If the rumors are to be believed, Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin is ready to leave the television studio and make a triumphant return to the dugout for his hometown Cincinnati Reds, the only team he ever suited up for. Larkin has even gone so far as to begin putting out feelers to former teammates to see if they would be up for joining his coaching staff. There’s just one problem — the Reds haven’t actually fired current manager Bryan Price or his coaching staff. They haven’t even made it all that clear that they plan on relieving him of his duties following another lackluster season in the Queen City.
What Larkin is doing, in reaching out to begin assembling a coaching staff of his own while the previous regime is still in place, is just flat-out wrong and unfair to Price, a well-respected baseball man who served the Reds dutifully for four seasons as pitching coach prior to taking over for Dusty Baker. It’s also not fair to the rest of the coaching staff who will likely lose their jobs if Price goes. Price has done nothing wrong as Reds’ manager — except for the 77 f-bomb tirade he delivered earlier this season. You could ding him for some poor game management here and there, but that’s the case for nearly every manager in the league. The roster and pitching staff he was handed to work with has been full of bad contracts and underperforming veterans. Baker was gone after two consecutive playoff seasons, but the expectations left by those winning seasons have been impossible to live up to as Joey Votto has aged and missed nearly the entirety of Price’s first season at the helm, Jay Bruce has regressed, and the rotation has become a revolving door. There are still bright spots in Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman, but a reboot (to use the en vogue term) is going to happen this offseason. Price may be better suited for a role as pitching coach rather than leader of a team, but he hasn’t been put in the best situation in his first shot at leading a club.
If that reboot happens and Larkin is the one to lead it, then very few people in Cincinnati will take issue with it. Right now, though, he comes off as the stud football player who is after the chess club captain’s girlfriend. Everyone knows the job is his if he wants it. Why make life difficult for Price, who was not dealt the best hand when he took the job? Larkin has been a class act his entire career, from his playing days to his post-baseball roles as an analyst, but he should know better than to actively campaign for a spot on the Reds’ bench that is already occupied. Should the job come open after the season, Larkin will be the number one choice for the Reds. Then, and only then, should he begin filling out his coaching staff.