When the slogan is trending on Twitter, the billboard GoFundMes have started, and the pre-postseason attendance is below 10,000 people in a 43,500 capacity stadium, the citizenry has had enough.

Our current local hero is a man who sat in the Diamond Seats, the land of the well-heeled, the bucket listers, and the corporate beneficiaries. This man sat behind home plate and did something people here just don’t do unless we have had it: On Tuesday night, he expressed an opinion, and he did it off the Internet. His “SELL THE TEAM, BOB” sign appeared behind an opposing batter on the game broadcast before the feed abruptly changed to a different camera.

But I’m not so sure that our problems will be solved by Selling the Team, Bob.

Having had my poor human heart ripped out by various entities, all run by similar poor heart-having humans, we must be cautious.

What if it’s worse?

(“It’s worse.” -Venn diagram of Star Wars and Reds fans everywhere)

We’ve had it worse. But, of course, we don’t deserve worse. The fans. The current team. The World Series winners. The farm teams. The dude selling water four blocks from the stadium. Everybody. Everybody.

I bring Star Wars into this for two reasons, both of them excellent: 1) Like Golden Girls, at least some aspect of Star Wars is applicable to every single life situation 2) Baby Yoda.

The Star Wars sequel trilogy, all three slow-motion nightmare installations of it, is roundly despised by longtime fans, as we recognize it as a wasteful copy of a copy; it is Star Wars made by people who do not understand Star Wars. Its directors, J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson, proclaimed themselves Star Wars fans, and I believe them. But they were fans in the sense that they saw the original films a couple times and liked them, and perhaps pushed a plastic spaceship across the playground back in the Reagan administration. This doesn’t mean they weren’t fine directors, or even fine sci-fi directors; it just means they suddenly found themselves into a very specific galaxy they had little clue how to navigate.

The blockbuster series The Mandalorian, on the other hand, is a creation from animator Dave Filoni, who is a walking Star Wars deep cut. He invoked character names from original drafts of the first film, made a plot point out of a vehicle that once briefly existed as a franchise toy, and deftly vetoed anything that sounded even remotely stupid. It’s not so much that Filoni has memorized the spelling of every possible creature species that ever appeared on a Star Wars screen, or collected the most and rarest action figures. It’s the fact this man has passed significant mental and emotional time in this galaxy, simply because he enjoyed being there, and not only in his formative years.

You see, he didn’t need to think about “what the fans might want,” because he was a fan, the very purest form of one. Filoni’s long-term wanderings in this landscape allowed him to instinctively pilot his way around pandering and into respectful story expansion. This ability cannot be purchased, nor crammed.

It can be a danger to insert an emotions-leading person in any position of major decision-making; this is how we got David Bell to begin with, as well as Thom Brennaman coming to you live for a decade and a half. But it also provided Big Red Machine hitting coach Ted Kluszewski and Corky Miller in perpetuity.

We cannot hold on too tightly. Nor should we reach for that which is not authentically ours.

So that’s why I hope Bob doesn’t Sell The Team, unless a few conditions are met first.

Don’t sell the team unless you find someone who understands that baseball is a business– a business, and the glue of a family across generations, and a history lesson, and home, and the sweep of sweet summer, and age 5, and age 97, and a way of being. It is all these things, and more than the sum of all these things.

Don’t sell the team to anyone who makes promises he or she doesn’t plan to keep. That’s happened before. We don’t like it.

Don’t sell the team to anyone who WOOOOOs.

Don’t sell the team unless the buyer can repeat, cell phone not in hand, his very favorite Marty and Joe story.

Don’t sell the team if there aren’t specific plans in place to have a bullpen and a shortstop at the same time.

Don’t sell the team to anyone who considers nothing but analytics. Don’t sell the team to anyone who ignores analytics. Baseball is an art. All art, no matter how modern, has a balancing point.

Don’t sell the team if the only potential buyer has never danced on the rubbery expansion joints that allowed Riverfront Stadium to breathe, summer to snow.

Don’t sell the team unless it’s to someone doesn’t specifically plan to draw us– all of us– together beneath the great wings of sport, Lemon Chill, and shared fandom.

Don’t sell the team to people who don’t understand that each and every 43,500 seats can be filled for 43,500 different reasons…. but a winning team outranks each and every one of them.

We don’t merely need an unfurled wallet. We need the person holding it to weave his or her way through our landscape by having spent significant mental and emotional time in this galaxy, simply because he or she enjoyed being here.

Don’t sell the team unless it’s to one of us.

73 Responses

  1. TR

    Happy Birthday to Bob Castellini on his 80th.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I hope he gives us a shortstop for his birthday πŸ™‚

  2. Jerry

    I love the line β€œIt is all these things and more than the sum of all these things.” Very well written, Mary Beth Ellis.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thanks so much, Jerry. It’s always a struggle to find something new to say…

  3. jessecuster44

    “What if it’s worse?”

    This is such a Cincinnati question to ask. We’ve seen worse. The idea is to compete for championships. And the 2021 team is exactly like the 2014 team in this regard. At the end of the day, the team isn’t good enough, and ownership is to blame.

    Stop being afraid of worse and demand better.

    Sell the team, Bob. I’m sick of you and so are most other fans.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I agree. We tend to want to follow other cities, no matter the direction. Sometimes that’s for the best, but sometimes it’s better to stand our ground. In this case, a losing effort is still a losing effort, no matter whether you’re last or one game out of the playoffs. At this point, what do we have to lose?

  4. LDS

    Nice article. Your headline almost scared me away.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thanks for sticking with it πŸ™‚

  5. Mark Moore

    Amen and amen … but I think new ownership is what we need, under most (if not all) the conditions you described. Marge was a “character” but she wanted to win. I’m not so sure about Bob and Company.

    2021 is in the books as I see it. It’s time to begin looking forward to 2022 and hope we actually play baseball.

    Great stuff as always, MBE. Sadly, I’m typing this from my living room as I chose to cancel my trip to GABP. My heart just wasn’t in it for what I was going to spend.

    • Scott C

      Yes she was a character. She also ran the minor league system in the ground.

      • Greenfield Red

        Yes, and the Reds won the World Series under her ownership.

        This group has no intention of winning. It would have to fall in its lap. Even then they would find a way to screw it up by cheapening it.

      • Eric

        At least Schott led them to a World Series!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Sorry to hear that you’re not coming in for a visit, but given the nightmare air travel is these days, I can’t say that I blame you. I haven’t been to a game this season, but for different reasons.

  6. Jimbo44CN

    Yes, good article. I have not watched the last couple of games, and I watched every single one from Spring training til now. The outcome is so predictable now in a very bad way. This team was exciting for a while, but then fell back to earth with a thud. Injuries, fatigue, players that should not be on a ML roster and so on.
    Also, the resigning of Bell bothers me too. He is not to blame for everything, but Cabrera, who is 0 for forever is your number one pinch hitter. OMG. And thats just one of his problems, anyway, great article.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      It’s one of those situations when you want to just start over from top to bottom, isn’t it?

  7. Ghostrunner_onthird

    I wonder if Bob visits this site. If so, does the Baseball is Life MBE lead-in resonate with him? I think not, at least not after the years of late, his ownership, the franchise direction, etc. Baseball is Life may have been part of his mantra/persona initially; but perhaps not. Baseball is business for him which I get; however even if he truly subscribed to that philosophy – the organization’s moves have not necessarily manifested that philosophy the proof largely centered on the product that they’ve put on the field. Of course injuries happen, off course during the ebb and flow of a season players fail to meet expectations, fail to play to the back of their baseball card . . . but the business remains and you have to change with the times/variables as they emerge. The Reds seemingly as an organization have not done that. I like Bob, met him a couple of years ago at a spring training game then ran into him in Cincy when I was home on leave. And yet Bob’s organizational vision, frankly his guidance, vision, and intent (I’m ex-military), have not resulted in the product that he spoke of when he became the owner. MBE speaks to team ownership (as a fan, as a family, as a city) that transcends well-beyond the dollar implication . . . and as usual I applaud her for articulating that perspective and philosophy. At this point though, I don’t think Bob is on that page today though he appeared to be a decade ago. If you’re going to own a team, own it. Don’t half-ass it and in my view there’s been plenty of half-assing to go around. It’s never too late . . . not even this week. My problem essentially is that I watch every single game and that I will continue to do so for Baseball is Life. Thanks again MBE, always a pleasure.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I greatly appreciate your articulate thoughts here– especially “If you’re going to own a team, own it.” Agree.

  8. Jim Walker

    Bottom line is, just win baby, just win (and everything else takes care of itself).

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Winning cures alllllll kinds of problems.

  9. CI3J

    I’ll add a few more:

    Don’t sell the team to anyone who, when asked about their favorite way to eat goetta, responds with “What’s a goetta?”

    Don’t sell the team to anyone who can’t name at least 5 players from the Big Red Machine AND the 1990 team without using Google.

    Don’t sell the team to anyone who can’t find their way to Fountain Square from anywhere in Cincinnati without GPS.

    Don’t sell the team to anyone who uses the words “you” and “they” instead of “we” and “us” when talking about fans of the Cincinnati Reds.

    • west larry

      I agree with every word you said.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Great! (although you’d have to include me with the list of people needing a GPS…) Couple weeks ago I heard an out of towner mention that he had tried “goh-ta.” πŸ™‚

  10. AMDG

    Yes, the Star Wars prequels were a letdown to fans who loved the original trilogy.

    But, after Episodes 7, 8, 9 were released, and fans realized just how awful a Star Wars movie could be, the prequels didn’t look so bad, in comparison.

    As a ‘small market’ team, the Reds need an owner who will:
    1) promise not to move the team out of the Queen City

    2) not let bad contracts dictate a need to players when they under-perform, whether it be contracts that looked good but became bad (Suarez) or were just awful from day 1 (Moose, Shogo).

    3) not let the GM “buy high” and “sell low” in trades (since they don’t have the $ to overcome overtly bad trades)

    4) clean up after their dogs if they take a dump on GABP’s grass

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Imagine having “I made the prequels look good” on your resume.

  11. Daytonnati

    “Don’t sell the team if the only potential buyer has never danced on the rubbery expansion joints that allowed Riverfront Stadium to breathe, summer to snow.”

    Finally! SOMEONE ELSE!! Nothing like coming out of Riverfront and having the sensation of “stepping in something” before you realize what it is. I tried to explain this to people over the years, but no one else remembers it.

    To Ghostrunner on 3rd, I am fairly certain Big Bob does not read this site, but maybe Bob Jr and Phil?

    Would love to see John Barrett from Western and Southern buy the team.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I was happy to see expansion joints also present at GABP, but they’re smaller, presumably due to improvements in building technology and the smaller “pieces” of the new ballpark. It’s the best possible way to learn about structural engineering πŸ™‚

  12. Redsvol

    Lets don’t forget the fact that the team is owned by several individuals. Bob has controlling stake and is the chief but the minority owners have substantial share and I bet substantial say in matters of the Reds finances. They don’t know anything about baseball but they do know what their shares are valued at and how much money they make or lose in a given season.

    So, YES, lets be careful what we ask for. The Carl Lindner years were absolutely horrible for Reds fans, and his family still owns a large share. If Castellini sells then I worry that one of those families will buy his share out and make matters much worse. I actually think Castellini wants to win but he is 80 years old and his best judgement is well behind him. He also wasn’t smart about not buying a larger share of the franchise back when – I think there are 17 other owners with smaller shares. Now his family probably can’t. If he sells I hope the whole salami going to just 2-3 owners that commit to keeping Reds in Cinci.

    We could do a whole lot worse. The Reds need stability, not a new front office and Manager every 3 years. Reds are making progress, at being perennially competitive, I’d hate to see them have to start all over again. Lets not let the last 4 weeks overshadow the fact that the pitching, lineup, coaching and farm system are all much better than 5 years ago.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Yep– it’s not just Bob. Good reminder. Sometimes we forget that failure is often a group project, just as success is.

  13. Bob Purkey

    Bottom line is that people don’t come to the games “just because you are the home town team” anymore. It is expensive to go to the game and quite frankly all pro sporting events are that way.

    With opportunities to spend your entertainment dollar in many places available, why go to any event if you don’t think that the team is invested to win. . .and I don’t mean just for 1 year.

    The long and the short of it is, if you read the movie review and the review says the movie stinks, DO YOU GO SEE IT ANYWAY? This is the attitude of many sports fans today. . . AT LEAST TRY TO WIN, OR WE SPEND OUR MONEY ELSEWHERE!

    • Rob

      Don’t sell the team to anyone who’s never heard of Bob Purkey — or Joey Jay, or Jim O’Toole, or Jim Maloney, or John Tsitouris.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      This is an excellent point, Bob. We’re not beholden to just a couple of forms of entertainment anymore, and it’s much easier to follow teams out of market.

  14. Scott C

    I was excited when Bob bought the team because he acted like a fan, since that time though he has acted more like a businessman where the bottom line is more important than the product that you are peddling. Yes I am disillusioned with Big Bob, but you are right… what if it is worse. I have rooted for the Reds since before the Big Red Machine and will continue to be …I just probably won’t buy a ticket for awhile. I was an original Star Wars fan (saw a New Hope in the summer of 1977 at the Florence Mall) and was excited when the prequels came out… but they were a major disappointment. I was more guarded with my emotions when they sequels came out and I thought they were better than the prequels but they changed the whole story. I invested years reading the Star Wars stories then they said no those didn’t happen, it was like a Dallas dream, if you remember that rewrite. So Don’t sell the team Bob unless you sell it to someone committed to bring winning baseball to Cincinnati. Great thought provoking article Mary Beth.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Good things to come out of the 70s:
      -Star Wars
      -The Big Red Machine
      -Triple Crown winners
      -Margaritaville
      -Me.

      Everything else we can pretty much trash.

  15. centerfield

    Why is it so important that a prospective owner know what goetta is? The whole problem with this franchise is it is too ingrown. He should sell it to someone from out of town who knows how to run a business and never heard of fountain square. As it is, nothing ever changes.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Fair question. Why should it matter as long as the wallet is open? But my opinion is that if someone is from here or is a longtime fan, he or she is more willing to see baseball as an art rather than a business transaction.
      I guess I’m biased because my beautiful alma mater was run into the ground by outsiders, then closed in a particularly cruel manner. A Cincinnatian would have never done that. But I’m willing to be proven wrong baseball-wise if we get some winners πŸ™‚

  16. Indy Red Man

    Jim Irsay in negotiations to buy the Indianapolis Reds as we speak. So sorry((

    • Melvin

      Well being from Indy I wouldn’t mind. I’d feel really bad for those in Cincy though although they could travel to Indy like I do to Cincy. Just a short drive less than two hours.

      • Melvin

        Victory Field is a VERY NICE AAA park. Add an upper deck and you’re practically ready to go.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I have not been up there for a game. Sometimes a good minor league or non-pro game is what you need πŸ™‚

  17. Rednat

    i feel bad for any owner that comes to Cincinnati MaryBeth.

    I was born and raised here and I have to tell you we have a fickle fan base. especially with the reds. Reds fans have more excuses not to go to games than Carter has pills. too hot, too cold, too rainy, too sunny, too cloudy. the list goes on and on. look at this pirates series. do you think Wrigley field would be that empty if they were playing for their playoff lives? If you build a winner, they will come does not apply to this town.

    as a fan base we deserve the garbage teams that we get.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Harsh but fair comment. Owning or managing this team is just as tough as coaching ND football or being the mayor of NYC. We do have our expectations.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I appreciate you taking the time to say so πŸ™‚

  18. Votto4life

    I have followed theaters since 1970. I grew up in Southern Ohio and have lived in Cincinnati for 36years. So the Cincinnati Reds has always been my team.

    Having said that, if this team ever leaves Cincinnati there is ZERO chance I’ll remain a fan.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I think most of us are with you there, including me. No way I’d follow them to another town.

  19. Max BRAGG

    I respect people’s views but facts are OWNERSHIP is not interested in win just PROFIT Margin! The KILLER part is REDS fans show up in groves when there is a legit product!!!!!!!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I think there are a lot of factors in play in the low attendance. But yep, give us a legit playoff race and those seats will fill right up.

  20. Vernon Coburn

    Barry Larkin should be the owner or manager of Reds

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Didn’t go too well with Rose or Perez as managers, but at this point I’m open to anything.

      • Melvin

        I don’t remember Rose being that bad as a manager. Four 2nd place finishes with a young team after following two of the Reds worst years in history especially the only 100 loss season in 1982. Perez never got a shot with just 44 games and three or four games under .500. I think Big Bob might be afraid to let Larkin manage. Larkin, being a hall of famer, just might stand up to him and tell him like it is.

  21. Jim Walker

    So maybe what the Reds need is ownership which cares more about winning than anything else?!?

    Going back to 1967 when the foundation of the current ownership scheme took control, it was local folks owning but bringing in upper level management with no local ties, telling them to win, and getting out of the way to let them do their job. That actually worked pretty well from 1967-1980 or so.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Good point. A lot of people don’t know we almost lost the team in the 60s, not long after a championship attempt. This game has changed a lot.

  22. Gary

    “LOSING IS SIMPLY NOT GOING TO BE ACCEPTABLE.”

    Who said that? You say?

    Bob Castellini 2006, upon his purchase of this once grand baseball franchise.

    • Melvin

      I think he must have meant….losing money. πŸ˜‰

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Ooooof. I wonder if he hears us.

  23. Earl Nash

    Economics of baseball put the Reds behind the eight ball for the most part no matter who owns the club.

    I think Cincy sports fans have had nearly 30 years of Bengals and Reds with plenty of other things to do and in the light of the current day, it just does not matter that much right now.

    Kinda hard to spend more money to get it over the hump and people that have that kind of money are not used to just losing it. They made deals and it just did not work out.

    Really I think the collapse is a big part that Winker got hurt and the lineup without him in the middle got exposed.

    Just look at PIttsburgh, it could get worse.

    • Melvin

      The Pirates are kicking our butts lately.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      All excellent points. A lot has contributed to where we are right now, including the lower front office and the MLB itself.

  24. JayTheRed

    When does Nick Krall’s contract end I am having trouble finding that information? Maybe a new GM = a New manager too….

    Krall has not impressed me much so far. I did like his moves at the Trade deadline but honestly that is really the only thing that he has done that I am good with.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      sigh… there are so many moving pieces to a winning team. The Reds can’t just seem to get there.

  25. Melvin

    Goodnight guys. Forget about this crappy collapse. Think about something positive and sleep well. πŸ™‚

  26. Tod A Held

    “Dream big such the stuff of life.” Plato quote.
    Nice article. Yes baseball is a business that need baseball to management by success. Yoda Always said in his own language the most important stuff first as Speilburg first spelled out.
    Hence, I reiterate that Barry Larkin could be the best of both worlds in directing the Cincinatti Red front office and managerial head coaching position.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Can I just tell you how proud I am that I have a comment on something I’ve written that references Plato, Yoda, AND Barry Larkin?!

  27. Evan Newman

    So many good things could have been touched in this article and were but this star wars analogy almost had me skip this article. Too long. And so far far away. Points that are obvious to the fans need addressed. Sell the team to us. Lol. What are we the Packers now. Hey for 1 million dollars you can get .05% ownership in the reds. Woo hoo. I get a piece of paper saying reds first game on one side and share bolder on the other. Keep in mind this is how the Castallinicannellini family does things. Hey we have a sushi bar, 20 dollar craft beer, 60 dollar hot dogs. Don’t sell the team? Yes sell the team at all costs. It is very apparent the family have no love for the game. They want money. You do know that Nick Cruller donut said ” well Bell made the playoffs” we got swept you idiot. Then Krull the destroyer said ” he had a good run this year” then corrected himself. See there is no love for this organization. Zero. It’s all about money. Period. So yes SELL THE TEAM

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      But… there’s a picture of Baby Yoda.

  28. Douglas

    Good MLB teams generally have good pitching staff plus a good pitching coach .

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That’s a good start πŸ™‚

  29. Eric

    The last time the Reds made it to a World Series in 1990, Marge Schott was the Owner!

    A team Owner needs to focus on wins, playoffs, and championships and NOT a tight grip on the wallet!