Fans are upset. Fans are angry. They stayed away from Great American Ball Park last season as if the place is haunted. And sometimes it seems as if it is. Or maybe cursed?
There is a boisterous and vociferous band of brothers and sisters pleading for the Bob Castellini ownership group to sell, sell, sell. It even has billboards that make that demand.
Castellini was a bit naive when he took over and promised to return the Cincinnati Reds to their days of thunder and glory, back to the days of the Big Red Machine. And he was a bit naive on the day he fired general manager Wayne Krivsky in mid-April of 2008 and said, “We just aren’t going to lose any more.”
Yes, they did. They lost a whole lot more. Things are not going to change this season, either, for the Cincinnati Reds.
Not only will Great American Ball Park have plenty of available seats, one can pretty much pick any seat one wants. And the Reds are poised to lose 100 or more games for the second straight season.
Yes, I’m upset. But I’m not angry. I’m upset because readership soars with a winner and diminishes with a loser. Who wants to read day-after-day how the local nine lost another game.
The Reds are in rebuild mode once again and some fans believe their once-proud team has been under reconstruction for their entire lives.
John Lennon of The Beatles wrote and sang a song, “Give Peace a Chance.” And we’re here today to say, “Give the Reds a Chance.”
A rebuild is painful for fans in more ways than one. Not only is their team irrelevant for now, but fans still have to pay big bucks to watch a non-competitive team.
Castellini and general manager Nick Krall appear to be doing this rebuild brick-by-brick in the right way. Continuity and stay-the-course are what is needed.
It was painful for fans to see the club disperse Eugenio Suarez, Luis Castillo, Tucker Barnhart, Tyler Mahle, Sonny Gray, Wade Miley, Amir Garrett, Tommy Pham, Kyle Farmer, Brandon Drury, Tyler Naquin, Michael Lorenzen and Donovan Solano.
Those were names fans recognized. But when a team rebuilds, a thorough house-cleaning is necessary and right now the Reds’ house is spic and span.
The Reds used a lot of those names to bring in highly regarded prospects. Yes, prospects are nothing more than suspects until they prove themselves, but the haul they made at the trade deadline in 2022 was premium. And the Reds are concentrating on developing their recent draft choices in the minors.
Of the Reds top 20 prospects, eight came via trades in the last two seasons. Fans won’t recognize the names, but they all have high upsides.
They are, and hold your applause until the end, infielder Noelvi Marte, infielder Edwin Arroyo, infielder/outfielder Matt McLain, third baseman Sal Stewart, infielder Christian Encarnacion-Strand, pitcher Chase Petty, pitcher Conner Phillips and infielder Victor Acosta.
The top prospects drafted by the Reds include a name fans do already know: infielders Elly De La Cruz and Cam Collier; pitchers Brandon Williamson, Andrew Abbott nad Bryce Hubbart and outfielders Jay Allen and Austin Hendrick.
The rebuild could take three or four years and may or may not work. In the meantime, fans must be patient … and they have no choice.
Baseball is entertainment, a show enacted by players averaging $4.5 million a year in salaries. Some are good, some are average, some are bad.
Unfortunately for Reds’ fans, there are more bad than good or average players on the current roster.
So why go to Great American Ball Park? There are the young stud-to-be pitchers — Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft. Their numbers were not glossy last season. Greene was 5-13 with a 4.44 ERA, Lodolo was 4-7 with a 3.66 ERA and Ashcraft was 5-6 with a 4.39 ERA. Much of the bad numbers can be directed at last season’s horrendous bullpen, a problem the Reds didn’t address in the off-season.
There are budding stars Tyler Stephenson and Jonathan India. There is the chance to see the fading days of 38-year-old Joey Votto, the face of the franchise.
There is the chance to see the big-ticket, big stars on the opposing teams.
There is the opportunity to witness the fast-changing face of major league baseball — the pitch clock, the new bases as big as extra-large pizza boxes, the straight-up defenses with no shifts allowed.
And, of course, the Reds pass out bobbleheads like pieces of chewing gum.
As far as supporting a major league baseball team, one with a massive history, let’s borrow a phrase from Reds COO Phil Castellini, only in a better context, “Where ya gonna go?”
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