Reds are striving to achieve the greater good
Hiring Price as manager first step toward goal of advancing in strong NL Central
The Reds aren't settling for good enough anymore.
Because "good enough" just isn't, well, good enough in a division that is the best in baseball. One National League Central opponent went to the NL Division Series. One is bound for the World Series.
And the Reds went home after failing to advance in the playoffs for the third time in four years.
It's not that Dusty Baker, the club's former manager of six years, did anything horribly wrong. He led Cincinnati to a 90-72 season -- certainly respectable in anyone's books -- but it just wasn't good enough.
The first step is admitting you've got a problem.
That's why Reds brass decided to part ways with Baker, hoping to usher in a new era with the announcement of Baker's right-hand man, pitching coach Bryan Price, assuming the helm.
But will that be enough?
Price's managerial style is certainly akin to Baker's -- a player's-manager approach -- but with strict accountability, according to his pitchers. And Price's track record of success with the Reds' pitching staff can't be ignored, either.
The club's cumulative 3.38 ERA in 2013 was fourth in the Major Leagues, and the Reds led the league in WHIP (1.17).
The organization has thoroughly invested itself in the 51-year-old Price.
"I have spent a lot of time with Bryan since the season ended, and I was convinced after the first meeting, he is the right person to help us move this organization forward," general manager Walt Jocketty said in a statement. Jocketty added during the news conference officially announcing Price as manager that the organization was so confident in Price's abilities that it did not interview anyone else.
One question posed to Price was whether he had given any thought to managing the 2015 All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park.
That earned a chuckle from Price, who termed it a "great dream," but the underlying tone was "wait and see." It was modesty from Price's end, an acknowledgement that, as Jocketty put it, "we've got a lot of work to do."
The question of who would fill Baker's shoes as manager hasn't been the only one swirling in the brisk Cincinnati air the past few weeks. The same voices who clamored for Baker's dismissal have now adopted battle cries of "Trade Votto" and "Trade Phillips."
Will the Reds unload two franchise faces in Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips? That's up to CEO Bob Castellini and Jocketty to decide.
One thing fans can count on is that the 2014 iteration of the club will be a new-look version.
Price likely will move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation, a move he advocated for last spring. That means the Reds' pitching staff will look a bit different -- it's been assumed for quite some time that free-agent starter Bronson Arroyo will be suiting up for a different team come April, and Tony Cingrani might find himself in the bullpen.
After an impressive 2013 season, free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is in a position to score a big contract, likely not with the Reds. And with Scott Boras as his agent, there's no doubt Choo's price tag will skyrocket. Long story short, the team could see Billy Hamilton patrolling the outfield full time.
But there will be fewer tangible changes, too. Price admitted in his news conference that some of Baker's situational decisions stymied him, a comment that will resonate with many armchair managers.
There will be changes. Because good enough isn't good enough for the Cincinnati club anymore. And whether or not you agree with the decision to hire Price, that fact in and of itself is commendable.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.