Tomorrow has become a dirty word around some corners of Redleg Nation. All the Tomorrows on the horizon eventually turn into Todays, but it’s each Today that all anyone cares about. Get it now. It’s the famous Stanford Marshmallow Test in action. Offer a child a marshmallow to eat right now, or offer them two if they wait 15 minutes—and see who makes the better choice.
A day on social media as the trade deadline wound down saw the adult version of The Marshmallow Test play out. As the sand poured through the hourglass, the angst and recriminations rose, the GET SOMEBODY argument revolved around this idea:
“This opportunity, this season, may never come around again.”
Alas, they are of a Shakespearian mind, their tomorrows and tomorrows creeping in its petty gameday pace from game to dusty game, to the last recorded out. And all those yesterdays, promised by bud-lighted fools, those prospect huggers strutting and fretting across another squandered baseball season’s stage, are fandom’s idiots, full of tweets and comments, signifying nothing but another lost handful of magic beans. Tomorrow is but a dream. Today is all.
I’m not here to make fun of this sentiment, but rather to point out it exists, and by recognizing it, understanding its genesis. For these are our fellow Reds fans. We all ache for the same outcome.
This philosophy is born of years of losing and failed rebuilds. It’s viewpoint shared by fans who have never seen a playoff series win. And even if they were alive when Todd Benzinger drifted into both foul territory and Reds history, they were likely wearing pajamas with the feet in them, happy to be up past their bedtime.
For many, prospects are just players who have never done anything on the mainstage. They are tools for acquiring proven major league talent. Matt McLain, Elly De La Cruz, and Andrew Abbott have quieted that widely-held proclamation a bit, but it has the ring of truth to it in the right context. For the Dodgers, prospects are more easily relinquished than they are for teams forced to build not just their core, but a substantial part of the their rosters on cheap, controllable home-grown talent.
Teams with unlimited bank can have it both ways, as the New York Mets are doing right now. They’ve traded from their farm, spent ungodly sums on stars who haven’t thus far paid owner Steve Cohen back for his generosity—and now they are replenishing their system by paying a ridiculous amount of Justin Verlander’s contract in return for valuable prospect ducats.
Having it both ways indeed; and doing it all with—you guessed it—money. Lots of it.
Thus, the Panic Philosophy, the belief the Reds need to take the shot that may never come round again, is exactly the strategy the big market front offices are hoping their little brothers adopt. Take your shot. We’ll take your young talent. And when you cannot re-sign that rental, we’ll buy him back in the off-season. We’ll take everything. That’s what the Yankees did when they traded Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for coveted prospect Gleyber Torres, then re-signed free-agent Chappy for $80M. Yes, the Cubs did get their WS rings, but New York used a down season to measurably improve themselves in both current and future talent without costing themselves anything but $$$.
We have forgotten this began as a serious rebuilding season. And while the ball has indeed been bouncing their way, the one- and two-run wins being pushed to the Reds’ side of the abacus, their third order win percentage suggests they are likely to regress. And while some will wave off run differential as meaningless, I would respectfully disagree. Moreover, they are a poor defensive team. Projections had this team winning fewer than 70 games this season, yet another indication the Reds may be playing somewhat over their heads. This is an awful thing to suggest, especially at the very moment they sit in first place. It may anger some. But it must be contemplated.
There’s a belief out there that just getting that Golden Ticket to October gives you a chance at getting to a World Series and maybe winning it all. And it certainly does. But how much of a chance may be the better question. The 2010 team was a year early and by all measure a better lineup and pitching staff top to bottom. Yet, they were summarily and embarrassingly bounced by the Phillies. In 2011 they fell back dramatically, but rebounded in terrific fashion in 2012, giving the lie to the claim that a season like this may never come again. Still, 2012 and 2013 bought the Reds early exits again. All this should be a reminder just how tough it can be to advance and that surely must be measured against what you may have to give up to get your ticket stamped for one or two chances at the big, stuffed animal at the fair.
For some, the Reds front office can do no right. Ownership has poisoned the well to the point that nothing is good enough. And while the failure to bring in help was likely a function of 70% of the league’s front offices being within striking distance of a wildcard spot on August 1st and a dearth of difference-makers available—fans just don’t want to hear it. The Reds front office has long been criticized for not having a plan; and now that they have one and are sticking to it, it remains too little for a playoff starved fan base to swallow.
I cannot subscribe to the notion that adding starting pitching help to the 2023 Reds in an effort to bolster their chances of making the postseason and advancing in the playoffs would completely torpedo the club's long-term hopes.
— Mo Egger (@MoEgger) August 1, 2023
Mo makes a point echoed by many. The issue for me is just how much pitching help the Reds need. My guess is the front office decided that the kind of help that would seriously move the needle for both the rotation and the bullpen and make more than a brief postseason appearance would indeed substantially harm prospect depth, if not torpedo it. The last recent Reds postseason team had no depth. The Reds are finally developing depth and they just might need every bit of it. If stars such as former MVP Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich can go into seasons-long funks, is it unreasonable to want to have insurance for the young, unproven stars the Reds have produced. Is Christian Encarnacion-Strand a sure thing? Will Jonathan India live up to his rookie year going forward? Will there be injuries? Of course, there will. Meanwhile, holes are being filled by platooning because the Reds don’t have enough established players to hit from both sides of the plate.
Meanwhile, a fan base turned its playoff starved eyes to Nick Krall and his front office and were rebuffed in favor of Tomorrow. Don’t they understand that Today is all?