Craig Calcaterra had this just a few minutes ago on Twitter.
Barry Larkin talking to ex-teammates to see if they’ll coach with him if he takes over the Reds http://t.co/SDB3FoktZ9 via @HardballTalk
— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) August 26, 2015
I’ve heard this rumor, well at least the part about Barry Larkin taking over as the next Reds manager from scouts over the past two months. Sometimes that doesn’t mean anything more than they read the news as well, but I’ve been asked about it by at least five different scouts in the last eight weeks. That tells me there’s probably some rumors rolling around the baseball universe that is more than just guys reading things on twitter.
My take is pretty simple: Hiring Barry Larkin as the next manager of the Cincinnati Reds would be a gigantic mistake.
Barry Larkin has spent time roving around in the minor leagues this season, working with minor leaguers at times. He’s essentially been an extra coach throughout the season at the various levels of the system in short spurts. That’s the good news. He’s actually spent time in the clubhouse and the dugout.
The bad news is that it’s really his only experience as a manger or a coach of professional athletes. Yes, Larkin managed the Brazilian team in the World Baseball Classic a few years ago. That’s not really the same thing as managing a baseball team for 162 games. How you use players, how you use strategy, it simply isn’t the same. Barry Larkin has managed as many professional baseball games as you have. Or maybe less if you are someone who has actually managed a professional baseball game at the Minor or Major League level.
The Reds current manager is someone that had zero managerial experience. Bryan Price had been a pitching coach at the big league level for 10+ years before he was hired to do the job. He said all of the right things. He spoke of new-school ideas that other teams had been implementing. It sounded like he was the right guy for the job. Then the games started and a lot of the things he said he planned on doing went out of the window.
That brings us back to Larkin. He has far less experience in a coaching role than Bryan Price had and unlike Bryan Price, based on his past comments while he was working for both ESPN and MLB Network as an analyst, he’s about as old school as it gets. Baseball is changing and it’s changing fast. The resistance to new-school thinking is not the direction a team should be taking. A large majority of the teams in baseball are already in-line with new-school ideas. We’ve seen several teams take that step in the last year. The Philadelphia Phillies seem to be a team taking the next step, with Ken Rosenthal writing this at the end of June when they made a move to bring in a new team President.
The Phillies, in the words of one club official, recognize that they were ‘tardy’ on analytics, waiting too long to incorporate data in their evaluations and develop their own proprietary information system. They now have three full-time analysts and two interns, according to major-league sources — significantly less than many other clubs, but a step in the right direction.
Everyone is moving to the side of things that incorporates new-school thinking. Maybe Barry Larkin has changed his tune since he worked with ESPN and MLB Network on advanced analytics. Perhaps he’s been shown the kind of information that the big league teams have to offer and is now a believer. We don’t know that at this point though, and everything he’s said in the past suggests he’s very much against it. That’s not good.
Then there is this: Barry Larkin is an all-time great. He’s one of the greatest players to ever put on the Cincinnati Reds jersey. He was a Cincinnati Red for his entire Hall-of-Fame playing career. He was born and raised in Cincinnati. He’s Cincinnati royalty. If Barry Larkin is hired as the manager for a Reds team that is rebuilding and he struggles, there’s a decent chance that it sours the relationship between Barry Larkin, the Cincinnati Reds and the fans. And that just doesn’t seem like a good thing to me.
At the end of the day, hiring someone with no past managerial experience, incredibly limited actual coaching experience and general ideas that go against where the game has been moving over the last 10 years but is a very popular former player screams of a PR move at best and a very risky baseball move at worst. Right now, this is all just a bunch of rumors, but I’ve heard the rumors, you’ve heard the rumors through various news sources and it would appear that Barry Larkin seems to think it’s probable as well. In the end, though, this all just seems like a poorly thought out plan.
If the Cincinnati Reds truly want Barry Larkin to come on board as a potential manager in the future, why not get him a start in the minor leagues? Or perhaps put him in the big leagues as a hitting coach or bench coach? Let him show you something that you can actually evaluate.