Reds: David Bell’s new contract was the right move at the wrong time

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 10: David Bell #25 of the Cincinnati Reds watches from the dugout. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 10: David Bell #25 of the Cincinnati Reds watches from the dugout. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Reds signed manager David Bell to a two-year contract extension this week. Bell’s new contract was long overdue, and could have had an impact on how he was viewed in the clubhouse over the last several weeks.

Cincinnati’s front office and ownership made the right decision signing Bell to a contract extension. There’s more great news; according to Bell, he expects the rest of the team’s coaching staff to return as well.

That means Derek Johnson, who led a revival among the Cincinnati pitching staff, and Alan Zinter, who helped lead Reds’ hitters to be among the best in the league, are both expected to back in the dugout next season.

There’s only one problem I have with this entire situation; the timing. Why did the Cincinnati Reds wait so long to offer David Bell, who prior to the month of September was in the running for Manager of the Year, a new contract?

Why did the Reds delay offering David Bell a new contract?

Seattle Mariners’ manager Scott Servis was signed to a multi-year extension at the beginning of September. The Marlins extended the contract of Don Mattingly through next season despite Miami being one of the worst hitting teams in baseball this season. It really is perplexing why it took until the first day of autumn for the David Bell and the Cincinnati Reds to agree to a new deal.

The Reds got it right, but the timing was all wrong. The organization had the opportunity to, at the very least, pick up Bell’s 2022 option earlier this season, but they didn’t even do that. In effect, the front office and ownership made Bell a lame duck manager.

Did the players view Bell that way prior to yesterday’s announcement? Perhaps. Was that the reason for the team’s late-season collapse? Possibly. I’m not trying to give excuses for the Reds’ poor play over the last several weeks, but what more did David Bell have to do this season in order to prove his worth to the powers that be?

The Reds and David Bell succeeded despite ownerships’ mistakes.

Cincinnati was in the playoff hunt when they didn’t have any business being there in the first place. Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, Nick Senzel, Sonny Gray, Michael Lorenzen, and Jesse Winker have all spent considerable time on the injured list this season.

Bell has been forced to start a utility infielder (Max Schrock) for the better part of a month in left field. The aforementioned Moustakas, along with Shogo Akiyama, Amir Garrett, Eugenio Suárez, and Aristides Aquino have played well below expectations this season.

David Bell’s bullpen was decimated by ownership’s decision to cut bait with Raisel Iglesias and Archie Bradley. Those two high-leverage relievers were replaced with the likes of journeymen Heath Hembree and Brad Brach.

To be fair, Bell has received great contributions from some unsuspecting sources this season. Jonathan India has shined in his role this season and will likely take home the National League Rookie of the year trophy.

The botched decision to head into the season with Eugenio Suárez starting at shortstop proved to be a major mistake, but the play of Kyle Farmer at shortstop this season has been nothing short of amazing. Let’s not forget that Farmer’s a former catcher.

There was also the All-Star seasons for Castellanos and Winker, and the return to form of one Joseph Daniel Votto. But Bell also had to endure two miserable months of sluggish performances from his ace, Luis Castillo. Despite La Piedra’s struggles early on, Bell stuck with the right-hander and Castillo eventually rewarded Bell’s faith.

At one point this season, the Cincinnati Reds were 12 games over .500. Why in the world didn’t Nick Krall and the ownership get to together and say, “Hey, David Bell is doing a great job. Let’s make sure to give this team some confidence for the stretch run and assure them that their skipper will be back next season?”

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I’m super excited to have David Bell and his coaching staff set to return to the Reds’ dugout next season. The team has laid the groundwork for what could be a very fun year of baseball in 2022. I just really wish the front office and ownership would have come to this conclusion sooner. Would it have made a difference over the last few weeks? We’ll never know.