Bryan Price isn’t used to this.
Not the leadership position, but rather the offseason attention.
“(The Reds) had a disappointing single playoff game, and what we typically do is we pack up all our stuff and wherever home is, we go there and at least you go a month or six weeks where you don’t have a ton of baseball stuff to do,” Price said. “So to go from there to right back in here, it’s overwhelming.”
As for being skipper, Price is ready to take the bull by the horns.
“Understanding that I was going to go through the interview process led me to start thinking about the ball club from a manager perspective... Every time I would wake up in the middle of the night I couldn’t go back to sleep because all the things that you think about over the course of a lifetime as a coach are now coming front and center with the opportunity to try to implement some of these ideas,” Price said.
Just five days after he got the call and two days after his official announcement as the Reds 61st manager, Price said the word “accountable” eight times in WCPO’s 1-on-1 interview with him Thursday. You can watch the full interview above.
But first things first, Price needs to connect the dots after making the leap from pitching coach to manager.
“There is an order of things we need to do leading up to spring training, certainly putting our coaching staff together, having contact with all the players, creating even further dialogue in particular with the position players because most of them I don’t speak with in the offseason,” Price said.
As for what’s going to be different this year, Price is starting at square one.
“One of the important things is getting perspective from the players, guys on the field. I would love to get some perspective from our core group of guys to see our season through their eyes, it certainly was a disappointment at the end, we expected more,” Price said. “Just knocking things down trying to be proactive going into spring training so these guys arrive and get here with an understanding of what our intentions are, what our goals are and what our expectations are of the club.”
Price touts accountability as his mantra, but he is conscious of his style and what he thinks works as a leader.
“I hope that I’m approachable, I’ve always felt that is a strength... I like communication, I like people. We’re trying to be unified in a common goal… We know we had a missed opportunity this year,” Price said.
And while he’s a good communicator with a respected presence in the clubhouse, Price says his comfortably uncomfortable relationship with the pitchers should translate well to the whole team.
“(The relationships are) good and they’re positive and they’re productive relationships, but there’s an accountability, not simply to performance, guys aren’t going to perform every day, we can’t expect these guy to be on the top of their game every time. If that were the case we’d be the best team in baseball, we’d be unbeatable.
“There’s a right way and wrong way to play the game, and I think it’s very black and white. There’s a type of effort and energy that you put into preparation in playing the game of baseball. We’re all employees, we all have accountability to be good employees, and how do we hold ourselves accountable to those responsibilities?”
Price defines his role as the voice of the team, the one who defends the club, motivates the club and, you guessed it, the one who holds the club accountable to the direction the team is going in.
“Creating an identity to your team is very much in the hands of the manager,” Price said.
The Reds new manager concentrates so much on accountability because there were mistakes that went unanswered in 2013, and were repeated as a result, leading to the untimely end to a promising team’s run.
“(Accountability is) the ability to avoid repeat mistakes… and we’re all guilty of it. When we talk about our team on the field, everyone looks at that as our 25 players or our starting lineup… as coaches, we have an obligation to push our players in the direction which we want them to play and we had repeat mistakes in every area of our game, and it continued to happen. We didn’t necessarily get better at those issues we struggled with early in the season at the end of the season, and it cost us.”
With all the criticism that fell on Dusty Baker during his tenure as Reds skipper, Price can expect the same, but says that second-guessing is deserved for coaches who are just as much a part of the team as the players.
“We hold ourselves accountable when things don’t go right even if we weren’t on the field. If our pitching staff gives up six runs and we lose 6-5, that’s a game we should have won, what did we miss in our preparation? Even if there’s nothing we could have done any
better, there’s an accountability to that.”
Price is taking over as the leader of the clubhouse, but outside of the vocal Ryan Ludwick, the team has been lacking a true leader inside the locker room that can help keep the players headed in the right direction.
“I think what we need is for our best players and our iconic players to set the tone to the style of play that the Reds play on a daily basis. We have iconic players now that we can ask a bit more of Joey (Votto), Brandon (Phillips) and Jay (Bruce) as guys that can really set tone for us.
“(We need) somebody in the starting rotation that will hold the rest of the starters accountable to their preparation and behavior on the field.
“I think those are things that we need and those are things we can develop here, we just need to set those as goals.”
Once Price gets past setting a tone in the clubhouse, he has three things he wants to focus on getting better at to go deeper into 2014’s postseason: Situational hitting, baserunning, and helping younger players reach their potential.
“We have strength in the starting rotation, if you don’t have strength in the starting rotation it can be tough to win. We’ve got a very good bullpen, to the first guy in the game to the last. We’ve got an outstanding core group of players.
“What it’s going to come down to… we weren’t a great situational offensive club, we weren’t a great baserunning club, we didn’t have a great deal of team speed; we know those things, we know we can improve on them.
“We also have some young players that have yet to hit, I don’t want to say their prime, but haven’t maxed out their ability yet. So we’re either going to go into this optimistic that the guys that have room for improvement have the ability to do that, or we’re going to find some better players.”
Who might those better players be? Price says they need to look internally before shopping around.
“First and foremost we have to look at the guys that we have on our 40-man roster. How are we going to utilize them and maximize their ability? Who is a good fit with this group, and who isn’t? Who gives us what we need, who’s a little bit short? Where do we have to improve? Looking at what we have here first is the most important thing.
“Secondarily, who outside our organization can fill some holes for us?”
To spur the offense, Price said he won’t hesitate to reorganize the batting order many Reds fans have come to be able to predict day-in and day-out.
“I think there will probably be some differences. I certainly think there will be some personnel differences as well; it would be very difficult for us to come back with exactly the same ball club. Not because we wouldn’t want to, but we may not be able to financially. There may be a need to get certain types of players at the expense of us having to move some of our guys. That’s again something I don’t have any idea which direction that’s going to go.
“We’ve got to put guys in the best positions to succeed. We can’t spit out the exact same club in the exact same order and expect different results.”
Price still isn’t budging on a decision about Aroldis Chapman’s role, but he did say he doesn’t want the same uncertainty the team had about where the Cuban Missile fit going into the regular season.
“There will be a bit of internal dialogue. I think we need to cement his position, get him ready to pitch and hit the ground running.”
As for the rest of the rotation, Price is happy with the success of 2013, but says there is room for improvement, specifically in the health department.
“We’re seeing the evolution of Homer Bailey, we’ve seen the evolution of Johnny Cueto. Certainly having Cueto healthy for a full season changes the dynamic of our rotation, having Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall healthy all season changes the look of our ball club.
“Mat Latos is ready to bust out there like a Roger Clemens type guy. He’s going to be out there, it’s going to be a battle every bit of 110, 115, 120 pitches with great stuff, he continues to grow emotionally because where he’s vulnerable is when he gets down on himself, so there’s plenty of room on all sides of this team to get better.”
With changes comes uncertainty, and Price will need to build a new kind of chemistry through all this talk of holding each member of the team accountable.
“Winning helps. Anytime you can get people to unite for a common goal, that’s a good thing. I think we all have to view it in a similar way on what good baseball looks like, what good preparation looks like. How do we hold each other accountable to this, and how do we create that in the clubhouse? How do we make it more comfortable for one player to go up to the next player and say ‘Hey man, I think there’s a better way to do that’? How do we get a greater connectivity between our coaching staff and our players so we feel united?
"The thing is anymore is that when you want to explain a better way to do something a lot of people take that as criticism; it’s constructive criticism. We have to
be able to constructively criticize or continue to coach these guys to be better because there’s a lot of room for improvement with this group. You ask anybody ‘Would you like to be a better player this year than you were last year?’ The answer would always be yes.”
The era of accountability has begun in Cincinnati.