All-Star Game shouldn't stop slumping Reds from firing Price
Baseball is in an age of analytics, an age in which teams increasingly remove emotion from their decision-making.
So, why should hosting the All-Star Game make one iota of difference for the Cincinnati Reds if they are thinking about firing manager Bryan Price?
The Reds have lost eight straight games, albeit to three hot clubs, the Giants, Royals and Indians. They are now 18-25, 9½ games out in the NL Central – and just three games ahead of the last-place Brewers, who changed managers earlier this month.
I can understand the Reds not wanting to trade right-hander Johnny Cueto when he is a candidate to start the ASG – though if say, the Dodgers, made the right offer, I would accept it in a heartbeat without concern for the public-relations fallout.
I cannot understand, however, why the Reds would hold off on Price if they determine that a change is necessary. The All-Star Game is seven weeks away, for goodness’ sake. It already is sold out, and will shed a positive light on Cincinnati regardless of the condition of the local nine.
The time to act - if the Reds want to act - is now. But some familiar with the thinking of owner Bob Castellini would be surprised if he made an immediate move, saying that the owner is fond of both Price and general manager Walt Jocketty, and that he is wary of negative publicity as the ASG approaches.
Which isn’t to say Price is safe through the break.
Major-league sources told me Sunday that Castellini would meet with Jocketty and other members of the front office Monday morning, before the Reds begin a six-game homestand against the Rockies in the afternoon. However, another source told me that my report of a summit was, “100 percent false,” saying that Jocketty is out of town.
Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty reached Castellini Sunday night and asked if there was anything he needed to know regarding Price.
“Absolutely not,” Castellini said.
In any case, Castellini-led meetings are not unusual for the Reds, and the team has other outstanding issues, including the fate of All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco, who likely will require surgery to correct a left-hip impingement that has limited him to 45 at-bats this season.
It isn’t Price’s fault that Mesoraco likely is out for the season, or that Cueto missed his start Sunday due to elbow stiffness. It also isn’t his fault that Billy Hamilton’s on-base percentage is .256, or that Jay Bruce only recently began to emerge from his season-long offensive funk.
Still, the Reds’ minus-35 run differential is the fourth-worst in the National League – and Price, who is under contract through 2016, twice has lost control of his emotions in recent weeks, uncharacteristically.
The first incident occurred in April, when Price used the F-word 77 times during a 5-minute, 34-second rant suggesting that reporters should withhold information that might not benefit the team. The second occurred Saturday, when he was ejected during the exchange of lineup cards, before a single pitch was thrown.
If Price’s goal Saturday was to fire up his team against the Indians, it didn’t work – the Reds succumbed to right-hander Corey Kluber and Co., 2-1. And if Price’s goal in attacking the media was to discourage reporters from doing their jobs, that didn’t work, either (Price apologized for his language, but stood behind the content of his words, compounding his mistake).
Do I think another manager would help thrust the Reds into contention? Not with an offense that ranks 13th in the NL in runs per game and a bullpen that ranks last in the majors in ERA. But do I think the Reds could justify firing Price in an effort to inject new energy and salvage their season? Absolutely.
The most obvious replacement would be Hall of Famer, Cincinnati native and Reds roving instructor Barry Larkin, who managed Brazil in the most recent World Baseball Classic. But Larkin recently said he was not ready to manage in an interview with the official blog of the Reds’ Double-A affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
The Reds always could elevate a member of Price’s staff, most likely third base coach Jim Riggleman, who previously managed the Padres, Cubs, Mariners and Nationals. If they wanted to take a bolder step, they could promote Triple-A manager Delino DeShields.
The choice is Castellini’s. It is not an easy choice, considering that the greater responsibility for the team’s shortcomings might rest with Jocketty. But one thing I know – whatever decisions the Reds make over the next two months, their image as the host of the All-Star Game should be the least of their concerns.