The Cincinnati Reds are the third worst team in Major League Baseball in the wild card era according to The Athletic and their new ratings. The article uses a point-tallying criteria based on reaching the playoffs and how far one advanced, awarding more points for how far a team advanced. Reaching the playoffs but losing in the wild card round was valued at one point and winning the World Series was worth nine points. Teams were also awarded, or had points taken away for winning the division or losing 90+ games.

The wild card era began in 1995, so we’re looking at 29 years here. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Reds don’t grade out well here. The last time they advanced in the playoffs was the first year that there was a wild card team – 1995. Cincinnati currently owns the longest streak of not advancing in the playoffs among the four major sports in America.

Only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals rank lower than the Cincinnati Reds. The Royals being rated lower is a bit surprising given that they’ve actually won a World Series in that time frame and they’ve lost another one. But I guess they also did a whole lot of losing before and after that, too.

The Reds have been to the playoffs five times in the last 29 years. They won the division in 1995, 2010, and 2012. They were a wild card team in both 2013 and in 2020. Along the way they also had multiple 90-loss seasons (eight of them since 2001 to be exact).

The write up for the Reds notes that the current core of the team has a chance to get the club out of the longest playoff advancement drought. Of course, a lot of us probably felt that way in 2010, too, but the baseball Gods seemed to enjoy Reds fans pain and suffering during the playoffs during that stretch and went with being no-hit in the playoffs, blowing an 0-2 series lead by dropping three straight at home, and then the Johnny Cueto game in Pittsburgh.

It’s been a long stretch of bad baseballing for the hometown team. It’s tough to say if fans would have traded the last 29 years for what Kansas City has gotten done – they at least have some playoff success and a “piece of metal” as the commissioner of baseball wants to call it. But hey, they’re on top of the Pirates, so that’s got to count for something, right?

49 Responses

  1. Kevin Patrick

    No worries…Wilson will save us.

  2. LDS

    A perfect summation of the Castellini era, characterized by greed, stinginess, nepotism, and failure. And yet we are conditioned to believe that this year will be different, and a World Series victory is just a year or two away. Maybe it will, but recent history sure doesn’t suggest that.

    • Redsfan11

      Agreed. I don’t know many other teams owners but since the WC era Im sure we make a run of having the worst. Schott was getting old and surrounded by controversy and bitterness. Linder seemed to want to spend some money at first but then just got in over his head. And Bobby has become a worse owner than the Browns in the last decade, something no one would ever think possible

    • DaveCT

      Interesting comment, LDS.

      To clarify (and I am not saying you believe otherwise), I would say if we are conditioned to failure, we have largely conditioned ourselves.

      Further, if we are conditioned to optimism, however valid or invalid, the same.

      While I don’t believe the Big Bob Society is so nefarious as to do such things to us with the specific intent of conditioning us to failure ( I actually believe they are too inept), there is a certain benign neglect that has occurred, specifically in the First Great Don’t Call It A Rebuild, Just A Retooling.

      Selling off that era’s assets for “major league ready ‘prospects’ (I’m looking at you, Greenfield!) was as apt of a symbol of the incompetence of that era as there could be.

      Still, because I am as optimistic as Optimist, I’d say there has been a Sea Change beginning with the Dick Williams era and continuing with the Nick Krall era. The problem with sea changes, and turning around aircraft carriers, is the time involved. But at least these things are organic and not contrived, and as Gandalf famously said, there’s always “just a fool’s hope.”

      Extra credit for the Sea Change shout out.

      • DaveCT

        Edit, edit, edit!!

        Malignant neglect, not benign neglect.

      • Optimist

        Yep as to the DW era – that’s how I’m dating this. He’s the once-GM/future managing partner. I’d date his period starting with the 2017 season, though he didn’t control the budget and likely only exerted substantial influence beginning in 2019/20.

      • BK

        Very well said, Dave. I could not agree more.

      • LDS

        Probably the first time I’ve seen Gandalf quoted on RLN.

      • DaveCT

        LDS, when in doubt or in need of words, quote Gandalf.

      • Harry Stoner

        I don’t know….I’m pretty sure I heard Gandalf say: “Bell knows things!”

      • Greenfield Red

        DaveCT, thanks for the nod. The way I see it is, the Reds have more than 20 years of terrible decision making that caused the bottom out that happened in 2022. Signing 2 30 year olds to expensive 10 year contracts, trading away assets for major league ready talent, paying guys who are not even here anymore, poor drafts, mis timed trades, and more.

        But, what has happened the last 2 + years is so amazing, they actually improved by 20 games in 2023. They are a season ahead with a lot of green grass in front of them. I’m ex ited by the future.

        I agree on the edit button. I often times type something quickly without time to proofread, only to re read later and cringe about a typo!

        One other thing regarding the ranking system in Doug’s piece here: who wouldn’t trade KC the last 29 years of history. They’ve won a WS and been to another. The Reds haven’t won a playoff series. Something is rotten in Denmark.

      • Greenfield Red

        I just went back to look at a forgotten trade of the Barren Era of Reds baseball. Without a doubt, the Chapman trade was a colossal mistake made in a panic. It yielded absolutely nothing to help the Reds in return for the premier reliever in baseball.

        5 or 6 years before that, the most exciting player in baseball landed in the Reds lap for almost nothing. Josh Hamilton would be a 5 time all-star with Texas. Wouldn’t that have been a nice compliment to Votto and Bruce coming into their primes? Where the Chapman trade was total panic, the Hamilton trade was more of a slow burn panic, and at least the Reds did get 1 really good year out of Volquez.

        Another brick in the Wall of Horendous Decisions.

      • Greenfield Red

        One other thing about Josh Hamilton, and the thing I most disagreed with most in trading him was that he brought a buzz back to GABP. He sold tickets. A lot of them. I made the trip at least 6 times that Summer from 100 miles away. I have maybe been to 6 games since, although we have plans to go this Summer (loose plans at this point).

      • Melvin

        “Without a doubt, the Chapman trade was a colossal mistake made in a panic”

        Definitely

  3. Rednat

    Can we blame this all on the reds management or MLB commissioners office?. It is interesting that the reds pirates and royals were dominant in the 1970s before all of the big changes in the game with free agency.
    Thank you Doug for this write up. I’m interested to see what the rest ofRLN thinks.

    • David

      Times change, the business model changes, the way teams are run and put together changes.

      Some teams and organizations seem to have adapted, some haven’t. Money and market size play a part in that. It is no coincidence that the era was probably dominated in winning by mid market and large market teams (the article is on The Athletic and is behind a pay wall).
      The MLB commissioner’s office has been weak and is growing weaker. As the MLBPA grows relatively stronger, I think more problems will come. This is not so much a slam at the MLBPA, but it creates an uncontrollable variable in contracts, payrolls and planning.
      People on this site have compared ML Baseball to the NFL and NBA. The big differfences are that colleges act as minor-league prep grounds for the NFL and NBA.
      The NBA can have a successful team with a couple of very real and expensive superstars, and some very good “average” NBA players.
      The NFL has to have a big roster, but a lot of good players are drafted every year. There is a lot to coaching and team cohesiveness to create a winning team, and the particular talent of the QB and his skill players.
      Most players that are college kids drafted into ML baseball are NOT ready for the Majors after college. The level of play is too far below the Major leagues to do that. And a major league team needs a pitching staff (12-13 guys) and a pretty strong lineup (8 regulars and at least a couple of really good bench players) plus a DH, now.
      This creates a LOT of random problems for even a good ML Baseball GM to solve…every year. If you are somewhat hamstrung with money limits (KC, Pirates, Reds, etc) that makes it a tall mountain to climb.

      I have generally not been impressed by how the team/franchise has been run since Bob Howsam left/retired. The Reds have had some good periods, and certainly have had some good teams and players. That they have not been able to win consistently, year on year, is more due to how the ownership manages it resources, talent and drafts. Forget about signing big-dollar free agents, that is not going to happen in Cincinnati (and not sure it is a good idea for anyone, regardless of market size).

      • LDS

        There’s no question that FA spending is out-of-control. The Dodgers demonstrated that clearly this season. Sadly, such thinking is pervasive in society. Look at Congress.

    • MBS

      @David, MLB is setup differently when it comes to developing talent. However if the MLB had similar rules to the NFL, or the old NBA rules by not drafting players until they reach a certain age that would help alleviate the problem.

      If the best players were no longer being drafted out of the high school ranks the college player skill level goes up by the influx of talent.

      There would be some who could make the jump to the MLB out of college, and others that would need to be in the equivalent of AAA. It would be closer to the G league than our current setup. Maybe with so many fewer paychecks to write to their minor leaguers, they could actually pay them a livable salary.

      The guys who couldn’t make it in that league would go to the independent leagues out there, or find a real job, as most minor leaguers should do anyways.

      I think this would be a better system for the young players/kids since many of them waste years on a dream that will never come true. A degree would at least keep them on track with their nonathlete piers post college playing days.

      • BK

        I agree, but how would your suggested model apply to international free agents?

      • MBS

        It doesn’t. I think the US is unique in it’s college athletics. It would be impossible to have a system in place that would work the same in every country. That being said we are not the only professional league out there. Korea, and Japan have the best 2 non MLB leagues.

        Maybe the MLB could help develop the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol. The structure is already there with 16 teams. Pump a bit of money into it, and create a funneling system from the rest of Latin America.

        There could still be development camps in these countries, so little would have to change in that regard. There is way too much that I don’t know about each country, but that’s my gut reaction at least.

      • BK

        @MBS, I would send a thumbs-up emoji if I could 🙂

  4. Redsfan11

    No surprise whatsoever. Maybe only surprise like Doug stated was the Royals were below Reds. Would certainly prefer two WS appearances and a trophy compared to not even advancing

    • Melvin

      Yeah. I don’t understand how this could be though. Big Bob PROMISED us a lot more. 😉

      • Dewey Roberts

        I remember when Big Bob fired Wayne Krivsky and said, “The losing must stop!”

  5. Optimist

    Is it a close question about trading the Reds experience for the Royals? A title seems to count for a lot – if nothing else it bridges generations. The Reds are more than a generation beyond the 1990 team, but before that they at least had 15-20 year gaps between WS appearances.

    Sure, without the expanded playoffs, the 2010-12 Reds may have made one WS appearance, but they didn’t and the Royals did.

  6. BK

    Top 5 teams (Forbes 2023 valuation–strong correlation to revenue):

    1. Yankees (#1)
    2. Braves (#8)
    3. Cardinals (#10)
    4. Dodgers (#2)
    5. Red Sox (#3)

    The Athletic article illustrates how market size is the strongest indicator of sustained on-field success. For all of the clamoring for a change in ownership, the structural problem is not ownership (and I fully acknowledge that the current Red’s ownership team has underperformed).

    The key to solving the problem is to develop a CBA that aligns players and ownership interests with growing revenues. MLBPA is not the only problem, but they are likely the only ones that can compel change w/out a prolonged work stoppage. They are the strongest union but are far more focused on burnishing the union’s reputation through record-setting individual contracts than long-term measures that benefit their entire constituency. To date, they have misdiagnosed the problem. They should advocate for much greater revenue sharing and a salary floor akin to the NBA model. The focus should be reducing the risk associated with small market teams pursuing free agents. Tradeoffs would be agreeing to max contract lengths or team opt-out clauses due to long-term injuries or sustained production drops. Most employee groups want the most productive workers to earn the highest salaries–the current CBA only protects the highest tier of players at the expense of younger players and competitive balance (bad for young players; bad for growing the sport).

    Large market franchises generate solid profits AND exploit their financial muscle to win games—they have no incentive to advocate for structural change. The next best path to change is for the smaller market teams to insist on a radically different CBA, which would surely lead to a prolonged work stoppage, further eroding the league’s credibility.

    • Justin T

      This comment thread has some very good, well thought out opinions as always. MBS, BK and David you guys make great points. Sometimes I let the emotions get the best of me, I was raised a Reds fan and spent many evening at Riverfront with my dad. I don’t even know the right word to describe how seeing what this organization has become makes me feel. Its the lack of a commitment to winning that gets me. You can navigate through the payroll constraints and keep an eye on the prize at the same time. You dont do things like let a Wade Miley walk away for nothing and hope noone notices. You dont say what Castillini Jr said and never formally apologize to the fans. Its the arrogance thats been displayed while being the 28th best franchise in MLB.

    • MBS

      The NBA like the NFL have national tv deals. I really think that’s the 1st step into fixing the problem in the MLB. I know it’s not happing tomorrow, but cable is dying, and so will most of the current deals that teams have with their RSN’s.

      After that, the revenue sharing becomes a lot more likely, as will caps and floors.

      To me the best option is a deal with Disney+/ESPN/ABC.

      1) every game could be available on Disney+, bringing in subscribers to their other content.

      2) national game of the week could be aired on ESPN, (advertise for their Disney+MLB bundle)

      3) local game of the week could be aired on ABC, (advertise for their Disney+MLB bundle)

  7. Justin T

    Yet some are called negative for being skeptical. Its because we see it coming from a mile away. The fact that they have given two extensions to a manager who simply does not win speaks volumes. Rather or not you think it’s any fault of the manager the fact is the results are the results. If you think at crunch time the front office will step up, just look at last year. Nick Krall has a cult like following that I just do not understand. I simply do not see him as some instinctive player development guru who has a keen eye for talent and value.

    Look around the front office and find winning track records in any key positions. Whats the organizational philosophy? Is it working? Is it the same as last year or the year before? Why did the last pitching development director leave? Could he not get the organization on the same page?

    I hope I am proven wrong someday, but can only go with what my eyes see.

    • DaveCT

      Regarding Krall, my opinion of him for the first phase of his tenure went like this. “Kralling to the bottom.” I was especially appalled at his lack of, as I saw it, leadership skills and especially communication skills. This was especially true given it being the onset of another rebuild,

      However, while I do think he’s shown a bit of improvement in the latter two areas, I see him as less of a PR type of GM, a la Theo Epstein, and far more of a behind the scenes, nose to the grindstone type of one. I can appreciate him better because of that insight, even though I continue to see that as a deficit of the organization, especially given Bell’s lackings at PR. And I do not think it is the job of broadcasters to do club PR, as we’ve seen repeatedly. Broadcasters should ‘call the game,’ be it on the field, in the clubhouse or in the office.

      If Krall has a cult status, it’s for his success overseeing the draft, international free agents and trades, where he has accumulated a tremendous amount of talent. I am, by far, a RML guy, not much of a RLN one. At least way down in the weeds. So, where I appreciate Krall the most is in his putting the club in a better position to compete via acquisition of talent, especially given the constraints of the organization. And I see his continuance if Dick Williams’ ‘modernization’ emphasis as well as implementation of revamped player/pitching development programs as big pluses, too.

      When Phil said, “Where else are they going to go?” he mostly set up Krall for negativity and the chopping block more than anyone, as it was Krall who had to manage the product on the field amidst the fallout. True Castellani leadership.

      As for ownership, In general, I am staunchly of the opinion it sucks.

      • Justin T

        The communication part I couldn’t agree more. When an organization has a business that is a “public trust” representing a city, a good way to judge if they are ran well is how they communicate with the public/fans. There has been a tremendous lack of communication in terms of the plan (the lack of charisma in this organization is remarkable). The fans are left to speculate and in turn you see alot of them arguing on different forums. Some buy in and some don’t, even if we do not know exactly what we are buying in to.

        My position has always been evaluate based on results and they have not been good.

        Last year’s all star break showed a lack of urgency to me, though some will say they stuck with “the plan”. Isn’t the plan to win? Noone plans to give up their prospects, but you do it to win when you have a chance.

        Ultimately, where are ya actually going to go?

    • Rednat

      I would agree if you are a reds fan you really can’t be considered “pessimistic” because we have been so bad for so long. “Realistic” and ” skeptical ” are better terms

    • MBS

      @Justin, “Yet some are called negative for being skeptical.” There is a pattern to this team. I’m as excited as anyone for the possible future, but previous fails by this ownership should have anyone a bit skeptical. For some reason, some people feel like they need to defend the organization to any perceived attack.

  8. Oldtimer

    On a semi related note, the Reds had the best NL W-L record from 1956 to 1981. Five NL pennants, 2 WS championships, and 2 more division titles. Best W-L record in MLB in 1981.

    • Harry Stoner

      On a semi related note, 1981 was 43 years ago.

      1976 was 48 years ago.

      1928 was 48 years before 1976.

      • Oldtimer

        But the Reds were really good in my youth. The NL had powerhouse teams then and the Reds were one of them.

        HOF-ers like Robinson, Bench, Morgan, Perez. Near HOF-ers like Pinson and #14. MVPs like Robinson, Bench, #14, Morgan, Foster. Great pitchers like Maloney, Nolan, and Gullett.

        The Reds since 2000 have been meh at best. Reds fans not even meh.

      • Harry Stoner

        I was living and working in Cincinnati in the 80s when the Reds had a pair of ~100 loss seasons.
        We went to Riverfront often, ate brats and metts, drank Hudepohl and took the water taxis over to see the girls in Newport.
        The Reds had some awful teams, but I became a fan, anyway.
        I missed the Big Red Machine era, but who cares?

        So, some old timers boast about being Reds fans when they had HOF players and winning teams.
        That’s supposed to be impressive?
        Meh.
        That was easy.
        Like being a Yankees fan.
        Don’t have to put much effort into that.

    • Rednat

      I would even extend the golden Era of the reds from the mid 50s to the 1999 magical season. We had 3 bad years in 82,83,84 but the late 80s teams were pretty exciting. The 90s was a solid decade culminating with the 99 club which was a fun season.
      Then the Griffey trade, then the move to GABP which has turned out to be a disastrous move for the franchise. The Votto Era never materialized. Now we have this” Ray’s way” Era. Maybe we can turn it around

      • David

        I think the “Griffey trade” in and of itself was not bad, but it represented the wrong kind of move. Thinking that a few “big stars” ie, Ken Griffey, Barry Larkin, etc., would propel the Reds to winning. The Reds paid big, but got two older players on the downside of their careers. And you could say the trade with the Mariners, in part, propelled them to a couple of very good seasons.
        This is the big problem with singing big name, expensive free agents.
        Ask the Yankees, who had the big expensive roster last year, and did not make the playoffs.

        The problem with the MLBPA is that they are operating, as best I can tell, without some kind of plan or strategy to make baseball “stronger”. Their intent, as nearly as I can make it out, is to maximize the ability of a handful of players to get massive amounts of money.
        And that’s what I meant in my previous comment about their agreements (MLBPA) being an unpredictable wild card in any baseball GM’s plans.

      • JohnnySofa

        What was wrong with the Griffey trade? The Reds gave up Jake Meyer, Mike Cameron, Antonio Pérez, and Brett Tomko for a superstar who brought some excitement to Cincy, wanted to play here, had some productive years and played so balls-out that he suffered some serious injuries. He was good for the city, period.
        If you want to criticize trades, there have been plenty to choose from in the past 10 years.

      • Justin T

        @johnnysofa

        It definitely wasnt the trade as much as it was the contract that came with it. Griffey was a top 5
        salary on the Reds as recently as last year. Unarguably wasnt best for the team.

  9. Rednat

    Man we could talk weeks about these subjects. For David above….
    ” the intent….. is to maximize the ability of a handful of players together massive amounts of money “.

    I agree, but why is this allowed to happen? I believe it is a ‘supply and demand ‘ issue. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of really good position players out there that can really handle major league pitching. This creates a huge demand for the few players that can actually hit. I think this has hurt teams like the reds and pirates more than anything that don’t have as much money to even go after mediocre hitters.
    Would the league benefit from a contracture.?
    What role do teams like the reds and pirates really have in today’s game?
    Why are young athletes gravitating to football and not baseball anymore? I think this has hurt the reds more than anything to be honest.

    None of my teams will make the ncaa tournament this year so I hope everyone can talk about these subjects the next couple of weeks before the season. They are interesting indeed.

  10. Bigbill

    A large part of the Reds problem is playing in such a small ballpark that is prone to home runs. Power and elite pitching is the most expensive traits in the game. Being a small market, the ball park should be as large on the field with as much foul territory as possible to minimize power. This also makes average pitchers much better as the foul ball outs increase substantially.
    OBP, defense and speed are the traits in mlb that are the least expensive and most abundant thus easier to acquire.
    Krill has built an athletic team that has speed. As the players mature, the defense should only get better. The obp of the team is quite good for so many youngsters. Pitching is deep though no actual top of the line pitchers yet.

    If this team played in a home stadium that maximized their strengths, I believe they would win an extra 4-5 home games a year thus making them right in the hunt for a pennant for quite sometime.

  11. JohnnySofa

    I see a lot of excuses here: small ballpark, small market, small whatever. Stop. You’re only parroting excuses management used while creating a mess and expecting fans to buy it. The terribleness is the result of a barrage of trades-for-trash (Bruce, Cueto, Chapman), awful signings (Bailey long-term instead of Cueto, for one) and wasted draft picks (high picks in a draft system, btw, that every sports league uses to actually help bad teams get better). Like all, I hope the Reds have not only turned the page but burned the old book and started a new one. It’s time to hold management accountable instead of buying into their same lame excuses.

    • Mauired

      Exactly. It’s surprising no one mentions the Cardinals. Same market size as Cincinnati. Yet instead of using the excuse of limited resources, they annually run a organization the way it should be and contend year in and year out. It’s a shame that the Dewitt family doesn’t own the Reds. They live in Cincinnati!