Friday, April 20, 2018

Who Holds The Front Office Accountable?

Pillaging through the countless different newspaper columns/articles, blog posts, and media interviews, I have yet to see anyone holding the Cincinnati Reds front office accountable.  The worst offenders seem to be just about every media outlet in the Cincinnati area, including beat writers and sports talk show hosts.  The only person I have seen to give a realistic viewpoint and a question of front office accountability regarding the entire situation with Bryan Price and the horrid performance of the 2018 Cincinnati Reds is Paul Daugherty.

Look, there are many times where I sit back and listen to Daugherty run his mouth about the Reds, FC Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Bengals, and everything else he seemingly despises about the city of Cincinnati and think to myself, "Man, do you like anything?  Is the word 'optimism' even in your vocabulary?"  But let's be realistic for a second (I know.  Hard for Reds fans to do, right?).  He is right that this is an organizational problem, that the organization needs to answer for their woefully ignorant mistakes, and it needs to start at the top.  Bryan Price was a scapegoat for Dick Williams and Walt Jocketty, the two primary guys making baseball operations decisions for the Reds.  Granted, Bryan Price certainly made some very questionable managerial decisions (at best), but he wasn't the sole reason behind the seemingly never-ending, and possibly failed, rebuild that we are currently having to suffer through for the prospect of "greener pastures."

Beat writers/reporters and sports talk show hosts in the Cincinnati area should be holding the front office accountable.  It's very simple, really - Ask tough questions.  After listening to multiple interviews with General Manager Dick Williams yesterday, I'm convinced there isn't a single beat writer/reporter or talk show host in the Cincinnati area who can do their journalistic duty of holding the Reds front office accountable.  Sure, there are those that talk a tough game when they aren't interviewing anyone from the front office on the air.  But, rest assured, when Dick Williams or anyone else graces the airwaves with their presence, they all proceed to butter them up like a bowl of mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving Day. 

Lance McAlister (Sports Talk 4/19/2018) to GM Dick Williams: "Dick, I can only imagine how difficult it has been for you over the past 24 hours..."

As I heard that my ears started ringing.  Difficult for Dick Williams?  Don't get me wrong, because I love listening to Lance talk Cincy sports, but what?  We are talking about the same GM that has made free agent signings, and waste of 25-man roster spots Ross Ohlendorf, Kevin Gregg, and just recently Yovanni Gallardo, right?  We are talking about the same GM that promoted two pitchers from the minor leagues that never pitched a single day in Triple-A (one pitched only 17 innings at Double A last year), right?  Bad day for him?!

Dick Williams to Lance McAlister: "We felt like a change in voice would get us back on track..."

This guy knows how to give an interview.  He's a smooth talker, and you have to look beyond all of smooth talking public speaking ability that Dick Williams has.  So firing your manager, putting in a guy from the same staff that your manager put into place, is somehow "changing voice?" 

Lance McAlister to Dick Williams: "How much blame falls on the front office..."
Dick Williams to Lance McAlister: "...When something like this goes down, we all have to look in the mirror..."

Do you see where this is going?  You have a guy basically saying, "We screwed up, but we fired Bryan anyway to cover up for it so someone could take blame."  The only thing he did was do a sweet little play on words.  Of course, Lance really isn't asking tough questions and clearly isn't engaging in discussion that could make Williams feel uncomfortable.  He should be, and he should be holding him accountable.

A question I have failed to hear is: "Dick, this organization has had one outside managerial hire since Jack McKeon in 1997, and the records during those times have proved to be quite insufficient.  Do you plan on continuing to hire internally, or do you plan on hiring externally?"  I think this is a very valid question that needs to be asked.  This organization needs someone who hasn't been accustomed to "the way we do things around here" and definitely isn't going to be afraid to tell the front office when they're doing things detrimental to winning baseball.  No more "Yes" men.

Let's be frank here - Dick Williams should have resigned.  If this is a serious organizational problem like he eloquently maneuvered around, then why is he still there?  Why is Walt Jocketty still there?  Shouldn't the organization be "under new management?"  If Dick Williams is "looking in the mirror," it certainly isn't for personal reflection.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

It's easy to be downtrodden about the amount of uncertainty that faces this Cincinnati Reds team.  Let's face it, the organization as failed.  Ken Rosenthal summed this up perfectly on the MLB Network - Anytime a Manager is fired, it's due to the organization failing.  Is anyone really going to argue this?  I'm not.

Jim Riggleman takes over the managerial reigns today, and Danny Darwin takes the helm as the Pitching Coach.  What does this mean for the Reds and their path toward relevancy again in the MLB?  Things can't get any worse, right?  This team is 3-15 on the year, and they are going to win more than 30-40 games together as a team.  The team ERA is going to drop from what it is, considering that the three perpetrators (Gallardo, Weiss, Rainey) for being so high aren't on the roster any more.  Joey Votto isn't going to continue to bat .250 with a sub .300 OBP.  Eugenio Suarez will be back from injury soon.  Scott Schebler will be back from injury soon.  Those are just the reasons off the top my head that I can think of to be a tad bit optimistic.  But, I mean, you don't have to be optimistic.  It's okay to be sour and disgusted about this organization failing the entire fan base, regardless of how closely you follow the team.

So where do we go from here?  It's easy folks - Forward.  We look to the future, whether near or far.  However hard that may be for some of us, it's the only way we can look as fans. 

The Fallout from the Bryan Price Firing - Part 2 of 2

If we continue where we left off in part 1 of this discussion regarding the firing of Reds skipper Bryan Price, we'd find ourselves talking about his shortcomings.  Many instances where Price made faltering decisions that ultimately determined his fate with this organization.

So far, we've discussed on-field managerial decisions that work in cohesion with the offense, defense, and pitching.  Such decisions aren't going to be the be-all and end-all to winning or losing a baseball game, but they can aid in either direction.  Let's go in a different direction, though, and take a look at one of the weirdest things Bryan Price did in his tenure with the Cincinnati Reds.

Bryan Price's Profane Laden Rant at C. Trent Rosecrans

My initial reaction to Bryan Price going off on a 77 f-bomb laced tirade (yes, there are actually that many) at C. Trent Rosecrans, who happens to be a very tame and easy going beat reporter for the Cincinnati Reds, was "Huh?"  This is a guy who rarely gets into any confrontation on the field with umpires, but he's going off on a beat reporter because he was asked about Devin Mesoraco not being used as a pinch hitter?  What?

Do you understand the confusion?  Based on the rant, Price didn't feel he should have to answer anything about his managerial decisions on the field.  Not only that, but he didn't feel anyone needed to know whether Mesoraco was available to be used or not during that specific game.  Everyone, including those trying to provide news and updates on our hometown team, are apparently just supposed to sit there, shut up, and watch.  Now you see why in part 1 of this discussion I said, "Bryan Price was clearly in over his head with this job."  If you don't like or can't take the responsibility of answering questions to the media about baseball when you're the manager of a baseball team, then you probably shouldn't be the manager.  Just a thought.

What also confused me, is that here's a manager that seemingly never makes decisions based on poor play.  But yet, he's now a hard-ass with a beat reporter?  A manager is the direct in-person motivational factor for any ball club.  He's the one that can make a player "ride the pine" for not running out a dropped third strike, swinging bunt, or ground ball.  He's the one that can jump a player's behind for not hustling around the base paths or on defense.  He's the one that can suspend a player for repeated offenses of not following instructions.  Or, he can be the one to reward good offense and defense with more playing time.  Clearly discipline is not the only motivational factor for a sufficiently run baseball team, but it's a good chunk of it.  To say "It's not the manager's fault because the players aren't performing" is complete insanity.  If players aren't performing after the proper motivation, then that manager needs to find those who will.  Do you remember when Jay Bruce was sent to the minors in 2009 because his on-field play stunk?  Whatever happened to that?  Why can't Billy Hamilton be sent down to learn how to get on-base and actually lay down a bunt?  Why can't Jose Peraza be sent to Triple A to learn how to play SS properly?  This is where Bryan Price (or any manager) can make a difference.  Of course, you also have to have a competent General Manager who is an actual baseball guy and not just a minority owner's family member, but that's beside the point.

As far as the "It's not the manager's fault he's been handed a lackluster team" argument, I'll give you one name - Billy Beane.  That guy has literally taken turds from a heaping pile of dung that no one else wanted, and made it into gold.  He didn't do it just once, but multiple times.  So this notion that a team is "lackluster" is just nonsense.  Besides Billy Beane, there have been plenty of GMs and Managers that have started with nothing and made something from it.  Could Bryan Price have a better record with a team full of All-Star caliber players?  Who the heck wouldn't?  That's like saying, "I could be richer if I had more money!"  Duh!

Right now, baseball has metrics out the wazoo.  There's a metric out there for nearly every aspect of the game that can give you an idea how every player will tend to perform in nearly every situation possible.  So why not utilize them?  Why stand and continue with the typical baseball modus operandi?  As a people and society we continue to progress, so why shouldn't the game of baseball?  Lots of questions, I know, but these are questions that a professional competent front office should be asking themselves.  If you told me that the Cincinnati Reds are looking in the mirror and asking themselves these questions, I'd say "Oh, bull puckey" and give you as big raspberry.

The Fallout

Okay, we're here.  We've went through and outlined key points that led to Bryan Price's demise with this organization.  Well, at least from my perspective.  I'm sure there's more, but this organization gave Mr. Price over 4 years, 666 games, to prove something.  That something could have been motivation.  That something could have been discipline and a meticulous approach to the game.  That something could have been molding young players and prospects under a complete rebuild.  And we're not talking just any normal type of rebuild, folks.  We're talking about the rebuild where players tend to not pan out on a regular basis.  Every rebuild is different, and sometimes they simply don't work out.  For example, we traded Cueto, Bruce, Frazier, Leake, Phillips, lost Cozart and basically got Brandon Finnegan.  He is literally all that has panned out from those trades, and that's questionable considering he can stay health.  You may list Schebler and Peraza in there too, but even so, none of them are All-Star caliber players yet.  Cueto, Bruce, Frazier, Leake, Phillips and Cozart were/are.  And, unfortunately, we didn't get even one of those "somethings" with Bryan Price. 

With every manager firing, there tends to be a period of adjustment for the players.  How long of an adjustment is the key factor.  Do the Reds continue to under perform and lose, or lace up their spikes, dig in, and play some competitive baseball?  As interim manager, Jim Riggleman will have to provide those "somethings" that Bryan Price simply didn't - motivation, discipline, and production.  Danny Darwin, the new pitching coach, will need to pull this basement dwelling pitching staff up and bring them back to basics - pitch selection an pitch command.  Starters barely pitching 5 innings and having 4-5 ERAs is simply not going to cut it, regardless if they're rookies or not. 

Reds fans, we may be in for a few more bleak years, or we may not be.  As with any sort of managerial change, the future seems and feels uncertain.  Heck, we've been getting that for the last 4 years with Bryan Price, so we should be accustomed to that by now, right?  But, sometimes uncertainty isn't a bad thing, so let's keep our hopes up.  It's the only thing we can do, right?  Uncertainty?  No problem!  We've got this!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Fallout from the Bryan Price Firing - Part 1 of 2

John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer always says "a manager is hired to be fired."  In 2018, he may be right.  There's been very few managers that have stuck with an organization for years and retired.  Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa are the two that come to mind when I think of managers that retired after continued success for a number of years with the same organization, at least from a recent perspective.

When Bryan Price was hired, I was optimistic.  "At last," I thought, "we have a guy that's forward thinking and isn't going to stick to the managerial norms that have dominated this sport for 150+ years."  By managerial norms, I'm referring to looking at statistics strictly when it comes to things like batting average, home runs, RBIs, and stolen bases.  This also includes not putting a guy in a lead off role simply because he's "fast" or "doesn't clog up the bases."  Additionally, a guy who's going to look at things like On Base Percentage, Slugging, Zone Rating, Wins Above Replacement, and other Sabermetrics to determine where someone needs to play and belongs in the lineup.

Unfortunately, for over 4 seasons I, including every other Reds fan, have had to endure questionable coaching decisions almost every game.  Granted, managers are human beings, human beings make mistakes, and none of us are perfect.  I get that, you get that, we all get that.  But, Bryan Price was clearly in over his head with this job.  Let's list a few atrocities, confusions, and down-right lunacies  that Mr. Price committed over his tenure as Manager of this franchise that ultimately led to his downfall:

Batting Billy Hamilton Lead Off

Let's not forget that Dusty Baker was equally guilty of something like this.  Remember Corey Patterson?  Bryan Price learned a lot from Dusty, whether good or bad.  And let's not lie to ourselves - it was a great experiment to have.  Billy has blazing speed, and when he gets on base he never ceases to amaze.  But, after two seasons of dismal results in regards to batting average, on base percentage, taking walks, and laying down bunts, the experiment should have been over. 

Billy Hamilton's defense in CF is one of, if not the best in the game.  Not a single person, whether they watch the Reds regularly or not, is arguing or denying this, but he does commonly get overlooked for the Gold Glove simply because of his offensive stats.  If you look at the statistics above, you will see why.  In 2014 and 2015, he didn't even break .300 for an OBP.  Which translates, essentially, to him not walking, not bunting, and clearly not hitting regularly enough to make up for the lack in either of those areas.

Despite all of the statistics to the contrary, Bryan Price continued the experiment, and virtual black hole, of batting Billy Hamilton lead off.  Even in 2018, he still had Hamilton leading off in games, while batting Jesse Winker, and OBP machine, further down in the lineup (sometimes 2nd, 5th, etc).

Youth vs. "Experience" - Blandino, The Curious Case of Yovanni Gallardo, Dylan Floro, and Rookie Pitchers

This was a very complicated and confusing issue for Bryan Price.  The most complicated and confusing, of course, was his short tenure this year in 2018. 

Alex Blandino

Price mentioned during an after-game press conference that he has a lot of inexperienced players to use, and the decisions to use those players being difficult.  Okay?  Personally, I was thinking to myself: "Is this a rebuild, or not?"   To further that question, shouldn't the youth or the "inexperienced players" garner some sort of time on the field and in the batter's box on a regular basis so you can better understand how they fit on this team now and, of course, in the future?  As a logical human being and manager that thinks outside the box, or is at least supposed to, Bryan Price should have played his "inexperienced players," right? he most certainly did not.  In fact, it was a combination of detrimental usage and abuse to not only the players looking for that playing time, but also to the intelligence of even the most simpleton Reds fan watching the Reds play on a normal basis.  Price would then start Cliff Pennington and Phil Gosselin (both of which likely wouldn't crack the 25-man roster on any other team in Major League Baseball) at 3B over a recently promoted Alex Blandino.  A kid, of which, should be getting a look at how he can be used on this team now and in the future.  A kid, which the Reds minor league coaching staff and system have molded for years to prepare him for this stage.  The organization has spent a lot of money not only signing him (granted small in the grand scheme), but training him as well.  How can you look at someone that you sit on the bench and don't even allow to get a single cut in a game over two older ball players that have absolutely no future with this franchise?

The Curious Case of Yovanni Gallardo

Shall we mention Yovanni Gallardo?  Really?  Must we?  The signing of Gallardo is puzzling at best, so some of the blame can be put on the front office for this one.  However, Price's insistence on using Gallardo, who has been one of baseball's worst pitchers over the past few years, in close games is the most puzzling of all.  In fact, it was down right maddening to watch Gallardo give up run after run after run by pitching batting practice in games where the Reds are only down by 1 or 2 runs.  It's understandable to use such a guy in a mop-up role.  If the Reds front office wants to bring in a guy like Gallardo and burn a 25-man roster spot to pitch in 10-4 games, then so be it.  With this farm system chock full of youth that's hungry to be noticed and used, this writer doesn't see any point in the waste of a roster spot.  Gallardo was eventually DFA'd after giving up 8 runs in 2.1 innings pitched for a paltry 30.86 ERA.  Hitters loved this guy.  Can't you tell?  Bryan Price couldn't.

Dylan Floro

Again, this is partially fault of the front office, but why a guy like Dylan Floro was called up to the Major League roster, and an electric reliever like Ariel Hernandez was  DFA'd and eventually traded, is beyond understanding.  But in order for it to happen, someone has to say "Hey, I liked what this guy was throwing in Spring Training and I think he needs to be on this roster," right?  A manager of a Major League ball club does have some say who is and isn't on his 25-man roster, despite whatever illusion he or the front office may give you.  Which begs to question, what could anyone possibly see in Dylan Floro that you don't see in Ariel Hernandez?  Command of pitches?  We all know it's not velocity.  Baffling.  I know I'm still scratching my head on this one.

Rookie Pitchers

Let's preface this by saying recently two Rookie pitchers were promoted to the Major League roster who hadn't pitched an inning above AA Pensacola.  One of which (Tanner Rainey) pitched a grand total of 17 innings in AA Pensacola last year.

Tanner Rainey was added to the Major League roster when Yovanni Gallardo was DFA'd.  His first appearance, he surrendered a grand slam after walking 2 batters and giving up a hit in a close contest with the Phillies.  Why was he, a very unseasoned Minor Leaguer at best, given the call during a close game with the Phillies?  No one knows, except Bryan Price because you's "difficult."

Zack Weiss was recalled from Louisville on 4/9/2018 and proceeded to give up two home runs to two straight St. Louis Cardinal batters while walking two on April 12th.  Not only did he sit in the bullpen  unused for almost 3 days, he was put into the game during a crucial situation where the Reds were only down by one run.  Again, no one knows why, except Bryan Price because you's "difficult."

As if Weiss wasn't enough after giving up 4 runs to opposing Cardinal hitters, Tanner Rainey was called on again to continue the walk parade by allowing 3 more walks (5 walks straight combined between Weiss and he) and allowing 3 runs for a 7-run 7th inning for the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.

Now, I speak about these guys like it was their fault that they allowed so many walks, runs, home runs, hits, and the whole shebang.  And while it is their fault, it's not their fault that they were under-developed as young pitchers and pitching at a level that they clearly didn't belong at.  It's not their fault that the Cincinnati Reds organization has a front office incapable of having any sort of scouting or vision to see something like this.  And, consequently, it's definitely not their fault that they had a manager in Bryan Price, that was putting them into crucial game situations while being under-developed.

This article is a part 1 of 2, and part 2 will be up very shortly.  Stay tuned, kiddos.

Reds Fire Bryan Price and Mack Jenkins

The Reds have announced this morning that they have fired Major League Manager Bryan Price and Pitching Coach Mack Jenkins.  Jim Riggleman will take over Managerial Duties, while Triple-A skipper Pat Kelly will take over Riggleman's bench role.  Double-A pitching coach Danny Darwin will also be added to the major league coaching staff.

The Reds will conduct a search for a permanent managerial replacement at the end of the year.

4/18/2018 Notes vs. Milwauke Brewers

The Reds lose...again.  Are you surprised?  Would you been even more surprised if I told you that they got shut out for the second day in a row despite a 10 run outburst two days prior?  No?  Ah, well, join the club!

So let's get to the nitty gritty of this poorly played baseball game by the Cincinnati Reds, shall we?

The Positives

- Tyler Mahle allowed 2 runs in 5 innings pitched while striking out 6 batters.  He pitched out of a few jams throughout those 5 innings.  That is an improvement compared to his last outing.

- The Bullpen continued to be a strong suit for the Reds with Brice, Peralta, and Hughes all pitching an inning of scoreless work.

- The team strikeouts were down.  This seems to be the only positive from the offensive output that I can fathom coming from this game.

- No fielding errors!

- Pennington and Gosselin didn't start at 3B over Blandino.

- Beautiful double-play turned by Blandino and Gennett.

The Negatives

Here we go...

- Mahle struck out six, but walked four batters.  His jams (in which he pitched out of) were started by him in most instances.  On top of that, he could only get through 5 innings with 100 pitches and that seems to be the norm for him starting the 2018 season.  To go with consistency, the staff of pitching coaches needs to work with him on pitching deeper into games, or this bullpen will be extremely overtaxed like it has been in recent years.

- The offense put up 3 hits and didn't score a single run for the second consecutive day.  This is all while coming off a game two nights ago in which they plated 10 runs.  This offense is extremely inconsistent.  In fact, it's almost bipolar in nature.  Most nights they don't look like they have any drive or motivation.  They made Kyle Davies look like the second coming of Greg Maddux today.  Yesterday, they made Guerra look like Roger Clemens.  That guy was throwing pitches right down the middle of the plate and they couldn't hit them.

- Tucker Barnhart is the only player on this team with an OPS above .700.  Luis Castillo is batting better than the vast majority of this team when he plays.  That's simply unsustainable for any sort of team that plans on winning.  Unless, of course, you're lying to your fan base and don't really plan on winning.

- Amir Garrett is still not in the starting rotation.

I may have missed a few things here, but what was your take?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Why This Blog Exists and My Skepticism About The Reds

Baseball. I love baseball. Do I need to say anything else? Seriously...I'm a lifelong avid baseball fan. On top of it, a fan of one of the greatest franchises in baseball history - The Cincinnati Reds. I have a man cave full of memorabilia, cards, knick-knacks that date back to the 1940s and 1950s. Maybe sometime I will post a few pieces of my collection.

 On to the Reds...

 It's been a frustrating past few years to be a Reds fan. Let's just get this clear and out in the open - I offer a lot of skepticism for the current front office and make-up of this team. There seems to be copious amounts to be a skeptic about, as opposed to a sparse selection to provide optimism. I've been an optimist in the past, and I've tried to stay positive about this ball club despite all of the evidence of poor play and excruciatingly bad decisions by team management/coaching and the front office.

 As I watch updates from the game today (4/18) in Milwaukee, and the current record the Reds have, it's safe to say that I will have plenty to talk and discuss about this year when it comes to this Reds team. Of course, when don't we, as Reds fans, have plenty to talk about?