Okay, this season might just be falling apart around us. The wild card lead is down to .5 game, the team is only three games over .500, and has been outscored 528-549 on the season. Wayne Krivsky is rushing around like a maniac, adding bullpen arms by the dozen. Jerry Narron is baffling just about everyone with his (non-)use of Edwin Encarnacion (OPS 867). Royce Clayton is our everyday shortstop.
All that said, and with all the complaining I’ve done over the past few weeks, I realized tonight that I’m still, at bottom, a lot happier with this team than I was a year ago. It’s not because of their place in the pathetic NL standings. It’s for only one reason: Bob Castellini.
I came to this conclusion as I was listening to the Reds game tonight. A guy from the marketing department came on the broadcast, and announced that in an effort to gin up excitement and a home field advantage for next week’s big Cardinals series, the Reds announced a promotion called “Packing the House.” All non-premium ($60 or less) seats for the Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (afternoon) games are 1/2 price (Wednesday is Dave Concepcion bobble-head night, and they’ve presumably sold a lot of tickets already). Oh, and hot dogs are a Schott-erific $1 each for the entire four-game series.
This finally convinced me that Castellini gets it. It’s such a huge contrast to the Carl Lindner/John Allen days. Every year for the past six, we’d see the following pattern:
– Reds start season with solid young core, surrounded by pitching staff from the Island of Misfit Toys. Picked to finish at bottom of standings.
– Reds get off to hot start.
– Reds expect big crowds for “showdown” series with rival.
– Fans don’t show up.
– Local papers write article questioning fan dedication.
– Team management quoted as saying, “If the fans won’t show up, we simply won’t have the money to expand payroll.”
– Fans get angry.
– Team fails to expand payroll.
– Team sinks in standings.
– Fans get angrier.
– Ticket sales for following year suffer.
Castellini is doing everything he can to break the cycle, at every point. He came out in the spring and said a bunch of stuff about “wanting to win now.” I blew it off as marketing b.s. He obviously put pressure on Krivsky, leading to bold, early deals aimed at fixing the team’s most glaring weaknesses. I thought it was misguided. Then, at the deadline, he authorizes the payroll increase that allows Krivsky to make even more moves that he thinks are needed to win now. I admired the enthusiasm, but wondered if he actually knew what he was doing.
Now, when we’ve gotten to the touchiest part of the cycle, the part that Lindner/Allen/Bowden/O’Brien couldn’t stop screwing up — the “where are the fans?” news cycle. Instead of repeating the same mistakes of front offices past, and blaming his customers because they didn’t like his product, Castellini has done exactly the right thing. He’s reached out to the fans, putting his money exactly where his mouth is, and invested in his business. He realizes that he has to overcome 10 years of frustration, but he’s not getting frustrated himself. It had to be very tempting, from Castellini’s perspective, to feel unappreciated and bitter — he just invested several million dollars in French Canadians, and the fans reward him with a 25k gate, against the Dodgers.
But Castellini did exactly what I’d like to think I would have done, if I owned the Reds. You want big crowds and excitement for a huge series? Make it happen. Fans slow coming through the gates? Cut prices to show them what they’re missing.
I may be over-praising Castellini. This isn’t rocket surgery. It’s just the obvious, right move. Unfortunately, nobody running the Reds has made those type of moves in way too long. I’m still really worried about this Reds team, but I’m much less worried about the Reds organization.
We don’t indiscriminately hype around here, but I’d sure think about heading out to that St. Louis series next week. You can’t beat half-price seats and dollar dogs.
[The guy said you could buy the discount at reds.mlb.com, or by calling the box office (513) 381-REDS or toll-free (877) 647- REDS. That said, I couldn’t get the website to show the discount — though I didn’t take the transaction through to the end. You can always contact the Reds Ticket Office at (513) 765-7400. They’ll sort it out for you, I’m sure.]