Family affair: Rebuilding Reds pick David Bell to lead them
CINCINNATI (AP) — David Bell buttoned his Reds jersey with the No. 25, the same one worn by his grandfather and his father. Buddy Bell stood in the back of the room, watching the scene as a proud papa. In the front row was young Gus Bell, named for the grandfather who was a star in Cincinnati.
The Reds reached into their family roots for their next manager, one who is expected to help lead the club out of its rebuilding doldrums.
David Bell was introduced as the Reds' 63rd manager on Monday in the city where he grew up. How much he succeeds will depend upon the front office, which hasn't been able to translate its high-profile trades into on-field success.
The Reds hope that having a member of an esteemed Cincinnati baseball family in the dugout will get fans' attention for at least the short-term. Gus Bell played for the Reds from 1953-61 and is in their Hall of Fame. Buddy Bell was a popular player with the Reds from 1985-88. Now David has a third-generation place on the field.
"I used to go and watch his grandfather play," owner Bob Castellini said. "His grandfather's namesake is in the front row, little Gus.
"He brings a Cincinnati tradition back to us. The Bell family is a Cincinnati family."
The city's last shining baseball moment came in 2015, when it hosted the All-Star Game. The franchise then embarked on a massive overhaul, trading away most of its stars — including Todd Frazier, who won the All-Star Home Run Derby. The team had little to show for it at the major league level, losing 94, 94 and 95 games each of the last three seasons, its worst stretch since the Great Depression .
Attendance also has fallen each year. The Reds drew only 1.6 million fans last season, their smallest since 1984 at Riverfront Stadium when they lost 92 games, fired Vern Rapp and brought back Pete Rose — another Cincinnati native — as player-manager.
The starting rotation has been the main thing holding them back. Dick Williams, the director of player personnel, said at season's end that the Reds will be looking to add veteran starters in the offseason, a departure from the last few years when they counted heavily on young pitchers to grow into jobs.
Bell was one of more than a dozen candidates interviewed, including Joe Girardi. Jim Riggleman, who took over on an interim basis when Bryan Price was fired in April, also was interviewed. Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin, another Cincinnati native, wasn't interested in interviewing.
Bell's experience with the franchise was a significant factor in his favor. He was a manager in the Reds' minor league system for four years. He also was the Cubs' third base coach, Mike Matheny's bench coach in St. Louis and vice president for player development in San Francisco.
He always hoped to return someday.
"This city just means so much to me and my family," he said. "This is something I've thought about for a long time and been preparing for for a long time.
"This time, we're moving home."
The Reds started his managing career. Bell played 12 seasons in the majors with the Indians, Cardinals, Mariners, Giants, Phillies and Brewers. When he retired, the Reds offered him a chance to manage at Double-A. Bell quickly decided that's what he wanted to do next.
"Right away, I fell in love with it," Bell said.
Buddy Bell was hired as a senior adviser in 2017. He was part of the manager search process but recused himself from discussions and interviews with his son.
Buddy Bell managed the Tigers, Rockies and Royals. He and David become the fourth father-son duo to manage in the majors, joining George and Dick Sisler, Bob and Joel Skinner, and Bob and Aaron Boone. Bob Boone managed the Reds, and Aaron played for them.
The front office is aware it needs to show fans that things are changing after years of trading away stars and talking about the young players' development. It spent a lot of time adding to scouting and the minor league system.
"We have to translate those accomplishments to success at the major league level," Williams said.