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Billy Reed: For underachieving Reds, the (Bryan) Price just isn’t right — it’s time to make a move

When the Cincinnati Reds hired Bryan Price to replace the fired Dusty Baker as manager, I wrote that it was a mistake. It was a matter of hiring a good company man who came cheap and would take the hits as the franchise conducted a fire sale of high-priced talent.

As the front office tore up the team and then began to rebuild, I felt the team still could be competitive with the right leadership. A solid corps of everyday players remained. There were a lot of young pitchers who seemed to have promise.

Unfortunately, under Price, the Reds have underachieved even those modest expectations. Oh, I realize there have been a lot of injuries. But every team has injuries. Something else has doomed the Reds to being worse than they need be – and I believe it’s lack of vision and leadership both in the clubhouse and the front office.

The front office, besides hiring Price and sticking with him, gave Homer Bailey big money that should go to the mainstay of the pitching staff. But Homer doesn’t have the temperament or the toughness to be a mainstay. That money should have gone to Johnny Cueto.

Bryan Price may be a nice guy, a great family man, and a lover of stray dogs. But he could not lead a thirsty person to water (Twitter Photo)

The front office also should have gotten more for Aroldis Chapman, and, most egregiously, has let the farm system grow stale and unproductive. Consider the Louisville Bats, for example. They are in last place in their division of the International League. They are mainly the place where the confused and frustrated young pitchers go to get their heads straight.

Price may be a nice guy, a great family man, and a lover of stray dogs. But he could not lead a thirsty person to water. If he has a personality, it is impossible to see with the naked eye. He is not witty, charming, or clever.

He has the pitching staff screwed up beyond all recognition, however. Only a handful seem to know and like their roles. The rest want to be starters, not relief pitchers. He has mismanaged them as badly as he has Billy Hamilton, who still hasn’t learned to bunt or know the strike zone.

Either Hamilton is dumb or stubborn, or Price is just a bad teacher.

And then there’s this: Going into the current home series against Milwaukee, Price has a career winning percentage of .428. That’s the lowest of any Reds’ skipper who managed a full season since Luke Sewell had a .426 percentage from 1949-52.

In the dugout, Price is a stoic. He looks and acts more like an undertaker than a baseball manager. It’s difficult to imagine him inspiring anybody. This is deadly for the Reds. When you don’t have players with strong leadership skills, it’s essential that the manager have a strong personality.

In other words, it’s way past time for Price to go. He’s had more than enough chance to prove he can win and he just hasn’t done it. The fans seem to know that, even if the front office doesn’t, which explains why a lot of people seem to be finding other ways to spend their money and time.

The Reds don’t have to be as bad as they are, folks. In Adam Duvall, Hamilton, and Scott Schebler, they have an excellent outfield. Joey Votto at first base and Zack Cozart at shortstop are perennial All-Star candidates, and Devin Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart give them solid catching.

When Cozart gets off the disabled list, Jose Peraza will move back to second and Eugenio Suarez will stay at third. But Price can’t relegate Scooter Gennett to the bench. He has been the surprise of the season’s first half, most notably smashing four homers in one game against the Cardinals.

Truth be told, the team may be better with Gennett on second and Peraza on the bench, but Price isn’t known for his flexibility. He sticks to his plan, even if it means taking out pitchers who are getting batters out.

All season, the Reds have carried 13 pitchers. That’s a lot, folks. It’s sort of like what happens when an airline overbooks a flight. There isn’t room for everybody. So pitchers languish in the bullpen waiting for Price to make up his mind about who belongs where. The bullpen should have yellow tape around it because it’s a crime zone.

The crowds should be larger because the Reds are a fun team to watch. Any team that can hit and score runs is fun. Plus, you’re liable to see the fleet Hamilton do something on the base paths or in the field that you’ve never seen before. Votto is well on his way to having a statue outside the stadium some day.

And so forth.

But the team and the fans need a spark, and the most obvious way to get that is to get rid of the the manager. The Price isn’t right, at least for this Reds team. But they can’t hire just any old replacement. They need to spend the money to get a proven winner and an exciting personality.

Don’t ask me whom that should be. I was perfectly happy with Baker, who wanted to stay. I’d be happy with Jim Riggleman, at least as an interim for the rest of the season.

I was upset in 1993 when Reds’ general manager Jim Bowden fired team icon Tony Perez after only 44 games. The team was 20-24 when Perez was canned. By today’s standards, that .455 percentage would be cause for a parade around the Carew Tower.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award twice. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades, but he is perhaps one of media’s most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby

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