David Bell is not anything close to a Who. He was a successful player, 12 years in the majors with six teams. He managed four years in the Reds minor league system.
He was a third base coach with the Chicago Cubs and a bench coach with the St. Louis Cardinals and he is leaving his position as Director of Player Development for the San Francisco Giants to manage the Reds.
Some point out that his managerial record in the minors was below .500, as if that is a major detractor. It’s not. The purpose in the minors is not necessarily to win, it is to develop players for the major league team.
The fact that Brian Sabean, one of baseball’s most respected general managers, hired Bell as a director of player development for the Giants puts a huge stamp of approval on Bell’s forehead.
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Bell is not a nepotistic choice, not selected because his father, Buddy Bell, is a special advisor in the Reds front office. Even if he were, so what? Baseball is in the Bell family bloodstream, the family DNA is laced with baseball stitches, all connected to the Reds.
It starts with David’s grandfather, Gus Bell, a highly talented outfielder for the Reds from 1953 through 1961 and a member of the Reds Hall of Fame. It continues with David’s dad, Buddy. He played 18 years in the majors, finishing his career with the Reds for four years and was known as one of the all-time defensive wizards at third base. Then he managed Detroit, Colorado and Kansas City for three years each.
As Reds CEO Bob Castellini said, “You never go wrong with a Bell.”
As far as the last man standing, that’s probably true and is not a negative. He was one of three candidates to be asked back for a second interview after 12 men were interviewed originally.
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Of the three, Joe Girardi, The People’s Choice, withdrew his name and Brad Ausmus was hired to replace Mike Scioscia with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
That left Bell, but he also interviewed for the vacant jobs with the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays and probably could have accepted either one. He chose the Reds and the Reds chose him.
Some fans say the Reds are obsessed with hiring hometowners. While father Bell played for the Reds, son Bell played high school baseball for Cincinnati Moeller. Did those same fans object to Pete Rose as manager and did most of them want to see Barry Larkin in the manager’s chair? Many did and expressed it on social media.
The bottom line with this hire is that, yes, he has experience at several baseball levels, his DNA has baseball splashed all over it, and he was desired by more teams than the Reds.
Bell says he plans to embrace all facets of the game, including the analytics so dominant in today’s ever-changing game.
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Plus, he has ingested the experience he gained from playing for so many big-name managers and he named Mike Hargrove, Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella, Dusty Baker, Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel.
“The great thing about it is that they were all different and all had unbelievable strengths,” he said. “As a player you watch things. The most important thing is to be yourself. You find out what is going to work with your own style.”
The main thing to consider is that hiring David Bell does not cure all evils surrounding the Reds. Neither Bryan Price, fired last season after a 3-and-15 start, nor his replacement, Jim Riggleman, had a fighting chance. They had both hands tied behind their backs and a gag in their mouths.
Hiring a manager was, of course, important, but the top priority is ahead — either/or signing top level starting pitchers or making trades for them.
Trading established major leaguers for prospects/suspects has run its course under the so-called rebuild. It isn’t working, especially with pitchers.
If that isn’t addressed and addressed promptly, failing to win 70 games and finishing last in one of baseball’s toughest divisions won’t earn Bell hazard pay. It will only lead to another managerial search before his three-year contract expires.
Dick Williams, director of baseball operations, addressed it at Monday’s press conference as Bell slipped on Reds uniform No. 25, the same number his father wore.
“This is just one of many steps we have in front of us,” he said. “We have to continue to improve in every aspect of our baseball operations. It is an ongoing challenge.”
Of hiring Bell, Williams said, “We wanted somebody who will use all the tools at our collective disposal to maximize the performance and value of each player as an individual, while also maximizing the performance of the team as a unit. That’s why I think David will be a great fit for us.”
Said Bell, “This is an incredible opportunity and an amazing responsibility in this city that means so much to me and my family. This is something I have thought about for a long time and been preparing for for a long time. I can’t wait to get started.”
As for interviewing for other jobs and choosing the Reds, Bell said, “It all begins with the ties I’ve had in Cincinnati and the people I have worked with. I couldn’t be more confident in the people that are in place here. I do have relationships here and that was the main thing. It is what I always wanted and dreamed about.”
For the sake of win-starved and success-starved Reds fans everywhere, it is hoped that Bell’s dream isn’t another nightmare.