The latest in the Reds manager search from Dick Williams (per John Fay) this afternoon is that the team has contacted Eduardo Perez, but he isn’t scheduled for an interview. The end of the month is still the target date to get a new manager in place. They’ll work through this round of interviews before considering expanding the list.
David Bell is widely reported to be one of the candidates. Bell had a 12-year major league career as a third baseman, from 1995 to 2006. As a player, he spent time in the NL and AL. He won a pennant with the San Francisco Giants and has experience in the postseason. Bell’s name has also appeared on the Toronto Blue Jays’ list of possible manager hires.
More biography: Since retiring as player, the 45-year-old Bell has compiled an impressive and broad resume. He managed the Reds AA-Carolina Mudcats affiliate from 2009-2011. Then Bell managed the AAA-Louisville Bats in 2012.
For the 2013 season, Theo Epstein hired Bell as the Chicago Cubs third base coach. The analytics-centric Cardinals poached Bell from the Cubs to be their hitting coach in 2014. A year later, the Cardinals promoted Bell to be Mike Matheny’s bench coach, a job he kept for three seasons, 2015-2017. Last year, the San Francisco Giants pried Bell away from St. Louis with an offer to be the Giants VP of Player Development.
With resumé stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at what David Bell thinks. He’s talked about his approach for relating to younger players:
Melissa Lockard (The Athletic): In speaking with various minor league coaches over the past few years, several have noted to me the change in how the millennial or modern-day baseball player relates to coaching, that they want more of a collaborative effort rather than a top-down style of coaching. You had a pretty young team with the Cardinals last year. Have you seen a change in how ballplayers today want to relate to their coaches?
David Bell: I do. And what an opportunity that presents. To be a part of that and to be involved in such an exciting day and age where that can be the approach and that can be OK is pretty special. Going into this role, I plan to learn a lot more from the players than they are going to learn from me. If I can take that approach, I think amazing things can happen.
Bell has been asked a number of times what he thinks of the new data and analytical approaches available. Given Bell’s reputation as a hard-nosed player, his answer may surprise you:
But listen to Bell now, as vice president of player personnel. Hear the 45-year-old sing the virtues of data, which he and a minor-league hierarchy featuring a dozen new hires will incorporate into every facet of modernizing and running a Giants system that has slumped recently in delivering players to the major-league club.
“There’s incredible information, and it has to factor into everything we do,” Bell said during an interview at the Giants’ minor-league spring headquarters. “It’s there. If we don’t access, utilize and implement that information, we’re going to fall behind.”
Bell stressed the need for “balance,” but in the next breath he said that information is “an incredible tool that we’re going to factor into every decision we make, whether it’s game strategy to performance to sports science.”
“We’re not going to turn away from any potential edge we can create, and the information is the edge.”
Bell was not just talking about swing planes and spin rates, but also biometrics and sleep patterns, nutrition and psychology. If a minor-leaguer is struggling, the staff will not just look at video, but ask the player if everything is all right at home and what he is eating. Minor-leaguers will do yoga for physical and spiritual well-being.
“We’re going to support them in every way possible,” Bell said. “We’re not going to leave any stone unturned. We have incredible resources and we are going to use everyone to develop that player holistically in every way possible.” (Henry Schulman, San Francisco Chronicle, thanks to Grant Freking for bringing this article to my attention this morning)
Bell was asked about analytics-based managing by Melissa Lockard in The Athletic interview. His response was interesting, particularly where he talks about his immersion for three years as bench coach with the Cardinals:
Lockard: Advanced metrics and new technology, like Trackman and Statcast, have brought a whole new layer of information for teams to access in order to evaluate their players. How much did you use that kind of information with St. Louis or elsewhere, and do you plan to utilize it with the Giants?
Bell: I know it will be used a lot. I have taken a real interest over the last four or five years in learning and researching and asking questions. I have a lot to learn still, but I certainly see it as an amazing tool that can open our minds to new ways of teaching, new ways of seeing the game.
Up until five years ago, I really didn’t know much about it. [Note: That was his time with the Reds.] Fortunately, over the past five years, I was in a position where I was looked to to be the point person to ask questions and get information and supply that information to front office and staff and players. It was a tremendous learning experience.
I think in my last role as a bench coach, it just sort of scratched the surface. In this role in player development there is an even bigger opportunity. We continue to learn new things each and every day. That’s something that’s really important to me, having a mindset and having people around me that have a mindset that we are going to get all of the information that we can. Some of it we may not use, but we are going to be open to finding the best approach in every situation.
To have factual information. To have statistics. To have all of the different types of information that is out there. To have that and to utilize that is incredible, and another part of today’s game that we are fortunate to be a part of.
Lockard: In looking at your bench coach role, how much did having that kind of information change the pregame preparation as compared to when you were playing?
Bell: Oh, it did. It changed a lot. It still takes an open mind. You can have the information and you can choose to use it or not. I’ve seen both. I have seen it utilized and taken in and used for practice and used to develop game plans and to have better ways to practice. I’ve seen it incorporated in the daily schedule.
Really, it goes beyond that, too. If you think about it, one of the greatest challenges that we have as baseball players is our schedule and the grind of our schedule. There is incredible information that is out there now that we can utilize to properly rest our players. Constantly have rest and recovery on our minds to stay strong and healthy.
I think that is one area that baseball, in general, has a ton of room for improvement. How do we have all of this information and guys are still getting hurt at such a high rate? Putting a dent into that would be a great goal because there is just nothing more important than keeping players on the field.
Beyond managing four years in the Reds system, David Bell’s “Cincinnati Connection” ticket is fully punched. Bell grew up here in town, playing for a Moeller High School State Championship team. His grandfather Gus Bell played outfield for the Reds from 1953-1961 and was named to four All-Star teams. David Bell’s father, Buddy Bell played a few years 1985-88 for the Reds, while putting together a 66-WAR career, winning six Gold Gloves and earning five All Star Game appearances. Buddy Bell works in the Reds front office now.
When David Bell managed the club’s minor league affiliates, it was widely and openly discussed that he was being groomed to someday become the Reds manager. That was when Walt Jocketty was in control of the Reds.
To be sure, the minor league teams Bell managed for the Reds didn’t win. But that’s not a great way to evaluate minor league managers. Team talent varies and fluctuates throughout the season based on the needs of the major league club.
Beyond that, David Bell isn’t that guy any more.
Like the players he’s in charge of, Bell has developed. He’s immersed himself in analytics and the waves of brand new information available to help baseball teams win. He has worked in two organizations — the Cubs and Cardinals — that eat, breathe and sleep modern approaches to baseball. The day-to-day experience as bench coach for the Cardinals is a strong credential for Bell that postdates his time in Cincinnati.
All that said, this post isn’t a campaign for David Bell. It’s not even a modest call for him to be hired.
John Farrell may be a superior candidate. So might any number of other, yet unknown and unconsidered, applicants.
Here’s the point: It would be wrong for the Reds to select a manager based on past connections with the organization or current family ties in the front office. But it would be equally misguided to reject an otherwise qualified candidate because he does.
In this case, it would be a mistake for we fans to dismiss David Bell as an insider. Bell has had valuable recent experience with other organizations. For years, I’ve been clamoring for the Reds to pick-off a young coach who has worked closely with a successful analytics-emphasizing organization. David Bell fits that description.
One final, delicious morsel of speculative palace intrigue:
If the Reds front office is hamstrung by clashing ideas — from what to do about Scooter Gennett, Billy Hamilton, trades, free agents, etc. — it would be wonderful if David Bell proved to be a successful candidate for manager. One acceptable to ownership, Walt, Jocketty, Dick Williams and his analytics folks.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.