You may have noticed, but I’ve struggled to write this column for the past couple months. If you didn’t notice, then good: I faked it better than I thought. I did miss a couple weeks though, and even I’ll admit I mailed in a couple ideas. It’s just … I got bored.
When the Reds traded away Yasiel Puig and Taylor Trammell, I realized that this team does not care about winning in the traditional sense of the word. They only care about winning in the “I’m going to trade this pen for a Ferrari one day” sense. That is, the Reds as a team are dumpster divers, proud when their finds turn out to not be garbage, not necessarily when they lead them to the playoffs.
To be fair, the Reds front office are pretty incredible dumpster divers. Eugenio Suarez, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Jose Iglesias, Derek Dietrich — all cast off valuables that the Reds shined up. Heck, three of those guys are some of the best at their craft in the league. That’s three cylinders of that Ferrari Bob Castellini so badly wants. Only problem is: Most Ferraris need 12.
As a fan, it feels good to gloat about those guys. “Well MY TEAM got Eugenio Suarez for the bloated corpse of Alfredo Simon,” we can say, satisfied that those who represent our interests are the smartest in the room. It’s a very human impulse after all, wanting to be the smartest. We puff our chests and sit a bit taller when we get a question right at bar trivia because our society has ingrained in us that intelligence is the most valuable of qualities. We fume and hide when our answer turns out to be wrong because no one wants to be the buffoon, the blowhard, the village idiot.
But again, these are incremental gains. While the Reds (and us as fans) have held our noses high for our excellence at the local watering hole, the Cubs, the Brewers, the Astros, and so many others are racking in the millions at Jeopardy! You see, being the smartest in the room is only impressive when you consider the competition. When Reds fans gloat about Suarez or Castillo or Iglesias, I can’t help but think, “Okay, we’ve done better than the Pirates. So what?”
The Astros know how to dumpster dive just like the Reds — think Ryan Pressley, Wade Miley, Charlie Morton, Gerritt Cole — but they also know how to walk through the front door and just buy the dang merchandise. They sign the Michael Brantleys. They trade for the Justin Verlanders and Zach Grienkes. They know you can’t cobble together a roster with only spare parts.
Yes, this final column of the season is another call for the Reds to spend money. Apologies, I know you’ve heard it before. But I want to say it again to discourage the idea that this current organizational philosophy is one worth supporting.
As long as the Reds are content to pretend to be the smartest in the room, then I won’t delude myself into thinking anything of playoff chances. I’ll remain content to cheer for characters like Puig and Dietrich. I’ll hope for Geno and Aristides Aquino to combine for 100 moonshots. And I’ll choose to stop watching every day, settling for two or three games a week, after the Trade Deadline when the Reds inevitably give up again.
Why do I not have hope for the Reds in 2020? Because Baseball Prospectus has already deemed Trevor Bauer the new Yasiel Puig. Because the Reds have already jettisoned their top prospect only to remain in a holding pattern so easily broken with a bit of cash. Because the Reds have given so few indications that they care, so honestly, why should I?