All my feels tell me it’s likely a fait accompli, that the interim Band-aid is about to be ripped off and Jim Riggleman becomes the next manager of the Cincinnati Reds. No sooner does the sun peek out over the horizon each morn than it seems there are those in the media—both locally and nationally—that begin blowing the shofar for Riggleman’s installment as the next Cincinnati skipper. Having checked all the boxes next to their 10 Commandments of Managerial Makeup to go along with his in-your-face demeanor, he’s been anointed THE GUY, even as the front office has repeatedly promised they are committed to conducting a broad and thorough search for the best candidate for the position. But let us assume the Reds will at least go through the motions before handing the job to the erstwhile Padres, Cubs, Mariners and Nationals manager.

If a fan could interview Jim Riggleman, what should he or she ask? What would you ask? Here are ten things I’d like to know:

  1. If I said the game can be broken down as 40% pitching, 30% hitting, 20% fielding, 5% baserunning and 5% miscellaneous, what would be your response?
  2. You’ve shown the kind of quick hook with your starting pitchers not seen since the days of one George “Sparky” Anderson. What strategies do you have for keeping your bullpen fresh into September—and hopefully beyond?
  3. How much input will you demand on player procurement/development and how much overall decision-making are you comfortable leaving solely to the front office and the scouts?
  4. How do you go about keeping your ballclub loose?
  5. Much like the Rays, the Reds are an organization that needs to think outside the box to keep up with the big market boys. And the Reds young pitching staff is ripe for experimentation, particularly in the area of “roles.” Would you ever contemplate using an Opener?
  6. What would you do with Homer Bailey in 2019 if the decision were yours and yours alone? Is the role of the closer overrated or do only special players have the makeup to get 3 outs in the ninth?
  7. You probably know more than most that analytics are useless without player buy-in. How would you bridge the gap between what your analytic people tell you and what your players are comfortable doing?
  8. Two-part question: what do you know about the game that a baseball man 30 years your junior does not? And what does the younger, sabermetric-driven coach know more about the game than you, if anything?
  9. Would you manage differently in the postseason? And, if so, how?
  10. We all know what happened in Washington with the Nationals. But, you also left the Padres when GM Randy Smith refused to give you a contract extension. Why should we believe you won’t leave the Reds the moment you feel “disrespected?”

* * *

Whatever the answers, never forget the owner thinks nothing of heading down to the manager’s office and asking his own questions, even if they likely look nothing like the ones above. As if there are not enough opinions, none other than Martin Franchester Brennaman has offered his own stamp of approval on the Riggleman regime:

“He has instilled a level of discipline on this team that I have not seen from a Reds manager since Davey Johnson managed this team back in the mid-90s, and before that Lou Piniella, and before that John McNamara,” Brennaman said. “He’s gotten into the faces of a number of players about things that have occurred.

“With due respect to Bryan Price, who I love and is one of the great people I’ve ever known in the game, Jim Riggleman has managed this club with an iron hand and the players know it.”

* * *

When the Cardinals removed the “interim” tag from Mike Shildt, the ridicule came full-blown from all over social media, as if it were shot out of a Redzilla cannon. Baseball writer Joe Sheehan—tongue-in-cheek—pointedly wanted to know the odds that the best replacement for Mike Matheny was conveniently sitting next to him all the time. That’s some serious serendipity right there.

Of course, Riggleman didn’t just drop, ripe and ready, from one of Bob Castellini’s produce trucks. He began managing for the Reds at Double-A in 2012, working his way up to Triple-A before landing in the dugout at Great American Ball Park in 2016. It’s entirely possible the Reds had a plan; that while everyone else is watching as if this moment has been about a tryout, sliding abacus beads to the right with every win, to the left with each loss—the Reds have in fact been quietly evaluating him for going on seven years. If Riggleman was the backup plan for a failed Bryan Price era all along, perhaps that’s why Price never really knew if the prime directive was to win games or develop players. He certainly managed as if he wasn’t sure, perhaps even looking over his shoulder at the end.

Still, is this the best the organization can do??

The Joe Maddon is Genius trope is wearing a bit thin for me these days. But still, listen to this fellow for very long and you can’t help but believe he thinks about the game in a way that more often than not succeeds in getting the most out of his players:

“I use the term ‘force multiplier,'” Maddon said. “I read Colin Powell’s autobiography a couple years ago – tremendous read. … In that, he referenced the force multipliers, people that really made the people around them better. … We have a couple of those guys who are really going to make a huge difference for us. As a manager, to be surrounded by those folks is very comforting because I’m a big believer in the players patrolling the clubhouse, policing the clubhouse. Those are the kind of guys who get stuff done.”

Maddon used over a hundred different lineups last year. In contemplating his daily lineup card, I can imagine the Chicago skipper, astride a roiling cauldron, casting spells, adding eye of newt and toe of frog; perhaps even the thumb of a dead-ball-era umpire to the stew for good measure. It just feels like he leaves no stone unturned to win ball games; that far beyond the obvious strategies, such as employing a quick hook of a starting pitcher, Maddon will consider any idea—no matter how far outside the chalk lines—to gain an edge, and thus use his players’ talent to maximum advantage. With young, developing talent, the Reds would seem to need the kind of leadership that can find a soupçon of advantage wherever it may lie, and run with it. Is Mr. Riggleman THAT GUY?

Riggleman’s explanation of why he left the Nationals in a huff still concerns me:

 

The day he walked away from managing the Nationals, Riggleman told Mike Francessa on WFAN in New York that he didn’t offer an ultimatum to the front office, that he only wanted to discuss the job he was doing and what he could do moving forward to keep the job. Moments later, he admits that he did, in fact, warn the Nationals front office some time ago that if they wouldn’t address his contract at some point soon, he would quit, which he did, smack in the middle of the season.

“I’m 58,” Riggleman added. “I’m too old to be disrespected.”

I don’t like judging managers on their records. You either have the talent or you don’t. That’s why I was never impressed with Dusty Baker’s career record. I’m more interested in process than Ws and Baker’s process when the game was on the line never moved the needle for me. Still, it must at least be noted that in 13 years, Jim Riggleman has a .447 winning percentage as a manager, an uninspiring 140-172 win/loss record with Washington.

The choice of James David Riggleman seems like more of the same kind of thinking that went into hiring Baker. Another Old School guy with the kind of baseball lineage that looks good in sepia tone, voiced-over by Jason Robards.  Another hardscrabble soul who has the respect of his players. Another umber’d face worn thick with seasons of hardball toil. It’s romantic in its way. I’m just not sure it’s what the Cincinnati Reds need right now.

27 Responses

  1. Jim Walker

    Before this week I tended to agree that Riggleman had the inside track and was all but a lock. However, there are signs now of a brewing apocalypse that could turn that aside.

    If the Reds put up another single digit win month in September and fall well short of the Big Guy’s publicly stated position that anything less than .500 from Riggleman’s elevation to the end of the season was a failure, all bets could be off.

    • eric3287

      Bob Castellini thinks it’s a good idea to keep Billy as a starting CF for life. He is absolutely going to blame the 2nd half on injuries and the need for another Matt Harvey type SP.

    • jreis

      yeah, I agree. the players do not seem to be responding to him like they were when he initially came on board. the game last night was a pathetic performance. they just look listless. Joey votto not running on a 3-2 pitch with 2 outs from first is a great example of lack of focus or maybe just pure laziness. I think he has to go.

      • Jim Walker

        They are tired. Many of them have been over used. Some are clearly not 100% physically (Votto for 1; you have to wonder about Schebler). There are no external motivating factors left.

  2. Demontooth

    I’ll never forget tHom crapping all over the rays for an inning over trying different things with their pitching staff earlier this year. Who has the better record?

    • greenmtred

      We need to ignore Thom, of course, for the sake of our souls and blood pressure, but Riggleman’s quick hooks could be seen as a version of the Rays pitcher-as-committee.

  3. Mason Red

    Unless this franchise makes some drastic and needed moves this offseason it doesn’t matter who the manager is. A manager can’t pitch for his pitching staff and this team has dreadful pitching. Unless that’s changed it just doesn’t matter who is at the helm.

  4. eric3287

    I know some of the “Joe Maddon is a baseball genius” stuff gets old, but I think this right here is the key line:

    “It just feels like he leaves no stone unturned to win ball games; that far beyond the obvious strategies, such as employing a quick hook of a starting pitcher, Maddon will consider any idea—no matter how far outside the chalk lines—to gain an edge, and thus use his players’ talent to maximum advantage.”

    It’s talked about a lot how the role of a manager isn’t just X’s and O’s but the managing of personalities and setting a culture in the clubhouse. Wherever he goes, the culture in the clubhouse is of doing whatever it takes to win. Maddon sets that tone and the players follow. They play multiple positions, learn new positions, bat anywhere in the line up. Because they know the decisions Maddon is making have been well thought out, well communicated, and their job is to execute them.

    The culture in the Reds clubhouse, going back to as long as Castellini has been in charge, has never been like that. It has been a culture that values everyone having a role and staying in that role. A culture that has valued the experience of veterans at the expense of the promise and talent of rookies. It’s why Homer Bailey was so comfortable telling the Reds he wasn’t going to pitch out of the bullpen. Why we can expect Billy Hamilton to start 95% of the remaining games in CF despite no actual evidence that he can be even a bad major league hitter. Frankly it is a culture that encourages selfishness among the players and prioritizes the individual wants of the veteran players over the collective good of the team. Until THAT changes (and it is something that probably starts above the field manager) none of it is going to make a lick of difference.

  5. RedsFanInFL

    I wrote this in yesterday’s recap comment section but probably more appropriate here:

    Per Baseball Reference: There have been 705 managers in the history of major league baseball. Jim Riggleman is currently #1 of active managers and #11 all-time in terms of W-L games under .500 with -173. If he looses 3 more games than he wins the rest of this year, he will crack the all-time top 10 for most games under .500.

    • Dewey Roberts

      Well, that makes him the right manager to lead this rebuild since the goal is to lose 90 games or more every season and never actually rebuild. We have our guy.

  6. Redgoggles

    The only silver lining to the way this season is ending…….it seems the front office’s #winningdeclaration positioning will not fit with renewing the manager of a team that – while healthier than the one that Price had – is dying down the stretch. Of course, they could take responsibility for the draft/trading/development failings of the past 5 years…….but, it’s easier to blame the manager. I bet both Price and Riggleman would have winning records with the Red Sox this year, so while I care about who the next Reds manager is, I care more about the organizational directions starting at the very top and less about the next manager/scapegoat.

    • BurgRed

      I bet the Nationals thought the same thing with there hire. Now playing under 500 they may have changed their minds.

  7. Sliotar

    No direct bunting questions of Riggleman is letting him off the hook.

    Here are 2 that would interest me….

    1) Why is bunting such a primary strategy for you (Riggleman), when it has been statistically proven to not be the optimal move in many game situations, and so many other teams in 2018 have moved away from it?

    2) Why did you mention becoming a running team, when GABP is proven as a Top 5 HR-friendly park, and the game in 2018 largely consists of 3 outcomes in many at-bats (HR/K/BB)?

    • jreis

      I kind of understand Rigglemans thinking when it comes to being a speed team. just trying to think out of the box. if it is power vs power, lets face it we are always going to be in the cellar of the nl central. the cubs, brewers and cards will always be able to afford more power hitters than us.
      we can counteract that to an extent with speed as it comes cheaper and younger.

      I think the reds strategy is to become a team that relies more on speed based on our top prospects in the minors. I think this strategy can be effective because we have one of the best obp in the league but right now have a lot of “base cloggers” to quote Dusty.

      We start getting guys up here like trammel and Siri and Senzel that can get on base AND run that can be just as effective as the big boys strategy of walk-walk-HR.

  8. Lid

    Mookie Betts to Ian Kinsler, “We don’t bunt.” After Kinsler attempted bunt, then strikeout in his at-bat.

  9. Indy Red Man

    Riggleman….Smiggleman? It doesn’t matter. Its the owner and the front office.

    Someone that thinks differently and has a sharp baseball mind would not be welcome. They want it the way they want it. No real direction. Divisional rivals continually beating them to the punch to acquire talent. Just keep throwing out positives about how the Reds organization is really growing and moving forward. They built a field for some one-eyed street urchins. Yeahhhh!!!

    An organization that wants to win is not going to sit on the same roster that loses 90+ 4 years straight year after year after year! This is not a softball league with your beer buddies!
    David Freese pretty much won the WS for the Cards and they shipped him out. Albert Pujols is a HOFer….gone!

    I’ll still look forward to Opening Day next year. Its a great game, but this organization is hopeless. It wasn’t that long ago when nobody cared in Milwaukee and the Cubs had the crowds but no hope…just a rudderless ship like these Reds. Our opponents now are serious and its men against boys.

  10. turbobuckeye

    The longer the Dick Williams/Bob Castellini marriage goes on, the more obvious it becomes that there are two forces trying to push the organization in opposite directions. One professional and disciplined, the other, well, not so much. Unfortunately it’s Uncle Bob who ultimately writes the checks and who must be deferred to.

  11. Matt WI

    Jim, in your experience, what is the very best signal for a bunt? Are you an earlobe tug guy, a nose tapper, or do your prefer the swipe across the chest?

  12. big5ed

    I don’t think Riggleman will be the manager next year. Just don’t see it. He might make a good minor league field coordinator, where he would install some standards on implementing fundamentals like secondary leads and defensive footwork. And start the Reds Way.

    My feeling is that the team plainly needs new energy, and the FO has probably figured out that it ain’t coming from Jim Riggleman. They need a compelling personality, and not a retread. Hensley Meulens. David Ross. Eduardo Perez. Cedric The Entertainer. They’re not going to sell any tickets by re-hiring Riggleman, and Uncle Bob knows it.

    • Jeff Reed

      Cedric the Entertainer as an opening act might be what the Reds need to move up in the NLC and challenge for a playoff game.

  13. RedDawg2012

    I think a major part of the problem could also be Walt Jocketty. You have to think he’s still got Bob’s ear. It just seemed like when Walt was GM, we heard a lot less about big Bob’s involvement (unless I’m just forgetting). Now with Dick, it seems to be a regular thing.

    If Walt and Bob are calling the shots, it probably doesn’t matter who the next manager is. We will continue to be a perennial 90 game loser.

    • Dewey Roberts

      Walt has been the biggest problem all along. Castellini really wanted to win when he bought the franchise. Then, he made the mistake of hiring Walt who produced some good years due to the players in the system from drafts by previous GM’s. The drafts went downwards after Jocketty took over. The Reds wasted several #1 picks on pitchers who never made it to the majors. Walt in my opinion still has Bob’s ear about everything. Walt was fired by the Cardinals for starting to do to their organization what he has accomplished with the Reds. Yet, Bob still believes in him. The Reds will not be winners again until they get rid of Walt for good.

  14. greenmtred

    I’m agnostic concerning Riggleman, partly because I don’t believe the manager makes a big difference (except in his ability to annoy RLN) and partly because we don’t know the extent to which his lineup decisions are dictated to him. The bunting is probably on him, but has made little real difference this year. The Reds need to embrace anything that will help them get good again, but they mainly need good players.

  15. Eric the Red

    Do you think you would even make the short list for any of the 31 other teams in the league if they needed a new manager? What makes Cincinnati such a unique fit for your skills that you’d be given serious consideration here but no place else?