The Mad King

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The sporting world learned a few things about Reds manager Bryan Price this week: He is not a big fan of Twitter, and even less so of reporters; he has the vocabulary of an 8th-grade boy; he does NOT like it when you make his job more difficult—even if you don’t work for him; and, above all, that he is “f****** sick of this s***.”

By now, everyone has read and/or heard Price’s Monday night F-bomb extravaganza (77 of them!), when he ripped into The Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans for, I don’t know, asking questions and Tweeting and sniffing, stuff like that. And by now, most media outlets have chimed in, commenting on Price’s lack of both self-control and basic understanding of how the independent press operates—all valid topics. I, too, was struck by a few things, most notably: who exactly Price was defending with his Bobby Knight impersonation, and why exactly is this guy so pissed off in the first place?

Let’s start with the latter. Bryan Price is 52 years old. He is in his second season as a Major League manager—and only 12 games into his second season, mind you. He took over for Dusty Baker, a skipper most Reds fans had grown tired of in every way possible. Price’s first season didn’t exactly go splendidly in 2014—the team finished fourth in the NL Central with a record of 76-86—and the manager was questioned by some for his bullpen and lineup management. But for the most part, everyone—fans, press, the Reds front office—gave him a pass. He was a rookie manager. His squad suffered a load of significant injuries, including to star player Joey Votto, who missed 100 games. Reporters consistently painted him as a thoughtful, self-aware, candid guy. He never once came across as a fella likely to fit 77 iterations of the F-word into a six-minute interview—and certainly not one that was clearly being recorded. So why, with less than 180 games under his belt as a manager, was Price agitated to the brink of absurdity on Monday evening? He hasn’t spent years dealing with the press on a nightly basis, or suffered through a handful of seemingly endless losing seasons, or endured a healthy portion of anguish from a fed-up fanbase. He’s not yet one of those baseball lifers like Baker or Jim Leyland or Jack McKeon. And beyond that, he’s been managing in Cincinnati, a town that loves its baseball, no doubt, but not a place known for its invasive or overbearing press. Aside from the team-friendly TV/radio/digital press corps who draw paychecks from the Reds, the Enquirer has two beat writers and a columnist, and will often only send one of them on road trips. The other independent radio and TV reporters are mainly at home games, and the rest of the blogs and regional magazines have either been denied access from the beginning or banned from coming back. Price is simply not under the day-to-day scrutiny faced by mangers in markets like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, or Los Angeles. Even the things he railed about seemed petty—Tweets and injuries and roster questions. It’s not as if a reporter called for his head or made fun of his kids or criticized his hygiene. On the very, very short list of reasons for someone to launch into a Shakespearean-monologue-length diatribe, Price’s grievances are nowhere to be found.

Which is yet another curious aspect of this whole ordeal: aside from being trivial, Price’s complaints were oddly and exclusively self-serving. At no point was he defending one of his players or coaches or bosses, or the team in general. The entire rant was spurred by the fact that he felt the media’s reporting was “making my job f****** harder.” He brought up Devin Mesoraco’s injury/absence, Billy Hamilton’s sore fingers, Kyle Skipworth’s demotion, but all within the context of how reporting it (in his mind) negatively impacted his job performance. He wasn’t protecting Mesoraco or Skipworth; he was protecting himself. Sure, he mentioned “the Reds” a few times, but his overall point was clear: he was angry at the media, because he felt they were reporting things that hindered his ability to win games, which is his main responsibility as manager. Or in his words, “Ah, f***. I’m just, I’m f****** p****** up a rope in this f****** business.

I’m not entirely sure what the long-term implications of this outburst will be. I’m guessing Price received a stern talking-to from general manager Walt Jocketty and owner Bob Castellini, and I imagine if the team has another losing season that all of this will factor into a decision of whether to retain Price or not. And conversely, if the Reds make the playoffs and Price wins a World Series in the near future and goes on to have a successful managing career, the whole thing will largely be forgotten, a funny story dug up the next time a coach temporarily loses his mind. But in the immediate future, this is not a good look for the Reds: a young manager, on a team struggling to stay in contention, whose most notable and recognized achievement thus far is the stamina and efficiency with which he unleashed 91 expletives in 5 minutes and 34 seconds—one per 3.7 seconds. You think this won’t come up again when Cincinnati hosts the All-Star Game this summer? You think it won’t be a constant topic of conversation if the Reds are battling the Brewers for fourth place in the NL Central a month from now?

Once the obscenity-riddled smoke had somewhat cleared by Tuesday afternoon, Price also let his one chance at softening the PR nightmare flutter right by. He could have come out and faced the cameras and media a remorseful man, admitting that his emotions got the best of him, joking that Castellini had to wash his mouth out with soap, offering reporters a free shot to give it right back to him. He could have diffused things. Instead, he issued what could only be considered an apology in the loosest sense of the word—and, ironically, via Twitter!—stating through the Reds account: “While I stand by the content of my message, I am sorry for the choice of words.”

Big swing-and-a-miss. Granted, the language was far from appropriate, but it was the content that was most offensive. Yet for some confounding reason, Price—and by extension, the Reds organization—doesn’t think so. Which seems pretty f****** stupid.

Justin Williams is an associate editor at Cincinnati Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @Williams_Justin.

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