Throughout the first half of the baseball season a lot of the conversation by Reds fans centered on the woes of the Reds bullpen and frustration with the owner. But the most consistent drum beat of criticism was about the manager. More than a few calls, tweets and emails have centered on criticism of Bell holding this team back and costing them games.
Managing is about setting a tone and putting your players in the best position to succeed. Bell can’t swing the bat or throw the ball for his guys. Too many fans believe if a managerial move is made and the player fails then it was the wrong managerial decision.
I’d submit David Bell’s calm and consistency has saved this team. He’s navigated rocky waters as the captain of the ship that could very well have been the Titanic. Instead, he’s managed to steer this team around the iceberg. Now, that ship is ready to set sail for the second half with the playoffs in sight.
Playoffs? Yes, playoffs.
That despite a bullpen that’s sifted through the likes of Carson Fulmer, Jose DeLeon, Cam Bedrosian and Cionel Perez. That despite an injured list that’s included Michael Lorenzen from jump, Joey Votto for a month, Gray twice, Nick Senzel and Mike Moustakas for extending amounts of time, and the two best bullpen arms in Tejay Antone and Lucas Sims. That despite Eugenio Suarez hitting .175, Amir Garrett Garrett’s ERA being 9.53 in his first 20 appearances and Luis Castillo’s ERA ballooning to 7.22 over his first 11 starts.
The Reds suffered devastating gut punches and losses. They lost seven in a row at one point. They fell eight games back of first place at another point.
But they were able to tread water and survive.
It’s a losing battle to debate how much credit Bell deserves. I defer to the players. They know. They articulated it to the Enquirer's Charlie Goldsmith.
Maybe Bell’s approach hasn’t made for a good postgame Zoom soundbite, but it has been good for a clubhouse turning to him as the tone setter.
These players have clearly taken their cues from Bell during times of turbulence.
I believe Bell has earned an extension. He's certainly closer to deserving a contract extension than he is to deserving a pink slip.
If nothing else, Bell has earned this, a leap off his back by his critics.