Prior to the Reds game against the Cubs last Monday at Great American Ball Park, manager David Bell was asked about Roberto Clemente.
Monday was the anniversary of Clemente’s last game — he died in a plane crash Dec. 31, 1974 about three months after concluding the regular season with the Pirates — and Bell was asked what stories he heard from his grandfather Gus or father, Buddy. Bell didn’t recall any that hadn’t already been told.
But he used the word “class” when talking about Clemente.
That same word can be used for how Bell has handled this season.
This will be the second losing season in Bell’s four years with the Reds. But this by far has been the most taxing. Going into Monday’s game, only Washington had a worse record in the National League and MLB-wide, only Oakland was worse. The Reds lost 100 games for just the second time in franchise history. They went 61-101 in 1982.
Cincinnati won on opening day and was 2-2 after the season-opening series in Atlanta ended on April 10. The Reds wouldn’t win again until April 24 and finished the month 3-18. They did go 14-13 in May but a 9-18 June sealed the Reds’ fate in 2022. And of course, a slew of trades followed, including pitching ace Luis Castillo going to Seattle and outfielder Tyler Naquin going to the Mets. Tyler Mahle, Tommy Pham, and Brandon Drury were also jettisoned and of course a slew of injuries pressed many minor leaguers into major-league action.
The number of hitters who have appeared for the team (66) and the number of pitchers who have appeared for the team (38) are team records.
But Bell never bemoaned the cards he was dealt. Fans were calling for him to be fired over his in-game management, but in all honesty, what was he supposed to do? Much like the Cubs, this Reds team was not put together this season to compete for any championships.
It was more of a sign-and-flip scenario so the Reds can build for the future. That rebuild actually began in the offseason when pitcher Wade Miley was put on waivers, and catcher Tucker Barnhart was traded to the Tigers. Then outfielder Jesse Winker and third baseman Eugnenio Suarez were traded to the mariners and pitcher Sonny Gray was sent to the Twins.
The big question is when will these moves begin to pay off and will Bell be around? His initial contract was for three seasons with a club option for a fourth. On Sept. 22, 2021, Bell agreed to a two-year contract extension. He will have to replace several coaches who were let go.
I’m no expert. And there are people in the Reds’ front office who have forgotten more about the game than I ever knew, but Bell has had just three full seasons with this team and the hometown kid deserves more time.
During his pre-game presser with media, Bell acknowledged that winning games is the end game.
And while the Reds don’t have as many victories under Bell hasn’t won as many games as many had hoped — prior to Tuesday’s game they were 250-294 — he should be around to see the rebuild through.