MLB owners and front offices probably forgot the concept of shame long ago. I doubt most of them could spell it much less define it at this point. You still see owners in other sports wince when one of theirs goes off script and lets in a glimpse of how things really work behind the curtain (see: Snyder, Daniel). But MLB has been so naked about what its true aims are for so long that they’ve lost this ability.
Reds President and COO Phil Castellini couldn’t have made it clearer not just how the Reds view their fans, but really how all teams do. Especially the ones that blow up their MLB rosters for no good reason other than they can and it’s more profitable to do so.
“Well, where are you going to go? Let’s start there. Sell the team to who? You want to have this debate? If you want to look at what would you do with this team to be more profitable, make more money, compete more in the current economic system that this game exists, it would be to pick it up and move it somewhere else.”
The implication here is that no one in the Cincinnati area has a choice. The Reds ownership is going to do as they please and they’re free to do so because everyone in Southern Ohio/Northern Kentucky are sheep who will keep watching and keep coming through the turnstiles because quite simply there is no choice. And if they don’t, well they’ll just hightail it to…I don’t fucking know, Charlotte? It is the most cynical view of fandom from the outside, merely seeing it as a revenue stream without even bothering to consider what else goes into it. Castellini is hardly the only other owner or front office who views their own fans this way.
Last week, we found out that the Pirates basically pay for their payroll through what they make via tickets and concessions. Which means that all of the TV money, both local and national, and the revenue sharing that the Pirates get from other teams, goes right into Bob Nutting’s grubby little paws. What the Pirates pocket from those sources is more than $100 million. While the Reds have one of the lowest local TV contracts, we can be sure these numbers are about the same. The Reds weren’t so far from a playoff spot last year. With a tweak here or there they could have competed in a hilariously weak NL Central. They chose not to simply to scam their way to more profits like The Producers.
But here’s the thing Catellini isn’t counting on, and what Reds fans (however many are left) should realize. Yeah, you can go. You don’t have to do this. Just watch something else.
Take it from someone who fired his baseball team last season. I grew up as you did, Reds fans. The Cubs were as big a part of my life as anything. Grew up walking distance from Wrigley. 2016, maybe the best time of my life. Don’t worry, you get to keep your similar memories. They don’t go away if you do now.
And then the Ricketts ruined it. Tore it all down. Made it unpalatable to me. They did it because they made the same bet that Castellini and his corrupt dad are making now. That Cubs fans will keep rolling through the gates because they don’t know what else to do. And given the “prospect pervert” nature of Cubs fans and their media — instilled by Theo Epstein 10 years ago — they’re mostly right. Cubs fans will placate themselves with minor league highlights on Twitter and poring over 80 scales because they saw it work once.
(Interesting fact, if the Cubs had signed Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant to the exact contracts they ended up getting, they’d still have a payroll less than the tax threshold. Farther away than at first glance even because they wouldn’t need Andrelton Simmons’ dead ass. Swap out Wade Miley for Yu Darvish and they’re still not there, but they’d also have a team that would likely win the Central. But hey, you keep telling me how great Crow-Armstrong will be in five years when we all perish from the Earth’s heat death anyway. Really want to hear about it).
I got out. I have an admitted advantage over you, Reds fans. One, I live in a two-team town. I can just as easily turn on the White Sox. who are interesting and fun and good. I’m not a fan, but they provide entertainment in a like fashion. But you have the same access to MLB.TV that I do. You can watch any baseball you’d like.
Two, I don’t get Marquee. So watching the Cubs isn’t even an accessible option. They’re out of sight, out of mind. Makes it easier to go on about my day when I don’t have to avoid them. They’ve already evaded me. Maybe Bally Sports Ohio isn’t as easy to duck, but you still can.
Is watching baseball without passion as fun? Well, no, I can’t tell you it is. We’ve both spent our lives judging other players by how much they wreck our favorite teams or how much they get lit up by our favorite teams. Just watching them play for the sake of it takes some getting used to. And sometimes, when your heart isn’t invested, some games can get awfully slow and boring. Again, baseball nap. Can’t recommend it enough for many reasons.
But the entire baseball world opens up to you. Monday I watched the Phillies and Mets followed by the Padres and Giants. Last night I saw the Sox and Mariners in the afternoon, checked in on the Jays and Yankees at night. You can’t do all that when the Reds are appointment TV for you. You miss so much. Now everything is available to you. You’re not anchored. Think of all you could experience.
Does it have to be a lifetime subscription? No. At some point, even just due to randomness, the Reds will be good again. You can go back. They should have to earn your attention and time. No more of this “through thick and thin” horeseshit. That was for a time when teams were actively trying and sometimes just fucked it up. That’s not where we are now.
Sure, summers are a little weird for people like us without baseball front and center. I hear FC Cincinnati aren’t horrible so far this season, marking a true change in their history. Maybe try that. I guess you could talk to your family. Sounds risky, though. But there are other means and avenues.
Again, it’s an adjustment. But this conniving dickbrain Castellini is daring you to prove him wrong. He and his dad are laughing at you, just as the Ricketts laughed at me. He’s going to win. Enough people will still go and watch to get the Reds over whatever line they imagine they need to keep you down.
But how much are you going to take? We admit defeat to fucksticks like this every day. You have to take your wins where you can. You can be free, even for just a little while. You, the Reds fan, don’t have to fund this teardown/scam. You can do it. I believe in you. I did it, and I assure you I’m more broken than you are.