By now, a majority of Cincinnati Reds fans have probably heard Bob Castellini's recent interview with radio broadcaster Tommy Thrall. If not, click here to read it in full via MLB.com. While the interview was a lot status quo responses, the fact that Castellini addressed the issues at all should show that he's heard the criticism from the fanbase.
The trending hashtag among Reds fans on Twitter has been #SellTheTeamBob. It's a bit over-the-top, but I get it. Fans saw the front office go all-in during the 2020 season. The pandemic-shortened season, first-round playoff exit, and lack of revenue certainly didn't help anything.
The Reds lost Cy Young Award-winner Trevor Bauer that offseason, but were still competitive last season, finishing above .500 in a 162-game season for the first time since 2013. But, it all came tumbling down once the 2021 season was over. The Reds traded Tucker Barnhart and waived Wade Miley.
Then, once the MLB lockout was over, the Cincinnati front office gutted the franchise by trading beloved stars like Sonny Gray, Eugenio Suárez, Jesse Winker, and Amir Garrett. There were whispers all offseason about the team possibly trading Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle. The fans' trust in ownership is at an all-time low.
Bob Castellini is aware that Reds fans are unhappy.
As you would expect from typical conversation with a politician or public figure, there wasn't a lot of hard-hitting questions directed at Bob Castellini's from Tommy Thrall. As expected, Thrall's questions were direct, but not insulting; the Cincinnati Reds do pay Thrall's salary after all.
But one piece of information from the interview stuck out to me. Thrall asked Castellini about the team's plan moving forward and what assurances he can give the Reds fanbase that the team is committed to winning. Thrall also asked if the club has accomplished all that it set out to do.
"We have more to do. We need to pursue postseason play in this expanded format that is starting in 2022. And we need to rekindle the trust we have lost with some of the fanbase...It is my sincere hope that we can restore the fans’ confidence. I have read their emails, texts and social posts. This has been difficult for every member of our organization because we have not turned our back on them."- Bob Castellini, Reds owner
Castellini cited the team's need to compete for the postseason in 2022 and rekindle the trust that has been lost with some of the fans. That tells me that he's heard the criticism loud and clear. Castellini even said that he's read the emails and texts, seen the posts online.
If I try to set my fandom aside for a moment and take an objective look at the 2022 Cincinnati Reds roster, I do see a team that can be competitive. It's not as if the team is competing in the NL East or the AL West. The NL Central might be the easiest route to the postseason this year.
Can the Reds compete in the NL Central?
On paper, the Milwaukee Brewers lead the way, followed by the St. Louis Cardinals, and then it's a toss-up between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs. The Pittsburgh Pirates are obviously rebuilding and will not factor into the pennant race.
But, the only way that I see the Reds having success in 2022 is if a lot of things break their way. Otherwise, it's likely to be a bridge-year to 2023 when, perhaps, more of the farm system's young talent is ready to contribute at the major league level and Cincinnati can go all-in for Joey Votto's last season in a Reds uniform.
Bob Castellini can skirt the issue all he wants, but the Cincinnati Reds fanbase is not going be fooled. While I don't expect Great American Ball Park to look like a ghost town during the 2022 season, unless the team produces, that stadium will not be filled to capacity on a regular basis.
The Cincinnati Bengals proved one thing this past year; if you invest in the franchise and build a winner, the Queen City will come out an support their team. The Cincinnati Reds haven't done that this offseason, and the fan's trust in ownership is waning.