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.
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?
No...no 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.
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.
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 know...it'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 know...it'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.