You’ll remember, a few weeks ago, I asked whether Reds ownership was meddling in baseball operations. The short answer: yes.

Well, since that piece was published, we keep getting more evidence of Bob Castellini sticking his nose into baseball decisions, both off-field (Matt Harvey) and on-field (he’s talking strategy with the manager!). So I had to revisit my thesis from the earlier piece, and that was the topic of my latest for Cincinnati Magazine:

Castellini acknowledged earlier this year that he wouldn’t let the front office begin the rebuilding process back in 2014-15 by blocking trades of certain players before the All-Star Game. And now the Reds are spinning their wheels at an important moment in the rebuild because the owner is continuing to meddle in areas that he just doesn’t understand. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies—who began their rebuilding machinations at the same time as the Reds—are fighting for a playoff spot. The Reds, in contrast, are in last place. Again.

Castellini’s legacy is that he’s presided over one of the worst stretches of losing baseball in the history of the Cincinnati Reds. His fingerprints are all over every single loss and every single curious decision this franchise has made over the last four years. But that doesn’t have to be his ultimate legacy. If he’ll just get out of the way, Castellini has some good baseball minds in his employ. I trust those guys to make the important decisions that need to be made this winter, decisions that could lead the Reds back to an era of winning baseball.

What the Reds need is an owner who behaves like Bill DeWitt Jr., someone who understands that he is the steward of a public trust and commits to doing what is best for the team, whether that strokes his ego or not. What the Reds have is an owner who acts more like George Steinbrenner, or at least a version of Steinbrenner that you wouldn’t mind inviting to a cocktail party. It’s not a recipe for success.

Read the entire piece. Please?

15 Responses

  1. eric3287

    “For the last 20 years, we’ve watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduce them to a laughingstock all for the glorification of your massive ego.”

    That would be a very fine comparison with what Castellini has done here. At least Steinbrenner didn’t feign poverty though.

    • eric3287

      I think it’s his ego that keeps him from doing that. He thinks he knows better than others how to build a successful baseball team which is laughable on its face.

    • Kettering Reds Fan

      I tend to agree with this. Actually, the problem is probably better off restated as “How can we get our message across to Bob C. in a manner that will not be seen as threatening?” and “Who is the best messenger for the message?” Otherwise, I fear that he’ll listen, and then dig himself even deeper into the existing small circle of friends. The question is not his authenticity, sincerity, support to the community, desire to put a quality entertainment product on the market or, above all, desire to win — it’s the sentimentality and the nostalgia for late Twentieth Century (“back when I was younger”) baseball. If your message comes across to him as criticism of the former…not the latter…he’ll just huddle up deeper with Walt & Co. And I suspect he will spend money, but, without redirection, spend it inefficiently….I don’t see Bob as Scrooge McOwner.

      In a sense, it reflects some of what I see in local fandom……i.e. the retrospective look, the urge to compare everything to the standard of the Big Red Machine – a Machine that probably cannot be rebuilt today in the modern game and labor regimes. (I’m dating myself – even though I was a New Yorker back in the day – I confess to having watched the Machine come up from the minors and prevail, but that was -then-.). To build a TwentyFirst Century Machine will require different habits of thought.

  2. Scott C

    Riggleman is just as old school as Billy Martin, but at least the Yankee fans were able to watch Billy go off on rants against the umpires. Riggleman just sits in the dugout pulling on the netting.

  3. BigRedMike

    The decisions made in regards to Hamilton, Gennett, Harvey, and Riggleman will indicate to me the direction of the Organization. The current decision making is clearly not working, new thought processes are needed. A new voice and different viewpoint is needed.

  4. eric3287

    The article that mentioned the Reds looking for a couple of OFers was so ridiculous I could only conclude it was accurate. In 2019, the Reds will have these OFers on the roster:
    Winker – 128 wRC+
    Schebler – 119 wRC+
    Ervin – 112 wRC+
    Hamilton – 67 wRC+

    Add in Scooter (129 wRC+) and the fact that Senzel has no where to play and I am left wondering what in the hell the Reds are talking about. Granted, Winker got hurt and Schebler has been hurt too. Also, I think you should always be looking to improve every position. But that has never been the Reds MO. The next time they go out and sign a free agent or make a trade for a player that results in someone losing their starting job will the first. This reeks of “We just need a steady veteran presence to lead us to the playoff” nonsense.

    • Ryan

      can someone link the article about the Reds looking for OF please? I can’t seem to find it, thanks

  5. Andy

    I’m going to be a minority on this website, but I don’t have a problem with Bob C. or many of the decisions mentioned. I think current Reds funk is less owner interference and more failure of pitching development, which he would have little to no ability to influence.

    I would caution wishing for an all-business, hands off owner. They are prone to make all-business, no emotion decisions about which city the team plays in. They may also make all-business decisions to sell to highest bidder, even if said highest bidder has plans to move the Sonics to Oklahoma or Crew to Austin.

    The Reds have a competent, competitive starting 8 with decent depth and a solid bullpen. They bet on Homer Bailey in 2014 and lost the bet. They were betting this year that some combination of Mahle, Romano, Stephenson, Reed, Castillo, Desclafani, Finnegan, (anyone else?) would make a serviceable rotation, and lost the bet. I remember some chatter here about Yu Darvish last offseason, that be would have been disastrous as well. I agreed with the offseason plan to sort this year, and we have sorted, and everyone but Castillo fell through the sieve.

    Scooter? I doubt Senzel will be a 5 War player until Votto is in full decline (if he ever gets there; it’s not a given.) I vote extension. Senzel can play somewhere else in short term, or be the trade chip needed for Starter #1.

    Harvey? Frankly I’ve seen enough “sorting” to know most of these guys aren’t the answer. He might be slightly below average, but that just means he is a #3 starter, on a team with one #3/4 starter (Castillo) and a bunch of AAAA guys. The Reds need two starters next year to pair with Castillo/Desclafani/best of AAAA bunch, and the first one will be expensive, I’m fine if Harvey is the 2nd. I just don’t buy that keeping him is a lost opportunity for more AAAA sorting, all of these guys have had plenty of chances to stick, and haven’t. I also doubt the return from Milwaukee would make a real MLB difference.

    Withholding trades before ASG? Be careful what you wish for, Frazier’s HR derby win was an unforgettable night. Wouldn’t trade that. Reds still got a good deal for him that offseason, if anything the ASG may have raised his profile/trade value.

    Chapman? Oof. I would argue the real error here was signing Alfredo Simon shortly after the trade. I had no problems unloading a PR nightmare, but the Simon deal gives evidence it was all PR and no “moral center” driving the trade. Still, getting nothing for Chapman I blame on Chapman, not on Bob C.

    I agree with authors about Hamilton and Riggleman. I’ll reserve judgment until we see what the offseason brings. I’m fine if Hamilton stays for ARB3 and loses playing time to Ervin/Schebler. Also fine if he’s traded. Extension would be poor decision. Riggleman has shown his ceiling is mediocrity, Reds need a fresh mind to work with Dick Williams (and not start/lead off Billy so much, and stop bunting.)

    • Andy

      I accept that Bob C was likely responsible for the decisions. I’m also saying I agree with the decisions and would still make same decisions with benefit of hindsight. If Frazier had gotten hurt the first game after ASG and was never traded for anything, I still would support the team’s decision because the home run derby was the single most fun night I’ve spent at Riverfront or GABP. (If it helps you, I was born in 1980 and didn’t get to go to any 1990 postseason games.) That matters more than perfect trade timing, at least to me.

      As for Chapman, during that time Reds fans got to watch the best pitcher in baseball for one inning at a time. I would buy cheap seats then move down for 9th inning, to see 103MPH fastball up close. The 8th/9th inning of game was appointment viewing after I got my kids to bed. That level of talent should never be traded, just for prospects that couldn’t hope to touch his excellence. I would understand if he left in free agency. That he embarrassed himself and organization enough to be traded for very little was a sad end to that chapter. I’m not convinced Reds would have traded him at all if not for his idiotic behavior that night.

      • Kettering Reds Fan

        I don’t know exactly how to phrase this, so I’ll just let fly and allow this to fall where it may.

        Too much time discussing trades and contracts at the MLB level. By time things get to this stage, it’s late and expensive to change things for the better – especially for a small market club.

        Too little time spent discussing the organizational changes that need to happen throughout the org, all the way down to Billings, in order to properly develop players with the full set of MLB skills and then financing them and nursing the changes through. As CEO, Bob -is- responsible for this or for adequately delegating resources and authority to someone who will be responsible and accountable. (i.e. Dick W.?) and then letting them execute.

        If you have a Twentieth Century foundation, you might find it hard to compete in the TwentyFirst

      • Aaron Bradley

        I am sorry your baseball experience is so limited that you feel Chapman’s fastball speed rationalizes getting nothing for him. The Reds have had dozens of great closers in their history, as has every team. Chapman blew a bunch of saves, was acting like a prima donna in the bullpen, and his off the field behavior was erratic at best. He had a laptop computer stolen by a prostitute from the hotel on a road trip. He’s dumb as a bag of rocks. Iglesias is probably just as effective as Chapman without the high drama and triple digit fastballs.

        A home run derby? We are trying to make the playoffs. You are talking like a child, not an adult. We are discussing an attempt at winning a world championship. Anyone that worries about triple digit fastballs and home run derby’s does not have their eye on the prize.

  6. KDJ

    I’m wondering what version of Steinbrenner is best for a cocktail party. Regardless, Steinbrenner had a lot of winning seasons . . . something we have not seen here for too long.

    • Kettering Reds Fan

      Whatever else you say, he also produced Brian Cashman as a follow-on. Not the worst legacy.

  7. Jeff Reed

    Even when you love a team as many of us Reds fans do, the bottom line is always a winning season which we haven’t had in the last five years and the prognosis is not good with the unclear status of the starting pitching. The empty seats at GABP are a real indicator that indifference is a fact. Only a team playing .500 or above baseball will bring the fans back. It’s up to Mr. Castellini or a new principal owner to lead the way.

  8. Aaron Bradley

    Just thinking about Chapman puts me in a foul mood. Rob Dibble was ten times the pitcher Chapman would ever be. Even Norm Charlton was a better pitcher. Chapman is a one trick pony that relies on velocity because he is a freak. His head is filled with rocks. Dumber than a door knob and the moral character of your average street thug. Good riddance. And they could have seen it coming a mile away, there were plenty of off field incidents, but they ignored them, and then when he shot up the garage they panic sold him for nothing. It’s not just Chapman, this whole organization lacks intelligence.