[This post was written by John Ring, who is the Nation's correspondent from Afghanistan, where he is serving the entire nation.]
When the Cincinnati Reds hired Bryan Price to become the 61st manager in the history of one of baseball’s greatest franchises, I was just returning from a three-day site visit to a remote place in northeastern Afghanistan. I have to admit Kabul looked pretty good in comparison. Both me and the uniform I was wearing were trashed after continuous high winds and dust storms for over 48 hours. It was good to see the sun again.
Ten hours after I got back, the Reds held their press conference announcing the hiring of Price to a three-year contract. From a personal standpoint, he will be the 21st manager for the Reds in my lifetime. We’ve had some good ones and some, uh, not so good ones. Don Heffner (1966) and Bob Boone (2001-3003) specifically come to my mind as the worst managers the Reds have had.
My first reaction upon hearing Price’s hiring was that this is the safe choice. Like many of you, I’ve heard the pitchers praise his accountability, intelligence and communication skills. Whether he can translate that to the entire roster is another matter, but certainly doable.
On the plus side
–Price now has both the legitimacy and the power to convert Aroldis Chapman into a starting pitcher.
–Price’s positive relationship with Double No-Hit Homer could lead to a long-term deal, should the Reds wish to explore that possibility.
–The 51-year old Price seems to possess both an open mind and a healthy respect for baseball tradition in the on-going battle over the “new” and “old” baseball statistics.
On the minus side
–He has no hands-on managerial experience, but that hasn’t seemed to slow down Mike Matheny and the St. Louis Cardinals.
It also sounds like the Reds are giving Price the authority and clout to choose his own coaching staff, which he absolutely needs. It would seem the days of Brook Jacoby as a hitting instructor are over, and while I like Chris Speier, he seems too closely associated with the Baker Era to continue on as a coach in 2014 with the Reds.
To compare Price with a new Reds managerial hire from the past is like shooting in the dark. It’s a different era, a different team and Price is unique in his qualifications.
However, this is the most comfortable I’ve been with a Reds hiring for a manager since they chose Jack McKeon in 1997. It’s safe, it’s somewhat bold and there’s no shock value, which is good. Today’s baseball players like consistency and a “role” which seemed problematic, especially to Dusty Baker. Consider this: would Manager Price have selected Johnny Cueto to pitch the wild card game against the Pirates? My hunch is Price would have gone with Bailey. But for Dusty, Cueto was the de facto “ace” of the staff, so a relatively untested just off-the-disabled list Cueto took the mound. And we all saw what happened.
Hiring Bryan Price was a good call. 2014 should be interesting.
It would have been disastrous for the Reds not to let Dusty Baker go after the 2013 season. Ticket sales would have plummeted and Hot Stove talk over the winter would have been debates over Baker’s status. I’m glad he thinks it will “be an honor” to manage the Tigers because his days in Cincinnati were clearly over with.
I can’t wait for 2014.