The 2018 season is (mercifully) over. As we direct our gaze towards the upcoming off-season — the most important winter for the Reds in many years — I decided to take a look at some teams who actually made the playoffs, and see if the Reds could learn anything from the way those teams achieved success.

Once again, our beloved Cincinnati Reds (although perhaps not as beloved as they once were) have lost 90-plus games. It’s the fourth consecutive season we’ve said that, and it makes my head hurt every time. Sadly, the ol’ Redlegs will once again not be participating in the Major League Baseball playoffs. (How do I insert a sad emoji here for the kids?)

I like baseball and the playoffs are a lot of fun, so I’ll be watching with interest. As Cincinnati’s management turns the page to next season, however, I hope they’re watching the playoffs carefully and taking notes. Because they just might be able to learn a thing or two from the teams still playing.

Read the entire thing and let me know what you think.

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! 55 Comments

  1. Maybe big Bob will read your article and have an epiphany. We can only hope.

    Reply
    • No. We are stuck in Groundhog Day. Has Mike Brown of the Bengals had any “epiphanies” in the last 20 years?
      We are stuck here. Unless Bob actually leaves it to one of his kids to run the club, and they take a different tack, or for some reason the Castellini family needs a lot of money and sells their majority share to someone else.

      We are stuck in Groundhog Day. Next season will likely be much like this season. Or somehow some of the pitchers get magically better. Anything could happen.

      Reply
  2. Craziest thing about this season? There were 6 teams worse than the clown show the Reds ran out there in 2018!

    Oh well, at least Greaters is still the best ice cream in the world and Skyline is still the best remedy for too much drink….

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    • Let’s see how long it takes these organizations with worse records to turn it around. I remember Reds announcers mocking the Rays due to their unconventional SP and I thought they were as worse as the Reds this season at some point. They somehow won 90 games even after getting swept by Yankees final week. Braves, Phillies, A’s and Rockies made great improvements. Weren’t the Astros and Cubs horrible last time Reds had a winning record.
      Can Any body pinpoint overall poor strategy by Reds that other teams ate not using as I do not watch enough but I notice they seem to bunt a lot, do not spend much on free agents, got very minimal return on their talent (outside of maybe Schebler/Perza possibly Castillo)

      Reply
      • This times a million. Broadcasters mocking TB for an unconventional approach when it actually turned out to work! Thom Brennaman should be shamed forever for his poor judgement.

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        • Particularly because Riggleman, with his early hooks to prevent 3rd-time-through-the-order-itis was, in effect, approaching that very strategy.

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  3. The Reds have done pretty much what I thought was impossible for me… make me welcome Winter and a break from baseball. (Mom said, “if you’ve got nothing nice to say….”)

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  4. The most important reference for me in Chad’s Cincinnati Magazine column is to Henry Druschel’s article entitled “There’s No Such Thing As a Small Market Team”. The Druschel asserts that in today’s world, any team’s market can be the world.

    I know this is true because I’ve watched Reds games on an iPad in relatives’ homes as far flung from Cincy as Chattanooga and Los Angeles; and I just as easily could have been casting them onto a full size screen.

    I also believe the Reds play their traditional physical market much smaller than need be and should be. They do not seem to target to their entire 60 or 90 minute market area which along the interstate corridors takes in all of the Dayton area, extends to include much of the Columbus (OH) and Indianapolis areas and well toward Louisville and Lexington. Again, I know from experience that a lot of those folks packing into Dodger Stadium are looking at a commute to the ballpark approaching or exceeding a similar length of time be it by private vehicle or public transportation of some sort.

    You can’t expect people to be customers unless you seek them as customers. Other Cincy based businesses understand this. I live right at an hour’s drive from GABP. There is a Skyline within 5 minutes of my home. The nearest Graeters’ is 10 minutes away; there is a Mike’s Carwash literally across the street from the Graeters’. Do the Reds know this? Do they care? They should.

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    • Excellent point about commute times relative to big cities. I live 60 miles from Chicago and it takes 2 hours door to door to get to Wrigley.

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      • Here you go Sultan, Google maps says the quickest route to GABP from my front door is 65.5 miles and the drive time is time is 66 minutes. Don’t tell on me; but, even at my advancing age, I suspect I could drive it under an hour unless traffic was really bad or it was a bad day for my eyes.

        Reply
    • Jim;
      Very thoughtful comment. You are right about the drawing area of fans in the Reds market area.

      Your statement.
      “I know this is true because I’ve watched Reds games on an iPad in relatives’ homes as far flung from Cincy as Chattanooga and Los Angeles; and I just as easily could have been casting them onto a full-size screen.”

      The overall motivation that will cause casual fans to trek to GABP is “WINNING”.

      Up to three years ago Colleen and I would make a weekend of the Reds, Saturday game, stay overnight, Sunday’s day game and travel home (Two hours north).

      The new TV contract, the lack of aggressive ownership, and the continued losing has caused those wonderful weekends to come to an end. Winning is what a sport needs to cultivate a diverse fan base. I really don’t care about all the frills that the GABP food and beverage manager (Castellini Jr) offers.

      To paraphrase from the movie “FIELD OF DREAMS”, “Win and they will come”.

      Reply
    • Nashville is a Red’s Fox Sports market.

      Reply
  5. What is really of concern is the fact that the team has just too many holes like to expect a major improvement from one season into another: starting pitching, center field, manager, infield defense. If FO is able to fix at least starting pitching and manager issues, it’d be a major achievement.

    Reply
    • The Reds have (sort of) announced they will be looking at acquiring a starting pitcher in the Free Agent or Trade avenue.

      I look for a redux of the Eric Milton experience of the last decade. Really good “young” starting pitching is expensive, and the Reds will not spend the money or value in a trade. They will overpay for a really sub-mediocre pitcher, and be proud of it.

      This is your 2019 Cincinnati Reds.

      Reply
      • You’d have to hope for more of a Latos type trade. As far as free-agent signings, they may have to go middle of the road. The top tier guys probably aren’t coming here unless the Reds offer not only more money but a lot more money than more attractive teams. So, I think the best we can hope for is a big trade and a resigning of Matt Harvey. Not ideal by any stretch. Honestly, if I were the Reds, I do neither this year. They have a lot more money to spend in 2020, and guys like Trammel, Siri, Long, Santillan will be getting close to MLB ready or will get a cup of coffee in 2019. Another year of sorting could happen to the pitching. Winker and Senzel will be more known quantities. Basically, they’d have more money and also know what trade assets they had to really go for it in 2020.

        I’m not sure the fans will stand for another year like this though. I mean, maybe they have to go for it early, even if it means mediocrity for a few years and then another rebuild.

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  6. First on the to-do list is find a manager. Nothing against Riggleman, but the Reds need a new direction in the worst of ways. The Farrells, Gibbons and Showalters are not the direction to go in either.
    The Reds will be one of about 6 teams looking for a new manager. The hot new name this year is Eric Chavez, but the LA Angels have him locked up at this time. Hard to say who the Reds will bring in for an interview. But they need to get that hire right and not fumble around with that selection. Those interviews can now start in earnest as the season has closed on 20 teams.

    Reply
    • Rest assured that fumbling this selection is also part of the plan. They will hire someone who will make the players play the game “the right way”, whatever that means. A manager that stresses “fundamentals” that players should have mastered at Low A or High A ball.
      And lots of bunting. Small ball. Let’s get excited.
      There will be no desire, emphasis or interest in finding a manager that grasps a lot of the important factors in advanced metrics in terms of evaluating players. The Reds are certainly gathering this data, but it likely resides safely isolated from the management process on a hard drive on someone’s computer in the Player Personnel office.
      That sort of thinking is frankly dangerous to the Reds.

      Reply
    • I would put the Reds making sure they have a coherent workable master plan sketched out ahead of selecting a manager. Then select a manager who is clearly on board and capable of contributing to filling in the details of the plan and executing it.

      If there is one thing we’ve clearly seen over the last two years, using the pitching for example, it is that either there doesn’t seem to be a thorough plan or there is a lack of commitment to seeing it through.

      As has been suggested times and again by many folks here at RLN, it seems like nobody is quite sure who is in charge or perhaps the person ultimately in charge hasn’t been involved in the planning and randomly invokes his authority in a contrary and arbitrary way. Needless to say this needs to stop.

      Reply
      • This, very much this. As soon as a plan is announced recently, someone else in the Reds organization walks it back a bit. I want the FO, without input from the owner, to pick a plan and then make actual progress towards that plan this offseason. Is that too much to ask?

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  7. Chad excellent article, agree with everything in it. On another note what I found interesting was there was a link on this page to, “2001 A Reds Odyssey” a 2017 end of year story you wrote and if you changed the date from 17 to the 18 season you wouldn’t know the difference from this season to last, especially all the posts in the comments section,, they could have all been written in the present, it was uncanny it was a little like ground hog day all over again. Maybe you should have had a picture of Bill Murry from ground hog day at the top of this page.

    Reply
  8. You’ve correctly identified the Reds biggest problem, Big Bob. Now the question is how do the Reds remedy the problem. How do you get a meddling owner to back off? What does a fan base do when the owner proves over and over again he’s the problem?

    Reply
    • Mikey and Big Bob are doing quite well in meddling in the operation of their pro sports franchises and the lessening of attendance is the proof of the pudding.

      Reply
  9. I did some pitching stat comparisons w/ our division rivals this AM. The Cubs/Brewers/Cards are all huddled in the same 10-15 range statistically for the key metrics. The Pirates lag a bit behind, but they will have the most pitching talent next year.

    The Reds are 27th in WHIP when ahead in the count and 23rd in WHIP when they are behind in the count. To be this bad in both situations shows they don’t understand pitch sequencing and need better scouts.

    The Reds are 2nd in HRs allowed. They are first (by a wide margin) in HRs allowed to left handed batters (23rd to righties). The overwhelming majority come on fastballs.

    The Reds are bad, yes, but it wouldn’t take a Herculean leap to get them into the same range as the rest of the division. We know that acquiring more talent is a must, but how that talent is coached and the formation/execution of a game plan needs to be completely revamped.

    Reply
  10. The fans have demonstrated their “ire” buy not showing up at GABP. There are only two things that will cause “BOB” to back off, his demise or new ownership. In his mind the Reds and his involvement (donations) in the city are his legacy.

    Reply
  11. Just read the 25-player roster construction of the 10 playoff teams. I juxtaposed the average to the Reds final roster using the likely players to be on it, if they made the playoffs. Insert sly remark here.

    Draft 5.9 9
    Int’l 2.2 1
    Waiver 0.7 1
    Rule 5 0.2 0
    Trade 11.4 10
    Free Agent 4.6 4

    Draw your own conclusions. Mine: depend less on the draft and make trades, sign free agents and international players.

    Reply
    • Avg of 10 playoff teams: draft 5.9, Int’l 2.2, Waiver 0.7, Rule 5 0.2, Trade 11.4, FA 4.6.

      Reds: Draft 9, Int’l 1, Waiver 1, Rule 5 0, Trade 10, FA 4.

      Reply
  12. I am in the hospital waiting room while my grandson is having surgery. The Cubs and Brewers game is on. As a Reds fan, I had forgotten that baseball was still played in October! I wonder if Bob and Walt know about this???

    Reply
  13. Cringing about a team that is not worth a crap as these Reds are is different than cringing about the Reds miss steps in the 70s. Those of us who were lucky enough to live through those wonderful times still have a since of accomplishment about our team. Those less fortunate say from 1991 until now hinge on every loss with amazment that the FO is responsable for every pitch down the middle of the plate that is hit for a home run or every error in the field that makes you scream trade him!!. Missed cut offs etc. I figured it out after the 82 season that what i saw for a decade was once in a lifetime. 1990 was cool but that was about it. As good as we were then its a given that we be as bad for same amount of time, Yes we should be more consentent like many of our rivals seem to be but were not, so we are all playing the waiting game until that little bit of magic dust hits our team again. This has nothing to do with Price, Riggleman or Bailey. Or Vottos demise. Its not our turn right now, ……Period

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  14. I don’t see an avenue to hang with the NL with this core of players and they aren’t a trade away. The FA pitcher thing isn’t happening, so it’s a trade and I don’t think this team is close to being one player away, and I don’t think sacrificing potential young stars like senzel and Trammell is a good idea to get one pitcher. The sad part is the signings ppl seem to want are Harvey and gennett. Who basically increase the payroll and make the team no better than it is now. The reds are in a really tough spot. The pitching is atrocious and there is a huge drop off in position players once the main guys start getting hurt, which they always seem too. Your best young OF hitter tore his labrum, schebler and barnhart went into the tank, votto power way down, peraza errors and barely league average, Billy Hamilton of course, disco was dinally healthy just not good and gennet has balky shoulder and is due another raise. Then, you get to the pitching.

    Whew. Good thing dick was chosen because of his remarkable baseball track record and not just cause he’s one of the minority owners sons who could spell “analytics” because this is a doozy.

    Reply
    • I agree about not being a player away and there not being a good avenue to improve. Either way you slice it, to get a difference maker pitcher(s) we’re going to have to outbid teams, drastically increase payroll, and hope the risks involved (injury, performance decline, etc) work out in our favor..or trade some really good prospects, save some on salary, but still take on most of the same risks. It’s tough to see figure out how we can go to actually make the necessary changes to be competitive next season.

      Reply
      • The Reds need to work incrementally to get better; make clever trades to improve the value at positions where they are weakest (can you say, Center field?). Nothing is going to improve the team with “one big deal!” IMHO, you can’t sit around and wait for the younger players to arrive and mature, because some of them may not pan out, or “arrive”.. With some improvements, the line up is OK for being competitive. The starting pitching is terrible. If it just got to mediocre or a little better than league average, the fans would get excited because at least they Reds would not be horrible and lose 90 games.

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  15. No Joe Morgans, or Billinghams or Geronimos, out there on the horizon for us. It is going to come within, so lets all see what happens. Give these kids time to do something.

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  16. You are spot on Alex

    Reply
  17. Very good article. I think it highlights the core problem of a meddling owner who talks a decent game, but thinks he knows better than others about how to manage in the true modern MLB era.

    I’m always cautiously optimistic … but that ebbs and flows. Next up will be the announcement regarding who manages for us going forward.

    Typing this as the Bernies pulled ahead of the Stupid Cubs. I can pull for all of them except Braun without throwing up in the back of my mouth.

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  18. One could argue that historically, the Reds are a below average major league franchise and what we are seeing is more norm for this team. If you subtract what was obviously one of the all-time great baseball dynasties (I used 1970-1981 to signify the Big Red Machine era) what do you get? Only 9 other playoff appearances compared to 6 with the BRM. Only 5 world series appearances compared to 4 for the BRM. Could have had 1 more playoff appearances each 1994 for non BRM era and 1981 for BRM that were eliminated due to strike seasons. In fact, if you subtract the W-L record from 1970-1981 the Reds have a below .500 all-time winning percentage.

    Reply
  19. The title makes me thing of the Red Green show and his poem, “The Winter of our Discount Tent”

    Reply
  20. Brewers win the NL Central. Thump the Cubs 3-1. Fitting that Yelich and Cain play prominent roles. Glad the Cubs are relegated to wild card status. Now if only the Dodgers lose also and become the other wild card team. Many called them the NL’s 2 best teams.

    Reply
    • I had Washington winning it all. Shows what I know.

      Reply
      • Not much!!! (kidding, of course!) A lot of people picked the Nationals. And did they ever do a swan dive this year. The Braves had to be the biggest surprise in the League. And they are a pretty good young team, looking like the Astros of a couple of years ago. My guess is that they have a rigorous method of evaluating young talent, because it seems to be working.

        Reply
      • Washington and another team we know about gave up on Dusty Baker and look what happened.

        Reply
  21. I hope in the expected upcoming manager/coaching purge that hitting coach Don Long can keep his job. I think that Suarez, Peraza, Scooter, Cozart the prior 2 years, Winker, and to some extent Schebler and Barnhart should be counted as success stories for him. Add Votto to that list. Blandino was looking better at the plate just when he got hurt. Phillip Ervin looks like a better hitter. Those payers have come to the Reds with hitting skills. But Long has seemed to have helped them at the ML level become better. Hamilton, though, not so much. Well, 10 out of 11 ain’t bad.

    Reply
    • The solidification of a young Red’s starting pitching staff did not happen this season, but regardless of what changes occur in the next six months, I would like to see pitching coach Danny Darwin stick around.

      Reply
  22. What do you guys think of John Gibbons for next Reds manager?

    Reply
    • He’s got some pretty significant issues with holding onto his temper. He’s clashed with players in the past. He also seems to be more traditional and less analytically inclined. I don’t think he’d be a good fit. Maybe early in the rebuild he might have been because he is the kind of guy who will hold players accountable. I don’t think he’s the right fit for our Reds though. That said, the Reds should at least call him and ask his opinion on what it takes to lead a winning baseball team. If they like his answer, they should interview him. They should repeat that process with at least 10-12 strong candidates from outside the org.

      Reply
  23. Nice piece Chad. Yes, the Reds do have some smart people in the front-office. Sam Grossman is one of the brightest people I’ve ever spoken to. In my opinion, the problem stems from the continued employment of Walt Jocketty and his apparent influence on the decision making process. Castellini obviously trusts him and wants him to have input as his name has gotten mentioned in what appear to be a lot of organizational decisions. I think the most important thing the Reds and Castellini can do, is let the baseball operations people do their job. Give them a budget and then get out of the way. It’s gotta be hard for an owner to do that. It must be especially hard for an owner who is also a fan. It’s what has to be done though. Part of that is a disengagement with Walt Jocketty.

    Reply
    • +1000

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      • So simple and obvious, yet such an impossible thing to get to happen. It’s a big ego thing with most owners, because they think that because they are good at one thing, and they have been a “fan” all their lives, they know what the team should do.
        We commenters here make a lot of criticisms of Bob Castellini, and perhaps rightly so. But he did come up with the big bucks to become the majority owner. He had the bucks, and none of us do. I honestly don’t know the specific moves the Reds should make, but I can see where they have gone wrong. Cuz I’m a fan.

        Reply
    • Walt Jocketty started destroying the Reds the day he was hired just like he did the Cards ( which got him fired). Bob is unwilling to let Walt go. The Reds will not win again as long as Walt is anywhere around.

      Reply
  24. Unfortunately I think the whole things needs blown up and that includes the front office. The small market thing has to go. No they can’t spend like the Yankees and Red Sox but it wouldn’t matter if they did. They don’t have FO personnel who are good baseball people and I don’t think the scouts are good evaluators of talent. They blew the rebuild at the get go. Like Chad said there aren’t a lot of players here in their early 20’s. The players here are older and decisions will have to be made to sign them to long term deals or trade them. Unfortunately this teams makes terrible trades on a regular basis. It’s just a sad state of affairs all the way around.

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  25. I’m not sure I agree, with the exception of the Chapman debacle, that they have made any trades that individually stand out as terrible trades. They have collected a lot of useful and even a couple of outstanding pieces. The problem as I see it is that they haven’t built a coherent class which is maturing together into a winning team. If the group of guys they received in return was in fact the best overall talent they could harvest, then they should have in turn flipped some of these guys toward the goal of building a better group more matched in age and developmental level.

    Reply
  26. I notice none of your points mention the manager, and I couldn’t agree with that omission, more. Get the players in here who can make a difference, then we’ll worry about who’s making the pitching changes

    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