2013 Reds / 2014 Reds / Editorials / Havoc

The Spellbinding Mythology and Havoc of “ALL IN”

It doesn’t seem like they [the Reds] are going in the tank, like the Houston Astros, but it doesn’t feel like they’re going ALLLLLLLLL INNNNN, does it?”        —Mo Egger

All in.Poker-Chip-All-In

They are the two magic words that sometimes sound as if they should be shouted while waving one of J.K Rowling’s magic wands—pointed with stern purpose—directly at The Team Who Shall Not Be Named residing upstream in the standings on the Mississippi River.

But as the oft-repeated comic book phrase goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” We muggles should at least know the definition and consequences of this “spell,” lest we inadvertently—as if, having made the mistake of holding the wand by the wrong end—smote ourselves with our own flawed reasoning and fanatic desires.

We’ve heard the incantation in all it’s past, present and future glory, from invoking it to attach meaning to a particular trade (e.g., “the Reds went “ALL IN” last year with the acquisition of Choo”)—to insisting that the front office told the fan base it was “ALL IN,”—to declaring how the organization should proceed now.

We are a fan base desperately in need of an accurate definition of the “ALL IN” meme, one that can be useful in understanding how the club is being run, unpacking the purpose behind moves made and NOT made. It might even give us a way of fairly evaluating the success or failure of those efforts while helping us correctly read the signposts ahead that point toward the future. Clarity is a good thing, assuming it’s your thing.

The poker term “ALL IN” has become a seductively overused phase in the sports lexicon of late, full of the testosterone that fuels the InterWebs these days. The poker player that goes ALL IN is in the moment. With all of his chips pushed to the center of the table, by definition, ALL IN means future play is solely dependent upon the results of the current hand. Right here and right now. Lose—and there is no next hand.  No tomorrow. Get up and leave the table. Thanks for playing. Tip your waitress on the way out.

Were the Reds “ALL IN” last year? Hardly.

To hear the local media tell it, though—absolutely. At various times and by various people—beat writers, talk radio, the blogosphere—all proclaimed the Cincinnati Reds “ALL IN.” Is it any wonder that many fans have bought into this tired and misdirected narrative?

Admit it, loyal fan. Most of you secretly want to see this team go “ALL IN.” Even if you won’t say it out loud, in your heart-of-hearts, you want the men upstairs rolling the dice. Put it all on nineteen. Make something happen. Now. For some, “ALL IN” has been a spell to be fallen into, a hypnotic trance that leads of dreams of daring trades, national recognition, striking fear in NL Central adversaries—if only the cowards/tightwads/misanthropes at the top will pull the trigger. And for the folks who insist they were promised something more, “ALL IN” has become a cudgel to bludgeon management for broken promises or past misdeeds, real and imagined.

Dear fan, whatever you have heard or read about the Reds’ commitment to being “ALL IN,” understand that their definition is most definitely different than than the above definition. The politics of the fan/front office relationship don’t allow for answering “no” to the question of being “ALL IN.” For ownership and management, “ALL IN” equates to being “committed” to the success of the team in the eyes of the fan—nothing more. It has no time constraints attached to it, no expiration date stamped on it. It’s not about now. It’s about always. There’s a big difference.

Don’t believe me?

In August, shortly after a two game sweep of the A’s, Paul Daugherty had this to say about Castellini and the notion of “ALL IN.”

“You want to know the guy signing the checks is as All In as you are … We have called this an All In summer. It’s not a term Castellini appreciates. He says every year is All In.”

If we can get past the semantics, it’s pretty easy to see that to the front office, “ALL IN” means a commitment to sustainability, to being right there in the hunt every year. That very commitment eschews the fan definition of “ALL IN,” because the fan definition means risking all for one shot, whether that means spending money that won’t be available to keep your top starters next year—or trading away prospects that were meant to be counted on in seasons to come. It’s playing for today and today only. It means World Series or bust. Either way, you get up and leave the table at the end.

That’s never been the plan as spoken by this owner or this GM:

Being a small market, we have to rely on our scouting and player development,” general manager Walt Jocketty said. “We supplement it through trades and free agency. I feel we’ve been able to change the mindset. We’re building to contend every year.”     —Walt Jocketty, Baseball America, December 2012

You keep hearing that the Reds don’t have a plan, even as the people at the top have repeatedly spoken plainly and without equivocation. Do you not hear? It has never revolved around pushing chips into the center of the table:

We have no plans to sell the team, so I plan on being engaged with the Reds for a very long time. Hopefully we can bring back the winning tradition and make it sustainable, so God willing, I plan on doing it a very long time.”  —Phil Castellini, Cincy Magazine, February 2014

Sustainability? Do you not hear?

You are told by some the Reds have the money; they simply won’t spend;  you keep hearing the whispers that money is being held back, going into pockets perhaps:

Jeff Wyler recalled Castellini recruiting him to buy a share of the team. It wouldn’t be a for-profit venture. ‘We are the custodians of the crown jewel of Cincinnati,’ Wyler recalled Castellini telling him. ‘We’re going to restore pride to Cincinnati and its baseball team. If you’re expecting an annual return, you can forget it.’”    —Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati Enquirer, January 2013

“ALL IN” is not in this regime’s DNA. You may want to think  the enormous contracts given to Votto and Phillips suggest otherwise, but according to John Fay, the owner said at the time:

What we are doing will not be to the financial detriment to our team in the future.

Sustainability. Future. Do you not hear?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the Reds to go “ALL IN.” Maybe 40 years ago when a single series won the pennant and punched your World Series ticket. The game has changed. More teams make the post-season. Not only has the additional Wild Card team increased the odds of getting in and potentially getting hot, the other side of the coin says new rules have ensured that even the best laid plans can go to ruin, making every post-season a crapshoot. Even if you think it’s your year, even if you believe one last move will make the difference, put you over the top, more teams mean a bigger minefield, longer odds. Now, more than ever, you just want to get there every year, not spend years building a team only to throw it all away for the better part of the next decade chasing an elusive jackpot.

The “ALL IN” meme and its companion “CLOSING WINDOW,” have sent many heading for their panic room. We’re being told this is the last chance for the Reds. The notion that Jocketty has underestimated the worth of players like Choo, Philips or Bailey or even Sizemore—and has therefore misplayed his hand—strikes a false note.

A long term Bailey signing has been on the Reds’ radar screen for a long time. He hasn’t heretofore signed because he has always been willing to hold his cards and wait. The Reds’ leverage is that at any moment Bailey, like any other pitcher, could get hurt. But, Homer—as we know—doesn’t think like just any major league baseball player. Homer has, to some extent, been more than ready to go “ALL IN” betting on his arm’s health. That’s his leverage. He’s been using it for some time. Had Homer’s last two seasons not built upon each other, his strikeouts and walks improving in each, his velocity improving, leverage would have shifted to the Reds. But, it didn’t. Advantage Bailey. Had Bailey suffered any time on the DL in 2013, for even slightest of reasons, leverage would have shifted to the Reds. But, it didn’t. Advantage Bailey. The surprising Tim Lincecum deal, and certainly the Kershaw contract has had the effect lifting all boats, including Bailey’s, making any potential contract situation fluid, not something the Reds’ front office fumbled. All of Baseball—not just Walt Jocketty—sat on the sidelines waiting for events like the Tanaka signing to set the market for other players.

Emotion has clouded the judgment on what to do with Phillips. Jayson Stark reported weeks ago that every GM who spoke with the Reds got the impression that it was ownership, not Jocketty that was pushing to move Phillips. It’s unlikely Jocketty misjudged anything about dealing Brandon Phillips.

As to the matter of Grady Sizemore, Cincinnati fans are free to assume that it was simply a matter of pinching shut the change purse if they wish, but they should know that a Boston blog points to a comfort level Sizemore had with not only his old Cleveland Indians trainer and manager, but a local sports medicine physical therapist, who the Sox hired as a consultant in early 2012, and who now is their Coordinator of Sports Medicine. It was Dan Dyrek, the man who got a wounded Larry Bird healthy enough to compete in the 1992 Olympics, who ultimately wooed Sizemore away from the Reds to the Red Sox. The Reds didn’t lose Sizemore because they were cheap or misjudged the cost of doing business, they most likely lost him due to a series of prior relationships and unfortunate circumstance.

The lack of offense last season has robbed focus from all pitching and defense that won the Reds 90 games last season. The howls that this is a THIRD PLACE team are belied by the fact that only a lost final week of the season kept the Reds from posting perhaps as many as 94 wins. It rebuts the notion the team MUST make some dramatic move or fall to afterthought status in the NL Central in 2014. You want something big. “ALL IN” big. The front office wants to be in the hunt every year.

Time for a new narrative: sustainability.

Leave “ALL IN” to the gamblers and fools.

80 thoughts on “The Spellbinding Mythology and Havoc of “ALL IN”

  1. First of all, this was a good article and brought up points I might not’ve considered.

    Second, this is exactly why I think Homer should be traded for prospects. I’ve been one of the biggest believers in long term success over short term glory. It’s why I thought Phillips should’ve been traded last season during his “hot streak” to start the season, and why I thought Latos should’ve been extended LAST season. Those are the kinds of moves that help set the team up for the future.

    Hindsight is 20/20, though.

  2. I, for one, don’t want Walt to make any move for “this year” that undermines the long-run. However, it is certainly true that a lack of action (the non-move) could undermine the long-run as well. For example, I would love a James Shields-type of trade for Homer at this point (and I do believe someone would overpay). The Reds will not (and should not) sign Homer long-term. So, it only makes sense to make a trade that is likely to result in more value (WAR), this year and/or in the future, that involves Homer. If not Homer, then perhaps Leake is the piece to move. Moreover, Chapman (if not a starter) should be moved as well. Again, some contender with a huge TV deal not too concerned about prospects should be amenable to the overpay in the case of Chapman.

    Homer is worth 3-5 wins this year. If a player (or players) can be had that will result in more value over the next few years can be had, make the move.

  3. If you have a chance to win a World Series title, you make the moves to do so, future be damned. Last year was a huge whiff. At some point, the “sustainable” early playoff exits are going to get old. Go big or go home.

    • @jessecuster44: We cannot possibly know in February which moves to make that put the team in the World Series.

      As of today, nobody on this roster has a strained lat or a broken thumb. Billy Hamilton has not had one single at-bat and Joey Votto has yet to take ball 3.

      So how do you know which pieces to get NOW that get you past the first 12 games of post-season?

      We are talking the moving pieces of a real live roster as it theoretically relates to a projected W-L record against 29 other teams that have the same issues.

      We aren’t 7 games out of first place as of today.

      • Yes, but in April of 2013, the Reds know that Ludwick wasn’t coming back any time soon. They needed a bat and chose not to get it, even though they had the pieces to do so. With the #4 power bat and that pitching staff? The Reds win the Central easily and go into the playoffs as favorites to win the NL pennant.

    • @jessecuster44: You know, there was a time when I would have agreed with you. However, since the addition of the third playoff round (never mind the new play-in game), I don’t know if this is true. The playoffs are a crapshoot. Anyone who tells you otherwise, frankly, doesn’t know what they are talking about. Base teams win series against good teams all the time. It should surprise no one that an 85 win team as about even odds against a 95 win team.

      So, what happens is this. Right now, every team that makes it to the playoffs (and through the play-in game if needed) has a 12.5% chance of winning the World Series. That means, math wise, you need to contend for 8 years to expect a championship. This is much, much different than when the World Series was it, and you had a 50-50 shot or when there was just the WS and LCS, meaning you had a 1 in 4 shot. Then, yeah, you mortgage a little bit more. But now, you really need to be good for a decade or exceptionally lucky.

      I don’t like a lot of what Jocketty has done, and I don’t want to be perceived as defending what I think is a very substandard offseason, but going for it all in on year doesn’t make sense. If you don’t believe me, just remember that the 2001 Mariners won 116 games and lost in the ALCS to a team that won 21 fewer games than they did.

      • @Jason Linden: Even accepting the “post-season is a crap-shoot” theory, teams that win the division have twice the chance of winning the World Series than does a team that qualifies as the wild card. So an organization doubles their odds of winning the World Series if they regularly win the division. If the Cardinals are built to win 95 games and the division and the Reds are built to win 87 games and get in through the wild card, their odds of winning the World Series are vastly different.

        • @Steve Mancuso: This makes sense IF I see some proof that the Cardinals are built to win 95 games. One could assume they are capable of it, maybe even more.

          If you establish one part of this as fact, and accept the other part as a prediction, you tend to mix fruits.

          But if St. Louis goes 101-61, it doesn’t matter what the Reds do … our heroes will be 12 or 14 games out anyway.

  4. Mr. Fitch, I simply do not understand your unending reserve of patience for Jocketty at this point. Between this article and “The Dark Knight,” your Cincinnati DNA shows through. Your message is, essentially, “This is a team that won 90 games last year, isn’t that enough? Woah, we can’t afford to gamble on long term deals because something might go wrong! At sometime in the future!”
    Your post did nothing to rebut the excellent points made by Steve in his article “Whatever The Opposite Of Moneyball Is.” Since WJ landed Choo way back when, the front office has shown little, if any, plan. Just one example: you claim that the Reds have had a Bailey extension on their radar for years. Yet, the Reds and Bailey are a whopping $4mm apart in arbitration figures. It doesn’t take an economist to realize that starting pitchers are the most valuable commodity in a sport flush from billion-dollar TV deals. The Reds are acting like this is 1994, not 2014. In 1992, the average MLB salary was 32-times the annual income of an American household. By 2010, baseball salaries were 66-times higher. Players make ungodly amounts of money. That’s simply a fact of baseball now. At the same time, however, revenue for clubs and owners has (unbelievably) outstripped that pace. The Reds are not rich, but they are definitely not poor.
    With little beyond Robert Stephenson in the pipeline, Plan A, B, C and D should be to lock up Bailey and Latos yesterday. At full market value.
    Yet, we see the Reds consistently trying to nickel and dime their way to contention. WJ said, with a straight face, that the Reds couldn’t afford Marlon Byrd’s contract last year. Steve pointed out that he made $116 a month last year–basically league-minimum.
    I totally agree that the Reds must act with fiscal restraint in order to remain sustainable. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable (nor “going ALL IN”) to pay fair market value to retain key cogs in the Reds’ plan. Expensive retention, in this case, actually leads to sustained success.
    I’m not asking WJ to spend like Daddy Warbucks But the seeds that are Bailey and Latos have blossomed and flowered. What is needed now is for WJ to continue watering them instead of being too cheap to afford a watering can.

  5. I want the Reds recent successes to continue just as much as the next guy, and if the Reds were actively making moves to that end, that would be great. Unfortunately, the Reds aren’t really making any trades that are netting them prospects ready to contribute in the next 1-3 years. The Reds also are not making any big free agent splashes that would help them compete this year. This combination is what leaves a lot of Reds fans scratching their collective heads.

    • @Eric: Arguably, we did obtain a pitcher — Holmberg.

      Is that enough? Well, it’s one guy. Another one here and there coming through the system and in 2 years, we’re doing OK.

  6. First of all, let me say “BRAVO!”. That was a very well written article that laid bare a lot of misconceptions that have been floating around.

    As I have pointed out, it just seems odd to me that people are so down on this team when they have made the playoffs 3 of the last 4 years, despite some who may argue the semantics of last year’s “playoff” appearance. Bottom line, this team has been fairly successful for a few years running now and it would stand to reason they will continue to be successful.

    The fact is, having SUSTAINED success means your team is always a few players or a few lucky bounces away from winning it all. You can’t win it all if you don’t have that foundation of success to build from, and I like that the Reds are trying to establish that.

    HOWEVER…..

    The Reds have a lot of talent on their team that simply doesn’t come around too often, chief among them being Mr. Joey Votto. It would stand to reason that if the Reds were to add the pieces now to try to win it all, it would be easier when they have such solid pieces to begin with. The window of Votto being the Votto we know will only last so long, then what?

    I don’t know, I’m a bit torn on it, but my overall feeling is I like the idea of being a consistent winner than mortgaging the future for a 1 year run that would guarantee nothing.

    • @CI3J:
      “Sustainable” and “relevant” are words that don’t happen to a lot of pro sports franchises.

      I am OK going into April knowing we have a very good baseball team. I won’t be cancelling my MLB subscription or shutting it off in July.

  7. I do agree that people got too hung up on the “all in” idea last season, but it was clear that some moves were made prior to last season that were more about the short term than sustainability. We traded prospects and signed high priced relievers. Those aren’t moves that you make to be sustainable.

  8. The interesting thing is that the Reds will have pretty much the same team in 2015 that they do in 2014. Very few players will be leaving, and there probably won’t be much turnover.

    Staying position players: Votto, Phillips, Bruce, Hamilton, Pena, Mesoraco, Cozart, Frazier, Schumaker, Heiesey

    Staying pitchers: Cueto, Latos, Broxton, Leake, Marshall, Chapman, Parra, Simon, LeCure, Hoover, Cingrani

    Potential free agents: Ludwick, Bailey, Hannahan

  9. Another thing that I think is a little misleading is when Bob and Walt say the contracts given to Votto and BP won’t negatively impact the team in the future. Of course they are going to say that. They have to say that. But when it comes to big contracts it’s not always about the money, but also about roster spots and playing time. No matter what Walt says the, the biggest factor in not claiming Marlon Byrd last year was Ryan Ludwick’s contract and the playing time that goes with it. I would be willing to bet it was also a consideration when the team opted not to add bullpen depth with injuries to Marshall and Broxton. I hope BP’s year last year was injury related and that he has a strong 2014, but if decline continues do the Reds pay him that much money to be a backup? Is he a guy that accepts that role? We have seen that his contract makes him nearly untradeable, unless the Reds sell low or eat some of that said contract. So while these deals may not prevent the Reds from spending big on, say, a 3B or SP, the contracts limit what the team can do at certain positions. And for a team that isn’t going to be in the top 5 in payroll, flexibility is key.

    • @Eric: I can’t believe the amount of time that is spent on this site re: Marlin Byrd! I’ve read this site and the comments for over a year, but never registered to post… but I can’t take it anymore. It reminds me of the way fans react to the Bengals not signing any big name on day 1 or 2 of free agency. Every year people freak out… same thing is happening with Reds fans now b/c no “big move” has been made this off season. I think it would have been a mistake to make the big move. I can’t wait to see BH play every day. I think he may have an impact like Super-Todd did 2 years ago… just an infectious impact on the way the team plays. No more toothpick, the best top to bottom pitching staff that I can remember the Reds having in a long time… I could not be more excited.

  10. I think if you look outside the teams that went over board with the spending like Texas, NY, Boston and Seattle – it was a pretty quiet hot stove for a lot of clubs.

    Other than signing their “Votto”, the Braves didn’t do much.

    Pittsburgh, Chicago White Sox, Cubs, Pirates, Orioles, Toronto and host of over clubs really didn’t do that much dealing at all.

    It seems there was more pitching available than bats in the offseason. Hitters seem to be at a premium, as so many big bats are tied up in long, expensive contracts and clubs seem to be playing it close to budget. Even the Cardnals moves really were payroll neutral, they had a couple of big contracts come off the books and just spent that money on different players.

    The Reds did not do much, but neither did a whole lot of clubs.

  11. I think everyone is for sustainability. No one (seriously) wants the Reds to run aground by dealing away all their prospects for a chance at winning in 2013. Even Bob said that he wants to win both in 2013 and beyond.

    I can also get on board with the idea that judging an organization from the moves we see is tough. We don’t see the smart times WJ&Co. avoiding signing a bad deal. We only get to see the moves they do make. At the same time, I think it’s important to, from time to time, judge if the front office is making systematically correct decisions. If missing on Choo/Bailey/BP, etc is considered “sustainable,” then it is hard to determine the difference between sustainable and mediocre.

    The Reds did not win the division last year, and by most measures will be worse on opening day 2014 than they were in 2013 due to the absence of Choo. Winning games, even if not the World Series, improves the Reds leverage in negotiating their television contract, and directly improves revenues via ticket sales, and concessions. Money, regardless if it’s being saved or made, is critical to the long-term sustainability of the Reds.

    Even if we can find individually exonerating circumstances for the Reds moves (Bailey, BP, etc), I keep asking myself this question: How can the Reds have a winning organizational strategy given the summation of these events that occurred in one offseason? The whole of them is more concerning than the individual parts.

    From the outside, the Reds have overvalued relievers (Broxton, Marshall, and Cordero; leaving Chapman in the bullpen) and speed, while undervaluing OPS and other advanced metrics.

    Missing on all these players’ value (Choo, Bailey, not being able to move BP, etc) indicates the Reds are outliers in the way they project player contracts. This could be, in part, influenced by their belief in older baseball theories. Maybe the Reds are dedicating their resources to the draft. Or it could be because they do not have a front office that is as competent as other MLB teams.

    From the moment the Choo trade was made, the critical decision WJ&Co. would confront this offseason were clear. They knew they would be negotiating with Bailey. They had to see the Kershaw deal coming with the Dodgers TV contract. After the first week, they knew that they might need to replace an injured 35 year old left fielder. They had a year to plan how to make these decisions benefit the Reds in 2013 and beyond. I think its fair to be concerned with the way the Reds handled these decisions.

  12. The problem with the sustainability narrative is that it’s defined purely post facto. Every time the Reds fail to sign a free agent, fail to make a trade or fail to extend a player, it’s just written off after the fact as being part of the plan for sustainability. Answer these questions:

    1. Is reaching an agreement with Homer Bailey part of building sustainable success? Or if the Reds fail to extend him, is that building sustainable success?

    2. Was failing to find a trading match for Brandon Phillips something that promotes sustainability or hurts it?

    3. Would trading Mike Leake for Colby Rasmus build sustainable success?

    4. Was assigning Chapman to the bullpen, letting Pittsburgh get Marlon Byrd, signing Broxton to a $21m/3y deal all part of the sustainability plan?

    See, there’s really no way to determine the answer to these questions ahead of time with such an ill-defined concept as sustainability.

    As Mike points out, everyone is for sustainable success. We just think different things are required for it. Throwing up a pile of straw arguments, such as that people are advocating “all in” strategies (which no one here has done) may shed heat on the subject, but not light.

    Serial failure sounds a lot more like mediocrity to me than sustainability.

    • @Steve Mancuso: Perhaps not coming to an arrangement with Bailey is an organizational mistake, based on what we hear/see/think. For all we know, Bailey changed the rules (or rather, his agent did). Meaning, maybe Walt was led to believe he could deal with Homer, then realized Bailey had moved the goal posts. Maybe that didn’t happen. Dunno … Bailey ain’t the end-all, be-all to pitching.

      I think moving Phillips might inevitably create a more sustainable infield but it surely would create a hiccup this summer, unless Skip Schumaker is the guy we really did want to play 2B.

      The LF situation has been an organizational failure since Adam Dunn left divots. For some reason, this franchise seems content with marginal platoon talent in LF, as if that were the steam valve for default.

      LF should have been fixed the day Gomes was traded and Ludwick was a contract mistake.

      But I come back to this: I don’t see that there were impact deals that could have been made that didn’t create the same kind of contract blunders that Ludwick presents.

      The definition of sustainabilty is up to the user, I think. Being a contender in small market is our destiny as Reds fans. The Big Red Machine will never roar again.

      I will settle for post-season fumes off and on and a real run at it the rest of the time. The alternative is what they endure in Milwaukee.

      (Maybe the other guys didn’t want Mike Leake.)

      • @Johnu1: For the cost of Ludwick and Broxton the Reds could have had Swisher or Bourne. Both would have been solid contributors in the outfield, and a better investment than an old and questionably productive outfielder and an old and questionably productive setup man.

    • @Steve Mancuso: I tend to go with this point of view.

      I am still scratching my head over the Byrd situation. The cost of paying $116K to keep him out of the hands of the Pirates if the Metz did not pull him back seems negligible. For whatever reason, somebody in the org did not want him enough that they were willing to risk seeing him end up with the Pirates. Money just made a convenient excuse after the fact.

      • @OhioJim: The thing is, it is highly doubtful that they would have even had to have paid the $116K. I doubt that the Mets would have let him go for nothing. All Walt would have had to do is put in a claim, offer to trade a dozen baseballs for Byrd, they would have pulled him back, and that would have been that. There are only two plausible reasons for not claiming Byrd. One, Walt is operating according to some “gentleman’s agreement” that only he (or a select few) operate according to or he was simply asleep at the wheel. Either way, the only given excuse is laughable.

    • @Steve Mancuso:

      The problem with the sustainability narrative is that it’s defined purely post facto. Every time the Reds fail to sign a free agent, fail to make a trade or fail to extend a player, it’s just written off after the fact as being part of the plan for sustainability. Not really. The final details of any trade/free agent or extention the Reds fail to make are soon made public when another team signs said player. The Rangers bought Choo for $18.6M a year. Do you think that’s sustainable for the Reds? I don’t.

      1. Is reaching an agreement with Homer Bailey part of building sustainable success? Or if the Reds fail to extend him, is that building sustainable success? Kinda depends on the contract, doesn’t it? That will become public. So, we’ll know if it was sustainable for the Reds or not, won’t we?

      2. Was failing to find a trading match for Brandon Phillips something that promotes sustainability or hurts it? Owner-driven decision, yeah?

      3. Would trading Mike Leake for Colby Rasmus build sustainable success? Do you value pitching over hitting? I do. Who replaces Leake? Respond.

      4. Was assigning Chapman to the bullpen, letting Pittsburgh get Marlon Byrd, signing Broxton to a $21m/3y deal all part of the sustainability plan? The Broxton and Chapman issues were a direct result of Dusty Baker’s insistence that Chapman remain as closer AFTER the Reds brought Broxton in to close. Baker has been fired. What else do you want?

      Do you still insist Jocketty’s arms were too short when reaching into his pockets to sign Grady Sizemore? Or do you acknowledge that other factors were at play?

      • @Richard Fitch: You’re missing my point about your post. There are certainly legitimate arguments over whether the Reds should have taken each one of these steps. And we fans should engage in those debates. The premise of your original post is that there is some über-plan that Walt Jocketty has called “Sustainability” and the existence of that plan settles the debate. Your post assigns anyone who criticizes Jocketty’s failure to make moves into the “All-In” club and accuses them of not comprehending Sustainability.

        Bracketing off the obvious straw positioning (no one is against sustainability and no one is for all-in as you define it) the problem is that the Sustainability narrative doesn’t leave any room for second-guessing the front office. Any move they make – or fail to make – is in the service of Sustainability. End of story.

        Which is an odd position for you to be taking, since pretty much every one of your posts here, prior to the last two, criticized Jocketty without mention of Sustainability. On Dec. 9, in a post advocating Jocketty trade Chapman, you described the front office as “not knowing if it was coming or going.” On Dec. 5, you wrote it would be a huge failure to not trade Brandon Phillips “has to be moved even if it brings little in return.” On Nov. 12, you advocated Jocketty make not one, but two big trades (“Get that big trade done Walt. In fact, make it two.”).

        “Not knowing if it is coming or going” doesn’t sound particularly Sustainable.

        When Jocketty deserves praise (Rolen, Latos, contract extensions, moves with catchers, Ludwick 2012, etc.), I’ve given it. When I think he fumbles (Chapman, Byrd, Sizemore, Ludwick 2013, Broxton, etc.) I’ve said so. My recent posts take the view that there has been an awfully long streak of mis-steps lately by the organization overall — not just Jocketty — that can’t be brushed away by one-size-fits-all exonerating narratives, whether it’s called Sustainability or The Dark Knight.

        • @Steve Mancuso: I have no interest in declaring an ultimate plan or ending debate about front office moves. I’m merely pushing back against the notion that the front office has no plan and some of the claims that because Jocketty hasn’t done much, he’s accepting “mediocrity.” This has little merit for me.

          And, no, not everyone is for “sustainability.” The Florida Marlins are the most obvious answer to the contrary. Plenty of teams make “all in” moves. Brewers did it when they traded away 4 coveted prospects for a CC Sabathia rental.

          I also disagree that a sustainable business model blocks off criticism. I don’t want to block of criticism. The Byrd controversy has nothing to do with sustainability principles. I want to block off examples of UNFAIR criticism. Like your criticism of Jocketty for not signing Grady Sizemore. Or your criticism of not knowing how much Choo would ultimately cost, as if that mattered. Jocketty said they wanted Choo. That they’d do all they could to keep him. Yet, you want to punish the man because he couldn’t deliver on all our hopes and dreams. We can’t make petulant responses for every deal or player that doesn’t go our way or we’ll become perpetually unhappy.

          The Brandon Phillips controversy isn’t merely about his contract, it encompasses his potential negative effect on the play of everyone else in the dugout. If the front office believes he affects the sustainability of the team to play effectively–then yeah, he needs to go even if it’s a net loss in money for the Reds. Sustainability is about more than $$, is it not?

          Thanks for noting that mis-steps by the organization include others besides Jocketty. Unfortunately your criticisms elsewhere are aimed almost exclusively at the GM. It’s not the GM’s wallet. Baker wasn’t the GM’s hire. You almost never mention the owner’s role in things, which to my mind are substantial. He’s a fan who is also the owner. You may believe he’s hands off and Jocketty is the final arbiter in all these decisions you believe are mistakes. I believe Castellini is heavily involved and in some cases might have made the final call. I believe that Dusty Baker affected poor moves the Reds were forced to make, Chapman and Broxton most obviously–and I believe Dusty was Castellini’s guy, not Jocketty’s guy.

          You want Bailey signed. You’re unhappy they haven’t. But, Bailey is a player in this drama, too. Just as Grady Sizemore was, despite what you claim.

          You’re misrepresenting what I’m writing. Not only am I not arguing that sustainability blocks off all criticism, I’m wasn’t suggesting that Jocketty was a super hero. I was saying he isn’t the cartoon villain some continue to portray him as.

      • @Richard Fitch: Paying Choo $18 mil a year may not be the smartest allocation of resources, but the bigger issue to me is that the Reds have already spent money so unwisely that they never really even had a chance to make a competitive offer. Neither the Ludwick contract, the Broxton contract, the Marshall contract, nor the BP contract prevented them from going after Choo or any other free agent this off season, but taken together they have severely limited the flexibility the Reds have.
        I don’t think it is necessarily accurate to blame the Broxton contract on Dusty, and believe me, I am no Dusty apologist. The Reds made the Broxton trade in 2012. At that point, even though he performed well enough for the Reds, his skill set was clearly in decline. Dusty’s contract was up after 2012. The Reds were free to pursue a manager who would convert Chapman into a starter. Instead, they stuck with Baker knowing he would fight tooth and nail to keep Chapman in the closer role. That they then signed a declining relief pitcher, destined to be nothing more than a setup man, to the contract they did speaks ill of their evaluation skills.
        The Reds also signed Marshall and Masset to longish term contracts in a day in age when relief pitchers seem to be a dime a dozen (see Parra, M.).
        After 2010, the Reds signed Scott Rolen for 2 more years. Had they not signed him, they would know by now whether Todd Frazier can hit enough to be an every day 3B. As it stands, they are stuck waiting to see if 2012 was a fluke or if 2013 was the fluke.
        Walt deserves credit for the Latos trade and for bringing in Choo last year. But he has also made some moves that have limited what the franchise can do, either because of payroll considerations or because the money certain players are getting locks them in to a certain position.

    • @Steve Mancuso:

      I don’t believe that the sustainability narrative is at all a post facto endeavor. There are some obvious areas of market imbalance and distortion that make certain decisions sensible and others illogical. For example, in my estimation, it makes much more sense to sign a Kyle Lohse/Matt Garza for two years and lose a pick than to sign Bailey for eight to ten years.

      1. I would argue the latter. The risk of giving Bailey even merely a “competitive” contract is simply too much. Even if he were to take a hometown discount, I doubt that he would take the kind of haircut that would be required for the contract to make any sense for the Reds. Someone will overpay. I hope it is not the Reds.

      2. Neither. . . This one was a wash. Is BP’s contract bad, given his second half performance last year? Yep. However, it is not the terrible albatross that some contracts are . . . except that it is for the Reds. The reason that he should have been traded (and still should) is that this is likely the surefire way to free up money to sign Latos to an extension while also getting a prospect or two in return.

      3. Nope. . . However, moving Leake (only if Bailey isn’t traded) may be a good idea, for the right return. It would have been a great move to make prior to Arroyo signing with Arizona.

      4. Moving Chapman to the rotation would (and still is) an example of building for the long-run (whether Chapman is used in the rotation for ten years, moves back to closer, or is traded). The Byrd situation was simple incompetence. The Broxton contract was trying to force Dusty into moving Chapman to the rotation. Dusty should have been told, in effect, that the choice was out of his hands. However, coming off of a 97 win season, I doubt that Bob would have let Walt do this.

      • @Drew Mac: No one is against sustainability. I’m 100% for the Reds behaving in a sustainable way. I just disagree with Richard that the course of (in)action over the past twelve months is a sustainable path. You think the Reds can’t afford to pay a top pitcher market value. I assume you feel the same way about possible extensions for Latos and Cueto. I disagree. I think for the to have *sustainable* success, they need to sign at least two of those people (my preference is Bailey and Latos, but that’s definitely debatable) and pay the going rate. Otherwise, their recent success will not be sustained.

        I’ve written at length about how the Reds can afford to do more (and will do more) than the average fan thinks. They raised payroll over $20 million just last year, which is in line with what I’ve been saying.

        • Signs indicate that Homer is seeking market value and is not interested in taking a discount to stay with the Reds. Perhaps the Reds could afford to pay Homer market value, the question is whether they should.

          Market value for Homer will likely be north of $20 million per season over 7 years. That is a lot of contract for a team like the Reds, and could really tie their hands down the line (i.e., hurt sustainability). It would probably also preclude an extension for Latos.

          My guess is the Reds feel reasonably confident about their ability to extend Latos before he reaches free agency, which means they could do it at a below-market rate. Latos has purchased a big house and set down some roots in Cincinnati (odd thing to do for someone with two years left on his contract) and he still has two years left before he is a free agent. By not waiting to test the free agency market, Latos will eliminate the risk that he suffers a serious injury or other set back in the next two years, and he will have to take a discount to eliminate that risk.

          @Drew Mac: No one is against sustainability. I’m 100% for the Reds behaving in a sustainable way. I just disagree with Richard that the course of (in)action over the past twelve months is a sustainable path. You think the Reds can’t afford to pay a top pitcher market value. I assume you feel the same way about possible extensions for Latos and Cueto. I disagree. I think for the to have *sustainable* success, they need to sign at least two of those people (my preference is Bailey and Latos, but that’s definitely debatable) and pay the going rate. Otherwise, their recent success will not be sustained.

          I’ve written at length about how the Reds can afford to do more (and will do more) than the average fan thinks. They raised payroll over $20 million just last year, which is in line with what I’ve been saying.

        • @CaptainTonyKW: No way the market value for Homer is $20m/7 years. For one thing, virtually no pitcher gets 7 years. I’d be shocked if it’s more than 5 years. The AAV will end up well below $20 million. My guess is that the AAV range is $14-18 million and the number of years 4-5.

        • @Steve Mancuso: I would think that a good comp for Homer is Zack Greinke. He is owed $25-26 million per year through 2018 (with an opt-out after 2015). He signed this contract after 2012. Someone (Texas, the Yankees, etc.) will overpay. If Homer would agree to an AAV of $14-16 per year for the next five years, I’m thinking that Walt would have personally delivered the contract to Homer with a smile on his face. However, I don’t believe that even this kind of contract would prove to be a sound investment when all is said and done.

          Regarding Latos and Cueto, I am fully on board with extending Latos. When it comes to Cueto, I am a bit torn. There is nothing wrong with the guy’s arm. If he would agree to two years on the back end of his present deal (with, perhaps, a bonus for signing the extension) at a reasonable rate, I would pull the trigger.

        • Another good comp. I think a big reason why Steve et al. and Richard et al. are talking past each other on this issue is because of a strong difference in the perception of Homer’s value.

          @Steve Mancuso: I would think that a good comp for Homer is Zack Greinke. He is owed $25-26 million per year through 2018 (with an opt-out after 2015). He signed this contract after 2012. Someone (Texas, the Yankees, etc.) will overpay. If Homer would agree to an AAV of $14-16 per year for the next five years, I’m thinking that Walt would have personally delivered the contract to Homer with a smile on his face. However, I don’t believe that even this kind of contract would prove to be a sound investment when all is said and done. Regarding Latos and Cueto, I am fully on board with extending Latos. When it comes to Cueto, I am a bit torn. There is nothing wrong with the guy’s arm. If he would agree to two years on the back end of his present deal (with, perhaps, a bonus for signing the extension) at a reasonable rate, I would pull the trigger.

        • @Drew Mac: I’m as big of a Homer Bailey fan as anyone (see avatar). But there’s just no comparison between Grienke and Bailey. It’s not even remotely close. Homer’s best year isn’t anywhere nearly as good as Grienke’s average over the past five years. Grienke has a Cy Young award. The WAR stats are out there for everyone to see. Grienke’s WAR average the five years before his 2012 contract was 5.4. Homer’s best is 3.7 and that’s one year.

        • @Steve Mancuso: Of course, years one and two of that the five years of previous to Greinke breaking the bank were his insane age 24 and 25 seasons of 5.4 and 10.4 (!) bWAR. Exclude those (include only the three years leading up to the contract) and assume that Homer has another solid season, and I believe we are looking at very similar pitchers. The average WAR? . . . 2.4 for Greinke and 2.9 for Homer (recording 2014 as the average of 2012 and 2013). Homer will be virtually the same age that Greinke was. In addition, Homer will not have had (assuming nothing happens in 2014) the makeup/mental health questions that surrounded Greinke in the lead up to his contract.

        • @Drew Mac: Maybe the more relevant point is what Homer thinks Homer is worth. He seems like a pretty competitive and confident guy. I suspect that he thinks Greinke is one of his better comps. Perhaps he can be convinced that he is worth “only” $20 million per year (if not worth the “full Greinke treatment”) for five or six years. However, I doubt that he thinks his value is much less than this.

        • @Drew Mac: Not trying to be argumentative. This is an interesting discussion to me. It demonstrates the complexities of these negotiations.

          You’re using Baseball Reference WAR numbers, I’m using Fangraphs. Using fWAR, the three years of Greinke before his contract were 4.8, 3.6 and 4.8, much higher than bWAR. The difference comes from the choice of BR to use ERA while Fangraphs uses FIP. Greinke’s underlying stats (K/9, BB/9 etc) which were really great those years, show up much more in FIP than in ERA. From the contract, it looks like they used Fangraphs.

          Using Fangraphs to compare both Bailey and Greinke, it’s a huge edge for the latter. And that’s even throwing out his amazing Cy Young year, which I’m not sure why you do that. Pretty arbitrary to only go back three years instead of four or five. Can’t Greinke argue that he has five great years to go on, while Homer at this point only has one, really?

        • @Steve Mancuso: I have seen the light and will surely admit that Greinke has the edge when it comes to statistical analysis. However, some time has passed since Greinke’s contract and prices aren’t doing much in the way of decreasing. Also, I think Homer is going to be a pretty big fish when he hits the market (and Greinke’s makeup was a really big question at one point). I don’t recall what the market was like when Greinke hit free agency. I hope you are right and most everyone would be in favor of a five year/$75 million dollar deal for Homer. I’m just not holding my breath.

          Perhaps we are all just in a state of dual lamentation when it comes to the wisdom of our beloved team committing a large amount (money and years) to any pitcher or letting a hometown pitcher go. The Dodgers and Yankees and Angels and Red Sox can all afford to overpay. I just hope the Reds don’t.

        • @Steve Mancuso: No way the market value for Homer is $20m/7 years. For one thing, virtually no pitcher gets 7 years. I’d be shocked if it’s more than 5 years. The AAV will end up well below $20 million. My guess is that the AAV range is $14-18 million and the number of years 4-5.

          $14 million? No wonder you think the Reds could extend Bailey AND Latos. Assuming ~$6 million/WAR (which is the most recent number I saw from Fangraphs), Homer was worth $22.2 million last season.

          I’ll be very surprised if Homer’s next contract isn’t worth more than $100 million total. $/WAR will continue to increase. And remember, Masahiro Tanaka (who has never thrown a pitch in the majors) just got 7 years at $155 million (just over $22 million a year). There is at least one person who agrees: http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24436668/report-reds-homer-bailey-far-apart-in-contract-extension-talks

        • @CaptainTonyKW: I’m going to disagree with that guy. There’s no comparison between Grienke’s numbers and Homer’s. When Grienke signed his deal in 2012, over his previous five years, he had earned an average of 5.4 WAR. Homer, over the past four years has earned 2.3 WAR. Assume (as that author does) that Homer has another big year in 2014, his average over five years would be 2.6 WAR. Homer’s highest WAR (2013) was 3.7. That’s way below Grienke, who also has a Cy Young award. The difference of 2 WAR per year is $12 million, using your own figures.

          Taking your own estimate of WAR=$6 million, assume that Homer has another great year in 2014. Say it’s even better than 2013 and he earns 4.0 WAR. Then you start taking the standard .5 WAR deduction each year for aging decline. Over a five-year contract, his AAV should be $18 million.

          That’s the top end of the range I listed. But it makes a generous assumption about 2014 and assumes the Reds don’t get a bit of a discount for giving away his final year of arbitration. So $90 million over 5 years. Maybe there’s a sixth year with an option that gets it over $100 million.

          I don’t think Homer will get $14m AAV, but it might be the bottom of the range they are discussing, especially if five or more years are being discussed. Remember, the report you cite says there’s a big gap between the Reds offer and what Homer is asking right now.

        • I do not dispute the difference in Grienke’s acheivements as compared to Bailey but I would note that Greinke was also a little older than Bailey will be after this season when he got that contract and Bailey pitches in a horrible park for pitchers.

          A few other points. I’m not sure a standard .5 deduction should be applied to Bailey starting in the year 2015 (when he will be 29 and in his prime). Greinke likely cost himself a little value by getting the opt-out clause. Moreover, the value of WAR has significantly increased since 2012 and looks to continue to increase.

          @Steve Mancuso:

          @Steve Mancuso: I’m going to disagree with that guy. There’s no comparison between Grienke’s numbers and Homer’s. When Grienke signed his deal in 2012, over his previous five years, he had earned an average of 5.4 WAR. Homer, over the past four years has earned 2.3 WAR. Assume (as that author does) that Homer has another big year in 2014, his average over five years would be 2.6 WAR. Homer’s highest WAR (2013) was 3.7. That’s way below Grienke, who also has a Cy Young award. The difference of 2 WAR per year is $12 million, using your own figures. Taking your own estimate of WAR=$6 million, assume that Homer has another great year in 2014. Say it’s even better than 2013 and he earns 4.0 WAR. Then you start taking the standard .5 WAR deduction each year for aging decline. Over a five-year contract, his AAV should be $18 million. That’s the top end of the range I listed. But it makes a generous assumption about 2014 and assumes the Reds don’t get a bit of a discount for giving away his final year of arbitration. So $90 million over 5 years. Maybe there’s a sixth year with an option that gets it over $100 million. I don’t think Homer will get $14m AAV, but it might be the bottom of the range they are discussing, especially if five or more years are being discussed. Remember, the report you cite says there’s a big gap between the Reds offer and what Homer is asking right now.

        • @CaptainTonyKW: All good points. Some people would start the .5 deduction in 2014 for estimating a contract now. I not only didn’t do that, I gave Homer the benefit of the doubt and assumed 2014 will be better than 2013 (which I believe). Homer has topped out at 3.7 WAR to this point. I think even with all those factors, Homer is still nowhere near Greinke in track record and won’t command nearly the same contract.

  13. I will say this: The consensus is this team is going to finish somewhere around 3rd place, 8 or 10 games out of the money, with a hobbling roster of mediocrity.

    It’s sure going to be a lot of fun reading how everyone plans to chew off their toes this summer.

    Every entry here ends up with the same meme: The general manager has sent this ship onto the rocks.

    But let Joey be Joey.

    Cheesh.

  14. I suppose I don’t understand why a team has to be “all in” just to improve its likely status in chasing a pennant. … To get Choo, the Reds traded two players who they might not have seen room for, or top value in. Maybe they knew Choo was a rental, or maybe they thought they could somehow sign him long term. Either way, it’s not like they gave up pieces likely to inflict long-term damage on the organization.

    But I’m not drinking the Kool Aid on a few other topics. One of Walt’s statements was supposedly that he wasn’t gonna put a claim in for Byrd because he only does that if he’s gonna try to sign the guy after the current season. Really? So, to the detriment of your team this season, you let a guy go to your rival??? And all the while, you’re waiting for your own left-fielder to recover from a broken shoulder???

    There’s just something that doesn’t seem right about “standing pat.” Recent post-season appearances don’t give me confidence that it’s safe to lose an offensive player like Choo and just hope for the best. Especially when the organization lacks major-league ready depth. I hope Hamilton and a healthy/healthier Votto/Ludwick/Phillips prove me wrong.

  15. I don’t understand. How weren’t the Reds better on paper going into last season that the season before? Everyone was talking about them winning as many as 97 games. They just got rid of their poor offending CF for a player who gave them the best leadoff hitter in maybe a generation. They had the rookie of the year at 3rd. They had a cleanup hitter experiencing a renewal in a smaller park. Previously, they brought in a reliever who was suppose to allow Chapman to move easily to a starting role. They had the 6th highest payroll in the NL. The only way they would be “all in” even more was to spend even more money. And, something Uncle Bob always said as well was “as long as the Reds make money”, that he wasn’t going to spend money just for the sake of spending money. Sorry, but I see just another frustrated fan in this post trying to find reasons not to like this season’s team so far.

  16. All In in poker is different from All In in baseball. Yes, perhaps the phrase comes from poker, but the connotation is about making a big move. All in is not necessarily about the risk the player is taking. Perhaps in his mind there is very little risk. All in is ALL about making bold moves that can sway the game. Last winter the Reds made a couple big moves, the largest being the trade for Choo.

  17. Great, reasoned post. Sustainability is even more important for mid-market teams like the Reds. Keeping a strong farm system (rather than gutting the system to go all-in for a season) and not biting off contracts that are too big to chew will keep the Reds competitive.

    • Great, reasoned post.Sustainability is even more important for mid-market teams like the Reds.Keeping a strong farm system (rather than gutting the system to go all-in for a season) and not biting off contracts that are too big to chew will keep the Reds competitive.

      I think being competitive (another word for relevants) is all any sports franchise can expect. In this century, that’s happened only in the last 4 years and it’s likely to continue for awhile.

      Having a fair chance to play .600 ball is sufficient for me, regardless of whether we sign Grady Sizemore.

  18. C’mon, folks. The Reds did make a great move since the early exit in the playoffs. They got rid of Dusty and that makes me optimistic about this season. If we can have fewer devastating injuries and maybe a surprise performance from Hamilton, I believe this team will contend. We own one of the better rotations in the league — as long as they stay healthy.

  19. I’ve said this before, but I think that the 2011 Reds are highly relevant in this discussion. The Reds were coming off the unexpected 2010 playoff appearance (such as it was, darn you Roy Holliday)and in similar fashion to this year, played a “stand pat” strategy, thinking “well, this team made it last year, why wouldn’t it do it again?” 2011 stands counterpoint to the “if it ain’t broke…” argument.

    I think somewhere there is room away from the poles of the hard “all in” strategy and the “we’re playing the long game.” I agree with some of the points above that a “sustainable” team doesn’t necessarily sink so much money into relief pitching. I can live without the “leverage it all” based on the logic layed out regarding how the playoffs are currently constructed. Very risky. But surely there is “room for improvement” before “all in” and that feels sorely missing. Maybe this year is really is as simple as there was not a good deal to be made. That brings in Mancuso’s thoughts about how well the Reds evaluate their talent on the market to begin with.

    I will happily subscribe to the sustainable team if I felt like it was a little more Tampa Bay Ray and a little less, well, what we have now.

  20. Great overall discussion. Thanks for getting people started, Richard. Good stuff all the way around.

  21. Since we are using the poker comparison. The top prize is worth several times more than just “cashing” in a tournament, so the strategy is to go for the top prize even if it means missing out on more of the smaller prizes.

    I get the feeling that a lot of people here would be happier that for the next 10 years that the Reds won 88 games, made the playoffs 6-8 times but never win a world series, RATHER THAN, make the playoffs 2-4 times, WIN A WORLD SERIES, and maybe finish .500 or a little under in 6 of the other years. I would take the World Series Win scenario…EVERY TIME. Would it be so bad to be a Giants fan right now…won the world series, then miss the playoffs. If, with some good luck and fortune, the Reds won a Series, do you really believe they would suddenly become a lower division team overnight?
    I don’t get it? So by signing your best players (Bruce/Latos/Bailey) it makes you LESS CAPABLE of being sustainable. Ohhh but there will be no money left to fill out the rest of the roster. WHO??? Ahh..Frazier, Cozart, Mez, Cingrani, Hamilton…ect are all on the low end of the pay scale. When they no longer become affordable, you replace them with the latest farm hand that you have developed. (stephenson…Winker…player X ect).

    I got off on a tangent….. but my point is, try to do whatever you can to win a World Series, then worry about the future later.

    • @VaRedsFan: You pose a really interesting thought. Would a WS really satiate a fan base for a decade vs the prospect of several years in row of close but no cigar? Obviously every individual values winning the WS, but in broad strokes, I might imagine the Reds winning a WS in 2015 and then seeing game threads in 2016 of “well what was the point of winning a WS if this is all they are going to do this year?” if they had to give up a lot of talent to make 2015 happen. Culturally, it’s a society of “what have you done for me lately,” and winning the WS may be so fleeting that a lot of fans would fail to appreciate it much beyond the next season. Essentially, is there a tipping point where being in position to win frequently surpasses actually winning it? Or where do fans get sick of being too close and not realizing the WS dream?

      • Good point. Think about how fleeting the memory of the 2010 trip to the playoffs was during the 2011 season. Or how fleeting 3 trips to the playoffs in 4 years is for a fanbase that had not been to the playoffs since 1999.

        @VaRedsFan: You pose a really interesting thought. Would a WS really satiate a fan base for a decade vs the prospect of several years in row of close but no cigar? Obviously every individual values winning the WS, but in broad strokes, I might imagine the Reds winning a WS in 2015 and then seeing game threads in 2016 of “well what was the point of winning a WS if this is all they are going to do this year?” if they had to give up a lot of talent to make 2015 happen. Culturally, it’s a society of “what have you done for me lately,” and winning the WS may be so fleeting that a lot of fans would fail to appreciate it much beyond the next season. Essentially, is there a tipping point where being in position to win frequently surpasses actually winning it? Or where do fans get sick of being too close and not realizing the WS dream?

      • @Matt WI: The Reds have won the World Series FIVE TIMES in the entire history of the oldest franchise in professional baseball.

        And two of them were in a row. One of them was probably fixed.

        So, what, exactly do we have in mind to take this team from a contender to that magical land of World Series championship greatness?

        I’ve seen, ranging in value in no particular order:

        1. Get rid of the manager and his staff.
        2. Stop complaining about Votto.
        3. Trade Chapman.
        4. Trade Bailey.
        5. Sign Bailey.
        6. Get Brett Gardner (for Phillips).
        7. Realize Gardner isn’t available, so skip that … and look around for …
        8. Sign Grady Sizemore.
        9. Wait, Grady ain’t gravy, so let’s get … I know … Emilio Bonafacio.
        10. Did I forget, trade Ryan Hanigan.
        11. Trade Cozart.
        12. Complain about the general manager.

        13. The “Baker’s dozen” is complete when we consider that we let Justin Turner go without bidding on that one.

        I am also reminded that the 1990 Reds were supreme underdogs in the World Series.

        • @Johnu1:

          Reds have won 5 times?

          That’s still good for 7th on the all-time list.

          Only teams ahead of them, in order:

          Yankees
          Cardinals
          A’s
          Reds Sox
          Giants
          Dodgers

          I’d say that means the Reds are a pretty successful franchise when only 6 teams can claim to have won more championships.

          The more you know.

        • @CI3J: I think that the more you know … yeah, I already knew that … the point still being, that it’s hard to win a World Series and this board has pretended that all this team needs to do is replace the GM, sign Grady Sizemore, send Hamilton back to the minors and get a younger second baseman and all will magically become a W.S. title.

          Five W.S. titles in more than 100 years suggests that winning one is very difficult. And it’s going to be more difficult with the expanded wild card. I recall the year the Mariners won 116 games.

          Not much to remember with that team, is there?

          As well, measuring the value of a franchise by the number of W.S. titles sounds very “Cardinal” of you.

      • @Matt WI: Unless you are UK basketball, once you have a championship banner up in your park, it’s not taken down. With very rare exceptions (Florida Marlins fire sale for one), championship teams are competitive year to year because most of the core will remain around for more than a season or two. I would take a championship in a second and hope for the best in the proceeding seasons. I would like to talk about a winner in THIS century.

        As for the Bailey/Greinke comp: let us not forget that Greinke also pitched for one of the sorriest teams in the MLB while reeling off some of those numbers. And while it doesn’t always make sense, future contracts are often, sometimes mistakingly, based on past performance. Greinke was a lot more consistent than Homer is at this point in his career.

    • @VaRedsFan: Yes. And your argument makes sense, providing they do actually win a world series. But, therein lies the rub: what if you don’t?

      I think almost anyone would take the banner and accept years in the baseball wilderness as it’s price. What most of us would object to is throwing away years of competitiveness for ONE shot that doesn’t pan out.

      • @Richard Fitch:

        I said the same thing earlier.

        Going all in guarantees nothing. I don’t think the fanbase will be happy with “Oh well, we gave it everything we had.” Nope, they will use the failure as more fuel to bash the management, coaches, players, franchise, etc. that even when they gave it their all, it still wasn’t enough.

        I also said it’s much better to build a sustainable winning club, since that means you are always just a few pieces/lucky bounces away from winning it all. The question is, how do you know when you’re on that cusp? And when you are, how do you “go for it” without destroying all you’ve worked to build up to that point?

        And the final question: Do you honestly feel the Reds are on that cusp now? They are a winning club… But are they a few pieces away from winning it all?

        • @CI3J: I think when you get to 90 wins, you’re right there. A team that wins 85-86 games knows they are one player away. For me it’s all about spending the money you have to build a core, while knowing when to replenish from below to keep all your players from getting old all at once.

          90 wins tells me the Reds are right there. Yes, they lost Choo, but they get Cueto, Marshall, Broxton and Ludwick back from major injuries and significant missed playing time. They get Votto at 100% instead of 85%. Even the late injury to Cingrani resulted in a handful of starts by minor league pitchers. That’s really the key. Where will the injuries occur this year. And will they be fewer in impact or greater.

        • @CI3J: I think when you get to 90 wins, you’re right there. A team that wins 85-86 games knows they are one player away. For me it’s all about spending the money you have to build a core, while knowing when to replenish from below to keep all your players from getting old all at once.

          90 wins tells me the Reds are right there. Yes, they lost Choo, but they get Cueto, Marshall, Broxton and Ludwick back from major injuries and significant missed playing time. They get Votto at 100% instead of 85%. Even the late injury to Cingrani resulted in a handful of starts by minor league pitchers. That’s really the key. Where will the injuries occur this year. And will they be fewer in impact or greater.

          I agree with this.

          However, so now the question becomes: How can they add the pieces they need to get over the hump without ruining what they have done to this point?

          Jocketty is nothing if not patient, waiting for exactly the right opportunity to come along. But the problem is, if a cat lays in wait to pounce on a mouse, eventually the mouse will run off and the cat will be left empty-handed.

          This is the key balancing act: How can the Reds capitalize on having some very talented players in their prime without mortgaging their future? It’s not so much “going all in” as it is “taking the next step”.

          The question is, how?

      • @VaRedsFan: Yes. And your argument makes sense, providing they do actually win a world series. But, therein lies the rub: what if you don’t?

        I think almost anyone would take the banner and accept years in the baseball wilderness as it’s price. What most of us would object to is throwing away years of competitiveness for ONE shot that doesn’t pan out.

        @Richard Fitch: I understand what you are saying. So let’s say that by some miracle we lock up Bailey and Latos, to 5 year deals/extensions. In my book, they have the made the effort and have gone “all in”. And when Ludwick comes off the books next year, that they could get a small upgrade to him (mid-tier LF’er, 12-14 million/yr). Again, I see that as an effort made for the prize. OK, after all of these efforts and we still fall short of winning it all, what now?? I guess we are just “stuck” Bailey/Latos/Votto/Bruce for the next “x” amount of years. Not a bad consolation prize is it? I don’t believe you become irrelevant if you take a shot and miss. You are still left with the core pieces for next years run.

        PS.. I realize that I’m talking a little fantasy-wise with the Reds current financial situation. Or am I? Is having Votto/Bruce/Latos/Bailey locked up that outlandish? Broxton and Marshall make it less feasible. And to some extent Phillips. (Although I am in the camp that thinks that BP’s contract is OK in today’s market, and will be ok for the next 2 years of it.)

  22. @Richard Fitch: I believe they are, friend. Especially after witnessing what the team went through last year and still make the playoffs. The Central was the strongest in the NL last year, and I feel it will be this year. This team has the core. It just needs a few outside pieces (Hamilton?) to put us over the top.

  23. Thank you for the evocative piece Mr. Fitch! It caused me to step back off the ledge and regain a bit more hope for the 2014 season.

    I still believe the front office needs to adopt a more aggressive approach to off season acquisitions that improve the team (and mid-season too – ala Marlon Byrd), but there is a real hornets nest that has been stirred by the commentators using thematic narratives.

  24. One way of measuring value is to go position by position.

    Reds vs. 2013 Cardinals

    Votto, or Craig (Adams)?
    Phillips, or Matt Carp?
    Cozart, or Kozma?
    Frazier, or Freese?
    Reds LF du jour, or Holliday?
    Choo, or Jay?
    Bruce, or Beltran?
    Hanny/Mes, or Molina?

    I won’t go into pitchers or coaching.

    In most of the above cases, I think it was less a matter of talent than players having good years as a team or average years as a team. Only 2 of those positions, would say the Reds were deficient. (And still ARE.)

    If anybody really believes Matt Carp and Allen Craig are that talented, please wake me with arsenic.

    I don’t have a specific point to make here. I think it’s just a matter of playing better baseball. That, you can’t find on the waiver wire.

  25. “I don’t have a specific point to make here. I think it’s just a matter of playing better baseball. That, you can’t find on the waiver wire.”

    If I don’t have to see TOOTBLAN written this season, I will be a happy preach. Maybe my criticism is unfair because I watch 10 times the amount of Reds games compared to anyone else, but we sure looked Cub-esque wayyyyy too often last season. If we keep our heads in the game, shouldn’t that be worth a few more victories?

  26. I read this last night but didn’t get a chance to say it then… Bravo! This is a well written piece and helps restore some of my optimism in the future of the Reds’ franchise.

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