There are peanut and crackerjack sized pieces of my soul that truly feel bad for Bryan Price. I know, the guy gets a front row seat for Major League Baseball games 162 times a season, pulls pitchers on command, makes out lineups, and gets to talk shop with John Fay everyday for months, and pulls down a salary I could only dream of in the process. Since he’s taken over the helm of the Cincinnati Reds, though, there have been two overriding stories that have been just as big as the managerial role itself. For one, the roster has been purposefully (and accidentally) torn to shreds and diminished. Almost as relevant, though, is that Price has repeatedly entered seasons as a lame duck manager.
When the Reds opted to pick up Price’s 2018 option, it immediately became the third consecutive season in which he’ll serve as a manager without a guarantee for the next season, rendering him a lame duck after he was a lame duck after he was, also, a lame duck. That’s the kind of semi-commitment that would have most all of us annoyed on multiple levels in any arena, and since it’s just now occurring to me that this is going to publish on Valentine’s Day, perhaps that adds a bit of specific relevance to the concept for some of you out there. The Reds, while shedding veteran player after veteran player during a thorough rebuild, have for some reason kept Price around in the process despite the gargantuan pile of losses on his ledger, perhaps with the guise in mind that the team was going to lose its butt off regardless of which person was in charge.
2018, though, might finally be the year in which wins and losses matter. They’ll matter when it comes to deciding which players to extend, which ones to trade away, and certainly when it comes to deciding whether Price deserves any sort of commitment to a winning Reds culture instead of just a youth-fostering Reds culture.
You don’t have to look hard to find the reasons behind why Price has nearly 100 more career losses as a manager than wins in just four seasons in that role. After trading away the likes of Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Aroldis Chapman, the single biggest moves to bring in ‘talent’ have been two-year contracts for Skip Schumaker and Brayan Pena, signing Opening Day Starter [TM] Scott Feldman to be a reliever, and trading for 37 year old Marlon Byrd. Pair that with the dissolving body parts of Homer Bailey and Devin Mesoraco, and the Reds of 2014-2017 were always destined to fail, especially when most of the bulk of the young pitching that has been assembled has simultaneously failed around him, too.
If anything, that the necessary winning in 2018 is directly tied to the performance of the young pitching seems karmic in Price’s case. Of course, he served as standout pitching coach during the previous successful generation of Cincinnati throwing, and it was on the back of those great years that he landed the managerial role in the first place. And here we are, with the current season and the future tenuously set on the backs of Anthony DeSclafani, Luis Castillo, Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Wandy Peralta, Brandon Finnegan, Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano, a group that does look both talented and potentially formidable if the duct tape holding them together can do so for a few seasons at the same time.
If ever there was to be a chance for Price to land himself a more permanent job with the Reds, I’d say it’s 100% riding on how that fireballing group progressively mows down opposing hitters as early as this year. If they don’t, it’s high time to commit to finding someone who can help that happen before that half of the roster sinks this rebuild altogether.