Paul O'Neill is interested and makes an intriguing Reds candidate

Paul O'Neill, former Red, five-time World Series champion and well-known intense competitor, would seem to be a natural as Reds managerial candidate, especially now that a playing career and smarts can carry the day and long managerial or even coaching apprenticeships aren’t required.

So it shouldn't be too surprising when Michael Kay revealed O'Neill and Reds owner Bob Castellini had spoken about the Reds managing job.

Ever since the tweet about O’Neill’s brief contact with the Reds, though, there has been a bit of an Internet give-and-take about how likely his candidacy is, with a Reds reporter or two suggesting he probably isn't a serious one yet.

But while there are some definite other obvious candidates, including in-house guys Bryan Price (the Reds respected pitching coach, who may also interest the Mariners) and Jim Riggleman (the Reds' Triple-A manager who helped build the Nationals into a winner), who were mentioned here soon after Dusty Baker’s unexpected firing and would be logical choices, no one should underestimate O'Neill, or undersell him.

O’Neill and a couple other former Reds such as Hall-of-Famer Barry Larkin and beloved ex-third baseman Aaron Boone probably shouldn't be discounted so early in the process, especially as long as Castellini has a say. The owner is the one who sold on Dusty Baker after an eye-opening interview and could react to the public’s wishes, so his role shouldn’t be disregarded.

O’Neill confirmed in a phone interview that he has talked to the Reds, and while O’Neill said he hasn’t met yet with Castellini, he also said, "I hope at some point we’ll sit down and see if there’s any interest on their side."

The interest on O’Neill’s part seems pretty clear at this point.  He has lived in Cincinnati pretty much since he became a Red in the mid-1980s (he resides in Montgomery about 15 minutes out of the city), and remained there even after making his real major-league mark as "The Warrior" of the Yankees, watching his kids all grow in the baseball town.

“I know the Castellinis. I live here. And I’m interested in a couple organizations,” O’Neill said.

O”Neill has down-home smarts. Don’t let his modesty fool you. He's a natural broadcaster, funny without even trying to be. He said he loves his job. But he seems intrigued by the Reds.

“This is one of the top managerial jobs in baseball. This is a good team. This is not a rebuilding situation,” O”Neill said. "This city hasn’t had a championship in a long time. I’d love to see it come back. And this team is very close to playing in those type of games."

O’Neill is a guy who generally knows what he wants. Once he became a Yankee, he wanted to stay and win rings, and he never cared that much about the money; not once did he play the hard sell in the bargaining game, instead taking quick deals at under-market prices because he couldn't muster fake interest in going elsewhere. When he says he's most interested in creating the right kind of winning culture, you believe him because he has lived it.

Even after the five rings, the batting title and the adulation of the biggest city in the country, he also has maintained a nice self-deprecating way about him. At one point, he asked, "Do you think I can manage?” (The answer: Sure, why not?)

While he enjoys broadcasting Yankees games with Kay and many ex-Yankees. he didn't hide his interest in this managing job, vacated when Baker was fired after the Reds lost the one-game wild card to the Pirates.

I brought up the two obvious questions, and O’Neill had quick answers for both.

The most obvious question is how the fellow who would trash dugout fixtures after making one out might handle a long losing streak. And O'Neill said, "That’s just the way you’re wired. Joe Torre always told me, 'You’d be a good manager because you’re hard on yourself but good and patient with other people.' "

The other question is the obvious lack of managing/coaching experience -- though obviously, his experience as a player is almost universally positive, and as he pointed out, there’s a new trend in baseball not to require past managerial work.

"What does managing in Double-A, where you might have a couple prospects, have to do with making decisions in the World Series?” he pointed out.

O’Neill learned in the trenches from the best, watching Joe Torre, Buck Showalter and Lou Piniella. He wonders if that’s enough to win one of the best jobs in baseball.

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