It was clear that something had to be done and done fast.
A 3-15 start, with two straight games in which the Cincinnati Reds were shut out, getting three hits in each game, was the perfect time to make a change.
So Two Good Men took the fall — manager Bryan Price and pitching coach Mack Jenkins, a man who has devoted 32 years of his life to the Cincinnati Reds.
Neither need shoulder the blame. Point some fingers, too, at the organization that furnished them the players and point more than a couple of fingers at the underachieving players.
The Reds are not contenders, not even close. But even a bad team shouldn’t lose 15 of its first 18 games.
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So manager Price and pitching coach Jenkins were swept out the door Wednesday night, just hours after the Reds lost their second straight 2-0 game to the Milwaukee Brewers.
“Our start is disappointing, so change had to happen,” said general manager Dick Williams. “Even though it is early in the season, we haven’t had the start we hoped to have so we decided to act now. We had to be proactive in doing what we think needs to be fixed.”
Firing Price and Jenkins are minor fixes, mere band-aids on a badly wounded organization that seems to have no Grand Plan other than to hope young prospects come through and come through quickly.
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Even though the offense has been as moribund as the pitching, hitting coach Don Long retained his job while pitching coach Jenkins was let go.
“Our pitching is the area we are most fixed upon in our rebuilding process and we want to see our young pitchers develop and get better,” said Williams. The Reds pitching staff has a 5.42 earned run average, 29th worst of the 30 major league teams.
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The pitchers will hear a new voice from new pitching coach Danny Darwin, brought up from Class AA Pensacola. That, too, seems curious. Why not Ted Power, the assistant pitching coach. Power is highly regarded, especially from the Reds pitchers, many of whom pitched for Power when he was pitching coach at Triple-A Louisville.
The new manager, on an interim basis, is veteran baseball man Jim Riggleman. He was Price's bench coach and has managerial experience in San Diego, the Chicago Cubs, Seattle and Washington.
Riggleman brings a large pot full of leadership skills and will be in the running to be permanent manager, based on how he does the rest of the season, although that is unlikely.
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Williams said the organization will do an exhaustive search from within and from the outside to find a permanent manager for next year. While he didn’t say it, Barry Larkin probably is a No. 1 candidate, although some in the organization aren’t happy that Larkin had been campaigning for the job while Price was still manager.
And the Reds also promoted Louisville manager Pat Kelly to become Riggleman’s bench coach and Kelly has had outstanding success managing his way up through the team’s minor league system. The Reds also recently hired former Toronto and Boston manager John Farrell to work in the minor league system.
“I take this job under difficult circumstances,” said Riggleman. “Bryan Price is a great man and a great friend. I’m getting his job under circumstances that no one wants to get a job.
“I love to manage and I have a passion for it,” he added. “We coaches are at fault, too. We just weren’t getting the job done.”
Riggleman said his mission will be in the details.
“We will try to win ball games, simple as that,” said Riggleman. “We have talented players who can get the job done. We have to emphasize the details. Yes, it starts with pitching and hitting. But we have to emphasize the details.
Williams emphasized that Price and Jenkins were not considered scapegoats and that responsibility for the dreadful state of affairs filters throughout the organization.
“We all need to take our share of the blame and this is just the first step to make things right,” said Williams.
At the same time, though, he said the team is much better than 3-15 and believes Riggleman can still help make something out of this ravaged season.
No, it wasn’t Price’s fault that his record was 279-387 and the team finished last three years in a row. They are not constructed to win and once again the team is ravaged by injuries. But it was evident to ownership that the fan base, as dwindling as it has been, needs to have a reason to go to games.
And as baseball savvy was Riggleman is, don’t expect any major or even minor miracles.
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