For Dick Williams, the Reds organization is part of his DNA

For Dick Williams, the Reds organization is part of his DNA
Posted at 7:29 AM, Feb 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-23 08:38:12-05

GOODYEAR, Arizona -- Dick Williams' ultimate goal, as president of Reds baseball operations, is to be able to celebrate a trip to the World Series -- legally.

That last bit needs a spot of explanation. The last time the Reds went to the World Series was 1990. Williams, then 19, said he celebrated the clinching victory against Pittsburgh a bit too exuberantly.

That's putting it nicely. Williams got arrested for running onto the field to celebrate the 2-1 victory that sent the Reds to the Series.

Reds closer Randy Myers gets a strikeout for the last out in the 1990 NLCS with the Pirates. A young Dick Williams would take the opportunity to run onto the field in celebration.

True story. Fox Sports Ohio found the clip.

"I've got the ticket from when I was arrested on the wall in my office," Williams said. "I said, 'My goal is to run on the field with the team and not be in danger of getting arrested.'"

It's a good story to tell, but it also illustrates Williams' deep roots to the franchise.

Williams is now running the team as general manager and president of baseball operations. His father, Joseph Jr., is chairman of the Reds. Tom, Dick's uncle, is vice chairman and treasurer. Dick's grandfather, William Sr., was vice president and part owner from 1966 to '82.

That's blue-blood stuff. But the fact that Williams behaved like any other 19-year-old in a franchise moment of joy has to endear him to blue-collar fans.

Williams' earliest memories of the Reds are after the 1975 and '76 championship years.

"I didn't go to those World Series," he said. "My parents went and left me at home. I don't remember watching them on TV. By the late '70s, I have very good memories of going to spring training. I've got a picture of me in Reds uniform being bat boy, probably around 1980 down at Al Lopez Field."

Williams thinks this makes him more driven for success, more invested in the franchise than your average general manager.

"I think it really does," Williams said. "It's the only job I'll ever do. I grew up around this team. When I'm home in Cincinnati, all of my friends and acquaintances are all Reds fans. Those are my buddies. I don't get away from it. I don't spend the offseason back in my hometown. I don't have family in another city to go home to.

"I live it and breathe it. It definitely makes it more personal for me."

Time to show what he can do

Williams, 45, joined the front office before the 2006 season when his family bought a share of the team. He worked as a special assistant, then as assistant general manager until being promoted to general manager before last season. He took over as head of baseball operations after last season when Walt Jocketty moved to a consulting role.

Williams now has the final say in terms of baseball decisions, but the front office staff remains much the same as it was under Jocketty.

Dick Williams addresses the media after being named Reds general manager in 2015.

"I think the way we do stuff, the way we talk about stuff is still very much a collaborative effort," Williams said. "From that perspective -- a lot of the decision on trades, waiver claims, signing, it's the cumulative effect of a lot of reports. It's really not a one-man deal. It's team effort, and we've got mostly the same supporting cast.

"That part of it has not changed a lot. What's been new is articulating the plan. Talking about it more and having more influence."

Williams takes over the team as it is in the latter stages of a rebuilding job. He will ultimately be judged by whether the team gets back to winning and how soon.

"I think he'll do a good job if he's allowed to do his job," longtime Reds radio voice Marty Brennaman said, "without a lot of extraneous input unless he requests it. I've likened his situation to a baby bird. When it comes time to fly, you've got to let him jump out of the nest. If can't fly, he can't fly. But you're never going to know unless you let him do his thing."

When Williams' family was involved in ownership previously, the baseball people -- Bob Howsam, Dick Wagner -- ran that side of the operation autonomously. That is not the case these days.

Bob Castellini, who Williams has known his whole life, is a hands-on owner.

Reds owner Bob Castellini is known for being hands-on with the team.

"He's very involved in this business," Williams said. "He's really wanting to learn. He's taken the time to learn with us, with our people. He's out for all of spring training. He's at almost all of the home games -- if not all. You'll see him talking to coaches, players. He wants to pick everyone's brain.

"He's passionate. We talk a lot about the stuff that's going on. That's just his management style."

The fact that Castellini picked Williams to take over for Jocketty is a sign he trusts him and thinks he can take the franchise to the next step.

Bringing new approaches

Williams was an investment banker before joining the Reds.

"I think my investment banking background was all important in shaping me into the executive I am," Williams said. "I just learned a lot about running businesses. I think nowadays these baseball operations departments are big businesses. The dollars are we're talking about are bigger. The number of employees.

"It's also being aware of the strategic direction of your enterprise, making sure you're making investments in technology, the people and giving them the right resources, and looking at it from 50,000 feet. Make sure you're covering the international markets in the right way, make sure you've got the right amount of resources allocated.

"That's the part of the job I felt well-prepared for."

As for other parts of the job, Williams knows what he doesn't know.

"I'll never catch up in terms of the scouting aspects," he said. "Sitting behind home plate and trying to recognize different pitches or when a pitcher's getting in trouble, I'll leave that to the experts."

Where Williams has made his mark -- besides players moves -- is in brining the Reds more into the modern era.

"We made a lot changes off the field in terms of our investment," he said. "I like to talk a lot about it. That was a big deal for us -- putting more resources into player development, personnel, analytics and sports sciences, buying new products, putting new people into those roles. That's what I felt like was my biggest accomplishment."

Some examples: The Reds added a fourth coach to all minor league affiliates; Charles Ledden, the director of Sports Science Initiatives, was hired; and the analytics department added four positions.

"Dick wants to be proactive with everything," Ledden said.

Getting buy-in important

None of the analytics and sports science stuff works unless the players and coaches are invested.

"For the most part, the approach is to inform them of the resources," Williams said. "Then let them gravitate toward what they want to do. You never want to shove it down their throats. We have a very young roster, guys whose careers are in front off them. They want access to things that will make them better. I feel like they've been very open-minded about the advances that have been made in technology, nutrition. We're all sort of going up this learning curve together."

Pitching coach Mack Jenkins, in his 30th year with the club, has bought in.

"They've given us good tools," Jenkins said. "We've really moved forward with all the guys we've hired. I enjoy it. You have to use it or you're behind the times."

Williams tinkered with the roster leading to spring training. He added veterans right-hander Scott Feldman, traded Brandon Phillips, added bench players Ryan Raburn and Desmond Jennings, and picked up right-handers Lisalverta Bonilla and Nefi Ogando off waivers.

The trade of Brandon Phillips to the Atlanta Braves earlier this month was the most high-profile move Dick Williams has made as the Reds' president of baseball operations. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Phillips trade was the one that got attention. It came after the Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce trades.

"These trades -- we've had a handful of them the last few years where we traded off players who had been with us a while -- they're tough," Williams said. "It's never easy."

Especially for a life-long Reds fan -- the kind of fan who gets arrested in an over-exuberant celebration.