Reports are coming in from John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Ken Rosenthal of Bowties-R-US, Joel "Slyde Reference" Luckhaupt, and the guy at the corner of the bar sitting on his smart phone that the Cincinnati Reds are set to hire Bryan Price, their pitching coach of the last few seasons, as the 61st manager in team history.
From most accounts, Price has been an engaging, energetic member of every clubhouse in which he's been employed, ranging from the depths of the Seattle Mariners' system through their big league team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and ultimately with the Reds since 2009, and the results where he's been in charge have been nearly impossible to argue with. The Reds, obviously, were pleased enough with both the job he had done and the respect he had earned with their current roster to promote him.
The hiring of Price, 51, echoes a movement among many teams in both leagues towards hiring younger, less proven managers as opposed to stalwarts of yesteryear. The Reds, of course, appear to be this offseason's poster child of said strategy, as they parted ways with the experience of Dusty Baker in exchange for hiring Price, but it's a movement that has taken hold in many of baseball's markets, both among franchises poised to win now and those building for the future. The Bobby Valentine experiment in Boston failed miserably, and he was replaced by a relative newcomer to the managerial profession in John Farrell, and his success has been readily evident; Mike Matheny took over the St. Louis Cardinals when Tony La Russa stepped aside, and he's got his club in the World Series opposite Farrell's squad; Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella also hung up their old-man uniforms in recent seasons, and they have been joined in the last few months by both Charlie Manuel and Jim Leyland.
In other words, while we won't be able to chalk up a point for "managerial experience" in Bryan Price's favor initially, there will be plenty of instances in which he'll be staring across at another dugout with roughly the same amount of time served as he's had. While he'll join Farrell and the Padres' Bud Black as the only former pitching coaches as managers, the point becomes moot given the landscape, and the Reds were willing to look past that.
More than anything, I think the hiring of Price says a couple of things about where the Reds think they stand and where they want to be in the next few seasons. For one, Walt Jocketty and Bob Castellini obviously feel that while a change needed to be made, there was plenty good enough about the team over the last few seasons that some layer of continuity was both needed and deserved. That should provide reassurance to many of the players on the roster who won 90 games in 3 of 4 seasons only to see the only manager many of them had known get canned, and should do much to assuage any potential rifts that could've been seen (Brandon Phillips aside, perhaps). There was plenty of winning in recent seasons, and the Reds' brass certainly wants to keep the core of that together.
To me, at least, this hire likely signifies the direction in which the Reds' front office wants to take the team. I don't think it's any coincidence that every member of the best starting rotation in team history is staring firmly at free agency soon and the Reds chose to keep, and promote, the pitching coach that has helped them achieve the worthy spoils based on their lofty talents. Homer Bailey will be a free agent after 2014 if not resigned, Mat Latos and Johnny Cueto will be in similar situations a year later, and Bronson Arroyo may well be headed out the door this offseason; the hiring of Price signals that the Reds intend to keep that core around, and I would not be at all surprised to see several of them signed and extended in the wake of this hire. (And that, more than any potential Choo signing, may be the onus behind Brandon Phillips being shopped to free up cash.) Arroyo himself may even see more than a qualifying offer tossed his way, and he certainly made it sound like he's not the only one who wouldn't mind sticking around when asked his opinion on Price by the Enquirer just over a week ago:
"I think he’d be unbelievable," said pitcher Bronson Arroyo. "He’s as organized as anyone in the game, he holds people as accountable as well as anyone I’ve seen. He doesn’t buy into stereotypical things in the game, things that other people buy into that I don’t feel are relevant."
"Price looks at evidence. He’s a freaking smart guy, he makes his decision on reasonable evidence. Sometimes in baseball we go by hunches, what someone else said or the way things have gone in the past. He doesn’t do that."
Whether this signals a full-scale change of heart from the Baker Era is TBD, to be sure. We'll surely still see guys who can steal bases bat in front of those that hit the ball far, and we'll inevitably see some bunts, double switches, and the occasional start made by the 25th man on the roster, but Price's hire reeks of Walt and Bob being keenly aware that the status quo had more flaws than 90 win seasons suggested, and they've clearly made a hire that mends the fences of old while sowing new seeds, too.
Like I said, I'm pleased, Reds fans, and if you're a fan of having dominant pitching, you should be, too. The staff will fill out with a mix and match of former players you've heard of and some motivational good-guys you haven't, but those announcements will come in the coming days. For now, it's time you quizzed BubbaFan on how to watch all of Robert Stephenson's minor league games, because we're going to enjoy the hell out of seeing him blossom under Cincinnati Reds Manager Bryan Price.