The Cincinnati Reds are 1-7 and in last place in the National League Central. They have the worst record in baseball. Yes, it’s only a week and a half into the season. And to truly panic may be a bit much. But if you are among the ownership group, it’s time to panic. The last few years have been disastrous for the Cincinnati Reds when it comes to the product on the field and as a result, the gate receipts and general interest in the ball club.
During the homestand the Reds played a game against Pittsburgh that drew a grand total of 7,799 people. And that is paid attendance, not actual people walking through the gate and finding their way to the seat. It was a cold, miserable Monday night in Cincinnati. But those numbers are minor league baseball attendance numbers. That is what the Dayton Dragons or Louisville Bats draw on a given night.
After last season it seemed that enough was enough somewhere in the organization. The front office seemed to finally be able to have the power to put their people in place. For years it seemed there was a disconnect between what the front office people were saying publicly about the kind of things they believed players should be doing, and what was happening in the dugout and on the field. And we saw a complete turnover of nearly every coach in the dugout. Then we saw the team add about five additional coaches to that group. Things were drastically different both in personnel and in what that personnel was saying they were going to do.
There has been a grand sense of apathy lately in Cincinnati for their sports teams. Between the Reds simply being bad for most of the 2000’s, to the Bengals continued failures in the playoffs – professional sports in the city has killed many fans from buying in. Fool them ten times, shame on you. Fool them eleven times, shame on them.
A few years ago FC Cincinnati kicked off their franchise as a small-time minor league soccer team. But they put 20,497 butts in the seats at their first USL game and never looked back. Over the next three years FC Cincinnati garnered national and international attention for what they were doing in terms of attendance, particularly at a lower level of professional soccer. That all led to them earning an expansion bid as an MLS team in 2018, with their first season being the current one.
While the Reds and Bengals don’t directly compete for eyes and ears, the Reds and FC Cincinnati do. The seasons overlap. While not everyone is choosing between one or the other, plenty are. And if you had to choose between the kind of atmosphere below, or whatever the heck was happening between 2016-2018 at Great American Ballpark, which would you choose?
— Stu Holden (@stuholden) March 17, 2019
The Reds may not say it out loud, but they absolutely know what they are going up against. And this offseason they didn’t just go out and change up the entirety of the coaching staff. They went out and got players, too. The Reds made trades with the Yankees, Dodgers, and the Nationals to bring in three starting pitchers and two former All-Star outfielders. Losing was supposed to be something of the past. Developing at the Major League level and rebuilding were things that happened under the past regime.
Apathy had set in, but the offseason for the Reds had people excited. Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, and Tanner Roark would stabilize the rotation along with Luis Castillo. Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp would add to an already strong offense. The 2019 Reds were supposed to look a lot different than the team that began 3-18 in 2018 and ultimately led to wholesale coaching changes in April of last season.
Even after losing Scooter Gennett to injury late in spring training, the outlook still looked solid for the Reds. And then the season started, and it started well. The Reds won on Opening Day over the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’ve played seven games since then and they’ve lost every single one of them. One win. Seven losses. After the past few seasons the casual fans who may have been excited about the offseason is fighting each other to leap off of the bandwagon. The die-hard fans that are left are feeling dead inside.
Bob Castellini headed up a group that bought the controlling share of the Cincinnati Reds in 2006. In the introductory press conference he said “we’re buying the Reds to win. Anything else is unacceptable.” There’s been a lot of unacceptable since then. The Reds have had three winning seasons since that press conference. They’ve had ten losing seasons in that span, not accounting for this year.
From any and all accounts, Castellini isn’t just an owner, he’s a huge Reds fan, too. Rumors that he lives and dies with each win and loss are out there. But it’s not just his emotions that take a hit with each loss. His pockets do, too. And things aren’t looking great moving forward in 2019. While the wins-to-tickets-sold usually takes a year to fully kick in, the “out of it by the second week of April” feeling will get the sales department immediately.
The wins are going to come. How many, who really knows – but the Cincinnati Reds aren’t going to continue down a 1-7 path for the year. They will get better. They will even have some good runs where they win a lot more than they lose. But will anyone but the absolute die-hard fans still be paying attention? The Reds have gotten off to a start that is about as bad as possible, and it is the absolute last thing they needed. Not only because it’s tough to start out so poorly and still make the playoffs, but it’s killed every last bit of enthusiasm in the fan base for the good will built up with the offseason moves that they made.