Chad recently wrote an article talking about a lost generation of Reds fans. I am among the lowly who barely remember the Reds last playoff series victory in 1995. I watched that entire sweep, but those memories fade just a little every year.

I grew up on stories of the Big Red Machine. My father, a 1975 high school graduate, comforted my brother and I with tales of the good, ole days. It was a bittersweet consolation prize as I listened to Marty and Joe relay the mediocrity of the teams of my youth. In retrospect, that stretch was less frustrating than the current era of losing.

The Reds were rarely horrible after that 1995 season, winning at least 76 games 9 times from 1996-2009. They never had back-to-back 90 loss seasons. Because of that, each year offered hope that they would finally return to the postseason and just maybe, make a run that many of us haven’t really seen before.

Looking back, those front offices often applied band aids to gaping wounds. Each year, the Reds slowly leaked oil, so slowly that it felt like they were contending, but the front office never addressed the issues that kept holding them back, which were mostly pitching related.

The patchwork the Reds did at the expense of a real rebuild made them perennial losers for roughly a decade. It was the wrong way to construct a winner, but their pseudo-competitiveness made it feel more tolerable.

The current poor stretch of baseball is different. The Reds have committed to getting younger and have traded aging assets to improve their long-term fortunes. The overhaul I wanted them to do in the early to mid-2000s is exactly what they’ve tried to do in the last few seasons. The general approach makes more sense than what they tried to do during the decade of the 2000s.

Unfortunately, the last five years have made the 1996-2009 period seem like an era of great prosperity. Not only have the Reds been bad, they have been slothful in offering hope. The 2015-2016 teams were old and uninteresting. The 2017-2018 teams were younger but just as unsuccessful.

The 2018 season was especially harmful to the good will between fans and the organization because it was the year some expected things to turn around.

I notice friends my age losing interest. “Don’t they have the same team as last year” one quipped when I noted they should be better in 2018. In hindsight, he was right. I expected the young pitching to grow; none of it really did. To casual fans, they did nothing to improve, like the team just didn’t care.

The Reds genuinely thought Tyler Mahle, Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano, and potentially others would take big steps forward; they had good reason to think that might happen based on how 2017 ended. Many fans just saw was an unwillingness to upgrade a disastrous rotation.

That feeling has led to frustration and even worse, apathy, maybe especially among 20-35 years who weren’t alive or don’t remember 1990. Fans my age are having kids, and while we remember the joys of going to the ballpark with our parents, the current product has been so disheartening that many seem unwilling to carry on their family ball park traditions.

That will all change if the Reds can sport a winner soon. I believe they have made better decisions now than during the 2000s, but for casual fans, it doesn’t feel like it. The Reds should never make decisions based on how the fanbase (or owner) feels, but they need a sense of urgency right now. If they are unable to turn this franchise around soon, my peers will get used to taking their families to other events on summer nights, their kids rarely or never experiencing the joy of an enthused crowd at GABP.

That’s how one lost generation becomes two.

Join the conversation! 47 Comments

  1. And the people said “Aaaaaaamen!”

  2. No doubt that the Reds this century, through mismanagement and its meddling primary owner, have created a feeling of “same old team” with the general public.

    However, the idea that winning is going to cure some of the major problems MLB has right now is highly debatable.

    Look at the Royals. They are an example of what the Reds hope to achieve. Contend for a few years, win a title…then most likely, tear down, go through a rebuild, start cycle over again.

    2018 home attendance

    Royals – 20,556
    Reds – 20,115

    So much for any afterglow or long-term benefits of KC winning a World Series.

    • The Royals bandwagon was overflowing for awhile, but as soon as the losing returned the fans disappeared. It always annoyed me when I lived in Cincinnati and the stadium was empty even when the team was competitive, yet the Bengals could fill the stadium regardless of performance or how many guys were in jail. Obviously a lot of that is due to the large number of games and the cost to take a family to the stadium. If I can only afford on trip to see a game I have 81 chances for the Reds and only 8 to watch the Bengals.

      I don’t know how to solve the attendance problem, but baseball regular season games aren’t going to pull huge attendance numbers in small markets. Anyone with kids knows you don’t want to take young children during the school year to a game that goes from 7-10:30, especially when the team is losing and it costs you $200 to get the family in and fed

      • I was watching the Brewers/Dodgers playoff game last night, and noticed that the network was running a large number of commercials (seemed like more than usual) for every pitching change and beween innings. I assume that the greed-heads, knowing that more fans will be watching, can’t resist the chance to add to the revenue and, in doing so, are showing the depth of their committment to speeding up the games and making them more accessible to younger fans. The Sox/Astros game, 9 innings, lasted 41/2 hours. A team as disappointing as the Reds will struggle mightily–and deserves to–in an environment where interest in the whole sport is declining.

  3. I hope Mr. Castellini is reading… Nice piece Nick!

  4. Attending a game with kids is not cheap compared to other entertainment options, and frankly, the games are increasingly becoming less fun.

    Too many Ks, everyone trying to hit HRs, too many pitching changes. The offense in most playoff games this year has been mostly non-existent.

    2018 was the first time since 2003 that total MLB attendance dipped below 70 million.

    The MLB owners have chosen this path, choosing profits over growing the game, making it more appealing, more competitive, and more affordable for fans.

    When the Castellinis and Williams start talking about turning down revenue sharing in exchange for a more level playing field, then I will believe they care about their fan base.

    I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

  5. Yeah I feel the exact same way I’m 32 and have 3 little boys of my own and I want them to be Reds fans like I always have been but I don’t want them to always be let down. I’m hoping that the Reds can atleast get to the middle of the pack when it comes to payroll, and hoping that some of these guys can take a step forward. This losing stretch is getting awful to watch.

  6. I’m old enough to remember Benzinger catching the final out in 90, but the Big Red Machine is a bit beyond my memory banks. Still waiting for a good team to come along, it’s a shame to waste Votto’s career on an average team.

  7. MLB owners/players have killed baseball!

    In order to fill the pocketbooks of owners and players, they have both colluded to shred the game.

    – Playoffs and World Series games that start at 9:15 eastern time to get prime time commercial rates. That has lost a generation our 2 who can’t/won’t stay up that late to view which has caused them to look elsewhere for entertainment. No wonder ratings stink after the 3rd inning!

    – All Star games which end because… heaven forbid a starting picher might pitch more than 2 innings and relievers can only pitch one. The Commissioner ends a game in a tie because they ran out of pitchers. The AS games used to mean something. . .not any more.

    – Tradition is gone. Reds used to open MLB play every year. Now we have games on Sunday night and games from Japan 2-3 days before Opening Day.

    – Inter-league play is a joke. When teams are playing against the other league during the last to 2 weeks of the year. . . there goes any semblance of scheduling ahead of time with the perceived potential division leaders against each other. Does anyone care about the “Ohio Cup?” Oh boy, I sure get excited watching Piits/Det, I don’t think that even Chicago or LA, or NYC care about their inter-league games any more than a regular game. Boy, Tampa Bay and Miami sure make my mouth salivate. Maybe the all-star game might mean something if you din’t have inter-league. A least reduce it to 1 series per year, per team.

    – The game has become boring. . .carrying 13 and 14 pitchers makes the game unwatchable with all of the pitcher changes. It is nothing but home run or strike out. Strategy is gone. When is the last time you saw a good hit and run? he way the game is played you might as well make the DH standard in both leagues. That will make the game even longer

    – Concession prices through the roof. The players complain about not getting enough days off. No double headers for the fans, and if there are, they are day/night with separate admissions. Of course carrying so many pitchers means little to no bench available to make some substitutions in game 1 or 2. Playing a double header or 2 might give the players some extra real days off.

    All of this is done to put more money in the owners/players pockets. Hell, I am a capitalist-I get why they do it, but all in all they have destroyed the game for kids to watch, so they have gone on to other things. When the boomers really start to pass away, baseball is in real trouble, because no one else will give a damn.

    One old man’s rant!!!

    • Bob I agree, baseball has lost people for money, and without fans their will be no money. You’d say no one goes there anymore because it’s to crowded will just be no one goes there.

    • But it’s not capitalism.its the opposite. You put out a good product and you make money, that’s capitalism. Mike Brown and big Bob make money off of taxpayers and revenue sharing. It cracks me up these so called capalists live off welfare. If Bob ran any other business that put out this bad of a product he’d go out of business. Instead he has basically quadrupled his investment and his group are now billionaire. They do it on our backs. I know three ppl who aren’t renewing season tickets. F you bug Bob and I don’t give a spit what you think either. I am not sure there is one person in that front office who could get an equal position on any other org. Am I wrong?

    • Very well stated, Bob. I’m a boomer who grew up loving and playing baseball, but when I ‘watch” it now, I often have a book and my reading glasses at hand for the increasingly frequent moments when ennui overtakes me. Only one of my four kids gives a fig about baseball, and she lives in Boston where, at least, the home team is relevant. The Reds have a problem, and fixing it would help, but the whole sport, as you ably suggest, has problems that override anything an individual team can do.

  8. This is an absolute must read: https://www.brewcrewball.com/2018/10/13/17972918/in-face-of-constant-criticism-milwaukee-brewers-developed-deployed-run-prevention-system-its-working

    The answer to the Red’s pitching problems might be to use the starters LESS, spread the available money out across the pitching staff and not bet the farm on on or two high priced free agent starters.

    • I guess I’m prescient – I suggested this approach a while back.

      Build a killer bullpen.

      Use the money saved on -not- signing an absolute Nr1 starter to buy two or two and one-half Nr 2 starters.

      Use what’s left to buy power. Lots of it.

      The Brewers have always worshipped power and the general approach has been – You put up 2, we’ll put up 4. You put up 5, we’ll put up 7 or 8, and our pen is good enough to keep us in the game long enough to do so. And in a ballpark like Great American, you can see how that would play out. It’s not like we’re a West coast team playing a lot of games in pitcher-friendly environs.

      And, you have to admit, seeing the Brewcrew humble the nr. 1 payroll in MLB would represent a definite moment.

      • The Crew will need to pick up the tempo to humble anyone, at this point, though I’m hoping they do. But they’re enduring a longer championship drought than our lamented Redlegs are, so I’m keeping my mind open about the merits of their template.

        • Remember, the next two games are back in the friendly confines of Miller Park. So, while the odds presently favor the Dodgers, it’s not all that impossible for the Brewers to take the last two. And they did put up better regular-season numbers than LA. So maybe we ought to think about giving their style a try…….

          Definitely better odds than MegaMillions or Powerball (grin)…………

    • I’ve been thinking the same thing, but then another view of this intruded: Two teams, one game, 15-20 pitching changes, 75-100 commercials. Baseball as infommercial?

  9. Baseball will survive even when us oldy, forever, fans pass on. The key is winning and the conundrum for the Reds to get there begins with forward looking ownership.

    • I’ve been mulling this over, Jeff, for a few days now. When we pass on, the world will go dark and cold and cease to exist as we know it.

  10. yes , great article. I feel the reds team died when we tore down old riverfront stadium. compare all the great memories from riverfront versus gabp.

    I love Griffey Junior but, to this day, I feel his arrival here has ruined the reds for a long time. we built this tiny, American league ballpark with grass and tiny alleys for him in hoping that he would catch Hank Aaron. Well that didn’t quite happen and now we are stuck with Yankee stadium in Cincy with a roster better suited for the old astrodome.

    the reds have always relied on speed and great defense to dominate( look at the last three stolen base totals for ’75,’76,’90). with gabp you have to become a homerun bashing team to win consistently and that may be hard to do.

    • Yep.

      Hitting more HRs in 2019 is a must for the Reds. Perhaps a healthy Winker and Senzel can bridge the gap to a large degree. Let’s hope.

      @BobPurkey…your post was spot on. Anything but a rant.

      (Wait until Virtual Reality hits within 10 years. Why watch when you can be a virtual MLBer?)

      One more to the list…the “we will spend $ only if you show up” excuse. Dick Williams used it in the middle of the season.

      As a small business owner, I find it insulting to all fans (customers). I started my business, invested the $ and time and started providing a good service. Then, only after people are happy…then I get paid and start getting a return on my investment.

      It’s like a restaurant opening and saying, “we can only afford to serve Hamburger Helper. Come eat a lot of it, even if you don’t like it, otherwise we will never able to someday afford to serve steak.”

      MLB thinks fans love the sport so much, they will still attend. Not anymore.

    • To be fair, those great teams could hit and pitch a little, too. But yes, they could pick it and they could run. They were exciting to watch. We were younger then.

  11. We must build a team that can out slug the others.Common sense because we play in GABP.Speed is nice but doesn’t help when you are getting out homered nor does it help when you turn and watch it go over the fence.Doesn’t matter who pitches for us because the best will give up the cheap wall scraping first row homer.We just need to hit more then they do.A real and I mean real power guy hits 40 easy and should hit 50.We need more power.

    • How about trading for Khris Davis of Oakland? He would be nice to have in left field and batting cleanup.

    • its so frustrating though because we are so depend on the draft. Unless your name is Ken Griffey Junior or Bryce Harper you don’t know if a kid out of high school or college is going to be a legitimate power hitter in the pros. Are Senzel, India, Tramell, Winker going to be big time power hitters? nobody knows.

      Speed and defense tend to carry over predictably from the draft but we play in a ballpark where speed and defense are neutralized and home runs rule.

      • I don’t think that defense is ever neutralized, especially IF D and the Reds IF D is mediocre at best.

    • Same old same old, Mr. Garrett. I agree that we need more power. But we still need to record 27 outs for the other team per game. Really good teams can do a fair amount of everything.

    • Power is good but pitching gets a team over .500. GABP Is not that small except right center field to the foul line. That could be fixed without a great expense but putting up a secure screen on top of the fence. There’s no problem with the other dimensions.

      • I am all for just taking out a few rows of seats from right center to the bullpen. I mean, how often are the Reds going to miss taking out 200 seats in that stadium?

        • Forgive me if I’m misremembering, but didn’t this topic come up a few days ago?

          The answer was along the lines of “easy to say, well nigh impossible to do” because of the underlying structural elements of GABP.

          And, as a green eyeshade kind of guy, taking out 200 front row seats at GABP has a bigger effect than you might first think. 81games x 200 seats x 50% occupancy (conservatively) equates to 8100 fewer sales. At $50 drop per to the bottom line, that’s around $450K – per annum. Sounds like chump change, but those numbers are very conservative and “a million here, a million here, it adds up”. Then add on the (multi-million dollar) cost to make the adjustment, which you still need to recover or amortize. How many rookies at MLB minimum are we talking the equivalent of here? How many prospects? How many analytics guys?

          I’m not saying the current ownership is Scrooge McDuck, needing only to take a bag of Benjamins out of the money pool, but the Reds -are- still a family-owned small-market club and they need to squeeze maximum effect out of every dollar. A lot of people around here don’t get the way sports economics is like other real-estate economics. You may be asset rich due to inflation, capital appreciation, and reevaluation, but all along the way, you are often cash light (or at least impaired). You can’t spend paper accounting gains and, while you can borrow against them, MLB has some pretty stringent rules on how much leverage they will tolerate in their franchises.

          I’m not poor-mouthing here and I am (somewhat) encouraged by managements intention to raise payroll. Just be pragmatic and keep in mind that spending does not -guarantee- winning baseball, although it goes a long way toward that goal. Past performance is not a guarantor of future outcomes. Read the prospectus. Read the prospectus. Caveat emptor.

          • It has been discussed repeatedly and while not impossible it would require a significant engineering effort. Anyone who has been under that part of the stadium has walked through the tunnel the runs throughout the structure. There is some distance behind the OF wall and the tunnel, I couldn’t tell you exactly how much, but I assume there are also pipes, wires, etc. in between the tunnel and that wall. I have been down there a couple of times and from what I remember it would there wasn’t a huge void of unused space that could be re purposed into seats, not to mention the structural changes probably required to support the structure after knocking out existing construction.

            As I said not impossible but I assume extremely costly and taking away from the limited space already under the seats. Moving walls in is much easier than moving walls out

  12. “We need more power.”
    Famous last words of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor.

    A power upgrade is needed in CF. Not sure where else you can find an increase in power for the Reds. Expected number of HR by position starter for 2019.
    C- 10.
    1B- 20.
    2B- 25.
    3B- 30.
    SS- 15.
    LF- 30.
    CF- 5.
    RF- 15.
    That is without Senzel inserted into a spot.
    The power decline at 1B is a little bit concerning. Don’t expect much power at the C position. Scooter looks to be at 2B, so anywhere from 22 to 29 HR can be expected. Peraza can probably get to 15 HR next year, and maybe more. Suarez probably repeats his 30+ HR. A full season of Schebler may net 30 HR again. Winker shouldn’t be counted on for more than 15 coming off shoulder surgery. Ludwick and his power outage after his shoulder surgery is still fresh in the mind a half decade later. CF looks like the only real option to get an increase in some power numbers.
    On the free agent market, only AJ Pollack seems like a good fit for the Reds in CF. On the trade front for CF, there doesn’t seem like many CF are on the trading block that could help the Reds. But that could change in a heart beat. Tampa’s Kiermaier (and the “big” $$ years of his contract) looks like he could be available, but he doesn’t help much to increase power at the CF position. Maybe LA’s Joc Pederson.

  13. Personally, I don’t believe the Reds need to move the walls back. The Reds most recent successful period occurred in the same ballpark. Those rotations were dominant within the cozy confines of GABP. Those pitchers were one of two types: dominant high strikeout guys (Cueto, peak Latos, peak Homer) or high contact groundball pitchers (Bronson, Leake, Simon). the pitching philosophy was throwing lots of sinking type pitches, preventing hitters from lifting them. The Reds need to re-focus the pitching priority and encourage the youngsters to initiate weak contact. Let the defense do the work which historically has been a strong suit of this team, last year withstanding.

    • Concur, in spades. And it’s not as if the Reds’ record has been significantly better in pitcher-friendly parks than batter-friendly venues, so there are some deeper issues that may need attention.

      (BTW, that statement is off the top of my head. If anyone has accurate numbers or correlations, I’ll be happy to step aside and wait for the pie-in-the-face .)

    • I agree with this philosophically, but fixing the defense would require as many personnel changes as fixing the offense would. More, really, because the current team hits decently with the exception of Billy. Billy, of course, is one of the few excellent defenders among the starters.

  14. The pitching needs to improve for certain. Not sure chasing after starters is the best option. Get a power bullpen and utilize the trend of openers and one inning starters.

    Still do not understand the concept that the Reds offense is fine. The offense is not that high in categories and is bad defensively.

    Reds

    18th in runs scored
    20th in Home runs
    20th in Slugging %
    24th in Doubles
    17th in wRC+

    The teams leading those categories. Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, A’s, Rockies, Indians, Astros, Brewers, Braves

    The Reds have one of the worst OF’s in baseball from an offense perspective and the two corner OF’s are injury prone.

    The one player to add to the offense does not have a position since the Reds position players are so impressive.

    • The offense is fine in comparison to the defense. I think most will agree that Hamilton must be replaced in the OF. The hope is a healthy Winker, Senzel, and Schebler won’t rank last in offensive production. Slugging is a real concern for the offense, but just replacing Hamilton probably moves the team into the top 50% of offenses.

      Defense is bad and will most likely continue to be, which puts more pressure on the pitching.

      Yes the Reds could improve the offense and definitely need to do so from last years performance. Signing Machado and Harper would fix the problem, but that is not realistic with the resources available. The logical thing to do is sign a SP from the 2nd tier of guys, replace Hamilton with Senzel, and explore what trades can be made both in the off season and at the 2019 trade deadline

    • I should have clarified my statement about the offense being decent, because you’re absolutely right: They don’t have enough power.

  15. The pitching is by far the major weakness on the team but everybody needs pitching so how can we compete with the rich to acquire what may be available?We will have to out bid others to get a guy or guys to come to Cincy where pop flies go out and that just isn’t going to happen.We will have to take a chance or chances on some guys in free agency,trade some of our position players to acquire a pitcher or go with what we have.If it was my money I am looking to acquire at least one proven power bat along with acquiring some pitching but we have to free up some money.Of course you have to find a trade partner but lets be honest Billy,Scooter and Iggy free up over 20 million at least.Surely we have players that can fill these spots at little or no cost.I like all 3 of the guys I just mentioned but we don’t need a closer nor a centerfielder that can’t hit after 5 years and while I go back and forth on Scooter because of his offense I can see us having a couple of guys that are better defensively in Dilson and Senzel that may surprise on offense.The reality is we continue to lose with them anyway.

  16. The old Ralph Kiner story makes sense here. . .After leading the NL in homers, he went into negotiations for the next year with the Pirates and they offered him a reduction. The Pirates response was “Ralph, we finished last with you, we can finish last without you!” After 4 last place finishes, anybody on the Reds is tradeable regardless of production/likability.

    “Some days you win, some days you lose, some days it rains. Think about it.” (Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh)

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