CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds are giving David Bell his first big-league managing job, and that seems to be causing concern for some fans who hoped for Joe Girardi or John Farrell, long-time managers who have World Series rings.
Would those same fans have criticized the Reds for hiring Hall of Famer and hometown hero Barry Larkin, even though Larkin has never managed at any level of pro ball? Remember, Sparky Anderson had never managed in the big leagues when the Reds hired him in 1970, and we all know how that turned out.
Fact is, the Reds tried to get Larkin and Girardi, but they couldn't get either one to takes the reins of a team that finished in last place four straight years. So they turned to the 46-year-old Bell, a former Moeller High star like Larkin, and the son and grandson of former Reds stars.
When the Reds officially introduce Bell at an 11 a.m. news conference Monday, he'll have to answer questions about his lack of managing experience. He did manage four seasons in the Reds farm system - three with the Double-A Carolina Mudcats (2009-11) and one with the Triple-A Louisville Bats (2012), when his team went 51-93.
So what did the Reds see in Bell besides his last name? Apparently, the same qualifications as other teams that had him on their short list.
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Since his minor-league stint with the Reds, Bell, who played 12 years in the big leagues, was a third-base coach for the Cubs (2013) and Cardinals hitting coach (2014) and bench coach (2015-16) before going to the Giants, where he was vice president of player development.
Managers aren't usually involved in player development, but if any team needs help in that department, it's the Reds. And therein may lie Bell's value to a team with many promising young players and prospects, even though they lack the solid, veteran pitching to compete.
Since they're not going to win next year anyway, why not get a manager with good baseball acumen and an eye for talent, plus patience and people skills to bring along the Reds' young players?
Does that mean the Reds hired Bell to keep the dugout seat warm and dry for Larkin, if and when the Reds complete their "rebuild" and become competitive again? That's going to be a suspicion, but the Reds' announcement that Bell got a three-year contract through the 2021 season, with a club option for 2022, seems to suggest otherwise.
Bell's family connections to the Reds are well known. His dad Buddy, a Moeller great himself, currently works for the Reds as vice president and senior advisor and played third base for the Reds (1985-88) during an 18-year big-league career. David's grandfather, Gus Bell, was a four-time All-Star outfielder in nine seasons with the Reds (1955-61) during his 15 years in the majors. He was inducted in the Reds Hall of Fame in 1964.
In the end, Bell was the last man standing and won out over former Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman. Both got interviews.
The 49-year-old Ausmus, a big-league catcher for 18 years, managed the Tigers for four seasons (2014-17). The Tigers won the AL Central in Ausmus' first year, when they finished 90-72. But they went 64-98 in 2017 and finished last, leading to his firing.
Riggleman wanted to keep the job in 2019, but the Reds went 64-80 under Riggleman after their 3-15 start led to the firing of fifth-year manager Bryan Price. It's hard to see how the Reds could sell tickets if they kept Riggleman.
Reds coaches Billy Hatcher, Freddie Benavides and Pat Kelly also interviewed.
As for Farrell, who knows what happened to him. Most Reds fans would probably have been happy to get the former Red Sox and Blue Jays manager. He appeared to be the Reds "manager in waiting" after the club hired him as a scout last March.
A big-league pitcher for eight seasons, Farrell, 56, managed five seasons in Boston and won a World Series in his first year, 2013. He won three division titles in Boston, but he was dumped after his 2016 and 2017 teams went 93-69 but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
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