The most important part of the Reds 2023 season is that we noticed when it ended. Never has this city more enjoyed a season that didn’t see a team make the playoffs. Whatever else happens to this team in future seasons, we will have this. The 2023 Cincinnati Reds made us pay heed.

That doesn’t sound like much. In fact, it sounds like the bare minimum of a sports team– that its people should care whether it lives or dies. But beaten into numbness as this city’s baseball fans were, this is significant.

Sell the Team, Bob

The Reds are so interwoven into the city’s history and culture– and, let’s face it, its infrastructure– that the club can withstand the cyclical rises and falls that accompany any long-term sport.  But the Reds were rapidly approaching the thin ice of the city’s economic pond. When fans collect money to erect a billboard along a major interstate advising the team owner to cut his losses, the losing just isn’t cute anymore.

Were we Cleveland now? Minus one Joe Burrow, we were Cleveland now.

I began this season only vaguely realizing that Opening Day was imminent  as I removed my mother’s belongings from the nursing home where she died. Where were you that week? You probably don’t remember. You probably don’t remember because you probably didn’t care– or, at least, not the way you used to. If I hadn’t just lost a parent the day before and was walking in that odd haze of grief that both focuses time and blurs it together, I likely wouldn’t have either.


The worst insult we can pay another isn’t to feel hatred, or even love deformed into hatred, but indifference. Was there a game on tonight? Who cared? It was to the point when 90% of the cradle fandom didn’t even think to ask.

Now this city has charted the largest increase in tickets sold in all of Major League Baseball. We’re an easy lay. Even the dimmest prospect of breaking .500 on the season was enough to bring us running back to the turnstiles. We are suckers for promise, because the Reds are so baked into us that we don’t want a losing record, even to force a team sale. We are suckers for promise.

We Just Want Them to Play Ball

The question now is how the team settles into 2024. Who stays healthy? Who stays and who goes? If Votto indeed lays down the bat and Jonathan India is traded, who functions as the clubhouse leader these young ones need? Which player on the current roster has the combination of integrity, seasoning, and sense of responsibility to push this club from factoring in the playoff chase to actually in the playoff chase?

Maybe this, then, will be the legacy of He Who Bangs– not the ring we all wanted for him, but something more intangible but just as well- remembered. Maybe the greatest jewel of his legacy is push the pieces in place for the players who followed to not just raise the Commissioner’s Trophy, but to at least have it within reaching distance. I think, for the boy who always “just want(ed) to play ball,” he would regard that with great satisfaction.

Great Expectations

The bad news is that this team cannot get away with almost comical levels of failure anymore. The Bengals began our ruination two years ago, and this firecracker of a season has sealed it. We have tasted competency, and we will accept no other effort.

The little girl who spread the Cincinnati Enquirer on the kitchen floor and dropped to hands and knees to contemplate the NL West standings now checks her phone in the grocery line for the same information. That might have changed, and there’s an embarrassingly large gap between the two methods, but at least I found it necessary.

I bet you did, too.

That is the difference. That is why I am already aware that Opening Day 2024 is March 30, at 4:10 in the afternoon.



28 Responses

  1. Scott C

    Relevance! Yes that is what we want. This year is hopefully the promise of better times to come. If that is to happen the Castellini’s will have to open the purse strings some. Get a true power hitter and a good if not better starting pitcher to anchor this staff of young praising pitchers and another good arm for the bullpen to take the pressure off of Diaz. If that means trading India, I would not like that but it is obvious that we have a few replacements for his production. In many ways I would like to see Votto return, I think he is valuable as a mentor, but I get it if he does not then I get it. But this year was great but left an unfulfilled hunger that can only be filled with a long post season run. Come on March 30.

  2. Rednat

    good stuff Mary BETH. I say the future is unknown with this team. are we the team of June that was going on winning streaks, scoring 5.5 runs a game? are we the team in July and August that got shut out routinely and averaged 4 runs/game?

    I am mostly impressed with the pitching. i think we will be fine from that standpoint going forward. any trade or signing this offseason needs to be to upgrade the offense!

  3. LDS

    “We’re an easy lay” (hilarious description) – yes, we are. The fans should never given Castellini 2M attendance. He’ll laugh all the way to the bank. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he invests any of it, other than rewarding the insiders. We all hope March 30th matters, but at this point, we just don’t know.

  4. Mark Moore

    Even if our resident evil-overlords pry open the wallet just a bit, that’s really not good enough. They don’t have the mindset, fortitude, or just plain guts to run a professional sports franchise. At least not from what I’ve witnessed. 2024 should take care of itself one way or another, but in order to have true lasting impact, we need a change at the very top.

    Love your thoughts and take on one Joseph Daniel Votto “preparing the way” for those who will now carry forward. I think what we’ve seen from the majority of the young studs makes that a distinct possibility. With or without India, we have a core that loves baseball and wants to win. And I think they will.

    As for “easy lay” it’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking a beverage at the time 😛

    Keep us honest and focused, MBE. We all know that Baseball is Life.

    (Response written as the day started in a sweatshirt for my walk and quickly progressed to shorts and a T in my office)

    • Melvin

      “Even if our resident evil-overlords pry open the wallet just a bit, that’s really not good enough. They don’t have the mindset, fortitude, or just plain guts to run a professional sports franchise.”

      Have to agree with that. lol

      • greenmtred

        I would have agreed without exception prior to this year. But, despite our suspicions–suspicions based upon years of futility–they clearly do have a plan and are implementing it, and the results are promising. Certainly it could end in disappointment; injuries, promise unfulfilled, and the general vagaries of baseball could intervene as they have for many other teams through the years. But right now, the future looks bright enough to keep me paying attention, and the style of play of this iteration of my favorite team is exciting enough to make me look forward to next season. Six months is a long time to be grumpy and nurture your pessimism.

    • Mark Moore

      I almost forgot … I saved a +500,000 for you and your work on this column, MBE!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thanks for this… it was difficult to find a way to think of Votto’s career rather than “The One Without A Ring,” but from what I know of him, I think he’d take this.

  5. TR

    I’ve got the date marked, as usual, when ML baseball games count and I want to make sure professional baseball’s oldest franchise opens at home. A party to welcome spring.

  6. Linkster

    Great Stuff Mary Beth! Sorry for your loss. My Mother-in-Law is in nursing care with Alzheimer’s. It sure does put everything into perspective.
    If the team stays healthy, the Sophomore slump doesn’t hit and we add a innings-eating SP and a couple of really good RP’s, then the playoffs are doable. Once in, anything can happen if you get hot.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Thanks for your kind words and my best to your family. It’s such a difficult situation and requires the whole family, doesn’t it.

  7. Melvin

    “We are suckers for promise,”

    That’s for sure. 🙂

  8. Votto4life

    The team played well for about six weeks. They were fun to follow during that period, but I imagine most of us were waiting for the bubble to burst, which of course it finally did.

    Perhaps, I would feel more optimistic if this team played lights out in August and September, instead of May and June. As the season wore on, the weaknesses of the younger players, began to show up.

    I do think the 2023 Reds team is better than the 2022 version. But I am not sure which team will show up in 2024. The team had a real shot to make the pose season in 2023, I am not convinced the same opportunity will available in 2024.

    The NL Central is going to be stronger. The Brewers are always competitive. The Cubs are on the right track and the Pirates are much improved. The St. Louis Cardinals will spend what it takes to get them back in the conversation.

    Beyond the NL Central, Miami and Arizona have proven they are playoff caliber teams. I feel San Francisco and the Mets will spend what it takes to play in October.

    I think the Red’s best shot at the post season was in 2023. I think next year there will be some regression (actually it already started this summer). The Reds may compete for a WC spot in 2024, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if they finished last in the NL Central. Only time will tell.

    The 2024 baseball season is a long way off, but if I had to guess where this teams ends up in 2024, I would put the Reds at about 75 wins. Of course, I projected the Reds to win only 62 games in 2023. So what do I know?

    I am already looking forward to the 2024 Cincinnati Bengals.

  9. David

    ” And they’ll walk off to the bleachers and sit in their short sleeves on a perfect afternoon. And find they have reserved seats somewhere along the baselines where they sat when they were children. And cheer their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”

    I would like to go to GABP and feel like that one more time. That not only COULD the Reds win, but they were EXPECTING to win.
    I’ve been to a lot of games in Crosley/Riverfront/Great American.
    Seen some great games, and seen some not so great games.

    I honestly DON’T expect the ownership/Top Men of the Reds to do the right things in this off-season, but hope springs eternal, I guess.
    Nothing is for certain next year, and if the Top Men think the Reds will automatically be better in 2024 than 2023 (and that’s what I kind of expect from them), then it will really be an unknown outcome next season.

  10. Jim Walker

    I don’t recall ever being at or watching on TV a sporting event where the followers of the winning team were singing the song “We’re proud of our team! Hey, hey, hey!’ as they departed from the game.

    Thank you, Mary Beth for doing your part to remind folks that 2023 was just a 1st step in the right direction for the Reds and not a destination or even a way point. Happy? Yes. A season to be proud of? Not yet.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      The older I get, the more I think “I’m really proud of him!” after a player does well. Aunt in me.

  11. Cincy6464

    This is a very clever & sound summary that encapsulates my feelings as a life-long fan at the end of a hopeful season. Thanks MBE!
    There are these encouraging signs;
    1. Nick K has a plan & has the trust from above to execute (within $ limits)
    2. At the MLB level there were glimpses of solid talent (last 10 years was large gap)
    3. The MiLB teams performed well overall
    4. Drafting has been solid & it’s evident there is a plan (~top 5 farm)
    5. There is budget available for upgrades & extensions (fingers crossed)
    6. Culture changes are tough (we’ve been a laughing stock for a while) but there appears hope
    I think most of us, although hoping we’d find a trade-deadline gem, are pleased the Reds didn’t trade away future talent for rentals. Now, let’s hope Nick & Co. can take us to the next level – championship caliber!

  12. Bob V

    I always look forward to the intelligence and wit of your “Baseball is Life” columns. I unabashedly admit to being a MBE fanboy.