I’ll be honest. I didn’t see this coming. I thought this stumble and bumble to the finish line by the Reds would seal David Bell's fate…….I thought sure he’d be tossed under the bus to create distance between this collapse and ownership/front office.
But Bell's back. He gets a two-year extension. Good for him. Good luck to him.
Criticizing Bell is low hanging fruit. It’s easy for fans. I get a kick out of fans that blame Bell for each loss while never offering any credit for his role in wins.
But here’s what I find fascinating: If the Reds have opted to not make a new manager the shiny object to distract/excite fans, I wonder what will they will do to restore credibility and recapture faith of the fanbase after this disappointing season?
Bell has his quirks that bother fans. But many fans don't pay attention to teams other than the Reds. The reality is that Bell manages like most managers today. It's based a lot on analytics and the concepts of matchups and versatility. No, he doesn’t yank his pitcher earlier than most ML managers. No, he doesn’t use too many lineups. That’s MLB today. I know fans long for the Big Red Machine and the 70’s. I know you long for a manager that throws a base.
For better or for worse, this is 2021.
Bell was handed a team stripped of parts by ownership. A 2020 third place team that lost a Cy Young winner, punted two quality relievers and cut payroll. And for 130 games Bell squeezed all he could out of this team. Fans saw it and demanded help for a team they embraced. Bullpen help. Bench help. Any kind of help.
Nick Krall scraped together three bullpen arms at the deadline. But so much energy and resilience was sapped from this team by the devastation of blown lead after blown lead. This team was on borrowed time and then had to go without Jesse Winker for 27 games. Krall did toss two bones to Bell in the final weeks: Asdrubal Cabrera and Delino DeShields. One is still looking for his first hit (0-for-20), the other is 5 for 29. You know how those moves played with you. Just imagine how they played in the clubhouse.
I certainly won’t absolve Bell of all blame. He certainly has fingerprints on this fade.
I grew weary of his “this will turn”….and “we are ok” talking points. That patience and optimism is commendable. It plays well for the 162 game big picture. But things were not ok at the most important point of the season. The tone had to change. The urgency meter had to be cranked up. It was the equivalent of a jockey making the final turn and needing to go to the whip with his horse. Bell didn’t. The players appeared to respond as if everything was going to be ok.
And while I appreciate his loyalty and support of his players, his needle must move more to side of the greater good of the 26-man roster superseding the feelings of one player.
Yes, Bell owns a losing record in nearly three seasons: 184-190. He also navigated Covid-19 last season and his team responded with 11 wins over their final 14 games of the regular season to clinch an expanded playoff spot. This season he navigated injuries to Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, Mike Moustakas, Nick Senzel, Michael Lorenzen, Tejay Antone and others. He had to manage around his front office and owner while the Brewers made additions to win the NL Central and the Cardinals added help to steal the wild card. Bell actually had this team 12 games over .500. That should be viewed as a near miracle.
Then the bottom fell out.
Team President Dick Williams saw into the future of the Reds and packed up his stuff and left last offseason. Eric Lee, Senior Director of Player Development saw enough and followed him. Minor league pitching coordinator Kyle Boddy and minor league hitting coordinator CJ Gillman saw enough of Year 1 of the Nick Krall Era to bolt. They walked out the door delivering the zinger of “The Reds are moving in a different direction in many areas of player development.”
Bell's team almost, almost was able to get the organization off the hook and make the playoffs after ownership punted the season.
But here we are. I’ve lost faith in this ownership. I lack faith in this GM.
They wasted the seasons of the likes of Votto, Castellanos, India, Farmer, Winker and others.
What's next? I have no idea. But I guess retaining Bell provides a scapegoat to shield the organization for two more years.