You are really going to want to read this outstanding piece by Zach Buchanan in the Enquirer. It’s about the off-season training work that Reds legend Barry Larkin does, in Orlando, with players around baseball, including Cincinnati prospects Shed Long and Jesse Winker.
We’ve heard about the training sessions — dubbed B-Lark University by Mariners center fielder Dee Gordon — but Zach’s piece is a more in-depth look at what Larkin has been doing with his pupils. It’s good stuff. Really, you should go read the entire thing.
What has been catching everyone’s eye — including mine — is this:
That’s not to say Larkin hasn’t thought about it. He’s been on the radar for managerial jobs before. In 2013, he turned down an interview for a job managing the Detroit Tigers, saying that he wasn’t interested in the associated time commitment. But a year later, he accepted a chance to interview to be manager of the Rays.
He’s a fan of his current workload – he travels two-and-a-half weeks out of every month during the season to work with players at the Reds’ various minor-league affiliates – but he admits his interest in managing is greater than it’s ever been. Still, he has eyes only for the Reds.
“I only want to be in Cincinnati,” Larkin said.
The Enquirer has a video of Larkin’s interview with Zach, in which Barry provides a little more context. Essentially, he says he’s at a point in his life where he’s becoming increasingly interested in managing, more interested than he’s ever been, but he would give Cincinnati every chance to hire him before he explored opportunities elsewhere.
So what does this mean for us, the dedicated fans of the Cincinnati Reds? Well…nothing, really. Bryan Price is the manager of the club in 2018. Period. full stop.
My prediction, however, is this: if the Reds don’t win 85 games or more in the upcoming season, Price will not be retained. It’s going to take a serious step forward in the team’s performance for Price to be able to hang onto his job.
It’s certainly possible, of course, that the Reds can put together a winning record next year. I’m generally pretty optimistic anyway, but you don’t have to squint too hard to see things going well enough for the Reds to win a lot more games than they did in 2017, or 2016. If the club just remains generally healthy, that’s probably good enough for ten more wins. Seriously. A couple of good breaks after that — breakouts by Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel, for example — and the Reds could be in the wild card race.
But what if things don’t go well? What if the Reds finish 80-82? Under that scenario, I expect the Reds to explore other options at manager for 2019. (This is all a ridiculous simplification of the factors that will go into the decision-making for the Reds brass. But stick with me here.) If that happens, you have to think that Larkin will be at the top of the club’s wish list.
And what if the Reds are 24-28, or 20-32, at the end of May? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Price fired mid-season under that scenario. Maybe assistant coach Jim Riggleman finishes the season as the interim manager…or maybe the Reds decide to hire one of the greatest players in franchise history to manage the club?
I don’t know if Larkin will be a great manager. His only experience as a skipper is at the helm of the Brazilian team in the World Baseball Classic. I don’t have any idea whether Larkin is open to the advanced analytical concepts that have become a staple of winning organizations over the last few years. He’s certainly intelligent and does a great job with individual instruction, and he was a great player…but Larkin is still an almost completely unknown commodity.
Steve is concerned that the Reds will interview Larkin and only Larkin, as they did when Price was first hired. I’m not ready to start worrying about that, not just yet. But Steve is absolutely correct that the Reds shouldn’t just hand the job to Larkin. The club should conduct a nationwide search, and interview multiple candidates from outside the organization.
If Larkin is the best candidate after that process — and he very well might be — GM Dick Williams should hire him and we’ll all root for Barry to help the Reds take the next step in the rebuild, to a playoff-caliber club, hopefully. I wouldn’t mind seeing Larkin wearing a Reds uniform again. If he’s the right guy to lead the club over the next few years.