Dick Williams sat down for a Zoom interview Saturday afternoon looking much like the Cincinnati Reds players who talked to the media from the same seat the previous night. His elation was evident.
“How are you guys doing?” Williams asked reporters.
“How are you?" one reporter asked Williams.
“I’m having a good time, man,” Williams said. “I’m really happy.”
The Reds clinched a playoff berth with a 7-2 victory Friday against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis. They will play in the postseason Wednesday for the first time since the lost a wild-card game to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013. They will play multiple games in the postseason — the wild-card round includes eight best-of-three series, four each in league — for the first time since they lost a division series 3-2 to the San Francisco Giants in 2012.
Williams worked under General Manager Walt Jocketty the last the Reds advanced to the playoffs. He was promoted to General Manager in 2016 and was named president of baseball operations in 2018 when Nick Krall was promoted to general manager.
The Reds overcame a season of inconsistency to make a playoff run by winning 10 of 12 games. They took advantage of a revamped playoff system. A 162-game season was shortened to 60 games because of the coronavirus pandemic. The playoff field expanded from 10 teams to 16.
Williams remembers meeting virtually with his staff the night before Opening Day and saying to them, “Some organization or organizations are going to have an unbelievable 2020. This could end up being the greatest year of some group of players' lives. To go out and make the postseason and advance in the postseason, why couldn’t that be us? I’m so happy for these guys, for the staff that made it happen.”
On that same call, Williams dedicated his season to the members of the scouting and player-development department who weren’t able to go to work this season.
“I know a lot of industries and a lot of people across the country were affected very negatively,” Williams said. “For us in the Reds family, we had a lot of employees who didn’t get to go to work and do what they love. Our player-development people didn’t get to coach this year. They lost the season. Our scouts didn’t get to go to ballparks. Even though our season was shortened, we had the pleasure and the honor of going to the park and representing the Reds. I’ll never forget that.”
Williams also won’t forget the moment this season turned. The Reds were 20-26 on Sept. 13 and trailed the Cardinals 5-3 through five innings. Williams, who traveled to every road game with the team, turned on a song called “Better Days” by One Republic in his suite to improve the mood.
The Reds then scored seven runs in the last four innings, winning 10-5. The next day, Tyler Stephenson hit a walk-off home run in the seventh in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Pirates. The Reds won both games that day, swept the four-game series and ended up winning six games in a row.
“I really have felt connected to the emotion of the team every step of the way and marveled that they’ve been able to keep it together, stay positive, stay resilient,” Williams said. “We took a lot of heat in the middle of the season for believing in our group and pointing to reasons why we felt it could turn around. I’m not oblivious to the fact that there was a lot criticism and ridicule pointed my way, but in this type of environment, you have no choice but to stick to your guns. We built this team with conviction and with a goal in mind. Sometimes it takes a little time for that to bubble to the top. I’m really glad it did in such an exciting fashion.”