My latest at Cincinnati Magazine, in which I express a little confusion over recent events and the direction of the Reds:

As the Redlegs crawl home with their collective tails between their legs after yet another losing road trip, Reds fans are wondering: Can FC Cincinnati really shock the soccer world again?

No, the Reds haven’t completely lost the town to FC Cincinnati, but everyone seems to agree that management of the Queen City’s new MLS franchise seems to know what it’s doing. After two months of the 2018 baseball season, there is increasing doubt about whether you can say the same about the Reds front office.

If you’re looking for reasons to be confident in the direction of the Reds’ never-ending rebuilding process, this hasn’t exactly been a banner week. Let’s recap.

Read the entire column here, then come back and tell me how dumb I am. (Also, it helps me if you share it on Facebook or Twitter, if you’re inclined to do something like that. Thanks!)

25 Responses

  1. David

    Chad

    Frankly, no they have not had a plan. There may actually be the outlines of one now, due to Dick Williams and Nick Krall. I think the Jocketty-Castellini axis was determined to patch together something that looked like “rebuild while contending”, which was pretty weak sauce. The Jocketty era was also notable for a lot of bad drafts. Was this the on the advice of scouts or something else? I actually think the Mesoraco for Harvey trade, while it may not work out, was a real attempt to do something out of the box and constructive.

    I think the draft of 2016 was pretty good. I think the draft of 2017 was probably ok. I think this years draft was actually one of the best ones they have had in a while. I see a lot of good talent selected in the first five rounds (including the compensation pick).

    The lack of organizational communication is pretty typical of company where there is low trust. I see that a lot where I work. Poor communication is due to invisible heirarchies (ie, the Castellini family and their cronies in the organization) versus the regular employees.

    Maybe Dick Williams, son of one of the minority owners, will be the bridge between the cronies and the regular employees. Who knows? I want them to succeed, but hope is not a plan.

    • Jeff Reed

      As in most bureaucracies, whether public or private, there are little fiefdoms that often stand in the way of making forward looking plans and policy.

    • Michael Smith

      David I have to ask what makes you say the 2017 is probably ok??? It is too soon to say either way but at least the first 3 picks are showing a ton of promise.

      • David

        I think Hunter Green has a ton of potential, but it will take a while to tell. That’s my main point.

        Nick Senzel was the #1 draft choice in 2016, and will soon be in the ML. Okey is a dud, but Taylor Trammel shows a lot of promise too.

      • Michael Smith

        I guess that is where I am confused David. You have already labeled the draft a year after it happened because the top pick from the year before is almost up with the big league club? I am assuming you know that it takes years for most picks to make their way thru the system and saying a year later that the draft is ok is premature (especially since the top 3 picks are all showing great promise)

      • David

        Senzel was drafted with the expectation that he would breeze through the minors, which he has done. Trammel was more a young development player; high school draftee. Okey was a dud. 2016 draft.

        Hunter Greene was a slam dunk first round, but it will be years before we know he will be good. That’s my “wait and see attitude”. It was expected. I am not so sure that Stuart Fairchild will be as good or better than Trammel. And he’s a couple of years older. He was another college pick that should be rocketing through the farm system like Senzel. Maybe soon.

        There were, of course, other players in both drafts that may yet develop, but your #1 and #2 picks should be cinch prospects. Greene may yet be a great pitcher someday. but it is still to soon to know. The 2017 draft may turn out to be a great draft if he develops as hoped.

  2. james garrett

    No they don’t have a plan and everything you said is true.All of us here are just looking for a decision or two that says yeah I can see it now but it never happens.Lots of smart guys on this site and I am not one of them so I have to defer to others but I see nothing other then total chaos and confusion on and off the field.It reminds me of watching by grandchildren play in that they just go from one thing to another all day long then start over again.

    • Michael Smith

      David you are forgetting Jeter who is over 800 ops at 19 in Dayton. He was the second pick in 2017

  3. BigRedMachine

    To me what is lacking is conviction to follow a plan, if there is indeed a plan. Conviction looks like “Winker starts every game (minus rest days) this season. At the end of the season, we will evaluate how he performed and make adjustments next season.” It doesn’t look like whatever happened (and is happening) with Winker now.

    Conviction looks like deciding where Senzel will start, be it 2B, an experiment at SS, whatever, and then having him start every game there so he is ready and practiced when he is called up. Panicking and moving him around several times gives no one–not players, not fans–confidence that the leadership of the Reds has the conviction behind any of their ideas.

    At this point I’d just be happy to see them try something, anything, and stick with it. If they were to say, “We are going pitch nothing but young pitchers. No journeyman veterans. No arms to soak up innings. Everyone (within reason) gets a shot at being a starter.” and then actually stick to it I wouldn’t care if half those pitchers flamed out. At least they are trying something.

    Recently Ford announced that no one is buying cars anymore over CUVs so they axed every sedan in North America other than the Mustang. That decision could either bring huge profits or be a historic disaster. But at least they analyzed the situation, came up with a plan, and are executing it. That’s where the executive comes from in “executive leadership”. They didn’t announce the plan and then 3 days later say “Oops! Just kidding! Here are 5 new sedan models planned for 2019!!!”

  4. eric3287

    I slightly disagree with the sentiment that there is no plan. I agree that there is no GOOD plan, but I think they have had a goal every year; not to lose 100 games in a single season as cheaply as possible.

    That is really the only thing that makes any sense. It’s why they held on to every asset they had for too long; they wanted to ring every bit of value they could in an effort to win at least 63 games. Then, when they do pull the trigger on a trade, every single move they made targeted tweener AAAA types they could plug onto the big league roster and pay the major league minimum to.

    This is the point in time of a successful rebuild when fans can look to AAA and at worst AA and see a bright future. Here, we have to look to A+ to see even a glimmer of hope.

    What bothers me the most, though, is the hubris of ownership and the front office. Instead of doing what Milwaukee did and Houston did and the Dodgers did and going outside the organization to bring in someone who had been part of an organization that had successfully been a part of a rebuild, the Reds figured they were smart enough to do it on their own. They kept the skeleton of Walt Jocketty, and handed the reigns to Dick Williams based solely on his last name. It’s a decision that should frankly embarrass Bob Castellini, and a move that no “world class organization” would ever make.

    • George

      Eric3287;

      Until someone publicly goes after “Bob C.” nothing will change. I dealt with individual family business owners (legal and contracts) for 20 plus years and in the end, no matter how the organization was set up, there was only one real decision maker. Whatever is wrong with the Reds, the trail leads back to “Bob C.”
      From Cincinnati Business Courier Mar 22, 2013
      “Jack Wyant, managing director of Blue Chip Venture Co. and a Reds shareholder said the Bob C.“ has a very favorable view of the Reds’ economics.””

      Team value has gone from $425 Mil to over a billion today. Advertising and TV contracts makes winning and attendance secondary. Bob’s personal investment of $270 Mil is now worth close to over $600 Mil. All of this without a World Series.
      Advertising and TV contracts makes winning and attendance secondary.

      • David

        This is, of course, too true. Bob C. is winning. Everything else is…. questionable.

  5. George

    Chad;
    It is good that you can share the feelings of the RLN with others.

    Chad writes; “Maybe I’m reading too much into that. But there’s also the situation where Williams was the General Manager to start the season, and the Reds decided after a month and a half to promote Krall to the GM’s chair.”
    This is the classic family business approach, “protect our own”.

    Now the Reds can fire Krall and Riggleman at the end the season and Williams can say; “It just wasn’t working out, we wish them the best!” (Got to have a fall guys to protect family members)
    Until Reds ownership goes out and hires “Baseball Professionals” and stays out of their way, what we see today will be the norm.

  6. Ryan

    The issue is the original plan was to trade Cueto et al. for almost MLB ready talent and be contenders by 18-19′. That plan has not panned out due to none of the prospects they got back are ready and may never be. Now the front office has to wait for these draft picks to come up and hope they can trade guys like Straily and Gennett for quality prospects. If the front office had gone full in on the rebuild and tried to get the best possible prospects from the beginning, not just best possible in AA or AAA, this rebuild would be looking a lot better.

  7. eric3287

    That last paragraph makes a very good point. It was both funny and sad to watch those in the Reds media defend the move to bench Winker and then defend the move to un-bench him the next day. The most tepid criticism of the move was “I probably wouldn’t do it, but it doesn’t really matter.” Then, once Riggleman does his about-face, instead of trying to figure out what kind of dysfunctional clown show the orgnization is running, those very same people who defended the first move acted like the reversal was pure genius. “Well, with all these off days, they didn’t want Winker sitting 4, 5, 6 days at a time.” Because those off days were just sprung on the team and caught them completely off-guard. Or, “Personally, I like a manager willing to change his mind.” This wasn’t Riggelman suddenly realizing some bold new progressive strategy was a good idea, it was a manager making a serious personnel decision one day and immediately reversing it the next. Just absolutely insane.

  8. George

    “The CTrent’s, Fay’s, Sheldon’s and Nightengale’s of the Cincinnati media won’t, and will not, hold the Reds front office/ownership accountable for this disaster of a MLB franchise.”

    True but if the above mentioned say something ownership does not like, say goodbye to their access to the team. Family business’s make everything personal.

    FYI, full page B&W ad calling out BOB C. in The Inquirer cost about $50,000. if they would run it. Good old boy network is everywhere.

  9. George

    “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate.”

    Depends on what the goal is. Investment wise, the Reds current ownership has hit the Lottery. The goal of ownership is to create wealth for themselves and stockholders. They exceeded their wildest dreams. $475 Million to over a Billion in less than 10 years. The publicly stated aspirations about winning and historical legacy (The Great 8) were all part of the marketing needed to get to their financial goals. It has been and always will be about the money. .
    As I have stated before “Advertising and TV contracts makes winning and attendance secondary.”

    • George

      MRRED:
      I respect your perspective.
      Use of Bob C’s letter and noting that they have failed to live up to it is part of what I was saying. It wasn’t a contract, there weren’t any “non-performance clauses”, it was a marketing letter to stir the fanbase. In my opinion it was Bob C selling the fan base hope.
      As far as the overall growth of MLB owners, a lot of that has to do with tv money. TV just about guarantees success even for mediocre owners. The Reds ownership have enhanced their revenue by not spending on pricy Free agents, to improve performance, and the signing over the hill vets who they hope will regain their former performance levels. The Reds still collect the rental checks from the various vendors at the ballpark win or lose and as you may have also noticed, there are many more banner ads’ now in GABP.
      All we can do is keep the faith and hope. 😊

  10. Streamer88

    Great article Chad. And it’s trending nicely, congrats!

    My $0.02 is that there is a plan, absolutely, and there was one in 2016. It probably had 7-8 crucial steps. It probably looked beautiful in the PowerPoint presentation given to the top brass.

    The problem wasn’t the plan, it’s been the execution. Step 1 was to win some trades. Castillo, Duvall/Meilla, Peraza, the Cueto haul, did they win them? Step 2 drafting. Step 3 develop 3-5 All star pitchers from scratch so we don’t have to pay for a Max Scherzer. Step 4 involved BHam becoming Rickey Henderson. Step 5 etc.

    They have a plan. They just can’t execute. Scouts, advanced stats people, mid level admin talent, Walt Jocketty, all failures.

    There’s a famous military quote that goes “no battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” Well this front office dropped their weapons and are running around in confusion without orders.

    • Kettering Reds Fan

      +1. Actually, +1 raised to the 10th order.

      Nothing suborns a good strategy better than poor execution. Or, in this case, “strategy”. The strategy wasn’t all that bad – as long as you approached it with a mindset firmly based in the glory days of baseball past. Unfortunately, the game moved on but the strategists did not.

      • Streamer88

        Touché. There was definitely a plan. Perhaps it was a plan based in 1980s data thoughts.

  11. Bill Lack

    I will admit, I thought this team would be a LOT better than they have been this season. That’s on me.

    I also am starting to believe that the talent that the FO assured us would lead us into what would become the next good/great Reds team may just not be that good. Time will tell on that b/c honestly, they have no other choice. The players they have now have little trade value, they don’t have a “next waver” ready to come up, so they have to go with what they have.

    The other thing I’m becoming convinced of is that the ownership/FO is concerned at least as much with PR as they are with building a winner (if not more). I’m thrilled that they gave us probably the best team HOF in baseball and have vastly improved the fan experience; but how has that helped the team on the field (and, for that matter, attendance)?

    Winning solves all of these other problems. If you win, they’ll come. Might not be true everywhere, but it is in Cincinnati.

  12. another bob from nc

    Plan? We don’t need no stinkin’ plan. I don’t think the Reds’ Front Office has a clue let alone a plan.

  13. The Doctor

    This organization at this time has to be one of the worst professional sports franchises in the USA. No leadership, no direction, no plan. It is way past time for a complete start-over, beginning right at the top with the owner. Mr. Castellini has made horrible hiring decisions – he allowed Walt Jocketty to ruin the team! The buck stops at the top! In the future (if there is one for this franchise) the Castellini era will be viewed as the very worst period in Reds history. As a long-time (60+ years) Reds fan, I am so angry and saddened by what they have become.