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On the Cincinnati Reds hire of David Bell as manager

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It wasn’t the ‘bright lights, big city’ move, but it might well be the best one they could have made.

Cincinnati Reds Introduce David Bell Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I’m not sure I ever wanted Joe Girardi to be the next Cincinnati Reds manager. I think I really just wanted Joe Girardi to like the team I like as much as I do.

The guy has had in his dugouts the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Ichiro Suzuki, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Robinson Cano, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Beltran, and CC Sabathia, some among the greats in the game and the rest with at least a decent argument to be in the Hall of Fame. That’s not even counting Mark Teixeira, Johnny Damon, Kerry Wood, Andruw Jones, Curtis Granderson, Bobby Abreu, Hanley Ramirez, Aroldis Chapman, or Aaron Judge, either, all of whom he has managed at some point along the way. That’s a non-stop barrage of elite-level talent, something he has been in charge of almost exclusively since first getting one of those coveted big league helms back in 2006.

So, I think I wanted his endorsement. I think I wanted him to look at the current Cincinnati Reds roster and see that kind of punch. I wanted him to see a 35 year old Joey Votto who could age like Pettitte, or Hiroki Kuroda did on his watch. I wanted him to salivate at Eugenio Suarez as a burgeoning force, to see the young array of pitching talent that can sling 97 mph heaters and think they were on the cusp of something great, and soon. I wanted Joe Girardi to be as excited about the opportunity for this young, rebuilding ballclub to get good in a hurry as I’m pretty sure I am, and if he saw that, he would have taken the job in a heartbeat.

He didn’t take the job in a heartbeat. He didn’t take the job at all. He didn’t take a year off from a decade-long run in charge of the New York Yankees and then immediately concede to both himself and to the public that yeah, this Cincinnati Reds club is just as damn good, and I think it was my own fandom’s ego that was the most let down by it.

Tactically speaking, the Reds probably hired the right guy in David Bell. That’s a point that both deserves great mention and that I don’t want to hide here at all. David Bell has a great mix of playing experience, coaching experience, front office experience, and minor league managing to deserve a shot at a job like the one he just landed in Cincinnati, and based on the hires made by the rest of the league in recent years, is imminently qualified. There’s a very real chance that the decisions he’ll make in the coming years will be as sharp as anyone could hope for, and that tactically he’ll be among the better managers in the game today.

The only thing that he doesn’t bring to the table is that ego boost that Girardi would’ve brought, and it’s high time I moved well past that. I think, in many ways, the repeated insistence that team owner Bob Castellini used in yesterday’s presser for Bell about how much money will be spent and how much pitching will be added was aimed directly at people like me, honestly, for just that reason. Signing Joe Girardi to be the next manager would’ve added a kind of instant credibility to those statements, as the leverage he had as the biggest name available would’ve almost demanded that those things happen for him to even take the job. With Bell, though, there’s not that instantaneous assurance that the rest of the moves are in the pipeline, since the ball wasn’t in his court in this particular instance - it was in the Reds’.

The fact is, though, that if the Reds do actually splash some cash on the right free agents, and do make some bold, savvy trades to bring in some more effective pitching, the decision to hire Bell in lieu of wooing Girardi has every bit the chance to turn out incredibly well - or even better, really. It’s just a move that doesn’t hammer down the gavel with quite as much sense of inevitability that those moves will actually happen, which is why Castellini still being out there emphasizing those things stands out with such aplomb.

That said, it’s not always the name-brand moves that end up being the best one. Heck, Girardi’s first club - the Miami Marlins - helped weave a very recent rendition of that tale, as it wasn’t trading their dinger-smashing MVP away that made the biggest impact on the 2018 season, it was trading away the then zero-time All Star outfielder who played next to him that did. I think Bell has exactly what it takes to make a managerial version of that parable play out provided he gets the kind of backing from the front office and ownership that has been promised to both he and the rest of us idiots who follow this team like a religion, and it was a perfectly solid decision to pick him to lead the club instead of rolling out the red carpet to woo the more marquee name.

Now, go get some damn pitching.