As the Reds’ worst start of the regular season since the Great Depression has unfolded, fans of the team are looking for answers, and in some cases, heads.
Everyone from Bob Castellini to Dick Williams to Bryan Price has been roundly criticized here at Redleg Nation and elsewhere. One very important point for everyone to remember is:
This is part of a plan.
The plan is not to have the worst record in baseball — it is to have one of the best records in the coming years. However, other teams that have executed this plan successfully over the course of time have been as low as the Reds seem at the moment. Earlier this week in this space we cited the NBA Philadelphia 76ers, who are riding a wave of success and excitement as the playoffs begin. As part of “The Process,” which is their specific name for what the sports world calls a rebuild, the Sixers shed all of their talented veterans and high salaries after the end of the 2012-13 season and traded for as many future draft picks as they could.
Their goal: Acquire difference-making players to build around. The only way for non-marquee teams to do that is to have high draft picks and make them count. Non-marquee teams must overpay for established veterans, and we are seeing in all sports that ownership and management just won’t do it anymore.
In the seasons immediately following the decision to implement “The Process,” the Sixers went 19-63, 18-64 and 10-72. Along the way, NBA league officials were so unnerved that this was going on in a major media market that they put pressure on team ownership to move “Process” architect Sam Hinkie out of the general manager seat. He was replaced by Bryan Colangelo, who had some previous top management experience in the league.
In year four of The Process, the Sixers improved to 28-54, leading up to the current year five, in which they went 52-30, finished with a 15-game winning streak, and have the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They are considered one of the favorites to make the NBA finals.
During “The Process,” the Sixers missed on some draft picks, but they struck gold with center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons, two of the league’s top young stars. Very interestingly, head coach Brett Brown has been retained through the entire Process, despite his 127-283 career record.
I lived in Texas between 2006 and 2015, at a time when the Houston Astros were in the midst of their own version of the process. After the 2010 season, the Astros were the first team to commit to this form of rebuild. Their subsequent records were 56-106, 55-107 and 51-111 before some results were noticeable in year four when they went 70-92. Since then, the Astros have been in contention, and of course, won the World Series following a 101-win 2017 season.
During the Astros’ rebuild, fan interest reached previously unimaginable lows. In 2013, TV ratings indicated that around 1,000 people or less were watching games – in the Houston market, the nation’s fourth-largest! Another team telecast early in the 2014 season drew a 0.0 rating.
These two teams are among the leading examples of successfully executing the modern-day version of a rebuild. They didn’t veer off course when the record went into the toilet for years, and they didn’t panic when local fans basically turned them off. Just as the Sixers’ plan yielded some of the game’s brightest young stars, the Astros’ rebuild brought in Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer, perhaps the best young core of star players in the game. The Astros had high draft choices and made them count.
Nobody here in Redleg Nation enjoys what is currently happening. We all hope that the players currently on the team and in the farm system start to play better. But the front office is not going to go on a trading spree this year. With both the Sixers and Astros, year four was a year where the record began to improve, and that is certainly possible for the Reds once all of the injured players return.
While the front office is certainly not happy with the current low attendance numbers and upset fan base, they had to know that all of this was possible during this type of rebuild process. Year four is when glimmers of hope should begin to be seen, and we’ll see if that develops as the year progresses.
No matter how low fan interest drops this year, they will be back for a winner. Along with the Sixers and Astros, the Cubs and Royals demonstrated that clearly.
I am concerned that the success of this sort of rebuild process has radically changed the competitive scope of the game. Currently, there are about a dozen teams that are in it to win it, and the rest are in some phase of a “rebuild.” Back in the good old days, every season started with the belief that your team was going to do everything it could to compete and win. Clearly, these days that is not the case. It might be difficult for younger fans to develop passionate ties to their local team that seems indifferent to losing 90 to 100 games year after year.
Today, the Reds hope to avoid the four-game home sweep at the hands of the Cardinals. As you watch the game, you may feel sad as you see the very small crowd for a Sunday afternoon home game against a top rival team. Bob Castellini will certainly be disappointed, but understand that he knew years ago this was possible and agreed to the plan that has been successfully executed by the Royals, Cubs and Astros.
The elephant in the owner’s box is whether or not Dick Williams can complete the rebuild with the level of success that his peers achieved. We won’t know that today, but it certainly is always on Castellini’s mind.
Reds hitters have had better success against Martinez, one of the league’s top righthanders, than you may have expected:
Bailey, by and large, has exceeded expectations. If he can pitch the rest of the season the way he has so far, you would take that and say you got more than you bargained for. He’s with the Reds for this year and next. His contract for the 2020 season calls for him to make $25 million, but the Reds can buy that out for $5 million, and they will.
All should be available today. Dylan Floro pitched two innings yesterday in his Reds debut and was very impressive in a two-inning, 23-pitch outing in which he retired six straight. With that low of a pitch count, it would seem likely he could be used again today.
|RF Dexter Fowler||CF Billy Hamilton|
|CF Tommy Pham||SS Jose Peraza|
|3B Matt Carpenter||1B Joey Votto|
|1B Jose Martinez||2B Scooter Gennett|
|C Yadier Molina||LF Adam Duvall|
|SS Greg Garcia||C Tucker Barnhart|
|LF Harrison Bader||3B Alex Blandino|
|2B Kolten Wong||RF Phillip Ervin|
|P Carlos Martinez||P Homer Bailey|
News and Notes
Minor league update …
Cincinnati #Reds Minor League Game Review: 4/14/18
— Doug Gray (@dougdirt24) April 15, 2018
All players will wear #42 today …
Apr. 15/1947 – Jackie Robinson breaks MLB colour barrier by playing in his first MLB game. Jackie Robinson Day is celebrated every year on this day by every club in Major League Baseball. pic.twitter.com/TaMF5502XI
— Today In History (@TodayThatWas) April 15, 2018