Price's time is now
CINCINNATI -- Accountability is an interpretive word. Holding someone accountable for their actions, or rather how one holds another accountable, means different things to different people.
Managers hold people accountable. Bryan Price is now responsible for holding the Reds accountable. For the last four seasons he's done a good job of doing that with the team's pitching staff but Tuesday he was officially given the task of making sure all 25 players plus the coaches will be in step.
"I'll have a foot on the back of my own butt. That's just kind of how I do things," said Price following a press conference at Great American Ball Park.
Dusty Baker was fired as manager two days after the Reds lost in the NL Wild Card game at Pittsburgh, ending a disastrous final week of the season in which they lost six straight games after clinching a third postseason berth in four seasons on Sept. 23. The Reds won 90 games but much more was expected.
Much more will still be expected even if Price has never managed at any level of baseball before. He's always been a pitching coach since his playing days ended in 1989, but Price was the only person interviewed for this job by general manager Walt Jocketty and team president and CEO Bob Castellini.
"Managing is really managing people," said Jocketty. "Bryan has definitely demonstrated to us the last four years that he knows how to handle people and get them prepared to be the best as they can, the best people and the best players as they can."
The Reds' staff has ranked seventh, 12th, third and fourth in team ERA under Price since he arrived in 2010. It had finished 13th and 15th in 2008 and 2009. The Reds ranked third in the major leagues the last two seasons with a combined 187 wins and 3.36 ERA. In each of the last two seasons, Reds pitchers established club records for strikeouts while becoming the first staffs in Major League history to produce in consecutive seasons at least 6 pitchers with 100 strikeouts.
This season, Reds pitchers led the NL in strikeouts, their 17 team shutouts were the most since 1973, and the starters’ ERA of 3.43 was the staff’s best since 1974.
There has been accountability within the pitching staff from top to bottom.
"I think first thing is to have expectations so you know what normal is supposed to look like," said Price. "When I talk about this I talk about this uniformly. I'm not talking solely about our players. We have an organization looking to take a step beyond where we've been and that's not just asking the 25 guys in the clubhouse to do better. That's going to be asking all of us to do better, myself included. This will be my first year as a major league manager. The expectation should be high."
It's hard to find fault with a team that wins 90 games, but that's the level the Reds are at these days. It had been 15 seasons in between postseason berths when Baker guided the team to the NL Central division title in 2010. The Reds were swept out of the first round by Philadelphia but that was so far above anyone's expectations the playoff loss was seen as a minor bump in the road.
The inability to get past that first round is now unacceptable. It'll be Price's job to get them deeper into the postseason. The organization has not played for the World Series championship since winning it in 1990.
"My parents taught me to be honest and direct and be forthright and to treat others as I want to be treated. That's what you guys (media) will get from me,” said Price. "However, there will be times on the field where that's not going to be the status quo. There's going to be times where guys need a shove every now and then. I don't mean that physically. And I've done that. It's never been a part of my coaching that has limited my ability to challenge people."
Price and Jocketty will spend the next couple of weeks putting together a coaching staff. Some could be back from Baker's staff, some won't. When the staff is finalized, they'll get to figuring out what to do with Aroldis Chapman – keep him as a closer or make him a starter? – and how to go about improving an offense that was lineup top-heavy most of the season.
Those things will come in time.
Price's time to assert his accountability started Tuesday.