You’ll remember, a few weeks ago, I asked whether Reds ownership was meddling in baseball operations. The short answer: yes.

Well, since that piece was published, we keep getting more evidence of Bob Castellini sticking his nose into baseball decisions, both off-field (Matt Harvey) and on-field (he’s talking strategy with the manager!). So I had to revisit my thesis from the earlier piece, and that was the topic of my latest for Cincinnati Magazine:

Castellini acknowledged earlier this year that he wouldn’t let the front office begin the rebuilding process back in 2014-15 by blocking trades of certain players before the All-Star Game. And now the Reds are spinning their wheels at an important moment in the rebuild because the owner is continuing to meddle in areas that he just doesn’t understand. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies—who began their rebuilding machinations at the same time as the Reds—are fighting for a playoff spot. The Reds, in contrast, are in last place. Again.

Castellini’s legacy is that he’s presided over one of the worst stretches of losing baseball in the history of the Cincinnati Reds. His fingerprints are all over every single loss and every single curious decision this franchise has made over the last four years. But that doesn’t have to be his ultimate legacy. If he’ll just get out of the way, Castellini has some good baseball minds in his employ. I trust those guys to make the important decisions that need to be made this winter, decisions that could lead the Reds back to an era of winning baseball.

What the Reds need is an owner who behaves like Bill DeWitt Jr., someone who understands that he is the steward of a public trust and commits to doing what is best for the team, whether that strokes his ego or not. What the Reds have is an owner who acts more like George Steinbrenner, or at least a version of Steinbrenner that you wouldn’t mind inviting to a cocktail party. It’s not a recipe for success.

Read the entire piece. Please?

32 Responses

  1. Bill

    Unfortunately he is not going to get out of the way. He is going to require Gennett be extended, Harvey be offered a contract, Riggleman extended, and I wouldn’t surprised to see Hamilton offered an extension and back in the lead off position next year. Which makes the comments the other day about going after an OF or two even more concerning. If they were going after an OF then the constant complaints of not getting Yelich have some merit, which is troubling because another OF is way down on the list of problems. It seems guys like Winker and Herrera are not highly valued by the current regime and would appear to be expendable. There is also no clear plan for Senzel. The ability to develop starting pitching is non existent. They keep rearranging the chairs in the front office by giving out new official titles. It is well past the time to bring some outside talent into the organization.

    • sultanofswaff

      My fear is that at least 3 of the 4 items in your first sentence will come to pass. If that happens without any major trades or free agent signings, I will have zero cares to give anymore.

      Surely the franchise can see they are hemorrhaging fans this season in a far different manner than previous years. Contempt and indifference is the kiss of death……just ask the Marlins.

    • eric3287

      The article that mentioned the Reds looking for a couple of OFers was so ridiculous I could only conclude it was accurate. In 2019, the Reds will have these OFers on the roster:
      Winker – 128 wRC+
      Schebler – 119 wRC+
      Ervin – 112 wRC+
      Hamilton – 67 wRC+

      Add in Scooter (129 wRC+) and the fact that Senzel has no where to play and I am left wondering what in the hell the Reds are talking about. Granted, Winker got hurt and Schebler has been hurt too. Also, I think you should always be looking to improve every position. But that has never been the Reds MO. The next time they go out and sign a free agent or make a trade for a player that results in someone losing their starting job will the first. This reeks of “We just need a steady veteran presence to lead us to the playoff” nonsense.

      • Bill

        The veterans presence is what scares me. I could see a Hunter Pence type signing to get that veteran championship experience in the lineup

      • Bill

        From what I can tell he is in his final year making $18.5 million with the Giants and providing negative WAR.

      • greenmtred

        It’s possible that they’re referring to a legitimate replacement for BH. But, of course, that would create another logjam when Trammell and Siri are ready.

      • Bill

        That would account for one of the two. A stop gap for Hamilton doesn’t worry me too much, but there isn’t much available on the free agent market so it may be better to stick with what they have in Schebler/Ervin/Senzel in CF for a year or two. Trading for a CF is another option, but once again pitching is higher on the priority so if the Reds are going to start trading top prospects it needs to be for a SP

      • Ryan

        can someone link the article about the Reds looking for OF please? I can’t seem to find it, thanks

  2. Mason Red

    My feeling is that Reds owners have contributed mightily to the struggles of this franchise for the past 40 years. Marge had great intentions as far as keeping the team in Cincinnati and also returning it to prominence. But she couldn’t stop interfering. The owners who have followed including the current ownership also vowed to return this franchise to glory only to fail. Currently I believe the FO is basically following orders as far as player moves. Certainly this team waited too late to trade players when the rebuild started. And we have seen the effects of that with the failures of the rebuild. I have blamed mostly the FO but it appears to be the fault of the owner. My feeling is moves are made based on payroll. I’ve stated before that success comes at a cost. It’s expensive and sometimes messy when it comes to contract negotiations. This team is stuck in a perpetual “small market” mentality when it comes to spending money and making personnel decisions. That seems to be the excuse. “We’re small market”. This team will continue to fail unless moves are made to upgrade the talent level especially pitching and depth. It’s not going to succeed with what’s here or in the minors. If this franchise continues to wait on players to develop the players who have developed will have to be traded because they will be deemed too expensive to keep. So another rebuild will ensue. Despite different owners that’s the road this franchise has taken for 40 years.

  3. WVRedlegs

    The Seinfeld Steinbrenner was the first thing I thought of after reading the article last week. Very, very appropriate. It is 1980’s Steinbrenner. And the Reds have their own Billy Martin too in Riggleman. Riggleman is as old, old-school as Martin was.
    Keep up the good work. Keep taking Castellini to task. I wish I could remember the quotes from George Castanza’s rant when he first meets George Steinbrenner after his job interview. Something about running a great organization into the ground. Then Steinbrenner says, “Hire this man.” That might end up being how Castellini hires a new manager.

    • eric3287

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWCGs27_xPI

      “For the last 20 years, we’ve watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduce them to a laughingstock all for the glorification of your massive ego.”

      That would be a very fine comparison with what Castellini has done here. At least Steinbrenner didn’t feign poverty though.

      • WVRedlegs

        Yes. Thank you. That was it. I hope Castellini is on the leg of the Reds Caravan that comes this way next January. I will have to memorize Castanza’s words and repeat them to Castellini if he stands pat on the roster and doesn’t make any significant changes over the winter. I will just have to change 20 to 10, and Yankees to Reds. And it fits like a T.

      • Bill

        I think he interferes and has hurt the rebuilding, however it is not to build his ego. I think he truly wants to win. The problem is allowing himself to get emotionally attached to individuals and building a small circle of those who think like him. He needs to hire some experts from the outside and allow change to occur. I have heard it referred to as the mini-me syndrome. You hire only those like you, therefore having the same shortcomings and strengths. The organization can never improve because the deficiencies are never corrected and continue to repeat without the influx of new ideas or alternatives. Having a different viewpoint or different strength added to the team can be very beneficial.

      • eric3287

        I think it’s his ego that keeps him from doing that. He thinks he knows better than others how to build a successful baseball team which is laughable on its face.

      • Kettering Reds Fan

        I tend to agree with this. Actually, the problem is probably better off restated as “How can we get our message across to Bob C. in a manner that will not be seen as threatening?” and “Who is the best messenger for the message?” Otherwise, I fear that he’ll listen, and then dig himself even deeper into the existing small circle of friends. The question is not his authenticity, sincerity, support to the community, desire to put a quality entertainment product on the market or, above all, desire to win — it’s the sentimentality and the nostalgia for late Twentieth Century (“back when I was younger”) baseball. If your message comes across to him as criticism of the former…not the latter…he’ll just huddle up deeper with Walt & Co. And I suspect he will spend money, but, without redirection, spend it inefficiently….I don’t see Bob as Scrooge McOwner.

        In a sense, it reflects some of what I see in local fandom……i.e. the retrospective look, the urge to compare everything to the standard of the Big Red Machine – a Machine that probably cannot be rebuilt today in the modern game and labor regimes. (I’m dating myself – even though I was a New Yorker back in the day – I confess to having watched the Machine come up from the minors and prevail, but that was -then-.). To build a TwentyFirst Century Machine will require different habits of thought.

    • Scott C

      Riggleman is just as old school as Billy Martin, but at least the Yankee fans were able to watch Billy go off on rants against the umpires. Riggleman just sits in the dugout pulling on the netting.

  4. BigRedMike

    The decisions made in regards to Hamilton, Gennett, Harvey, and Riggleman will indicate to me the direction of the Organization. The current decision making is clearly not working, new thought processes are needed. A new voice and different viewpoint is needed.

  5. Jim Walker

    The situation is what it is. Hopefully bringing it to public light along with the continuing failures on the field may bring positive change soon.

    One thing for certain if comments on RLN are representative of the community at large is that many folks are moving beyond frustration and anger to indifference.

    As Bob Trumpy used to say all those decades ago on Sports Talk, “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it is indifference.” That seems to be where many of us are headed.

    • Jeff Reed

      Even when you love a team as many of us Reds fans do, the bottom line is always a winning season which we haven’t had in the last five years and the prognosis is not good with the unclear status of the starting pitching. The empty seats at GABP are a real indicator that indifference is a fact. Only a team playing .500 or above baseball will bring the fans back. It’s up to Mr. Castellini or a new principal owner to lead the way.

  6. Andy

    I’m going to be a minority on this website, but I don’t have a problem with Bob C. or many of the decisions mentioned. I think current Reds funk is less owner interference and more failure of pitching development, which he would have little to no ability to influence.

    I would caution wishing for an all-business, hands off owner. They are prone to make all-business, no emotion decisions about which city the team plays in. They may also make all-business decisions to sell to highest bidder, even if said highest bidder has plans to move the Sonics to Oklahoma or Crew to Austin.

    The Reds have a competent, competitive starting 8 with decent depth and a solid bullpen. They bet on Homer Bailey in 2014 and lost the bet. They were betting this year that some combination of Mahle, Romano, Stephenson, Reed, Castillo, Desclafani, Finnegan, (anyone else?) would make a serviceable rotation, and lost the bet. I remember some chatter here about Yu Darvish last offseason, that be would have been disastrous as well. I agreed with the offseason plan to sort this year, and we have sorted, and everyone but Castillo fell through the sieve.

    Scooter? I doubt Senzel will be a 5 War player until Votto is in full decline (if he ever gets there; it’s not a given.) I vote extension. Senzel can play somewhere else in short term, or be the trade chip needed for Starter #1.

    Harvey? Frankly I’ve seen enough “sorting” to know most of these guys aren’t the answer. He might be slightly below average, but that just means he is a #3 starter, on a team with one #3/4 starter (Castillo) and a bunch of AAAA guys. The Reds need two starters next year to pair with Castillo/Desclafani/best of AAAA bunch, and the first one will be expensive, I’m fine if Harvey is the 2nd. I just don’t buy that keeping him is a lost opportunity for more AAAA sorting, all of these guys have had plenty of chances to stick, and haven’t. I also doubt the return from Milwaukee would make a real MLB difference.

    Withholding trades before ASG? Be careful what you wish for, Frazier’s HR derby win was an unforgettable night. Wouldn’t trade that. Reds still got a good deal for him that offseason, if anything the ASG may have raised his profile/trade value.

    Chapman? Oof. I would argue the real error here was signing Alfredo Simon shortly after the trade. I had no problems unloading a PR nightmare, but the Simon deal gives evidence it was all PR and no “moral center” driving the trade. Still, getting nothing for Chapman I blame on Chapman, not on Bob C.

    I agree with authors about Hamilton and Riggleman. I’ll reserve judgment until we see what the offseason brings. I’m fine if Hamilton stays for ARB3 and loses playing time to Ervin/Schebler. Also fine if he’s traded. Extension would be poor decision. Riggleman has shown his ceiling is mediocrity, Reds need a fresh mind to work with Dick Williams (and not start/lead off Billy so much, and stop bunting.)

    • Bill

      With the Chapman and Frazier trades the blame does lie with Bob C. He held onto them when value was high. Frazier had a horrible second half and Chapman shot up his garage in the off season. He also had an infatuation with Peraza, who was the original piece coming back for Chapman before his incident. The Reds still did well with the Frazier trade, but they could have potentially gotten more if his trades weren’t blocked by ownership and he wasn’t set on one specific guy. Then after waiting too long to trade Chapman because of the All Star break he then panicked and traded him for nothing. The Yankees later got a top five prospect in return for a couple of months of Chapman. The Bruce trade is another puzzling trade. The Reds were supposed to get Nimmo until some injury concern came up. They then negotiated for Herrera who was also known to be injured. Maybe Herrera was who they wanted all along, but that negotiation caused the Cozart trade to miss the deadline. The next year Cozart was hurt at the trade deadline and walked away for nothing as a FA. Harvey like Cozart will now walk away for nothing. It is likely that neither would have returned nothing of value, but look at a guy like Casili who the Rays had given up or further back in history, Brandon Phillips who was acquired for the famous PTBNL

      • Andy

        I accept that Bob C was likely responsible for the decisions. I’m also saying I agree with the decisions and would still make same decisions with benefit of hindsight. If Frazier had gotten hurt the first game after ASG and was never traded for anything, I still would support the team’s decision because the home run derby was the single most fun night I’ve spent at Riverfront or GABP. (If it helps you, I was born in 1980 and didn’t get to go to any 1990 postseason games.) That matters more than perfect trade timing, at least to me.

        As for Chapman, during that time Reds fans got to watch the best pitcher in baseball for one inning at a time. I would buy cheap seats then move down for 9th inning, to see 103MPH fastball up close. The 8th/9th inning of game was appointment viewing after I got my kids to bed. That level of talent should never be traded, just for prospects that couldn’t hope to touch his excellence. I would understand if he left in free agency. That he embarrassed himself and organization enough to be traded for very little was a sad end to that chapter. I’m not convinced Reds would have traded him at all if not for his idiotic behavior that night.

      • Bill

        He was traded to the Dodgers and then they backed out when the police reports surfaced. As for the Frazier HR Derby, while it was fun to watch, the chance for a WS banner or at least a playoff appearance is the preferable outcome. I personally don’t hold the HR Derby at the same level I do the 2010, 12, or13 seasons

      • Kettering Reds Fan

        I don’t know exactly how to phrase this, so I’ll just let fly and allow this to fall where it may.

        Too much time discussing trades and contracts at the MLB level. By time things get to this stage, it’s late and expensive to change things for the better – especially for a small market club.

        Too little time spent discussing the organizational changes that need to happen throughout the org, all the way down to Billings, in order to properly develop players with the full set of MLB skills and then financing them and nursing the changes through. As CEO, Bob -is- responsible for this or for adequately delegating resources and authority to someone who will be responsible and accountable. (i.e. Dick W.?) and then letting them execute.

        If you have a Twentieth Century foundation, you might find it hard to compete in the TwentyFirst

      • Bill

        It is a good point, whatever it is they are doing with pitching is not working. It seems fundamentals are also lacking with the base running errors, defensive lapses, and even the hated bunt suffers from poor execution. To me it is another symptom of the “mini-me syndrome”, they need to stop hiring the guys who fit the current system perfectly and find someone willing to adapt and start changing the system

      • Aaron Bradley

        I am sorry your baseball experience is so limited that you feel Chapman’s fastball speed rationalizes getting nothing for him. The Reds have had dozens of great closers in their history, as has every team. Chapman blew a bunch of saves, was acting like a prima donna in the bullpen, and his off the field behavior was erratic at best. He had a laptop computer stolen by a prostitute from the hotel on a road trip. He’s dumb as a bag of rocks. Iglesias is probably just as effective as Chapman without the high drama and triple digit fastballs.

        A home run derby? We are trying to make the playoffs. You are talking like a child, not an adult. We are discussing an attempt at winning a world championship. Anyone that worries about triple digit fastballs and home run derby’s does not have their eye on the prize.

      • greenmtred

        I’d forgotten that the year of the year of the home run derby was a year when the Reds had a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Pretty nearly everybody commenting at RLN was excited about those triple-digit fastballs, as were many other fans. Baseball is entertainment and is supposed to be fun, or so I thought. Different people find their fun in different ways. Having never met or conversed with Mr. Chapman, I didn’t know that he was dumb as a box of rocks. I learned so much from your comment.

  7. KDJ

    I’m wondering what version of Steinbrenner is best for a cocktail party. Regardless, Steinbrenner had a lot of winning seasons . . . something we have not seen here for too long.

    • Kettering Reds Fan

      Whatever else you say, he also produced Brian Cashman as a follow-on. Not the worst legacy.

  8. Aaron Bradley

    Just thinking about Chapman puts me in a foul mood. Rob Dibble was ten times the pitcher Chapman would ever be. Even Norm Charlton was a better pitcher. Chapman is a one trick pony that relies on velocity because he is a freak. His head is filled with rocks. Dumber than a door knob and the moral character of your average street thug. Good riddance. And they could have seen it coming a mile away, there were plenty of off field incidents, but they ignored them, and then when he shot up the garage they panic sold him for nothing. It’s not just Chapman, this whole organization lacks intelligence.

  9. doofus

    “We will build one of the most respected organizations in baseball. As partners in other successful baseball organizations WE KNOW HOW IT”S DONE.” ~Bob Castellini and the Williams Bros