After a horrendous 3-15 start to the season, the Cincinnati Reds decided to put an end to the Bryan Price era. It was a day where Reds fans rejoiced after watching Price lead the Reds to four consecutive losing seasons, including three 94-plus loss seasons. Following the firing of Price, the Reds promoted Jim Riggleman as the interim manager. Since Riggleman’s promotion, the Reds have exceeded any and all expectations. The club is playing their best baseball since the team produced 97 wins in 2013, and are showing no signs of slowing down. Riggleman’s record as the Reds interim manager is .500 at 36-36 has caused some well known MLB insiders, such as Jon Heyman and Bob Nightengale, to suggest the Reds remove the interim tag. While Reds country appreciates everything Riggleman has contributed to the club, this would be a terrible decision from the front office.
Riggleman absolutely deserves a shot at a full-time managerial position, but there are too many factors at play to hand him the job at the moment. Most people see his .500 record and immediately resort to how he is doing what Bryan Price could not accomplish with this club, win. The problem with that theory though, is that the roster Riggleman currently has, compared to the roster Price had to work with, are not exactly the same.
How They Improved
The Reds were hit by the injury bug from the start of the season. Stars like Eugenio Suarez, Anthony DeSclafani, and Scott Schebler all had a stint on the disabled list. Joey Votto continued his tradition of not figuring out that he is an elite hitter until April is over. Scooter Gennett was playing solid ball, but not the MVP level of play he has been producing over the last few months. They also rid the roster of any relief pitcher that was not performing at a major league level, leaving the Reds with one of the better bullpens in the league.
The biggest key to the Reds turnaround without a doubt, has been the resurgence of the starting pitchers. Tyler Mahle would have potentially been the NL Pitcher of the Month had Jon Lester not went on an absolute tear. DeSclafani is finding the stuff that made him the former ace of the Reds staff. Matt Harvey may be ways away from what made him The Dark Knight in New York, but has shown continued improvement since arriving to the Queen City. Homer Bailey has, well, not made a start since May 28, which is another factor into the improvement of the starting staff.
Questioning the Coach
Riggleman constantly makes questionable in-game calls as well as the lineups he puts on the field night in and night out. To some extent, he has slowed the four-man outfield rotation, but it should be shut down completely. He asks his players to bunt in some less than ideal situations. The biggest blunder was asking the top second basemen and one of the leading run producers in the National League to bunt with two on and no outs. This decision took the bat out of not only Gennett’s hands but subsequently removed it from NL RBI leader Suarez to an intentional walk. This potentially cost the Reds the game as they fell 5-4 in 11 innings. This is just one example of many questionable coaching decisions made by Riggleman.
Yes, the Reds are a drastically better team now than they were in April, Reds fans far and wide should thank Riggleman, but by no means is it time to remove the Interim tag before the offseason. Riggleman’s lineup management and previous coaching history leave some concern in Cincinnati. There are also several candidates that could fill the void that must be considered for the position.
Riggleman’s Managerial Experience
Managing the Reds is Riggleman’s fifth stint managing a Major League Baseball team. He previously managed the San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, where he made his first and only playoff appearance resulting in being swept by the Atlanta Braves in 1998, Seattle Mariners, and most notably, the Washington Nationals.
The reason his time with Nationals should factor into the Reds decision is how they broke up. Riggleman, who had an overall losing record with the club, as he did with every previous managerial gig, left the team in late June because he was frustrated with the front office not yet renewing his contract. If Riggleman receives a long-term contract, it is unlikely he would repeat his actions from Washington, but it would be foolish to ignore them.
The Other Guys
Three names have come up whenever a Cincinnati managerial search is mentioned. Two World Series winners with arguably the two most storied franchises in MLB history, and then a Cincinnati legend, who has spent his childhood and career in the city. Joe Girardi, John Farrell, and Barry Larkin are the names that pop up more than any other. Farrell and Larkin seem more likely to land the job because of their previous and current ties to Cincinnati. Farrell is currently a scout for the Reds, and lead the Boston Red Sox to a World Series in 2013.
A question that is often brought up is why would a manager who was successful in New York for most of nine seasons want to accept a job for a team that has been stuck in the cellar for the last four seasons as well as this season. Girardi is a respected manager who is currently unemployed. The Reds are a team that have shown recently that they will be a team that will make some noise in seasons to come. For Girardi, this job should be a dream job. He would come in with a roster that should be ready to compete and can bring glory to a city that has not seen a team with any playoff success in the slightest since that 1990’s Reds club.
Larkin is loved by just about every sports fan in Cincinnati, and most baseball fans whose team was not in the same division as him or an Oakland A’s fan from 1990 who witnessed the four game sweep resulting in a Reds World Series. He has also openly expressed interest to manage the Reds in the future. His managerial experience consists of a 0-3 record with Brazil in the World Baseball Classic, but that should not factor into the Reds thoughts on pursuing him, considering his roster had zero players playing at the Major League level.
There is no answer to the question of who should try to lead the Reds to the promised land in 2019. The only answer to the Reds manager question is that the club cannot settle for less than a thorough search of any and every candidate. The three listed above, as well as the current interim manager, will most likely be the Reds top candidates when the offseason comes around. However, the Reds should be open to all candidates at this point. The next manager in Cincinnati needs to stick for at least five years and produce a high-quality product on the diamond. The front office has one job this offseason, to find the absolute best option to manage the Cincinnati Reds.
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