cincinnati Reds manager.
Reactions varied. Some fans were confused, complaining that our culture wouldn’t change because he was managing along side of Dusty, the perceived problem. Others have said that it’s a good move because he’s a good pitching coach and he’s managed his pitchers to excellency. While both arguments are certainly legitimate, I tend to agree with the latter.
Price has won awards. He’s widely regarded as a phenomenal coach and well-respected among the pitching staff. Some fans believe the coach has no say or doesn’t carry any weight in the player’s performance. I couldn’t disagree more.
Bryan Price has been an anchor for this ball club. Yes, he’s managed alongside Dusty but there’s one important aspect to remember: he is not Dusty Baker. He’s made his own decisions, his own choices throughout the last few seasons with the Reds. He can’t be held accountable for the decisions of Baker when regarding a pitcher staying in the game or coming out.
The decisions Price has made regarding his pitching staff have been excellent. The numbers alone can tell you that. But you don’t need statistics to justify such a hiring. Take a look at Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey. And those are just some, to name a few. His development of Latos as an ace (maybe even the #1 guy) speaks volumes. Price should also be credited for the continued relevance of Arroyo and the leaps and bounds Bailey has taken.
So with that said, the age-old question comes up once more: what are the expectations for the 2014 Cincinnati Reds under Bryan Price? As I mentioned earlier, a new coach/manager brings with it a grace period. And as I also mentioned earlier, such is not the case for this club.
The Reds management wanted somebody proven, somebody already in the organization. By going outside of the team, you’re saying you don’t believe in the coaching staff at all. But when you fire your manager and then hire from within, your message is loud and clear: “The last guy didn’t get the job done, so we expect you to. And we expect it now.”
They’re not willing to wait around while a new guy gets his feet settled for a season. Price is already respected in the clubhouse. He already knows the players. If he’s been able to develop Latos into an ace, he can, and will, get the best results from the rest of the roster.
As for the Price era, I expect what I expected last year-a pennant. I thought we were the best team in Major League Baseball going into last year, and I think we are the best team in Major League Baseball going into the next season. Dusty couldn’t get the job done. I expect Price to.