I got up out of bed on September 23, 2010 and got ready for work in Springfield, Illinois. That was the day that if the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Houston Astros, they would clinch the National League Central Division.

I had a ton of time off accumulated. Things were going well at work. So I took the day off, got in my Chevy truck and took off for Cincinnati, which was about a 5 ½ hour drive away from President Lincoln’s Tomb, plus losing an hour due to the Eastern Time Zone.

No one went with me. No one else cared. I ordered one ticket on the way to Cincy and got a front row seat down the third base line for the healthy sum of $22. I was set.

I checked into my Northern Kentucky Hotel that afternoon and walked to the park. Had a couple of cold ones in the neighborhood of Great American Ball Park and talked baseball with guys I knew nothing of but they were Reds fans.

When the gates opened, I found my seat and then walked around the park. I loved the atmosphere of the ballpark, got a coney and a beer and basked in the glory of watching my favorite team, my Reds, try to clinch a division championship.

They did just that, thanks to Bruce Almighty and his majestic home run in the bottom of the 9th inning. The crowd went wild. So did I. The Reds went on the field and did a victory lap. I did a fist bump with Bronson Arroyo.

This was my team, the team I loved since 1964. I had a connection with them.

After the game, I walked to Fountain Square with dozens of Reds fans to celebrate. That’s where the 1961 Ragamuffins celebrated. That’s where the Big Red Machine hoisted their trophies. That’s where I went. I was with other Reds fans and we celebrated.

I caught a cab after midnight and went back to the hotel. The Reds were champs.

And now, here we are in 2021.

David Bell is our manager. Nick Krall is our General Manager. I have zero confidence in both of them. I expect nothing. I get nothing. At this point, I just hope they don’t destroy what’s left of the team but that seems to be the mission that they are on.

The 2021 Reds collapsed down the stretch for the playoffs, a second wild card berth, but at least it was something. The Cardinals won 17 straight, breezed past the Reds and made it. They fired their manager. We extended our manager for two years.

Honest to God — what does this say to us?

I’m old enough to remember the bad times as a Reds fan. The trade of Frank Robinson. The firing of Sparky Anderson. Dick Wagner as the GM. Trading Tony Perez for a washed up left-handed pitcher who quit on the team in the middle of the next season. The Bob Boone Era.  Trading Johnny Cueto for three left-handed pitchers. Trading Aroldis Chapman for nothing. Trading Jay Bruce for Dilson Herrera.

This off-season, lockout or no lockout, is the same as the last one. A signing of little known players and hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

Jake Bauers, Kyle Dowdy and Ronnie Dawson? I’ll bet the Reds front office season ticket salespeople are busy. The phones are probably ringing off the hook.

I went to one Reds game last season. It was a Father’s Day present. The Reds actually won that night, defeating the Cardinals when they were mere mortals in August. Joey Votto hit a home run and Luis Castillo pitched a great game.

But a lot had changed since 2010. $16 for a beer? And a cab couldn’t be found after the game since Uber wiped out that industry in Cincinnati. Fortunately, a friend that went with me had their app on his phone but we still needed to give the driver a viable target and it’s tough right after a game.

So now what? Another rebuild? Another horrible bullpen? More mediocrity?

It’s not my nature to be negative but the Reds need to show me something.

Or does this Ownership even care about their fan base?

107 Responses

  1. Gonzo Reds

    This is in the running for the best article ever posted on this site.

    As for whether the Reds want us fans anymore… the answer from their actions is clearly NO! (and you can double that for whether the owners / players in general want baseball fans anymore… also clearly NO!)

    • Alan Horn

      I agree. John’s article is spot on. MLBtraderumors.com did an article a few days ago and the Red’s controlling owner is the least wealthy of all the MLB team owners. Not by a little, but by a huge amount. The fans deserve better. They do a decent job with drafting and development but that has to be supplemented by trades and FA signings. Trades and FA signings(quality ones) are where the Reds are extremely lacking and what moves them to the lower echelon teams. They can’t afford to get the players that will take them over the hump. When they have signed FAs they generally are busts like Moose. There needs to be different faces in ownership and upper Reds management(not the scouts necessarily) who can afford to compete. And most of all they need to be committed to keeping the team in Cincinnati.

      • Mark Moore

        Do remember he’s a fractional owner, so the number will be lower. But still, I get the point. He’s not in it the way other owners are.

      • Alan Horn

        The fractional owners that are holding us back need to sell out their interest to someone who is more interested in improving the team and winning. I am not talking about signing players to mega contracts but players with reasonable contracts who can help us win. For example, another good hitting OF, a couple of good RP and a few bench additions would likely make us competive. No more contracts to players like Moose who have aged out.

      • Max BRAGG

        Great comments but they were told over and over about SHOGO that there was NO BAT SPEED and they signed him anyway. Senzel has been a Huge Bust and they have been offered a world for his services! This ownership and management does as they Please even when baseball people say DON’T DO IT.

      • MK

        Can you list all the talent offered for Senzel? And if this is the case does that make any of the so-called teams making the offers smarter than Reds management. 2021 was the first time I can remember the Reds having three rookies getting ROY votes. Scouting Dept. must be doing something. Would expect a couple more getting votes this year.Don’t believe things are as bleak as writer would portray.

      • ClayMC

        @MK, i can’t quite frame up my opinion on this in its entirety, but my gut reaction is this is a bad take. Gutierrez getting 1 ROY voting point despite a 4.74 ERA, a 5.22 FIP, and a K-BB% that was in the 10th percentile, is not a point for the scouting team.

        That’s not to say i think the scouting department is doing a bad job. I’m just saying that rookies racking up accumulation stats when their peripherals aren’t pretty is hardly a sign that “things aren’t as bleak”.

      • greenmtred

        Gutierrez may not look like a big win for the scouting dept., or maybe he does. But there is little doubt about India and Stephenson: it’s hard to imagine any team not being proud of having drafted and developed either of them.

    • David Stevens

      If reds ownership wants to show fans they want to win then sign Castellanos. We all know they won’t because they think one of best hitters in game not worth it. I personally wish Castelllini and brown would leave the city. Sell them both u both will be rich still and maybe we can get ownership that cares.

      • vegastypo

        I think the Reds know what Castellanos is worth. But I agree they’re not going to be willing to pay it. Signing him is not worth going over ownership’s payroll constraints. And that is the shame of it. Beer is still $12 or $16 or whatever, parking is still $20 or $30 or whatever, and when the time comes to fortify the team for the stretch run, Nope. Can’t do it. We have payroll constraints.

    • 2020ball

      Eh, its what I’ve come to expect from Cincy fans. General negativity towards the current iteration of the team and talk of better times in the past will get likes here, thats for sure. I’ve been mostly disappointed in ownership for years, sure, but I usually read stuff like this from fans of this team despite the team being good or not. Last years team wasn’t bad. I’ve argued ad nauseum over how much that actually matters here so I shouldn’t rehash it.

      Bottom line though is ownership does need to show they still want us around, thats a fact, but I’d stop far short of calling this the best article ever. I can count articles from Doug alone off the top of my head and fill up both hands.

    • Nelson coble

      I am done until ownership shows us something. Fan since the early 60s.

    • Bill

      I may be partly to blame. As a 14 year old I sold my soul to the Devil himself in exchange for the Reds winning a Championship. 36 years later, I wouldn’t change a thing. I still watch most every game and more often than not, enjoy them. The 2021 Reds are up there with the 1999 Reds as being my favorite teams since I started watching in the Summer of ‘87. I don’t expect a winner ever again because we just don’t have the cash and frankly, we can’t keep anyone because fans just don’t turn out unless there is a bobble head giveaway.

      • vegastypo

        It does rather cut both ways, doesn’t it? If the Reds were perennial contenders and maybe — gasp! actually making the playoffs now and then and even winning a series or two — maybe then attendance would be higher. I dunno.

    • ClayMC

      @MK, i can’t quite frame up my opinion on this in its entirety, but my gut reaction is this is a bad take. Gutierrez getting 1 ROY voting point despite a 4.74 ERA, a 5.22 FIP, and a K-BB% that was in the 10th percentile, is not a point for the scouting team.

      That’s not to say i think the scouting department is doing a bad job. I’m just saying that rookies racking up accumulation stats when their peripherals aren’t pretty is hardly a sign that “things aren’t as bleak”.

  2. Don A

    Well said John, I am right there with you!!

  3. Mark Moore

    I called off a trip in September when I watched them falter down the stretch. I just couldn’t justify the tickets and hotel, even if I had airfare credits. Aside from RoY India and the incredible JV homer run, I’ve not witnessed a whole lot to satisfy this baseball loving soul of mine.

    Yet, when and if we have a 2022 season, I’ll be back on board. But it gets a LOT tougher when you see the roster names and scratch your head.

    Nice article, John. Almost like a Ghosts of Christmas Past scene.

  4. Hotto4Votto

    My wife and I went to our first game last summer since 2019. Sat in the 4th level, got a slice of LaRosa’s, nachos, a beer and a soda. With parking (Fountain Square and walked to the stadium) we got out for just under $150. We don’t struggle financially but aren’t “set” either with all manner of disposable money. It honestly felt like too much to pay for a few hours of entertainment, especially with all the other options out there. (And that day it was the first game of a double header, so only 7 innings).

    For us, it’s just not feasible to go to multiple games a year at that cost. It’s just not a good bang for our buck. Yet, without a local cable package, we can’t watch them on TV either. So, from my perspective, the Reds really don’t want us anymore. We can’t afford them on a consistent basis and they don’t put a good enough product on the field most of the time anyway.

    • Droslovinia

      With you on that. No tv, other than what the gambling bosses will allow, is drying up my excitement. And the stadium experience is more about the facility and less about the game. It’s looking like my 52+ year run of fandom is coming to a close. Not like the Reds care.

    • MK

      It is not like NFL where there is only 8 or 9 home games over four months. If a fan can afford 1 game a month you are at half the home games. In baseball in you can afford even 2 games a month you are not attending even 20% of home games. It has priced itself out a little.

  5. JEFFREY OAKLEY

    The simple fact is that this owner is not wealthy enough to own the Reds. MLB, NFL, NBA, and even the NHL have become the hobby of the ultra rich. They don’t worry about a yearly income statement when they are winning because they see the long term investment as the end game. Bob and friends bought the Reds for approximately 300 million and change. The club is worth 1 billion with a B even with him running it into the ground, but he needs the yearly profit to survive? The fact is if they are in the hunt, he can’t or won’t go out and get the players needed at the deadline like everyone else. He just keeps shoving bobbleheads and old guy celebrations down our throats talking about the great experience and a small market. That argument went out the window with the ownerships in other small markets spending where needed and winning. The ultra rich guy doesn’t need to show a profit every year and I would argue the Braves this year might be the exception. They spent early on young studs to tie them up and spent in the end, mostly on outfield help to overcome injuries. The Reds don’t even do that. India would be in negotiations if he were a Brave but that is the second problem the Reds have, their organization just hasn’t drafted good enough to do that. That goes to the quality of who is hired. What is a Kroll? He is a cheap alternative to the last guy who was only hired because he was the son of a minority owner here, who saw the handwriting on the wall who will probably write a tell all when the fruit salesman sells the team. But I digress. Today’s MLB owner buys a club for his ego. He sees the investment as a capital one that pays off when he no longer wants it ( he sees that it will keep gaining value even if it is screwed up as bad as Bob has run it). He won’t go crazy ( unless he owns the Mets) but he will create value for the fans but when his baseball people ( who will be real qualified baseball people) tell him the young guns are ready but need a few pieces to win he will go get them. The years they make that push might not be profitable but they will enhance the value of the franchise and the rich guy will stroke his ego, and the fan will be happy and remain loyal. This can happen here. The Reds are still the shiney old Red Corvette sitting in the garage getting more valuable with age. They just need the right old rich guy with the big ego who loves baseball and wants everyone to see he can take the oldest and one of the most storied MLB teams and make it great again. He wants to be the mid life crisis guy to “cruise around in the best vintage old Vette” for all to see. Make no mistake, those guys are out there, we have been sold short by PT Barnum errrr Bob the fruits and vegetables man for too long. My suggestion would be to get John Barrett involved some how, you see what he has done with the tennis tournament in this “small market town”.He either sees it and can do it or he knows who can and wants it. Bob, sell the team, you are not smart enough nor do you have the benjamins to be in the bigs. Take your long term profit just like the 85mil you got when you sold the spa in Arizona a couple of months ago and go, that is the only way you can keep your promise of bringing winning baseball back to the city and the franchise.

    • daytonnati

      Barrett is true-blue Cincinnatian heavily invested in the civic culture here. He would be a great majority owner.

  6. CFD3000

    This is a sweet reminiscence on the teams and seasons that cemented our connection to the Reds and a thoughtful take on the state of the ownership and management now. And I agree it’s a discouraging state. Though I’d challenge your assertion John that the Reds players don’t care about Reds fans. Watching Castellanos and Winker and Votto this year and their actions and comments about the return of fans tells me they absolutely do. But doesn’t this boil down to two simple questions? Is Reds ownership actually wealthy enough to run a competitive team? And should MLB maintain requirements for wealth in general and investment in teams in particular as a condition of ownership? There will always be a least affluent owner. There does not half to be an ownership group that can’t or won’t afford to run a competitive franchise. For personal reasons it pains me to say this, but it’s time for a new owner / group that wants to keep the team in Cincinnati, and is willing to and can afford to play with the rest of the league.

  7. Mary Beth Ellis

    I’m so glad you got to experience at least that tremendous day. Terrific details. You raise quite a good question: So now what? And I would add… How?

  8. doofus

    “Do the Cincinnati Reds want us anymore?” should be emblazoned across the front page of the Enquirer.

  9. Sam

    MLB is, and has been, an arms race for decades now. You can narrow the likely champions each season by looking at team salaries. You get an occasional blip but for the most part the champs will have a top 10 salary. Atlanta was #11 last season. The con game being played by MLB is they need another 15 or so teams to participate in the con and they want fans of those teams to pay enough to keep it going. We are being taken for a ride because Cincinnati had success before money became the end-all-be-all of MLB and we want those days to return. We are emotionally invested and MLB banks on it.

  10. Votto4life

    A bit off topic John, but my fiancé and I spent November traveling around the State of Illinois.

    We went to each town that hosted the Lincoln-Douglass debates (at the time known as the Douglas-Lincoln debates).

    We spent the most time in Springfield. What a charming city. The Lincoln Library/Museum, on its own, is worth the 5 hour trip from Cincinnati.

    I was also at that game. What an exciting evening to be at the ballpark.

  11. LDS

    Spot on. And as for Bob C being too poor to be an owner. He only owns a piece. His investment in the Reds has at least tripled. And players are generally paid from team revenue not the owner’s pockets although there are exceptions, i.e., the owner takes a loss to get what he wants. Sorry Bell, Krall, and Castellini are inexcusible.

  12. Scott Sweeney

    Been reds fan for 50 years, it always seems that we have the cheapest rich people as owners ( bob c, carl l and marge ) , cant or dont remember previous owners ( either too young or didnt seem to be a negative factor )

    • Stock

      William Williams preceded Marge as owner.

      • Optimist

        The Williams family are the once and future managing partners. Here’s hoping Dick’s stint as GM will loosen up the partnership’s budget when he returns.

      • TR

        As a forever Reds fan at the age of 85, I was pleased with the direction of the Reds during Dick Williams short tenure as the GM/Pres. of Operations. A positive move would be if Dick became GM again and his family took over as principal owner of the Reds.

  13. Homer (Not Bailey)

    I’m sure the Reds want us as fans, but are either unable or unwilling to do what is necessary to do so. I was in my early 20’s when they went on the decade of futility that was 2001-2009. I had time and disposable income and could go to several games a year. They were terrible, but they were my team and I love baseball so I had no problem sticking with it. Fast forward to today and now I’m married with three children and disposable income is at a premium and time even more so. Seeing them wander back into that wilderness with the same “add a few pieces from the scrap heap” mentality while trying to get people in seats or eyes on TV’s with bobbleheads and reunions of former players from great teams that last took the field 30-50 years ago is pushing me away. I just don’t have the time to follow a bad team with management that is clearly not trying. My three kids aren’t likely to be as big a fan as I was and I doubt I’m alone in that regard. When the older fans slip this mortal coil, who is going to be left? This team is so short sighted that when they pack up and move to another city when the lease on GABP is up in 10 years that there will barely be a mention of it on Cincinnati.com.

  14. CI3J

    It’s a good question to ask, and it applies all across American society. It used to be, the man of the house could get a simple 9-5 office job and could afford a nice house in the suburbs with enough disposable income to treat his kids to a ballgame whenever they fancied. TV was 4 or 5 channels and all free. A decent car with cheap gas was the norm. Your phone bill was relatively cheap as long as you weren’t making a ton of cross-country calls.

    Now, many married couples are struggling to keep up with all the bills, while their entertainment options, which are supposed to be their respite from the daily grind, are also becoming unaffordable. A trip to the ballpark for a family of 4 can cost hundreds of dollars. Phone data plans, streaming services, cable bills, you name it, people are needing to make choices now about what they can afford to keep in their lives. And the owners of these services seem to be oblivious to how they are pricing themselves out of potential customers. The way things are going is untenable, and something will have to give at some point.

  15. Stock

    I agree money is a factor in winning but the Tampa Bay Rays prove year after year that you can win on 50% of what the Reds spend if you spend wisely.

    The Reds problem is that the owner thinks he is smarter than the experts and forces bad decisions and trades. Bad decision after bad decision is made and it never seems to end.

    Signed Bailey to a terrible contract. Bailey was a great talent but lacked the desire and work ethic of a star. He was also always injured prior to the signing. Such a big risk.

    Signed Phillips to an ill advised contract. They should have traded him instead of extending him.

    Bob forced management to hold onto Leake, Cueto, Frazier, Phillips and others until they were either done from the talent perspective or too close to Free agency to get proper return of value. The second best player the Reds received for these four players was Cody Reed. Not so good

    The Reds gave Chapman to the Yankees.

    You can argue that if you are in your window you should hang onto players but I disagree. Last winter the Rays traded their best pitcher to the Padres and went on to win 100 games. It seems to be that the best time to trade a player is when he has two year until Free Agency. You do this even if you are competing. The Rays do this and have been to the playoffs 7 times in the last 14 years while playing in the best division in baseball. The Rays have won 90+ games 9 times in the last 14 years.

    The Reds should trade Winker, Castillo, Mahle and Gray this winter. I will be surprised if they get anything of value by trading any of them.

  16. Paul

    Great essay. I’ve been a Reds fan for over 40 years. About half way through last season I realized I’d be much happier if I just let them go. I still listened to a game now and then, and I’m sure I will again this spring, but I realized that if ownership isn’t going to at least try to win they don’t deserve my emotional attachment and investment.

    • CI3J

      I’m almost to this point. I still see hope with the young core the Reds have in place, but in the back of my mind, I know it will be mismanaged and another opportunity squandered, because the owner literally does not care about winning.

      This season may be the end for me as a fanatical fan as well, also going on close to 40 years.

    • JayTheRed

      I’m sure many of you have seen that I too will be finished with the Reds if they don’t make any attempt to make this team become a winning team. I decided that if they aren’t going to at least try then I will move on to my second favorite team in baseball. A team that has a ton of excitement and it actually trying to acquire players that will make them better. You ask what team?

      The Toronto Blue Jays

      They have an excellent young core group of players, and they have pretty good pitching set up both in the rotation and in the bullpen. I even read they are not finished adding this offseason once the lockout is over.

      It’s frustrating because, If the Reds would make these 4 things, they would probably be the favorite to win the division.

      1. Sign a Legit shortstop, Thank you Farmer for what you did last year It’s appreciated but you’re not a starting player. And the kid that was destroying the baseball in the minors has not shown a whole lot at the Major League level.
      2. Sign at least 1 Legit OF who can play RF. It doesn’t have to be a superstar player but they do need to be an above average player.
      3. Sign a backup catcher that actually has a decent amount of MLB experience.
      4, Simply keep the starting pitchers we have now anyone who doesn’t make it and is MLB ready let them pitch in the bullpen

      They don’t need to sign a superstar player at any of these positions. They just need to sign above average players, and with the rest of the team we have we would have a decent chance to make a playoff run again.

      Alas though it won’t happen, and if they sit on their hands or even trade away our good starting pitchers then I am sorry to say that since 1988 it has been fun some of those years, but I am done and hello Toronto Blue Jays.

      Just sick of hearing boo hoo boo hoo we don’t have any morey. Then SELL THE TEAM if you can’t afford to run it.

      • greenmtred

        I can’t find fault with your prescription. But we seem to be overlooking that the Reds are, in fact, a winning team. Does this mean that we should be satisfied and content to have them rest on their laurels? No, but I think that there’s more reason for hope than most of us are acknowledging. Only one team wins the WS each year, so if that unlikely outcome is the only thing that makes watching a team worthwhile, I guess that it makes sense to quit following the sport. Or, maybe, re-evaluate why it’s worth watching.

      • JayTheRed

        @Doofus… Yes I guess I am Never thought of that.

      • vegastypo

        I’m kinda not putting much stock in the ‘They’re actually a winning team’ note as a any sort of break for ownership. Six straight losing seasons, ugly, followed by just barely over .500 in the COVID season and then a total lack of interest in improving the team (beyond a few half-decent relievers) at the trade deadline. And just barely above .500 again. Hoo-ray.

        Was reading elsewhere that the Brewers gave up so very little to really improve their team via acquisitions during last season, while the Reds apparently insisted they couldn’t afford to make any upgrades.

      • greenmtred

        I wasn’t pointing out that the Reds were a winning team as an endorsement of ownership. Not at all. But I found the Reds in 2021 to be fun to watch and easy to root for, in part due to the emergence of India and Stephenson. If we only were willing to follow teams that won the WS–or had a good shot at it–MLB baseball would wither and die.

      • vegastypo

        Fair enough, different expectations, I suppose, Greenm …

        I can have fun following the team, and while they don’t have to contend for the World Series year after year to keep me hooked — we’re all still here, aren’t we? — I do think it’s ridiculous for the front office and ownership to expect fans to keep rushing through the turnstiles (OK, I guess they don’t use turnstiles anymore) and then cry small market poverty when attendance is down.

  17. tim

    never heard such whining and second guessing as on reds fan sites. because they traded or let go two aging, no longer necessary players in barnhart and miley, saving a little money for a future none of us yet know? im not defending the owner or the management, just saying perhaps wait until the end of spring training before throwing in the crying towel.

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      If you’ve never heard such whining before this article I imagine that you have never actually read a Reds website before.

      • Mark Moore

        Good one, Frankie. Thanks for the smile. 🙂

      • tim

        its a cumulative thing, been reading the sites for years. always amazed how so many people think they know what goes on behind closed doors, what owners and management are actually thinking, why they make the decisions they do, who is or isn’t an idiot, etc.

    • burtgummer01

      Weak minded people like this is why moneybags Bob is still in charge

      • jessecuster44

        bingo. you get what youre willing to put up with.

      • doofus

        Exactly. I live outside Philly. The East coast media (nor the team’s fan base) would have tolerated what Bob Castellini has done or not done the last 16 seasons if he were the principal owner of an East coast team.

      • greenmtred

        They might not have tolerated it, but it probably wouldn’t have made much difference. The Mets have done better than the Reds sometimes during the past ten years, but they are far from being a top-tier MLB team. Ditto the Phillies.

    • VaRedsFan

      @ Tim…What did they do with the money they saved from cutting salary of Iggy and Bradley last year. You must have been real excited with the bullpen they trotted out there with all of that salary savings.

      • greenmtred

        Very few people commenting here wanted anything to do with Iggy. Since we are unquestionably the greatest experts about all things Reds, my assumption is that we were right and that it made sense to get rid of him. If you need revisionist history to make your case, it might behoove you to re-examine your case.

      • BK

        @VARedsFan, they likely used it to pay off a portion of the losses they incurred during the 2020 pandemic-shortened season.

  18. KDJ

    Great article, John. As a fan since the BRM days, I appreciate the historical perspective you bring to your articles and comments. It is hard to cheer for an organization that doesn’t look like they are trying. I appreciate the players who are trying to win, but it needs to be a top-down effort. I have been thinking of a sabbatical to follow the Angels (maybe the Halos will utilize Lorenzen better) or Braves (congrats to Duvall), but I still find myself coming back here. The memories of listening to Nuxhall and Brennaman on the radio with my grandfather are really strong.

  19. Ricker

    The players want the fans and it shows. This year I will be aligning my entertainment dollars to my resources and I don’t see the Reds making the cut.

    SELL THE TEAM BOB!!!!!

    • Mark Moore

      I see what you did there … well stated.

  20. BK

    @John, you clearly struck a nerve with the Redleg Nation. What’s missing from your analysis (and it’s a big enough miss to negate your thesis/conclusion) is that fans from about half of MLB’s franchises feel the same way we do. Large market teams with payrolls consistently well above averages out muscle the smaller market teams for difference making free agents. I’ve seen no evidence that the large market owners want a more competitive environment. Likewise, MLBPA has reportedly targeted revenue sharing among teams, minimum salaries and the number of years–make no mistake, each of these if agreed to will amplify the competitive disadvantage the smaller market teams currently face.

    Bob Castellini (and the Reds ownership group) have consistently fielded a team with a payroll far above the team’s relative market size. I agree with Stock … if anything their desire to win has caused them to commit too many resources in an ill-timed manner that has repeatedly undermined a long-term competitive strategy for short-term incremental gains that have occasionally delivered performance just a bit better than mediocrity.

    I’m frustrated too, but your criticism is badly misplaced.

    • vegastypo

      Eh, it seems to me that the Reds have managed to fail on both sides of the “spending money” debate.

      The Reds don’t have the money to spend as freely as so many other teams? Understood. …

      So go to a Plan B. Get a Baseball Operations president who has some idea of how to best use resources. It’s not by accident that the Rays keep winning year after year with such a low payroll. … Or that the Brewers were able to so successfully add pieces during last season.

      But the Reds don’t want to go that route, either. They replaced Dick Williams with Nick Krall, who either doesn’t have the ingenuity to make sly moves, or else ownership told him not to bother. ………….

  21. Greenfield Red

    All of this is true, and I will add, for me, the politics that have entered into pro Sports have been a turn off for me.

    • Alan Horn

      I agree about the politics. It has no place in any sport at any level. Most folks attend sporting events to get away from politics.

      • Doug Gray

        No they don’t. They go to sporting events because they enjoy sports.

      • Alan Horn

        That is correct. They attend because they love sports and don’t want politics(or any other similar unrelated thing) included or forced into that equation. To make myself clearer, they don’t want to be subjected to political interests while attending a sport they love. The NBA and NFL are worse which is why I will never watch either one again. MLB is not immune from going in the same direction if they travel down the same roads. Moving the All Star game from Atlanta for political reasons backfired on them. So we will see what the future holds for MLB. I can only speak for myself, but I do notice a lot of similar sentiments in the comments. We all have a choice in where we spend our dollars and time.

      • Greenfield Red

        I agree with you Alan. If what they have to say is so important, then say it on your day off and not in uniform.

      • greenmtred

        I understand your discomfort, but if you are making a statement, presumably you want to do so when it’s most likely to be heard.

      • Greenfield Red

        greenmtred, you made my point. Nobody wants to hear what they have to say and they know it. If they held a rally outside a Public Library at 2:00 on a Monday, nobody would show up. They need to shut their mouths and play.

  22. Jon

    So what exactly is the Reds’ plan, assuming they don’t make any significant acquisitions after the lockout ends (and judging by their lack of action before the lockout, it doesn’t seem likely)? Try to field a team that stays around .500 and hope everything goes right to try to grab a wildcard spot? Yawn. The NL Central may again be the most winnable division in the sport, but once again the Reds are crying poor. When are we going to see a payroll approaching $150 million as was expected on Opening Day 2020?

    • Greenfield Red

      It appears they will try to convince the fan base they are trying to be competitive. It seems to work on many, as many fans, including some on this site, see snagging the final wild card as a viable strategy. I’m not fooled. Using this strategy, the Reds have no more hope of winning the World Series than a team that loses 100 games.

      Nothing screams success like an October trip to the West Coast to play a Wild Card game against an unhittable pitcher.

      • Redsvol

        That was just a silly post. Like mlb teams are afraid of going up against a good pitcher in the playoffs. I really doubt Atlanta was afraid of the dodgers or the rays have been afraid of the Yankees, Astro’s and Red Sox pitchers in the playoffs.

        Maybe any team with a payroll of less than 200 million should just forfeit their playoff games. Of course that would have robbed the fans of the cardinals, braves, giants and early Astro’s teams of some championships in the last decade. Just go cheer for the Yankees or dodgers.

      • Greenfield Red

        Redsvol, I never said a word about forfeiting a playoff game. I said Reds ownership is trying to fool us into thinking that sneaking into the last playoff spot only to face an unhittable pitcher screams success. Nothing silly about that. It’s what they are doing, and some on here fall for it… including you I guess.

        And , no, I will not go cheer for the Yankees or Dodgers. I have been a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan. I don’t need to identify with a winner in order to feel self worth. I want my Reds to win it all. The strategy employed by current ownership is not going to get the job done. It’s making me less interested in following them… but no I will not become a fan of another team just to win a championship. THAT is for real losers.

      • 2020ball

        I can be happy they were competitive and say that ownership consistently doesnt do enough to supplement that at the same time. They arent mutually exclusive, I’m not a fool just because they have a winning record, I’m just happy they have a winning record. Of course I want more.

  23. votto4life

    The Cincinnati Reds are the oldest franchise in baseball history. If baseball started over today would Cincinnati be awarded a franchise? My guess is it would not.

    We are stuck with a budget conscious owner who is afraid to spend money. So unless a billionaire buys the team, the Reds will never win another championship,

    • CI3J

      Cincinnati is still #30 in metro population. It’s even larger than Cleveland in that regard.

      They’d probably still make the cut if MLB was starting over.

      • TR

        The Reds have the fanbase. The ownership should do a better job keeping in touch with them, certainly in this day of electronic media. Put a young, exciting team on the field and the fans will be there. Cincinnati baseball is loaded with tradition, use it.

      • doofus

        Is Nashville still in the Red’s TV market, they were in 2017 when I was there? I was on vaca watching Red’s games in the evening, well every evening we were not on Broadway.

  24. Rednat

    i think both fans and ownership are to blame for the reds poor performance this century.

    things i think ownership should consider
    1. building an indoor stadium-. the average reds fan is about 60 years old and 40 pounds overweight. we can’t take the heat. just look at the Sunday attendance. it should be way higher but most of the time it is just too hot for people to attend. look at the success the brewers have had since moving indoors.
    2. get rid of the 6:40 games please. Marty B. is gone and reds fans don’t live in Cincinnati. they live in Dayton, Ohio, Richmond Indiana, Lexington Kentucky. give us an extra hour to get to the game. Also get rid of the stupid 4 pm Saturday game.
    3. engage the CITY LIMITS AGAIN!. FREE attendance for people that live within the city limits. team up with metro bus to provide free transportation to and from games.

    things i think reds fans should consider

    1. going to the ballpark- our outfield could be Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron and still we wont show up if it is too hot, too rainy, too humid, too cold, too sunny. you can park across the river for 5 bucks. we have the cheapest seats in the league. nobody is forcing you to buy a 9 dollar pretzel. so i don’t want to hear cost as an excuse!

  25. Melvin

    “David Bell is our manager. Nick Krall is our General Manager. I have zero confidence in both of them. I expect nothing. I get nothing. At this point, I just hope they don’t destroy what’s left of the team but that seems to be the mission that they are on.

    The 2021 Reds collapsed down the stretch for the playoffs, a second wild card berth, but at least it was something. The Cardinals won 17 straight, breezed past the Reds and made it. They fired their manager. We extended our manager for two years.

    Honest to God — what does this say to us?”

    Hahaha!!! ……Yeeeah as in Yep.

    • David

      I am not privy to what goes on in St. Louis Cardinals’ executive meetings, but I think there was more going on under the surface, when you fire a manager like Mike Shildt, that had a .559 winning percentage for a team with not that much remarkable talent.

      The new manager is Oliver “Oli” Marmol, who is just 36, and will actually be younger than at least one man presently on the Cardinals’ roster.

      Managers are hired to be fired. But it is even more perplexing that the Reds EXTENDED David Bell. I mean, Mike Shildt was available. 🙂

      • 2020ball

        Shildt was not available at the time

    • Redsvol

      the Reds have lacked stability in the front office and manager positions for far too long. The Cardinals are good because they believe in stability and they stick to their formula. Schildt was in the organization far before his managerial career and Marmol has been with them a long time. We can’t change GM’s and Managers every 3 years and expect good results. I’m not sure Krall or Bell will succeed but I’m willing to support them so we can establish some stability. Krall worked for Williams and its clear that some positive trends in player development and drafting have been occurring the last few years. Reds were very competitive in 2020 and 2021. Can’t blame COVID and injuries on Williams, Krall, and Bell. Players got to play and stay in shape.

  26. Old-school

    For all the handwringing with Dick Williams unexpected resignation after 2020, he oversaw or was a significant part of the failed rebuild and devastating roster construction that Nick Krall is stuck with. He was part of the Walt Jocketty leadership team as VP baseball operations and asst GM all the way back in 2014.

    It’s irritating to me the Dodgers can lose Kershaw to injury and Bauer to off the field things and simply add $50 million more in payroll to plug the holes on top of $200 mil payroll.

    That said, what’s hamstrung the Reds was the decisions made by the Jocketty/Williams leadership team from 2014-2020. The reds didn’t get a new core of players from the rebuild. The Homer Bailey trade was a fiasco and the flawed investment in Moose and Akiyama is the gift that keeps on giving.

    I dont think you can blame Krall for the mistakes of Jocketty/Williams/Castellini. But when Suarez falls off a cliff 2 years in a row and Akiyama and Moose just arent credible every day major leaguers- That’s a $36 million hole in the 2022 budget. Maybe the DH rescues Moose and allows him to just focus on hitting and maybe Saurez pulls a Joey Votto and changes his hitting approach away from being a dead pull hitter and a fly ball hitter.

    I will give Krall the benefit of the doubt. He seems to be the only one consistently delivering the message of draft ,develop and stay young. It takes time to get out from under the failed decisions of Jocketty/DW.

    • David

      The Reds have kind of dealt themselves a bad hand. The Management group, headed by Castellini has to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for what is and has been going on. You can blame the “baseball guys” in the front office for some things, and Dick Williams (the younger) didn’t exactly cover himself with glory. But if the 2020 season had been normal, things might have gone very differently.
      But the ongoing problem with the Reds has been poor Top Management; the ownership has been unimaginative, held on to Jocketty too long, and Castellini probably STILL listens to him.
      Do the Reds still want us as fans? Sure they do. But they are alienating a lot of people (as evidenced by the comments here) and will have to do something good, to bring back people to the ball park, or even get them to watch the games on TV. And the history of the Castellini management group tells us that is not very likely. They have made some pretty bad decisions over the years, and are probably not going to come to new wisdom before the 2022 season starts.
      Maybe the Reds will be good in spite of them. Yeah, not really.

    • VegasRed

      Krall is irrelevant. He is simply a flunky for Bob. Nobody who is a proven baseball exec would put up with Bob and Bob would not hire anyone with a mind of his own.

      Tinker bell is the on-field version of Krall.

      I don’t just blame Bob for being cheap because at times he has agreed to spend $&$. But in 2021 and now this off-season he is being cheap.

      But to me the biggest gripe with Bob is his meddling and refusal to hire and trust a top notch baseball executive to run the organization and lay out a winning strategy.

      Finally, and this permeates everything , is that Bob is big fat liar.

    • Alan Horn

      At his age and given his size, it is doubtful Moose returns to form. I will be the happiest Reds fan if I am wrong. Suarez returning to form is about 50/50 in my opinion. The loss of production from Castellanos is huge. We need at least a couple of competent BP pieces as well as a few bench pieces, a decent backup catcher and a OF to offset the loss of Castellanos production offensively. Not a lot to ask but it won’t happen if the Reds higher ups continue to sit on their thumbs. Help in those areas are a few years away if they indeed pan out in the minors. There is promise at the lower levels.

    • Redsvol

      The last rebuild started well before Williams got to be GM in November of 2015 – meaning decisions impacting the 2016 baseball season and forward were his. Moose was a highly sought after free agent in 2019. Hard to call that a bad decision. Akiyama in my opinion was Williams worst decision but its not exactly a club altering contract.

      As you say Old School, its the combination of poor performance from Suarez, Moose and Akiyama that sticks out. But even with that, Reds were easily in line for playoffs as late as September if not for injuries to Winker and Naquin and a super hot streak by the Cardinals. With all the young talent coming in next 12-18 months we can easily be back in the mix by 2023. We are a couple bullpen pieces and above average outfielders away from some sustained success. And we need to sign 2 of our pitchers to extensions. Go toward the light, not the dark.

      • Alan Horn

        The Moose decision was a bad one because of his age, size and the length of the contract. In fruit terms you don’t pay top dollar for a bunch of fruit which is well past it’s peak. It is usually going to turn bad on you rather quickly. Then you are stuck with the loss(in this case a lot of loss). Large individuals usually age (as far as athletic ability) more quickly and are more subjected to injury. It you are both large and older that is not a good combo in baseball. Especially if you are paying that player a ton of money.

  27. greenmtred

    It’s interesting that some of us seem to believe that the Cardinals should be lauded for firing a manager whose team won 17 straight at a critical point in the season. The Reds have a fair number of very talented young players, including pitchers in the high minors. They have, as currently constituted, a solid group of starting pitchers. I’ll just wait and see how this all sugars off before I jump ship.

  28. Grand Salami

    I concur with the gist of this article. I elected to not re-new a small season ticket package. The prices were the same and it just seemed like the franchise could have done more to sell the product on the field.

    Lowering ticket prices (unheard of, I know), discounting concessions, and increasing player/fan events are a great way to compensate for a mediocre product on the field. They seem content to sell mediocre as the status quo without incentives.

  29. Slicc50

    What an article this is. Finally someone who is able to put how I feel these days about my Cincinnati Reds into words that do not offend other people!

  30. Chris Wheeler

    I have not read an article this on point in my entire life PERIOD!

  31. west larry

    Great article! I could mention more bad trades, but I don’t want to digress into that. Bob C has the right to cap the expenditures, even if I don’t like it. My New Year’s wish is that big Bob stays out of the specifics of trades, as long as they don’t exceed his miserly spending limits. I would like to sign Solar if we can get him for four million a year. I think the “k” catcher in triple A would be a adequate back up. If we trade Gray, we have got to get genuine, major league ready prospects in return. I do like the emphasis on developing our prospects. Please keep Mahle and Castillo.

  32. doofus

    Is Nashville still in the Red’s TV market, they were in 2017 when I was there? I was on vaca watching Red’s games in the evening, well every evening we were not on Broadway.

    • TR

      Distance wise Nashville is a little closer to Atlanta, but historically it has been a part of the Red’s network certainly before the Braves moved to Atlanta. Nashville is a vibrant mid-South area and it’s imperative the Reds become a real competitive team in the NL.

  33. vegastypo

    Aside from comments I made along the way, the only thing I would add here is that I think the jury should still be out on David Bell. The very fact that the Reds were in contention as long as they were in 2021 is amazing.

    I was screaming along with everybody else when with his bullpen choices early in the season, but gee, the guys I wanted him to use — Sims, Antone, anyone? — couldn’t pitch every night. As it was, both got hurt.

    Bell had to deal with barely productive Suarez, injured Moose, injured and unproductive Shogo, a terrible 3 or so months from Castillo, and injuries elsewhere that kept Jeff Hoffman in the rotation. (And Lorenzen’s injuries, and Amir was a mere disaster, and on and on …)

    David Bell does not decide who is on the roster. Krall does.

    And if you’re old enough to remember Joe Torre as a manager, he was roundly criticized with the Mets and Braves and Cardinals. But gee, he gets to the Yankees, and he suddenly learned how to manage when he had the Jeter/Bernie Williams/Rivera /etc. core group and the team had the ability to acquire players?

    • Old-school

      So Krall decided before the season that DW signings Suarez would tank, Moose would get injured , Akiyama would be terrible, Garrett would be terrible, Lorenzen would be injured and Castillo would be bad in April and May. If your point is dont blame bell….how in the world do you blame Krall?????

      Krall didnt pull Antone against the Dbacks up 3-0 in the 9th after 8 pitches for Garrett.

      • greenmtred

        I don’t blame Krall, either. People make mistakes. Krall makes them. Bell makes them. I make them. You make them. The best managers and GM’s in the game make them. I blame–if that’s the word–the vagaries of the game and, probably, ownership’s inability or unwillingness to spend enough money.

      • greenmtred

        And, as for Antone, I don’t remember that specific occasion, but I certainly remember what happened to Antone subsequently: we simply don’t know what he said to Bell: “Something doesn’t feel right, skip.” Or, “Let me finish pitching to this guy, Skip. I feel great.”

      • vegastypo

        Hey Old-school, to clarify, I’m not sure it’s fair to blame Krall either. We don’t know whether:

        1) He wanted to improve the roster but was told to stand pat, and only allowed to add those relievers at the trade deadline because ownership said so.

        or

        2) He had authority to make some changes provided he kept the vaunted payroll ‘alignment’ intact, but he wasn’t willing or able to see how that could be done. (Although the Brewers, for example, figured it out.)

        And for the record, even if No. 2 is the reality, it’s probably not Krall’s fault if he is not skilled enough to pull off these moves. Steve Mancuso at RedsContent+ has talked about that … That goes back to ownership putting him in that role.

        And regarding Bell, yes, he made some moves that didn’t work out. But it seemed like every time he made moves that didn’t seem to make sense to me, I’d hear later that he had to stick with player X because Y wasn’t available, or X had to leave for whatever reason. It’s hard to say for sure without knowing all of the info he had. …

        But I’m having a hard time saying that (insert other manager’s name here) could have done much better than Bell did over the course of the season.

  34. west larry

    Great perspective on the David Bell situation. Bell will again be challenged with the loss of his best hitter, one of his best starters, his backup catcher and who knows he’ll lose before the start of the season. See what he does in the next two years.

  35. Oldtimer

    I share many of the sentiments expressed in this article.

    The 1961 Reds came out of nowhere to win the NL Pennant. They finished 93-61 after going 67-87 in 1960.

    Cincinnati is lucky to have the Reds AT ALL. Cincinnati Mayor Gene Ruehlmann saved the Reds for Cincinnati by convincing the city to build Riverfront Stadium and persuading Bill DeWitt to sell the Reds to local ownership.

    If not for him, the San Diego Reds will be playing on the West Coast every season. It almost happened.

    • David

      Good point, and it might be overlooked and underappreciated that Marge Schott, Carl Linder and Bob Castellini and his group all kept the Reds in Cincinnati.

      To be frank, with the “value” of professional sports teams rising , and the Reds are allegedly valued at over ONE BILLION DOLLARS (pinky finger in tooth), I don’t know how longer this baseball franchise will stay in Cincinnati. The next owner may realize that the revenue from this market doesn’t match the cost of owning the team, and may buy the team to move it to a bigger TV/fan market.
      With sadness, I think that is almost inevitable.

      Perhaps the only way to “save” the Reds for Cincinnati is for the city to buy the team, and sell shares to people so that it is municipally owned. Then hire people to run the team.
      If they sold shares in the team at $100 per share, that would be 10 million shares, if the team was purchased by the city for a round One Billion dollars.

  36. Tom Mitsoff

    John, very well-written. It’s tough to go from the situation where it looked like ownership had decided to gear up its willingness to try to compete to now the opposite. I’ve expressed before that the balance sheets, not sports page standings, that guide the ownership group in its decisions. A recent article in one of the financial publications said Bob Castellini’s $400 million net worth is the smallest among Major League Baseball controlling owners. Nobody is going to cry a sympathetic river over that, but what we apparently have is the “least wealthy” ownership in a small market. Not good for hopes for the future.

    • VegasRed

      Yeah, probably time (well past time) for little bobby c to quit pretending he can continue as a big league owner.