Were Reds coaches a major fault?

So now we know why the Cincinnati Reds finished last in the National League Central. Now we know why they lost 98 games. Now we know why they finished 36 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was the fault of bench coach Jay Bell. He must have given manager Bryan Price tons of awful advice. So he was fired.

It was the fault of pitching coach Jeff Pico. He couldn’t overnight turn all those rookie pitchers into Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson and Clayton Kershaw. So he was fired.

IF THEY FEEL THAT firing two coaches is going to magically turn the Reds into the Cardinals, Cubs or Pirates, well, it is going to be a long, long year in 2016. And speaking of long, the Reds did keep hitting coach Don Long.

To be honest, there were some grumblings in the clubhouse late in the season about some of the coaching and one player said, “I have no problem with (manager) Bryan Price. He just surrounded himself with some incompetent coaches.” No names were given but it can be ascertained that Bell and Pico were included in that assessment.

And one move makes good sense if Bell wasn’t the answer. General Manager Walt Jocketty named Jim Riggleman, last year’s third base coach, as Price’s bench coach. Riggleman has made several stops along the way as a major league manager and his knowledge and experience should greatly help Price with his decision-making in the dugout.

TO REPLACE RIGGLEMAN, first base coach Billy Hatcher will move to third base coach and Freddie Benavides will coach first base while maintaining his position as infield coach. And Hatcher will continue as outfield coach.

Mark Riggins is the new pitching coach and he has an extensive pitching background. He served as the minor league pitching coordinator

for the Cardinals from 1996 to 2007. He served in the same capacity for the Chicago Cubs from 2008 to 2010 and was the Cubs pitching coach in 2011. For the past four years he has been Cincinnati’s minor league pitching coordinator.

ALSO RETURNING ARE assistant pitching coach Mack Jenkins and catching coordinator Mike Stefanski.

Now that the Reds have identified the coaching culprits, it is time to identify the on-the-field culprits and what they need to do to fix it.

It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. It could take three or four years and that’s if they do everything right. And who does everything right.

The best trading chip is closer Aroldis Chapman. Everybody saw how often Chapman was needed in his closing role (not often) and how often he was used in other capacities, like coming into games in the eighth inning (hardly every).

By trading Chapman the Reds could acquire a legitimate left fielder and a few top prospects or bullpenners. While the Reds reload, retool or reboot — whatever it is they say they are going to do — they can groom Mike Lorenzen as the closer. It is the job he did in college at Cal State-Fullerton. He played center field and then came to the mound in the ninth inning to close games.

There are some nice free agent chips out there — can you say Daniel Murphy or Yoenis Cespedes? Can the New York Mets keep both? Probably not. But can the Reds afford even one of them? Probably not.

Jocketty is on record as saying a priority is the Reds’ bullpen. He brought in Kevin Gregg (a disaster) and Burke Badenhop (Mr. Inconsistent) last winter and that didn’t work.

Can the Reds trade Jay Bruce? Do they want to trade Jay Bruce? Can Eugenio Suarez play left field? Do the Reds want him to play left field?

There are a couple other big questions within the current roster, too. Will Devin Mesoraco be able to catch after his hip surgery? Will Zack Cozart be the same after his ACL surgery. Those are questions for spring training.

But between now and then many other facets must be addressed. Now that the coaching dilemma is solved, Jocketty can turn his attention to things much more important than tinkering with the coaching staff.

Get to it, Walt.

 

 


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