With 10 games left in the 2021 season, the Reds announced earlier today that they’ve reached agreement on a two-year contract extension with manager David Bell. The deal keeps the 49-year-old Bell under contract through the 2023 season. In October 2018, Bell was hired by President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams on a three-year contract plus a club option for the fourth season.
Bell said today he expects all his coaches to be retained. That includes Derek Johnson (pitching), Alan Zinter (hitting), Freddie Benavides (bench), Delino DeShields (first-base), J.R. House (third base), Jeff Pickler (game planning), Lee Tunnell (bullpen) and Eric Jagers (pitching assistant). Nick Krall confirmed that he expects all the assistants to return.
#Reds GM Nick Krall said he anticipates all of the team's coaches coming back
— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) September 22, 2021
Bell has a 184-190 (49.2%) overall record. But the team’s winning percentage has improved since his arrival. In the four previous seasons, the Reds average record was 67-95 (41.4%). The Reds went 31-29 in last year’s COVID-abbreviated season and made an expanded postseason field. Bell and Williams — the latter who left his job a year ago — forged a partnership that ushered in modern change to many ways the Reds operate.
Bell has navigated significant hurdles to get the 2021 into contention.
- Injuries to Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, Sonny Gray, Mike Moustakas, Tejay Antone, Lucas Sims, Michael Lorenzen and Nick Senzel
- Owners who were unduly pessimistic about attendance and then handicapped the front office by cutting payroll
- A lethargic, inactive front office that was unable to operate within constraints and built little depth and a sub-par bullpen
- Massive, season-long underperformance by Eugenio Suarez, Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama. Luis Castillo took two months to get back to his form.
One month ago, the Reds were 12 games above .500 (69-57) and a clear-cut favorite to make the post-season as the second NL Wild Card team. They’ve been 9-17 since and are now a long-shot for the play-in game. An injury to Jesse Winker seems to have undercut the team’s momentum. The team’s extreme lack of depth got exposed and a couple of the Reds starters (Wade Miley, Vlad Gutierrez) haven’t pitched well down the stretch.
The manager’s job is a thankless one. People remember decisions that don’t work out and ignore or forget the ones that do. It’s a negativity bias akin to fans remembering every Raisel Iglesias failure while missing the big picture that he was one of the best relievers in the league — something he is proving again in 2021.
We see David Bell’s extension as a positive development for the Reds. Bell has many old-school critics and this extension won’t sit well with that faction of Reds fans. Those who support Bell as Reds manager — and we both count ourselves in that category — don’t believe he’s proven to be a superstar manager. We can’t find reasons to agree with every decision he makes, many of which are complex and close calls.
But Bell is smart, prepared and by all accounts communicates extremely well with his players. Bell fits the mold of many managers — young, data-driven former players — you’ll see doing their jobs in the postseason, as he did last year.
If Bell staying means the Reds will continue with their cutting-edge approach to development, that’s another good sign. There have been troubling signs of organizational retrenchment in that area since Dick Williams’ departure last October, such as parting ways with hitting coordinator C.J. Gillman and pitching coordinator Kyle Boddy. If Bell staying means Derek Johnson stays as the pitching coach, all the better. The impact Johnson has had on the pitching staff the last three years is undeniable and he’ll be invaluable for Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo’s development.
Ultimately, the Reds’ future success will hinge on the front office and owners making smart decisions and showing legitimate urgency to win. If that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t really matter who the manager is.
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