My latest at Cincinnati Magazine, in which I express a little confusion over recent events and the direction of the Reds:

As the Redlegs crawl home with their collective tails between their legs after yet another losing road trip, Reds fans are wondering: Can FC Cincinnati really shock the soccer world again?

No, the Reds haven’t completely lost the town to FC Cincinnati, but everyone seems to agree that management of the Queen City’s new MLS franchise seems to know what it’s doing. After two months of the 2018 baseball season, there is increasing doubt about whether you can say the same about the Reds front office.

If you’re looking for reasons to be confident in the direction of the Reds’ never-ending rebuilding process, this hasn’t exactly been a banner week. Let’s recap.

Read the entire column here, then come back and tell me how dumb I am. (Also, it helps me if you share it on Facebook or Twitter, if you’re inclined to do something like that. Thanks!)

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

You can email Chad at chaddotson@redlegnation.com.

Join the conversation! 42 Comments

  1. Chad

    Frankly, no they have not had a plan. There may actually be the outlines of one now, due to Dick Williams and Nick Krall. I think the Jocketty-Castellini axis was determined to patch together something that looked like “rebuild while contending”, which was pretty weak sauce. The Jocketty era was also notable for a lot of bad drafts. Was this the on the advice of scouts or something else? I actually think the Mesoraco for Harvey trade, while it may not work out, was a real attempt to do something out of the box and constructive.

    I think the draft of 2016 was pretty good. I think the draft of 2017 was probably ok. I think this years draft was actually one of the best ones they have had in a while. I see a lot of good talent selected in the first five rounds (including the compensation pick).

    The lack of organizational communication is pretty typical of company where there is low trust. I see that a lot where I work. Poor communication is due to invisible heirarchies (ie, the Castellini family and their cronies in the organization) versus the regular employees.

    Maybe Dick Williams, son of one of the minority owners, will be the bridge between the cronies and the regular employees. Who knows? I want them to succeed, but hope is not a plan.

    Reply
    • As in most bureaucracies, whether public or private, there are little fiefdoms that often stand in the way of making forward looking plans and policy.

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    • David I have to ask what makes you say the 2017 is probably ok??? It is too soon to say either way but at least the first 3 picks are showing a ton of promise.

      Reply
      • I think Hunter Green has a ton of potential, but it will take a while to tell. That’s my main point.

        Nick Senzel was the #1 draft choice in 2016, and will soon be in the ML. Okey is a dud, but Taylor Trammel shows a lot of promise too.

        Reply
        • I guess that is where I am confused David. You have already labeled the draft a year after it happened because the top pick from the year before is almost up with the big league club? I am assuming you know that it takes years for most picks to make their way thru the system and saying a year later that the draft is ok is premature (especially since the top 3 picks are all showing great promise)

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          • Senzel was drafted with the expectation that he would breeze through the minors, which he has done. Trammel was more a young development player; high school draftee. Okey was a dud. 2016 draft.

            Hunter Greene was a slam dunk first round, but it will be years before we know he will be good. That’s my “wait and see attitude”. It was expected. I am not so sure that Stuart Fairchild will be as good or better than Trammel. And he’s a couple of years older. He was another college pick that should be rocketing through the farm system like Senzel. Maybe soon.

            There were, of course, other players in both drafts that may yet develop, but your #1 and #2 picks should be cinch prospects. Greene may yet be a great pitcher someday. but it is still to soon to know. The 2017 draft may turn out to be a great draft if he develops as hoped.

  2. No they don’t have a plan and everything you said is true.All of us here are just looking for a decision or two that says yeah I can see it now but it never happens.Lots of smart guys on this site and I am not one of them so I have to defer to others but I see nothing other then total chaos and confusion on and off the field.It reminds me of watching by grandchildren play in that they just go from one thing to another all day long then start over again.

    Reply
    • David you are forgetting Jeter who is over 800 ops at 19 in Dayton. He was the second pick in 2017

      Reply
  3. To me what is lacking is conviction to follow a plan, if there is indeed a plan. Conviction looks like “Winker starts every game (minus rest days) this season. At the end of the season, we will evaluate how he performed and make adjustments next season.” It doesn’t look like whatever happened (and is happening) with Winker now.

    Conviction looks like deciding where Senzel will start, be it 2B, an experiment at SS, whatever, and then having him start every game there so he is ready and practiced when he is called up. Panicking and moving him around several times gives no one–not players, not fans–confidence that the leadership of the Reds has the conviction behind any of their ideas.

    At this point I’d just be happy to see them try something, anything, and stick with it. If they were to say, “We are going pitch nothing but young pitchers. No journeyman veterans. No arms to soak up innings. Everyone (within reason) gets a shot at being a starter.” and then actually stick to it I wouldn’t care if half those pitchers flamed out. At least they are trying something.

    Recently Ford announced that no one is buying cars anymore over CUVs so they axed every sedan in North America other than the Mustang. That decision could either bring huge profits or be a historic disaster. But at least they analyzed the situation, came up with a plan, and are executing it. That’s where the executive comes from in “executive leadership”. They didn’t announce the plan and then 3 days later say “Oops! Just kidding! Here are 5 new sedan models planned for 2019!!!”

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  4. I slightly disagree with the sentiment that there is no plan. I agree that there is no GOOD plan, but I think they have had a goal every year; not to lose 100 games in a single season as cheaply as possible.

    That is really the only thing that makes any sense. It’s why they held on to every asset they had for too long; they wanted to ring every bit of value they could in an effort to win at least 63 games. Then, when they do pull the trigger on a trade, every single move they made targeted tweener AAAA types they could plug onto the big league roster and pay the major league minimum to.

    This is the point in time of a successful rebuild when fans can look to AAA and at worst AA and see a bright future. Here, we have to look to A+ to see even a glimmer of hope.

    What bothers me the most, though, is the hubris of ownership and the front office. Instead of doing what Milwaukee did and Houston did and the Dodgers did and going outside the organization to bring in someone who had been part of an organization that had successfully been a part of a rebuild, the Reds figured they were smart enough to do it on their own. They kept the skeleton of Walt Jocketty, and handed the reigns to Dick Williams based solely on his last name. It’s a decision that should frankly embarrass Bob Castellini, and a move that no “world class organization” would ever make.

    Reply
    • Eric3287;

      Until someone publicly goes after “Bob C.” nothing will change. I dealt with individual family business owners (legal and contracts) for 20 plus years and in the end, no matter how the organization was set up, there was only one real decision maker. Whatever is wrong with the Reds, the trail leads back to “Bob C.”
      From Cincinnati Business Courier Mar 22, 2013
      “Jack Wyant, managing director of Blue Chip Venture Co. and a Reds shareholder said the Bob C.“ has a very favorable view of the Reds’ economics.””

      Team value has gone from $425 Mil to over a billion today. Advertising and TV contracts makes winning and attendance secondary. Bob’s personal investment of $270 Mil is now worth close to over $600 Mil. All of this without a World Series.
      Advertising and TV contracts makes winning and attendance secondary.

      Reply
  5. Chad;
    It is good that you can share the feelings of the RLN with others.

    Chad writes; “Maybe I’m reading too much into that. But there’s also the situation where Williams was the General Manager to start the season, and the Reds decided after a month and a half to promote Krall to the GM’s chair.”
    This is the classic family business approach, “protect our own”.

    Now the Reds can fire Krall and Riggleman at the end the season and Williams can say; “It just wasn’t working out, we wish them the best!” (Got to have a fall guys to protect family members)
    Until Reds ownership goes out and hires “Baseball Professionals” and stays out of their way, what we see today will be the norm.

    Reply
  6. The issue is the original plan was to trade Cueto et al. for almost MLB ready talent and be contenders by 18-19′. That plan has not panned out due to none of the prospects they got back are ready and may never be. Now the front office has to wait for these draft picks to come up and hope they can trade guys like Straily and Gennett for quality prospects. If the front office had gone full in on the rebuild and tried to get the best possible prospects from the beginning, not just best possible in AA or AAA, this rebuild would be looking a lot better.

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  7. Nice article. Your last paragraph was poignant and to the point.

    “In this lost season comprised of one failure after another, the Cincinnati Reds have accomplished a couple of significant things. First, they’re making those of us who follow the team question whether the Reds actually know what they’re doing. Even worse, they’re instilling indifference and distrust among those of us who care most deeply for a baseball team that is perhaps this city’s most enduring institution.”

    They are driving many long time fans, who care the most about the organization, to apathy and really not caring anymore. Too many fans are spending their hard earned money elsewhere, not at GABP. Look at the attendance last night on a very comfortable late spring evening, school out, and DeSclafani’s long-awaited return. I would be surprised if there were actually 5000 people there, no matter what the “announced” attendance was. Dayton’s low A franchise is drawing better than the Reds.
    The CTrent’s, Fay’s, Sheldon’s and Nightengale’s of the Cincinnati media won’t, and will not, hold the Reds front office/ownership accountable for this disaster of a MLB franchise. Glad you and Mo have the fans’ backs. What is left of us anyways.

    Reply
    • That last paragraph makes a very good point. It was both funny and sad to watch those in the Reds media defend the move to bench Winker and then defend the move to un-bench him the next day. The most tepid criticism of the move was “I probably wouldn’t do it, but it doesn’t really matter.” Then, once Riggleman does his about-face, instead of trying to figure out what kind of dysfunctional clown show the orgnization is running, those very same people who defended the first move acted like the reversal was pure genius. “Well, with all these off days, they didn’t want Winker sitting 4, 5, 6 days at a time.” Because those off days were just sprung on the team and caught them completely off-guard. Or, “Personally, I like a manager willing to change his mind.” This wasn’t Riggelman suddenly realizing some bold new progressive strategy was a good idea, it was a manager making a serious personnel decision one day and immediately reversing it the next. Just absolutely insane.

      Reply
      • Good observations, but I have one minor quibble: Aren’t clowns, by definition, disfunctional? Might be an interesting topic for future discussion.

        Reply
    • “The CTrent’s, Fay’s, Sheldon’s and Nightengale’s of the Cincinnati media won’t, and will not, hold the Reds front office/ownership accountable for this disaster of a MLB franchise.”

      True but if the above mentioned say something ownership does not like, say goodbye to their access to the team. Family business’s make everything personal.

      FYI, full page B&W ad calling out BOB C. in The Inquirer cost about $50,000. if they would run it. Good old boy network is everywhere.

      Reply
  8. It’s a TANK. It’s always been a tank. They just couldn’t come out and say it.

    Reply
    • It might be a tank, but most of the stuff can be explained by assuming that that they’re trying to win games this year rather than sort.

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      • One would think, but I find myself wondering with a different perspective. Could it be that they traded away pieces they couldn’t afford for “close to major league ready” (less talented players) knowing that it would result in God-awful teams now; only to rebuild from the ground up? Of course, they could and would never say this to their fans (or MLB for that matter). They just didn’t (and don’t) have the FO personnel (or moxy, or whatever) to wheel and deal with the big boys. The kitchen was too hot for Uncle Bob and his favorite nephew.So, they got out with whatever they could and are happy handpicking their young, controllable draft picks and rebuilding that way. Far-fetched conspiracy? Perhaps. But, I just can’t wrap my head around the fact hat we are currently witnessing one of the worst ( if not the worst) team in FRANCHISE HISTORY.

        Reply
        • Yes, it could be a tank, even an under-the-radar tank. Even an unintentional under-the-radar tank. As in, we need to play like a major league team, and we’ll hope that something good happens that will make us play like a good major league team.

          Reply
  9. Chadwick, for that fine article I am bestowing upon you the slow clap of appreciation: http://randomreactiongifs.tumblr.com/post/45750185722

    I was wondering last week which editor was going to take the mantle on this topic. Turns out that a few of you have stepped up (and have done a wonderful job taking hacks at this piñata).

    The Reds have certainly earned the skepticism and criticism they are receiving. Many of us have been watching their decisions and “process” over the last several years and have been groaning and becoming anxious about where things were headed. The hesitation to trade players that could have returned valuable pieces for the future. The fumbling and bumbling of some of those trades (Chapman and Bruce anyone)? The darts in the dark process of using high draft picks to turn short track record college relievers into failed starters. The insistence on dumpster diving and using roster spots and valuable playing time on has been/never were players instead of prospects, even when the level of play from the prospects was expected to be higher than the vets. The apparently frequent and direct meddling by the majority owner, who apparently thinks because he was a minority owner with another successful franchise that he knows how to run one himself (Dunning Krueger Syndrome anyone?). I could go on…

    I wanted to give them a chance and some time to see if things might surprise and work out. But, they’re now at the point where they’ve been outflanked by other rebuilding teams and there’s no reinforcements coming.

    And I thought 2001-2009 was bad. We’re in for a much longer and much deeper mess.

    Reply
    • “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate.”

      Depends on what the goal is. Investment wise, the Reds current ownership has hit the Lottery. The goal of ownership is to create wealth for themselves and stockholders. They exceeded their wildest dreams. $475 Million to over a Billion in less than 10 years. The publicly stated aspirations about winning and historical legacy (The Great 8) were all part of the marketing needed to get to their financial goals. It has been and always will be about the money. .
      As I have stated before “Advertising and TV contracts makes winning and attendance secondary.”

      Reply
      • Dunning-Kruger is the foundation of writing at a sports blog.

        Reply
        • Good one, Steve! And very true. But on a relative scale, it’s more excusable at a sports blog than running an MLB franchise.

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      • I think my assessment remains accurate. A couple important things to note:

        1 – If we’re measuring success by BC’s own public words, they have failed: http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/cin/fan_forum/owner_letter.jsp

        2 – You cite the success of their financial investment but you must also note that this same or better level of success has occurred for all MLB team owners. It’s not as if BC has separated himself from his peers.

        Reply
        • MRRED:
          I respect your perspective.
          Use of Bob C’s letter and noting that they have failed to live up to it is part of what I was saying. It wasn’t a contract, there weren’t any “non-performance clauses”, it was a marketing letter to stir the fanbase. In my opinion it was Bob C selling the fan base hope.
          As far as the overall growth of MLB owners, a lot of that has to do with tv money. TV just about guarantees success even for mediocre owners. The Reds ownership have enhanced their revenue by not spending on pricy Free agents, to improve performance, and the signing over the hill vets who they hope will regain their former performance levels. The Reds still collect the rental checks from the various vendors at the ballpark win or lose and as you may have also noticed, there are many more banner ads’ now in GABP.
          All we can do is keep the faith and hope. 😊

          Reply
          • And I respect where you’re coming from. The profits regardless of winning definitely tempers (tampers?) the urgency to build a winner. There’s certainly less of a sting to the dwindling attendance when the TV revenue and other shared revenue comes flowing in each year; not to mention the overall appreciation of the team’s market value.

            But even as cynical as I’ve become with ownership, even I don’t think they are immune to the continual losing. Marketing is certainly a major factor in their public statements but lowered attendance revenues still hurt and because they are hometown owners, I do think there’s at least some part of what they are saying about the desire to build a winner that’s true, if only because of ego and their intent to build on their legacy here.

            In any event, as a fan, all I can do is choose whether or not to support their business with my money and time. And with each passing year, my support is waning.

          • I don’t know the owners, have never met them, and don’t know whether the money they’re making overshadows how badly the team sucks. But businessmen, in my experience, are a pretty competitive lot, and in areas beyond their businesses, so I have a hard time believing that Bob C. isn’t disturbed by what’s happening. But that raises another question: Why doesn’t he do something? Is it because he has no idea what to do? Is it because he believes that, with patience, the ship will right itself? I’d bet on the latter, but would also bet that it will need some help from outside to avoid sinking.

      • Sad but true.

        Reply
  10. Great article Chad. And it’s trending nicely, congrats!

    My $0.02 is that there is a plan, absolutely, and there was one in 2016. It probably had 7-8 crucial steps. It probably looked beautiful in the PowerPoint presentation given to the top brass.

    The problem wasn’t the plan, it’s been the execution. Step 1 was to win some trades. Castillo, Duvall/Meilla, Peraza, the Cueto haul, did they win them? Step 2 drafting. Step 3 develop 3-5 All star pitchers from scratch so we don’t have to pay for a Max Scherzer. Step 4 involved BHam becoming Rickey Henderson. Step 5 etc.

    They have a plan. They just can’t execute. Scouts, advanced stats people, mid level admin talent, Walt Jocketty, all failures.

    There’s a famous military quote that goes “no battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” Well this front office dropped their weapons and are running around in confusion without orders.

    Reply
    • +1. Actually, +1 raised to the 10th order.

      Nothing suborns a good strategy better than poor execution. Or, in this case, “strategy”. The strategy wasn’t all that bad – as long as you approached it with a mindset firmly based in the glory days of baseball past. Unfortunately, the game moved on but the strategists did not.

      Reply
      • Touché. There was definitely a plan. Perhaps it was a plan based in 1980s data thoughts.

        Reply
  11. I will admit, I thought this team would be a LOT better than they have been this season. That’s on me.

    I also am starting to believe that the talent that the FO assured us would lead us into what would become the next good/great Reds team may just not be that good. Time will tell on that b/c honestly, they have no other choice. The players they have now have little trade value, they don’t have a “next waver” ready to come up, so they have to go with what they have.

    The other thing I’m becoming convinced of is that the ownership/FO is concerned at least as much with PR as they are with building a winner (if not more). I’m thrilled that they gave us probably the best team HOF in baseball and have vastly improved the fan experience; but how has that helped the team on the field (and, for that matter, attendance)?

    Winning solves all of these other problems. If you win, they’ll come. Might not be true everywhere, but it is in Cincinnati.

    Reply
  12. Plan? We don’t need no stinkin’ plan. I don’t think the Reds’ Front Office has a clue let alone a plan.

    Reply
  13. MLB Rankings for OBP. Schebler didn’t have enough qualified PA’s which cutoff at 184 PA’s. Schebler had 167 PA’s. So to fit him in dropped the required PA’s to 160. There were 161 players with qualified PA’s, but dropping it to 160 PA’s made it 210 players on the list. So this is out of 210 players ranked.
    5—-Joey Votto .417 LH.
    23–Eugenio Suarez .379 RH.
    24–Scooter Gennett .378 LH.
    70–Jesse Winker .352 LH.
    78–Tucker Barnhart .347 S/LH.
    85–Scott Schebler .341 LH.
    169-Jose Peraza .297 RH.
    181-BHamilton .288 S/LH.
    198-Adam Duvall .266 RH.

    **S/LH means switch hitter with left side better. S/RH would have meant switch hitter with right side better.
    Those bottom 3 are like a millstone around the neck of the offense. 2 of those 3 are RH hitters and it shows exactly why some RH hitting upgrades are in order for this offense. That is just too large of a gap between Schebler and Peraza. RH hitting and LH pitching have to be addressed very soon. These bottom 3 hitters and Peralta in the pen need immediate attention.
    To my surprise Schebler is warming up even though he stood with the bat on his shoulder last night in the 9th inning representing the tying run.

    Reply
    • That’s kind of what Schebler does though….he did, however, homer late the other night when they were losing 8-1

      Reply
  14. This organization at this time has to be one of the worst professional sports franchises in the USA. No leadership, no direction, no plan. It is way past time for a complete start-over, beginning right at the top with the owner. Mr. Castellini has made horrible hiring decisions – he allowed Walt Jocketty to ruin the team! The buck stops at the top! In the future (if there is one for this franchise) the Castellini era will be viewed as the very worst period in Reds history. As a long-time (60+ years) Reds fan, I am so angry and saddened by what they have become.

    Reply
  15. When I become principal owner of the Reds I will maintain the tradition of nepotism established by my predecessor. All my family members noted below, if they accept a position, will earn large bonuses predicated on the winning record of the team. If we have a losing record they will be paid in used bobbleheads. All Bobbleheads will be banned from the GABP!
    My cousin Steve Manusco will become Sr VP and GM because he has demonstrated a keen insight on how to improve a roster. One of his first things for him to do is to hire a new manager. I will leave it up to him. Second, he will begin making bold moves to improve the roster; he knows what needs to be done.
    The Cossack, my grandmother’s grand-nephew will become VP and Assistant GM, he also has a keen insight on how to build major league rosters.
    Chad Dotson, 2nd cousin on my Mother’s side, will become, Sr VP of Operations. None of us will know what he does, but he’ll have a cool title.
    Jim Walker will be VP, Organizational Pitching Coordinator because I like his insight on pitching.
    My Uncle Don will slide in next to Marty, because we need another crotchety, old-fart on the radio broadcasts.
    John Gray, my mother-in-law’s grand-nephew, will become VP, Minor League Coordinator. His talents are well known and welcome.
    Wesley Jenkins, my daughter’s husband’s cousin will be VP and Scouting Coordinator.
    The front office will have one guiding principle: “De l’audace, encore de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace!” There will be no excuses for failure.

    Reply

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About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine. You can email Chad at chaddotson@redlegnation.com.

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2018 Reds