The Cincinnati Reds made two personnel moves on Thursday afternoon at the big league level. The bigger one announced was the hiring of Alan Zinter as the Major League hitting coach. It’s the Reds third hitting coach in the last three years. But, they also announced that Donnie Ecker is being promoted to assistant hitting coach and director of hitting. As far as the farm system goes, that may be a bit of a bigger deal.

Donnie Ecker was already the assistant hitting coach for the Cincinnati Reds. The director of hitting title is brand new.

“We did something very similar on the pitching side with our assistant pitching coach Caleb Cotham where we gave him the title of director of pitching in addition to his Major League responsibilities. This is a concerted effort by Nick (Krall) and David (Bell) to continue to connect even more closely the organization as a whole, specifically the minor leagues to the Major Leagues,” said President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams.

This has been noted by me in the past about how there, at least at one point in time, a disconnect from level to level as to what the Reds were trying to teach players. Coaches had very different ideas of what a player should be trying to do. With Caleb Cotham working with Kyle Boddy in the minors, and of course, Derek Johnson in the Major Leagues – the plan was stated to have a central idea, but also individual plans for the players. That is something that felt like it was lacking quite a bit.

The Reds now seem to also be trying to do this with the hitting. Which, of course makes sense – why the heck wouldn’t they? Brace yourself for a long quote here, but I think that the entirety of it needs to be together as it all fits together.

“We know how extremely difficult it is to do at the Major League level and how much new information and technology there is available. So we’ve tasked our coaches with understanding the complexities but then being able to convey the information to the players that makes it simple. And second, making it consistent from the time they enter our organization all the way up through, we want to make sure they are hearing similar language, hearing similar philosophies,” said Williams.

“I can’t tell you how many former players I’ve talked to that felt like as they progressed through the minor leagues they were bounced around and getting different messages. I know every organization strives to get that consistency, but we’ve taken the steps of connecting our major league hitting and pitching coaches to their assistants to provide support for the major league team. And then empowering their assistants to be directly connected to the minor leagues.”

Take all of that in. Think about it for a second. The first part – be a good teacher. The ability to convey the message to the player so they not only understand it and accept it, but can implement it is huge. If you can’t do that, it doesn’t really matter how much information you have, or how well it would actually work. It’s a fantastic point.

But it’s that second part that just sounds off the alarms, right? I know that this will now be the second time I’ve mentioned it in the article, but it’s something that I’ve both heard and seen in the past. I’ve heard it from players. And I’ve heard it from scouts from other organizations who have noticed it in their coverage of the Reds organization. So it’s great that as an organization, they felt that it was a problem and that they are trying to address it.

On the other side of it, though, is this: Why did it take so long? The first time I heard about this from a player was in 2014. The first time I heard about it from an opposing scout was in 2015 – and I’ll be sure to note that I didn’t bring it up to this scout, he brought it up to me during our conversation about a specific player (not the same one that had mentioned it to me the year before).

Last year when the Reds essentially started rebuilding their entire development front office it felt like the highest ups in the organization were acknowledging that something needed to change. But while many of the directors and coordinators changed, the field level coaches by-and-large, didn’t. That felt very weird to me, which I noted at the time. That’s not to say that any specific person deserved to be fired – but more so that there seemed to be a clear “we have to do things differently” situation happening, but then the organization essentially made no changes at all to the entirety of the coaching staff.

After the season was over, it was reported by Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati Enquirer that several coaches and managers in the organization wouldn’t be returning. There is not, at this time, a full list of who will and won’t be returning from the the managerial and coaching staffs that were in place for 2019 and moving forward to 2020. I have heard, but have been unable to confirm, that there may be a few more than what was initially reported by Nightengale less than a month ago.

The role of minor league hitting coordinator that was held by Milt Thompson is still an open position. He held the position for the last three seasons, but will not be coming back for 2020. Dick Williams noted that the position will be fill this offseason and they will work closely with both Alan Zinter and Donnie Ecker.

With all of that said, it seems that the organization is moving in the right direction. Having everyone on the same page is a goal that they set out to accomplish. And now it finally seems that they are putting the pieces in place to actually do that from the top down.

There was one other rather interesting quote from Dick Williams today as it relates to Donnie Ecker that I’d like to focus on.

“David (Bell) and Donnie (Ecker) did a second round discussion with Alan out in Phoenix. A really long session where they really dove into philosophies and how they’d work together. And at the end of that it became very apparent that Alan Zinter would be a great fit for our organization,” said Dick Williams when describing the interview and ultimately hiring process.

This is where things get rather interesting to me. First, Donnie Ecker still has his job, while Turner Ward does not. This isn’t to say he should have lost his job – this is me saying that it seems the Reds believed he was doing a good job as assistant hitting coach and that whatever issues the organization felt was happening at the big league level were more due to what was going on with Ward than anything else.

But the quote notes that manager David Bell and Donnie Ecker were involved with the second round of discussions here stands out. Cincinnati’s brass, whoever all is involved here, clearly has a lot of faith in Donnie Ecker. And I have no reason to believe that they shouldn’t. But the quote stands out to me because it feels like he, as the assistant hitting coach, played a role in hiring the hitting coach. Your mileage may vary on the quote, but to me it certainly showed all kinds of value that the organization places on Ecker and how good they believe he is at his job.

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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31 Responses

  1. Franklin Hall

    Doug, that’s a great report. It’s about time the Reds’ begin this. And, in the future, people will see , The Cincinnati Reds’ way. Kind of like, how we have seen the St. Louis Cardinals’ way, year after year. Good job.

  2. Oldtimer

    I still like Big Klu (RIP) as best Reds hitting coach in my lifetime (born 1951).

    Made Concepcion and Geronimo into .300 hitters (not always but occasionally).

    Helped Rose, Bench, Perez, and Morgan become HOF caliber hitters.

    Made Foster into MVP caliber power hitter. Made Griffey into steady .300 hitter.

    Not easy to have done that. BRM Reds only had four coaches; Klu 1B/hitting, Shepard P, Scherger bench, and Grammas 3B.

  3. Franklin Hall

    I am an old-timer, too. I have been a Reds’ fan since 1947. Klu was my favorite. I have a lot of memories from those years – Gus Bell, Frankie Baumholtz, Ewell Blackwell, Ken Raffensberger, etc. I still recall Walker Cooper’s 10 runs batted in a 22 run game against the Cubs.

    • Oldtimer

      I don’t remember too much about Klu the hitter. Born 1951 so I was only 6 when he was traded to Pirates. His 1953-54-55-56 seasons are among the best 4 Straight Seasons by any Reds hitter. Ever. And he was a great fielder at 1B. Rarely struck out AB.

      His coaching was outstanding. 1970 to 1978 hitting coach for BRM. 1979 to 1986 Reds MiLB hitting instructor. Eric Davis. Barry Larkin. Kal Daniels. To name only a few.

      • Denis

        Billy DeMars got Eric Davis going swinging down on the ball & using the whole field. When Davis conformed, Rose started playing him everyday & the rest is history.

      • Oldtimer

        Klu only coached Davis at Wichita in 1984. Eric was a Red after that.

  4. Bill

    Sounds like this approach is long overdue, so I am thrilled they are getting this corrected. I’ve been very impressed by DW’s approach to running the team. There may (probably will) be a price to pay for not timing these types of changes with the start of the rebuild, but I’m confident it will ultimately work.

  5. DaveCT

    I wonder if the timing of it being rolled out now vs last year had to do with they just weren’t ready? And I would hope they’d done a panel interviews, before round two.

    But I’d also assummed that they had to have a unified approach to hitting and pitching. All this time. Shows what I know.

  6. Tom

    The Reds owe it to these kids to be the experts in what they teach. It should be apparent to the players that they are. Implicitly they have been, but they left room for doubt when the message could change from stop to stop.

    I’d imagine other clubs still have this problem and this approach could really set the Reds org up for success. 10 years from now it may be part of a really positive story about how this team wins consistently against the odds.

    • Oldtimer

      Bob Howsam put that into place for Reds starting in 1967. The MiLB teams worked under the same philosophies as the MLB Reds did. Not as many analytics then but same philosophies throughout the system.

      It worked out pretty well. 1970-72-73-75-76 especially.

  7. SultanofSwaff

    Players encountering different coaching styles and philosophies at each level doesn’t surprise me one bit. I think this is a result of primarily hiring guys whose only qualification is that they were former players in your organization. Far too much of that over the years. Personally, I wouldn’t trust the development of athletes worth millions of dollars to someone learning on the job any more than I’d let my kid ride on a bus driven by someone with their learner’s permit.

  8. mac624

    It’s what should have been done a long time ago, but hopefully we start seeing the rewards of this move over the next few seasons. It was obvious the Reds were a disconjointed mess from top to bottom in terms of messages given to players, and these move further prove it. On paper this is what makes organizations strong, as “company men” lead you from the bottom to the top.

    • Dollar Bill

      How did the Reds allow a 36 year old Votto to TRY TO reinvent himself with horrific results? Letting him crouch at the plate and choke up like Felix Milan was a JOKE! He is not being paid to practice fouling pitches off and sacrificing power and production.

      Votto got walks in the past because of the damage he could do. Now pitchers are blowing him away and the OBP is no longer there. He thought he could walk into the HOF . We can only hope he walks away from the game and retires early. His defense and base running continue to decline rapidly. He never applies tags on throws over to first . He pretty much does what he wants when he is on the field and does not play the game the right way. He is not setting a good example. And he takes called third strikes more than anyone in the game . The walk has ruined him.

  9. Jonathan

    HI. In some ways, I can get this as I work at a very large RV manufacturing company with 60+ plants worldwide who has historically operated very de-centralized . Each plant made their own decisions with regards to their P&L statement. As a company, we are just now trying to centralize purchasing, logistics, etc because its more efficient and your buying power is greater.

    I could see the Reds running their farm system the same way. Where each team was responsible for their own player development. this system isn’t very efficient, but could have been how historically baseball was ran. Culture shift is huge and does take a lot of time – this isn’t something that happens overnight. This could explain why/how the Reds are lack in player development or at least getting their #1 draft picks to preform at a very high level (looking at Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson).

    I for one am very excited at the future of Reds baseball.

    • Oldtimer

      Companies swing back-n-forth between centralizing and de-centralizing. I’ve been an Engineer for 45 years now. Both ways work. And both don’t work. It depends.

    • Oldtimer

      Nope. Bob Howsam, Sheldon (Chief) Bender, and the Barton brothers (Reds scouts) ran the MLB and MiLB teams under the same philosophies. That’s how the Reds got from a disappointing 1966 (DeWitt and Seghi) to the best NL team ever in 1975 and 1976.

      Trades, scouting, minor league player development, all that.

      The Big Red Machine did not fall off a turnip truck. BRM was built and guided by experts. Howsam best Reds GM ever. Sparky best Reds manager ever.

  10. DaveCT

    Wow, people in Boston are psyched after the Red Sox hired away Tampa Bay’s VP of Baseball Operations, Chaim Bloom, who had a big hand in their run. Calling it the best Boston sports hire since Brad Stevens went to the Celtics. Looking at the developments here, both baseball teams look like they really know what they have to do.

  11. kyblu50

    Who Would You Trade For ????

    Starling Marte, CF: $11.5MM club option with a $2MM buyout (contract also includes 2021 option)
    Chris Archer, RHP: $9MM club option with a $1.75MM buyout (contract also includes 2021 option)

    My Take
    1) Jonathan India 2) Jameson Hannah 3) Lyon Richardson 4) Michael Beltre 5) Tyler Mahle

    What Say You ????

    • Curt

      Easy, Marte. Need a CF period. Not sure how thrilled the Pirates would be sending him to the Reds but hey, it’s business. Your offer might be too much though, maybe not.

    • Oldtimer

      A couple of those Reds MiLB prospects have good trade value but not all. I’m not sure why Marte’s team or Archer’s team would want them in exchange.

    • Curt

      just read an article on the Pirates where it says

      “The points of upgrade in the lineup seem clear: the Pirates could use help at third base, behind the plate and (if they trade Marte) at one outfield spot.

      If they’d take prospects, India could be a fit for 3b. An acceptable outfielder could be found I’m guessing. (They’re happy with Reynolds in LF, so would need to be a CF/RF guy – Siri maybe?) one of the catchers could move if we get lucky and upgrade there.

      As of now, the narrative is NOT trading him so there’s that. But If they change their mind, I’d be looking at Marte hard.

    • Norwood Nate

      I’d definitely target both. Hard to see the Pirates wanting to trade in the division. India, Mahle, and Siri/Fairchild is probably a pretty good start on a deal though.

  12. MK

    I liked Klu too, but you, Doug or I could have been hitting coach for the Big Red Machine and they would have had the same success.

    • Oldtimer

      Nope. When they came to the BRM, Concepcion, Foster, and Geronimo were NOT good hitters. Klu made them that.

      Morgan was much better as a Red than anywhere else. Ditto Griffey. Klu was a big factor.

  13. Curt

    “First, Donnie Ecker still has his job, while Turner Ward does not. This isn’t to say he should have lost his job – this is me saying that it seems the Reds believed he was doing a good job as assistant hitting coach and that whatever issues the organization felt was happening at the big league level were more due to what was going on with Ward than anything else.“

    If you ask me, Ward was fired because, after another losing season “somebody had to get fired” and clearly it wasn’t going to be Bell. How many MLB managerial firings so far? Six or something. Many from teams that did better than the Reds. So they had to fire somebody. Ward came sort of wrapped with the whole Dodger package which is disappearing so Ward taking the fall made sense.
    He also may not have really been Bell’s guy. Probably something he agreed to. Zinter is definitely Bells guy though so if it doesn’t work, it’s gonna be harder to throw Zinter under the bus without Bell going with him.
    I don’t buy the theory that Ward was awful and that it was his fault the offense stank. I’m not sure he was even there long enough to have much of an impact one way or the other. 2 cents

    • Muddycleats

      Agree! Like good hitters, good coaches – teachers have 2 make adjustments. No 2 people learn the same way or @ same speed so not sure I agree w/ all or nothing approach this article seems 2 suggest? Concept seems useful, but my guess is core concepts r still being developed & R not nearly as specific as some seem 2 suggest?? The idea that Reds R looking 4 ways 2 improve is good. Interesting 2 see how this is developed & taught

  14. Franklin Hall

    In the last two years I have really hated to see Joey’s At-Bats. I knew he would either take a called third-strike or ground out to the second baseman playing in centerfield. Then, his bat-choking (no pun intended) absolutely robbed him of his power. He was an “out about to happen” and it made me sick. I literally hated to see him bat. He switched to a better batting stance and it worked out well in the second half this year. Well, at least better. For 2020, here is what I would like to see him do. Hands down on the knob, bat held higher. He needs to swing at some pitches that are just off the plate. By doing that, if it is successful, would force the pitchers to lessen their pitching him outside so much. What do you think?

    • Dollar Bill

      I think Votto should be dropped to 6th or 7th in the order and get a lot more days off in the future. He seems to have lost interest in the game.

  15. Franklin Hall

    Travis Jankowski, is now a Cincinnati Red. He seems to have had a lot of potential, but not much power. But he is regarded as a pretty good CF. That’s a good start for next year. J. Iglesias and T. Wood, are now free agents.