I have a confession.
The last time I was at Great American Ballpark the Reds got absolutely crushed by the Brewers and I still had a great time. The Reds are a bad team, we all get and understand that, but the one thing the Reds haven’t been bad at since the Castellini group took over is their ability to churn out a fun and entertaining in game fan experience year after year. For what the Reds organization lacks in its approach to developing a winning baseball team on the field, they make up for in great giveaways, a nursery for new mothers, a live in game rock concert and cool bars scattered throughout the stadium off the field. The Reds truly are a marketing machine.
Down the street, you could say the exact opposite is happening. Although better as of late, the Bengals still aren’t up to par with their fan experience compared to the rest of the NFL but have quietly become one of the best run organizations in terms of player development and wins and losses in all of sports. The Bengals consistently draft well, scout and evaluate talent well, and most importantly: win.
The dynamic shift that has happened between these two organizations over the years is quite interesting. Not long ago the Bengals were the laughing stock of the NFL and the Reds were the toast of the town. The Reds were considered a model organization and the Bengals were the next door neighbor with the unkempt yard.
So, what happened? How did the Bengals turn it around and the Reds turn upside down? It’s the same way any organization rebounds from years of underperformance: change of leadership. The Bengals and Mike Brown gave more control to Katie Blackburn and Duke Tobin to handle organizational decisions and player development. The results have been nothing but positive. The Reds have been plagued with bad decisions over the past few years and it’s finally catching up with them.
So the question is, what’s more important to you? What do you want from your organization? Would you rather have an off the charts fan experience that’s both entertaining and capable of numbing you from what’s actually happening on the field or would you rather have a perennial winner that doesn’t offer much other than the product on the field?
I think I know the answer to that question. I also think the Reds can eventually do both. The most intriguing prospect of this entire rebuild isn’t Robert Stephenson or Jose Peraza, its new leadership partnered with old leadership. Its Dick Williams teaming up with the Castellini group and producing on field wins to go along with their current off the field success.