I. Introduction

Bryan Price is a lame duck manager–not in the sense that he already knows he’s out the door , more along the lines of an actual lame duck could do his job and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. That’s not to say that Bryan Price has been a bad manager, but that the Reds have been a bad team and no manager can overcome a bad team.

Bryan Price will also likely be fired. It’s nothing personal, it’s just the club is going in a new direction (i.e. not the bottom of the barrel), and with that new direction, the Reds need a new manager. There’s no guarantee that Bryan Price will be canned, but there’s no guarantee that he won’t, so we might as well speculate as to who the Reds should hire to replace him. To help this discussion along, I have compiled a series of highly scientific charts and data so that we all can be outraged in an informative way when the club inevitably makes the wrong decision. It’s just the nature of the thing.

II. Methods and Procedures

There are two questions that need to be answered here: 1) What makes a good manager? and 2) what type of manager do the Reds need? The first question should be easy enough to answer whereas the second requires a more subjective response based on the intricacies within the answer of the first. Let me elaborate.

What makes a good manager?

Well, to be quite blunt, a good manager a) makes the playoffs and b) does well in the playoffs. That’s the only criteria needed. Therefore, in the interest of science, I looked into each of the managers poised to make the playoffs in the 2016 season (standings as of Tuesday night, which, as is the nature of baseball, are liable to change at any time). The ability of a manager to do well in the playoffs is more a crapshoot and less a measurable talent, so I ignored that particular aspect for convenience. As a result, I compiled a list of ten “good” managers.

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After staring for a moment at that list, you realize that it gives you absolutely no concrete data. It is just a list of meaningless names.

Going further, I investigated each of these managers and boiled them down to the two qualities most integral to a baseball manager: strategy and spunk. Each manager was given a rating for both qualities on scales of “sabr-nut to old school” and “cool as the flip side of a pillow to throwing rosin bag grenades,” respectively. These ratings were determined in the most effective way possible: Reading the comments on articles written about the managers on the team’s fan blog. Because John Farrell was described as having “the personality of a tax accountant,” he was ranked super low on the spunk scale. Likewise, Dave Roberts was described as “scrappy,” so he was ranked above neutral on the spunk scale, but not that high. For one more example, because of the headline “Mets manager Terry Collins rips sabrmetrics,” Terry Collins was not rated on the sabr side of the strategy scale.

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As you can see in the above matrix, there is no one prototype for a good manager, so I did some more digging and found that the majority of these managers do share some common attributes.

Of the ten, 80 percent are former players, 60 percent have won a World Series before, and 60 percent have been hospitalized at some point during their managerial career. This last commonality seemed like a confounding variable, but then I remembered the Lester Effect–named for Jon Lesterscreen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-35-00-pm–which describes a person overcoming a life-threatening occurrence and then absolutely dominating with the remainder of their days. This effect has also been referred to as the Lazarus Effect or the Reverse Shia LeBouf Effect.

With a strong foundation of what makes a good manager, I moved to the second question: What kind of manager do the Reds need?

Given the recent trend of “old school” Reds’ managers and the other recent trend of Reds’ managers not doing much (but thanks to Dusty Baker for the playoff memories) as well as the third recent trend of stoic, patient managers, I hypothesized that the Reds need a non-traditional, fiesty skipper at the helm. This hypothesis leaves plenty of room for speculation, but in order to maintain scientific integrity, I will compare each of these potential managers to the already designated “good” managers in order to ascertain if the potential manager will be a “good manager” for the Reds. Or, to be more explicit, we want a manager that falls in this red circle.*

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*Sadly, we will not be able to hire half of Buck Showalter’s hat. 

III. The Data (or the Potential Candidates)

After combing the same fan blogs to find potential managerial candidates, I arrived at a list of ten, which is compromised of three distinct groups–in house, AAA, and potential firings.

III A: In House Candidates

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Delino DeShields — The first in house candidate, Louisville Bats manager Delino DeShields, does not land near the ideal circle, but DeShields did play back in the day, so he has that going for him. Also, he has familiarity with many of the current and upcoming Reds players due to his role in their development. However, comments he made about Robert Stephenson earlier this season speak to an old-school mindset that the Reds should probably deviate from if they want to keep up with the Cubs in their own division.

Jim Riggleman — The Reds current bench coach and former AAA manager is a bit of a pariah in the managerial world, but lands the closest to the ideal manager. When Riggleman resigned from his Nationals’ job midway through the 2011 season, a lot of baseball people were rubbed the wrong way. He’s worked his way up the ladder in the Reds organization though, so he might not be a bad fit if he is tapped for the job.

Barry Larkin — Probably the fan favorite for the job, Barry Larkin could not be further from the ideal circle. He’s a player, he’s won a World Series, but he’s as old school as they come and his demeanor is not one to fire up a lethargic team to make a pennant race. This is all conjecture, but Barry Larkin does not seem like the smart choice for the Reds.

III B: AAA Candidates

Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 11.11.25 PM.png

Steve Scarsone — The current Nashville Sounds manager, Scarsone just won Manager of the Year for the PCL after leading the Sounds to the conference finals for the first time in nine years. As a manager, Scarsone is about as vanilla as they come, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He doesn’t quite have the fire the Reds might be looking for, but he’s also not as old school as their past leaders, so maybe Scarsone could be a safe bet.

Pat Listach — Also on the bland side, Pat Listach has done well with the Tacoma Rainers, calmly leading a talented team. The man has fought his way around the league a bit, spending time as a base coach in the pros with the Cubs, but ultimately has proven to be a good manager at the minor league level. Is that enough to be hired by a big league club? I wouldn’t say so, but I’m also operating off of the information I can Google, so I’m assuming higher powers would know a bit more.

Al Pedrique — The only reason Al Pedrique gets to be on this list (other than winning his league’s Manager of the Year) is his instruction to the Diamondbacks pitchers when Barry Bonds was chasing his 700th home run to walk the slugger every single time over the three game series. If that’s not a gutsy, forward-thinking call, I don’t know what a good manager is even supposed to do anymore.

III C: Managers on the Cusp of Being Fired and thus Available for Hiring

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Robin Ventura — Anyone who tries to tackle Nolan Ryan at any point in their life is going to rank highly on a scale of hot heads and Robin Ventura is no exception. The current White Sox skipper trends towards old school but sits more neutral and hasn’t proven himself to be a terrible manager, so if he is booted from the South Side, the Reds would be remiss not to make some calls.

Pete Mackanin — A former Reds manager himself, Pete Mackanin has had some success helping to turn around the Phillies from their miserable 2015 existence. However, it seems unlikely the Phillies keep him around for the next good team, so there’s no reason the Reds should take a flyer on them for theirs. Mackanin represents the same type of manager that the Reds have had recently, and, at least I believe, that a shake up is in order.

Bob Melvin — Probably the best fit for the Reds on this list despite his positioning on the matrix, Bob Melvin is one darn good manager. There are rumors he’s worn out his welcome in Oakland, which could be people putting words into the mercurial Billy Beane’s mouth more than anything, but Melvin should be inquired upon immediately should he become available. (Side note: Google ‘Bob Melvin ejection’ and you’ll understand why he sits so far to the right.)

Brad Ausmus — A former catcher, Brad Ausmus has had a decent amount of success in Detroit and could still make the postseason this year. The Tigers have been in chaos mode over the past three years though and another missed postseason could mark the end of Ausmus’ time in the Motor City. I don’t think he’s the right fit for the Reds–too Brian Price-esque–but he wouldn’t be a totally objectionable hire.

IV. The Results

To my great despair, not a single potential manager fell into the ideal red circle. Jim Riggleman tried to nudge his way up as did Pat Listach, and Bob Melvin looked down from above, but no one could quite crack it. Despite the arbitrariness of this whole exercise, having those three names emerge as the best available candidates does seem to validate the whole process. Riggleman is the likely choice, Listach would be the dark horse, and Melvin would be the top of the wish list.

At the end of the day, the likelihood of the Reds firing Bryan Price hits 80 percent tops, especially since he hasn’t done anything undeniably wrong, so this whole exercise is ultimately just an excuse to make mildly enjoyable illustrations. That said, when the Reds do part ways with Price, which will be sooner than later, they should strongly consider moving away from the relaxed, old school traditionalist we’ve come to know and maybe try something different. The Reds can’t keep playing catch up forever, but they will if the one driving the car isn’t willing to tap the gas.

About The Author

Wesley - or Wes, whichever really - first fell in love with the Reds because of Ken Griffey Jr.'s smooth swing and shining smile. Ever since that first infatuation, it has been tortured fandom broken up by a blown 2-0 lead to the Giants and a Roy Halladay no-hitter - but that's neither here nor there. The only things Wes loves as much as the Reds are pancakes, flannels, and Vanderbilt baseball. You can find more of his writing at wesjenks.com or his carefully curated retweets @_wesjenks.

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41 Responses

  1. Mike McSorley

    Totally scientifically unscientific … you just gotta love it! From your list of potential “candidates” my vote would go for Pete Mackanin (if he becomes available). He managed the Reds for the second half of 2007 to a 41-39 record after Jerry Narron was fired for a 31-51 first half. He then was a “laurel and hearty (Hardy) handshake” so the Reds could hire a “name” manager in Dusty Baker. Mackanin took basically the same bunch who had slogged their way to 20 games below .500 and made them respectable.

    Can’t see Barry Larkin for reasons you outlined and for memories of Ray Knight as manager. Of course I couldn’t see how that George Anderson was going to be an improvement over Dave Bristol either.

  2. WVRedlegs

    I’d give up a prospect to the Orioles as compensation to get Buck Showalter. At least his brain made your red circle. That is all we need.
    And let this be a warning to the Fire Price crowd, there just isn’t much out there better to be had. Bob Melvin would be OK if he leaves Oakland, maybe.
    If Detroit cleans house by firing Brad Ausmus, then I would at least snatch up and sign Omar Vizquel to at least manage Louisville and dump DeShields. I’d do that in a heartbeat.
    The AL playoff managers, Francona and Banister probably get extensions. So no dice there. Showalter I mentioned above. Farrell and Gibbons both get massive grief from their respective fan bases. Not interested.
    Your NL playoff managers, Maddon and Bochy are fixtures. No chance there. The other 3 I wouldn’t touch with a Haz Mat suit on.

  3. greenmtred

    Great managers have great players. That is, overwhelmingly, the attribute most common to all of them. How do we know that Barry Larkin is old-school?

    • Wesley Jenkins

      We don’t but from the way he talks about the game, I took my guesses that he’d trend more that way than the other

      • David

        Very entertaining excercise. I laughed out loud a couple of times as I read it.
        Hiring a manager is largely a crapshoot, IMHO, but I do think the Reds should look for a couple of things in their next manager. Joe Torre failed in Atlanta but was very successful with the Yankees (because he had more talent).
        1)The manager should think about the players and team the same way the Front Office does. It seems fairly obvious to me that this has NOT been the case since at least the Dusty Baker era.
        2) You don’t have to worship analytics, but you have to acknowledge that they exist. Stop putting low OBP guys at the top of the line-up. Dusty did this for years. A walk is almost as good as a hit. Get guys to think about working the count in their favor.

        I think the most likely hire will be Barry Larkin. The Castelini’s are all about the Reds tradition (which is nice honoring past players and fostering a continuing identity for the team with new players), but could also be a bad thing.
        I have no idea what kind of manager Barry will likely be, but if it were my team, I don’t know whether he would be my choice. He might get the players attention, as he was a very fine ball player, and does understand the game (well….duh). And he might be worse than Dusty. And it will take three more years to find out what kind of manager he is.
        Ryne Sandberg was a great 2nd baseman, but a really crappy manager of the Phillies. One thing does not equal the other.

    • Michael E

      Exactly. Maddon conveniently came on board after the Cubs had assembled an enviably roster of good veterans and eye-catching rookies and 2nd year players.

      He reminds me of Phil Jackson, always (smartly) taking jobs with the best player in the league on his side (in some case two of the top 5 best players in the league).

      I doubt Maddon has the Reds winning anything but 68 games this year too. What I don’t know is whether Maddon would be better on shaping confidence and consistency of young players. That’s what we need right now and I don’t know if Price is doing that as well as can be done or not, but the results are fairly disappointing. I feel like all these prospects are going to be 26 or 27 and still below league average. I hope not.

      We need our prospect pool abilities to be maximized as much as anything else and yet it feels like, year after year, we have one prospect fade into oblivion after another. Made all the worse by the Cardinals and Giants (and others) and such have MEDIOCRE, unpromising prospects become regular (and solid) MLB players.

  4. old-school

    Fun article. How many wins is a manager worth?

  5. Phil Gasson

    Bad players make good managers look bad.

  6. RedsFanForLife

    Mike Sarbaugh, the current 3rd base coach of the Indians is the best choice for the Reds. He’d be a first time ML manager, so salary won’t break the bank. He’s also a proven winner managing championship winning teams. He has 3-4 years now with the Indians and has time being around and coaching big leaguers. He’s 49 and would be perfect to manage a team going through the rebuild transition. A 3yr contract to start and see what progress he makes with the players. Mike Sarbaugh for next Reds manager!

    • David

      Great thought! The Reds could do worse and probably will.

    • Steve Mancuso

      I don’t know anything about Mike Sarbaugh, but the Reds should seriously look at younger guys who may not have major league experience managing. Especially if they’ve worked with managers – like Terry Francona – who have habits that are worth copying.

      Most importantly, the Reds need to cast a wide net and look at all kinds of candidates.

    • WVRedlegs

      Sarbaugh attended Lamar University, where he was an all conference shortstop. He graduated with a degree in kinesiology.
      As a minor league player, he won a Carolina League championship as a member of the Kinston Indians.
      Sarbaugh was named the hitting coach for the Kinston Indians in 1995, and the “K-Tribe” was able to win the Carolina League championship that year.
      In 2004, he was named the manager of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and led them to a New York–Penn League championship.
      In 2006, he became skipper of the Kinston Indians and won the league championship. This made him a Carolina League champion as a player, coach and manager.
      His 2006 team was voted the Advanced Class A Team of the Year by both Minor League Baseball and Baseball America. He remained the manager in Kinston for the 2007 campaign, and managed the Carolina League team in the California League/Carolina League All-Star Game.
      Sarbaugh was named the manager for the Columbus Clippers for the 2010 season. Sarbaugh won both the 2010 and 2011 Triple-A championships as Clippers’ manager.

      A very nice pedigree for Mike Sarbaugh. Impressive. And then there is this, “Mike Sarbaugh also had a minor role in the movie Major League II.”
      What’s not to like?
      If the Reds fire Price, this is one guy the Reds should line up for an interview.

      • WVRedlegs

        Kinesiology==the study of the mechanics of body movements.

      • I-71_Exile

        He didn’t play in the majors which disqualifies him in the eyes of some MLB players. See Miley, Dave.

      • jazzmanbbfan

        See Leyland, Jim; Weaver, Earl; Alston, Walter. I supposed they may have been disqualified in the eyes of some players too. Big deal.

  7. ArtWayne

    Price has developed a roster of outstanding players: Suarez, Barnhart, Duvall, Hamilton, Schebler, Disco, Fenney, Eglesias, Lorenzen, Perasza plus kept Holt, Cabrera and Dejesus fresh off the bench. He has lately jerked Stephenson and Cingrini from the game when they repeated season long mistakes. He was also the one who developed the stellar staff of Leake, Cueto, Bailey and others when he was pitching coach. He’s improved each year as manager thus he is a cinch to be retained as manager as well as his bench coach Riggleman In addition he seems to run a good clubhouse. As far as length of contract established managers like Price should be given one year contracts. Walt Alston of the Dodgers was always given 1 yr contracted and that proved out over some 20 years Many of us struggled with the multi-year contracts of Dusty. I’m surprised he was mentioned in your article. He is working under a 1 year deal now and the Nats have it right, Simply put, he like his deciple, Brandon are to quirky to suit me.

    • Chuck Schick

      Baker has a 2 year deal with Washington

      Alston managed in an era where most managers and virtually all players had a year to year deal so he wasn’t unusual.

      • TR

        When a manager (Walter Alston) leads his team, the Dodgers, to 7 pennants and 4 World Series championships in 23 years of one year contracts, that is unusual. And Alston’s birthplace and home was Dartown, Ohio, just down the road from Oxford and Miami University of which he was a graduate.

  8. Steve REISTER

    I’m 65 from Hamilton ,Ohio but I’ve lived in jacksonville fl since 1973. I’m a diehard reds follower. The reds have been underachevers since they fired Lou. They need someone to put some fire under them and hold them accountable. Watching them is like watching a team that is satisfied where they’re at and a team just going through the motions. In all the years I’ve watched this team it’s never been this disgraceful. I’m a personal friend of Daniel Murphy and he says reds have alot of young talent but this team allowed some good players to be traded and those left seem to be just going through the motions. By the way you only have to look at the firing of Dusty. It’s not only players it’s the ownership

    • Chuck Schick

      Lou has been gone for almost 25 year. The Reds haven’t underachieved….they’ve just generally have been bad.

      Managers have minimal impact on a teams record. Lou won when he had good players and lost with bad ones.

      Of all the Reds teams of the past 30 years, the Lou led 1992 squad was perhaps the most underachieving relative to talent. It’s never good when a manage gets into a fight with a player.

  9. Chuck Schick

    I don’t see Larkin for a number of reasons:
    1. He’s independently wealthy and likely doesn’t want the aggravation unless he’s paid real manager money.
    2. Managers don’t make that much of a difference so why hire someone that is easily replaceable whom you can’t easily fire for PR reasons.
    3. The FO has much more influence over day to day things that was once the domain of the all powerful manager. Is Barry Larkin…HOF….going to listen to Dick Williams and a bunch of stat nerds?
    4. Next year is likely a non-competitive season. Would Larkin’s ego allow him to enable short term losing in order to be better positioned for the future?

    • Westfester

      If he doesn’t want the aggravation of being a manager, then why is he coaching Team Brazil, a team that has players as old as he is?

  10. Dave Silverwood

    The thing to wish for that would be a man that is equipped to handle a team with better talent than they have now —trades can help this club. I suggest that the Reds look at 2 men and hope the second one can lead the pitching staff and the name a manager who has been in the fire before my pick is Jim Riggleman.

    • TR

      Not my choice, but I think Jim Riggleman will occupy the manager’s office come April 2017.

  11. kmartin

    Wesley, are you studying at Wash U. to work in management consulting? Management consultants absolutely love those two by two matrices. Very nice post. Thanks.

    • Wesley Jenkins

      Haha no, I am humanities through and through, but I guess I’m around business school kids enough that they’ve rubbed off on me

  12. Sean

    I really think there is another choice that i would love…and that is Sweet Lou!!

    • Chuck Schick

      A 70 year old, inpatient, emotionally volatile man is perfect for a young, re-building team. Those 99 loss seasons in Tampa showed what Lou can do with young players. He certainly lit a fire under those guys.

      • greenmtred

        You are describing me, so I guess I won’t complete my application.

  13. jessecuster44

    Lou was the last mgr to take the Reds to the top. He was fiery, and pushed the right buttons (Quinones hitting for O’Neill and then Braggs playing LF in NLCS Game 6).

    Get a younger version of Lou.

    • Chris Miller

      I love Lou, but I believe he is one of the most over-rated managers this organization has ever seen. Don’t agree, just look at his results with an unbelievable Mariners team.

      • jessecuster44

        Losing to Joe Torre and a very good Yankees team? It happens.

        Lou was awesome. Was Sparky overrated for winning two World Series?

  14. Dan

    I want Price back. Cheapest and safest option.

    • RedAlert

      Worst possible option of all options !

  15. cfd3000

    Great stuff Wesley! I suspect Buck Showalter’s hat and Joe Maddon’s right ear could manage the Reds about as well as any of the candidates you mention. It’s just not that meaningful. Price, Larkin, Votto (why not?), Iribarren, or Mike Sarbaugh don’t matter to me nearly as much as who plays short and second, who starts and who’s in the bullpen, whether Bailey and Mesoraco and Hamilton are healthy, and how many innings Iglesias and Finnegan and Garrett can pitch. How about Steve Mancuso at the helm with Chad Dotson and Jason Linden in the front office, and Wesley Jenkins for chief info-graphologist?

    • Wesley Jenkins

      If I get that exact title printed on my nameplate, then I’m in. You’ve sold me, but I’m let you do the job of convincing Big Boss Bob.

  16. chuckstaley

    I’m sure Dan was joking…or tongue in cheek haha.

    Great article also in that same vein though…well done…funny and astute and zany at the correct times.

    I have zero interest in someone who either isn’t a Maddon/Francona clone or copycat or isn’t at least attempting to the touch the top of the box on the right or left side (in that order). If Melvin is placed accurately where you have him then he is the literal only option you mentioned who can Cubs or Rangers this team back to 2010-ness relevance or success.

    • Chuck Schick

      It’s amazing how Maddon and Francona became geniuses when they had good players. Maddon’s first few years in Tampa and Francona’s tenure in Philadelphia look a lot like Bryan Price’s record. I’m sure they’re both much smarter now and would win with Jumbo Diaz and Adleman.

      • chuckstaley

        I would gladly take a Banister just as much as a Maddon or Francona.

        It is forward thinking that is involved…it is amazing anyone could be happy with anyone who doesn’t have this type of philosophy. That’s Cincy though…satisfied with status quo. Once Walt got too old school the Cards shed him so they could stay relevant…upon which he became good enough for us. If Dusty was our Grady Little…we looked to Bryan Price to be our Francona…shame…and yes sometimes it just takes the right mind to make the step. Belichick coaching the Bengals cruises to a couple rings with this roster while Marvin is trying to just not go 0 for life in playoff games.

        Finally…Arrieta, Hendricks, Rizzo, Wood, Hammel, Samardzija (better than Lackey?), Soler, and many more were on that 2014 Renteria 73 win team. Yes, there are now 2 top picks centering around this team, which our next manager wiIl also have..but you could argue Maddon and Epstein are as important as Russell and Bryant. Yes, they signed sabr/Maddon homer Zobrist, but he’s 36. Otherwise they couped the Yanks for Chapman and start perennially overachieving Heyward and Fowler (who combine for a BA not even equal to Joey’s OBP). Yep, he’s basically Phil Jackson up there in Chitown.

        TB World Series Team (97 wins)
        C Dioner Navarro
        1B Carlos Pena
        2B Akinori Iwamura
        3B Evan Longoria
        SS Jason Bartlett
        LF Carl Crawford
        CF Melvin Upton
        RF Gabe Gross

        SP Matt Garza
        SP Edwin Jackson
        SP Scott Kazmir
        SP James Shields
        SP Andy Sonnanstine

        Can’t believe he didn’t win 100+…you’re so right

  17. redsfan4040

    Just a thought, I’m thinking Bryan Price is the 2017 manager of the Reds!