The Reds' 2005 season is coming to a close with Jerry Narron playing out the role of interim manager, and though the organization has vowed not to make anything official until the end of the season, the team's performance under Narron leads many to believe that the Reds can just remove the “interim” tag and be done with it.
Bringing Narron on permanently may be the right conclusion, but the process of drawing that conclusion ought to be more sophisticated than glancing at the record and clubhouse and saying “yeah, I guess this will do.” The Reds need to perform a bona fide manager search with the intent of hiring a new manager, not of just going through the motions. It's the only way they can get the best possible candidate, show that they know better than to repeat their mistakes, and demonstrate that they hold their players and fans in some level of esteem.
The Best Candidate
Jerry Narron has a lot of strong qualities as a manager:
- His Play the Game Right; Play the Game Hard motto focuses attention on the fundamentals, which are bound to be an area of weakness on a team so gifted that it could easily slip into coasting on sheer talent.
- He has nearly eliminated the communications blunders that were the hallmark of Miley's 2005 campaign. When reporters ask how a player is doing, they don't get answers like, “he looks OK from what I've seen,” or “why don't you ask him?” from Narron. Narron at least gives the impression of being in touch.
- These days, no one questions whether the GM is secretly calling the shots in the on-field play. Narron is “O'Brien's man,” another positive for him, at least as long as O'Brien is around.
On the other hand, motivation is an important area where I don't see Narron doing a whole lot. The Play The Game mantra tells players what to do, but not why to do it. For the moment, at least, every man seems to be finding his own reasons to play hard, but that's a tenuous position to be in with so many young players. A stronger candidate will have a concrete plan for how to prevent the Reds' wide-eyed rookies from turning into sullen D'Angelos.
Not Making the Same Mistake Twice
Dave Miley and Jerry Narron are vastly different. Their personalities, demeanors, and approaches to the game are miles apart. But, if next June we're looking at our third interim coach in four years, they're suddenly going to look a whole lot alike.
I was not the only one who approved of bringing on Miley. He was a loyal organizational guy who had earned a chance. Bringing on Narron might also be the right thing to do. It's not his fault that the last guy in similar circumstances didn't work out, and he shouldn't be summarily eliminated from the search process because of it.
But the Reds need to prepare themselves for how stupid they'll look if they go down this path and it doesn't work out again. They'd better be darn sure that Narron is the right answer before they give him the job, lest they perpetrate the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Because You're Worth It
Maybe the most important reason why the Reds need to consider someone new in an all-out manager search is because of the message it would send to the players and to the fans.
To draw a metaphor, let's say you had a child that you thought was a no-good, lazy layabout who would never amount to anything. You wouldn't much care what college he went to, because you'd think he was just going to drop out or waste his degree anyway. If you had to send him to college, you'd pick the cheapest, easiest option available.
On the other hand, if you had a golden child, whom you were proud of and believed could do anything he set his mind to, then you'd pull out all the stops to provide him the best opportunities. You would do everything in your power to help him meet his potential.
In most cases, one of these children is going to perform better than the other, regardless of his actual level of talent, intelligence, and skill.
Narron might be the best option. But he is also the easiest and probably among the cheapest. If the Reds hand the job over to him, they're going to need a media blitz about why he is far and away the best candidate, or else they're going a long way to demonstrate to the team and to the fans that they don't believe their team deserves anything better.
Conclusion: Searching for Legitimacy
For the last few years, the story of the Reds has been one of wasted talent and unfulfilled expectations. The organization has taken steps; some have worked and some have exploded like a spectacular flaming doo-doo bomb. One of the steps that has worked in the short-term has been the management tenure of Jerry Narron, but that doesn't automatically make Narron a long-term solution. The Reds cannot skimp on the manager search if they want to avoid stepping in it for a change.