CINCINNATI — It was early afternoon when Homer Bailey walked into the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse and spotted a media horde hanging around.
“Must be nothing going on in Cincinnati,” he said, pulling off his well-worn cowboy boots. “We’re 2-and-9 and all you media people are here.”
It was suspected that some were hanging around for a funeral because many consider Bryan Price a Dead Manager Walking.
Social media is awash with demands for Price’s head on the end of a broken baseball bat.
While there is no doubt he eventually will be The Fall Guy, through few faults of his own. As one man said, “If Sparky Anderson pulled a Lazarus and rose from the dead he couldn’t win with this team.”
So whose fault is it that the Reds are in this palpable mess? This team is not constructed to compete, so whose fault is that? Bryan Price? Not even close.
Yes, he has made some chin-scratching moves, but what manager doesn’t? He also has made some wise and profitable decisions for which he gets no credit because the team is 2-and-9.
—Starting with the most obvious, the Reds lead baseball with eight players on the disabled list, including two starting pitchers (Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan), two regulars who were the best hitters when they got hurt (Scott Schebler, Eugenio Suarez) and a couple of key bullpen operatives (Michael Lorenzen, David Hernandez). Whose fault is that? Price is no more at blame for injuries than is the medical staff. Hang that one on Mother Nature.
—The Reds pitching staff is last in the majors with a 5.59 earned run average. Is that Price’s fault or is it the fault of the front office, the ones who put together this pitching staff with the hopes it would get better and better.
—The Reds have scored 34 runs, next-to-last in the National League and they’ve hit seven homers. Only the Miami Marlins have hit fewer (six). Is that Price’s fault, too? Or does management take a bow for a feeble offense.
—Reds pitchers have given up 17 home runs, most in the league, and hit only seven, worst in the league. You can no more blame Price for that than you can Blame it on Rio.
Price stands about No. 3 in this Blame Game, behind the front office who provide the pieces and behind the players who had to perform to the best of their abilities.
But guess who is going to go if this losing epidemic keeps spreading? It will be Price and he might be the first manager fired this season and one that doesn’t deserve all the blowback.
ONE OF THE TEAM’S major issues is the slow start of Joey Votto, which is nothing new. His history is that of slow starts and monster finishes.
So far this season, 11 games in, Votto has made 47 plate appearances and has zero extra base hits, only two walks and only three RBI.
Price made a startling move Thursday in the first game of a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Votto was on the bench, the first time he hasn’t started at first base in 202 games. He played all 162 last year and said, “That’s my No. 1 goal, to play all 162.”
That isn’t going to happen and Price said this won’t be Votto’s only day off this season.
“In order for him to be productive, and stay productive, we have to look at this (days off),” said Price. “He’ll be 35 in September, but asking him to take on the biggest work load, which I asked him to do last year, isn’t reasonable to believe we’ll do that over the course of his contract.”
Price said the day off was via mutual agreement.
“We have kept an open dialogue and he understands and appreciates the value of being in the lineup,” said Price. “Yes, I may have to take the lead on this and say, ‘You need to take a day off.’ But he appreciates that he needs to rest now and then.”
That, of course, doesn’t mean Votto can relax on the bench in clogs and a Hawaiian shirt. He’ll be in uniform, ready to pinch-hit.
“I’ve never given a player a total day and told him he doesn’t have to have his spikes on,” said Price. “If we have a chance to win a game with Votto taking a big at bat, we’ll do that. But I’d like to keep him out of the game otherwise.”
IT WASN’T A PITCHING line in the minors that would seem to earn a pitcher on rehab a start in a major league rotation, but it appears what Brandon Finnegan did for the Louisville Bats was enough.
The best thing he did was throw 98 pitches, which took him through five innings during which he gave up four runs, eight hits, walked two and struck out five for Louisville against the Columbus Clippers.
Said Price, “He’ll be pitching for us when he makes his next start.” That possibly will happen Saturday against the Cardinals, although Cody Reed remains the listed starter for that game.
“I threw a lot good pitches, even though the umpire and I were not seeing eye-to-eye and he is the minor leagues for a reason,” said Finnegan. “I threw some very good pitches and my misses were very small. My command was really good, even though the box score says it wasn’t.
“I was happy with my start,” he added. “I had some rough spots but got out of them pretty well. I don’t know what else I have to do to pitch up here I threw 98 pitches, the most I’ve thrown in about a year-and-a-half. And I came out feeling good. That was the key — getting my pitch count up and feeling good and I did both.”