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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bryan Price

Bryan Price
Bryan Price (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Reds named Bryan Price the manager yesterday.  By all accounts, Price has been a fantastic pitching coach.  I remember the buzz when he was hired as a pitching coach, and the general feeling of how lucky the Reds were to get him.  Pitchers have had nothing but positive things to say about him since he started here, and the results have been superb.  I'm not convinced that you can really judge a coach by his results; you have no control group, after all.  But it's at least consistent with the idea that he's been a very successful coach.

I've been pretty excited to read the quotes from players about Price.  Probably the best, which everyone has seen but I'll repost it because I like it so much, is from Bronson Arroyo.
"I think he'd be unbelievable," Bronson Arroyo said when asked about Price as manager. "He's as organized as anyone in the game, he holds people as accountable as well as anyone I've seen. He doesn't buy into stereotypical things in the game, things that other people buy into that I don't feel are relevant. Price looks at evidence. He's a freaking smart guy, he makes his decision on reasonable evidence. Sometimes in baseball we go by hunches, what someone else said or they way things have gone in the past. He doesn't do that."
As a guy who watches baseball from a sabermetric angle most of the time, that's music to my ears.  I don't expect Price to be a sabermetric guy.  But if the principle way that he makes decisions is based on evidence--I don't care of its sabermetric evidence or scouting-based evidence--I'm happy.  It implies someone who has a scientific approach to the game, and someone who can make adjustments when the evidence is compelling.  Really, that's all I can ask for.

In any case, I have one short Bryan Price story.  This year, and I don't remember when, I was watching one of Homer Bailey's starts.  It was one of those games when he was just spectacular.  He was pumping good heat exactly where he wanted it, and had both his breaking ball and splitter fooling hitters all night.  When Homer was finally removed from the game, they showed a shot of Homer talking to Bryan Price in the dugout.  Price had his hand on Homer's shoulder, eyes locked on Homer's, and they were just talking.  Price had an enormous, proud smile on his face, and I imagined that he was basically asking Homer what it's like to have all of his hard work pay off.  Homer just looked so happy to get that kind of sincere praise.

I remember thinking about how remarkable that little interaction was.  I can't remember the last time I had an interaction like that.  It's not just that he was telling Homer that he'd been great.  It seemed clear that he and Price had developed an extremely close, working relationship.  It was one that allowed a kind of quiet, but sincere, effective, and personal praise.  How much better is that than the standard slap on the butt?  I remember thinking how lucky the Reds were to have him as their pitching coach.

That's what I keep thinking about when I think about Price as the Reds' manager.  I'm hoping he can develop that kind of relationship with all of the Reds' players.  It would go a long way toward satisfying that important part of managing: getting your players to buy into you as the manager, and allowing the manager to unify the club on a common path toward the ultimate goal.  If he can do that as well as Dusty did, at least in Dusty's earlier years with the club, and also be a sound tactical manager, the Reds could have someone pretty special here.

It's a time for optimism.  And I'm sure by next year, people will be frustrated with Price, just as they are with any manager.  But I can't help but feel like the Reds are pretty lucky to have Price, this time as their manager.