Bob Castellini, the CEO of the Cincinnati Reds, and the owner with the largest stake in the team, sat down with Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer to talk about the team, their slow start, and how he feels about it. I’d suggest you go give the whole thing a read, but I wanted to talk a little bit about a few specific things that he said.

In the second paragraph, and it’s not a direct quote from Daugherty, but he notes that Castellini “doesn’t meddle” in the baseball operations. That doesn’t sound accurate based on all of the things we’ve heard, and seen over the years. But, then there’s this later in the article:

He said vehemently that he does not interfere with the baseball operation. He interrupted the question. “Do you feel you’ve been too involved in baseball op…’’

“No. It’s bull. We make decisions collectively. When we meet, we all give our opinions. I will come in and say, this is what I think we ought to do. If I don’t get a lot of opposition, we make the decision based on what I say. I do not get overly involved in our operations.’’

Let’s run this one more time. Bob Castellini says he doesn’t meddle and that he’s not too involved in baseball operations. Then says this:

I will come in and say, this is what I think we ought to do. If I don’t get a lot of opposition, we make the decision based on what I say.

Bob Castellini is hardly the first owner who wants to have say in the decisions made. Some of the guys in other sports have played at high levels in those sports. Some haven’t. Bob Castellini falls in that latter category. Not that it changes much, because you should hire the baseball people to make the baseball decisions.

Here we have the owner claiming he gives his input, and if the people that he pays don’t object too much, then that’s the decision that is made. As I said above, I’m positive that he’s not the only owner that does this. But it’s not good to see it. And it’s a bit confusing that he doesn’t see, or understand that, yes, that is absolutely meddling in baseball operations.

It makes you wonder just how much Bob Castellini’s ideas are what have led to the Cincinnati Reds being where they are right now. Holding onto players for too long. The Todd Frazier deal is a perfect example, and one he speaks about in the piece. He says he wanted to hold onto Zack Cozart but couldn’t afford him. Cozart signed for chump change, in baseball terms, this offseason. Maybe he took less to sign with the Angels (and his words certainly suggest he would have had to get more from the Reds to come back), but as the owner of a team with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, to say you couldn’t afford a guy at $13M a season is awfully questionable to say publicly.

Investigating what’s going on here

The piece closes out with Bob Castellini saying this:

I’m not OK with the results. We have to investigate what the hell is going on here.

It’s good to say that he’s not fine with the results. Who would be? But, let’s start the investigation by looking in the mirror. Stop telling the baseball people what you want them to do. With all due respect to Bob Castellini, those people were hired by you to make those decisions, and they’ve got far more experience, and information about the players. Maybe the baseball people just aren’t good enough. But, I also don’t know if we know that or not because, well, it sure sounds like the owner is wielding far more say in the baseball decisions than you would like to think he should be.

40 Responses

  1. asinghoff

    Maybe he should focus more on the e-coli in his lettuce and less on the team operations.

  2. theRickDeLux

    Ya know… I was fully prepared to defend Castellini because… well, he owns a billion dollar professional team and he can do with it as he pleases. But it’s difficult for me to respect him when he says this:

    “This is a talented group of ballplayers. They’re fine, young men. We’ve got a very good clubhouse,’’ the owner allowed. “We have very fine baseball people. We’re doing the best we can. We’re thinking a lot, we’re working hard.’ ”

    “Eyes are rolling all over town right now,’’ I suggested.

    “I don’t give a (spit),’’ Castellini said.

    … the man should. He’s potentially losing generations of local and long-term fans that he is taking for granted. It’s completely disrespectful to us. I love the Reds, probably always will. Probably. I live in So California now and there is some dude named after a Fish and Babe Ruth nearby.

    • Tom B.

      Sorry, Rick — I hadn’t seen your post when I wrote mine.

      • theRickDeLux

        No worries from my end. I’m glad we see the same thing. And I agree with you on the Frazier/Chapman trades… those just never bothered me. You really never know exactly how a trade is going to work out for either team. It’s everything else they deserve just criticism for.

  3. Tom B.

    The one (and only) break I’ll give to Castellini is that the Reds were kind of stuck during the 2015 season. The timing of the All-Star game really messed up any plans the Reds had as far as starting the rebuild. I think Castellini forbid any trading leading up to the game because he didn’t want the team to look bad without their All-Stars Frazier or Chapman. As to Daugherty’s piece, here’s the part that caught my eye:

    “This is a talented group of ballplayers. They’re fine, young men. We’ve got a very good clubhouse,’’ the owner allowed. “We have very fine baseball people. We’re doing the best we can. We’re thinking a lot, we’re working hard.’ ”

    “Eyes are rolling all over town right now,’’ I suggested.

    “I don’t give a (spit),’’ Castellini said.

    Interesting take from the owner of a business that is losing customers every day and every year.

    • DanD

      The Reds should have seen a rebuild coming before the season started and if players could not be signed heading into the season plans should have been made to trade after the All Star game before the trade deadline instead of after the season. This is where I believe the owner meddled with his thoughts of when Chapman and Frazier should be traded.

      The Frazier trade I can handle but it sure would have been nice to get Gleybar Torres and a few other players from the Cubs before the trade deadline instead of the package from the Yankees or at least quality instead of quantity from the Yankees.

      It would have been nice to get a top prospect at either shortstop or center field for Chapman.

      Doug, BTW great article!

  4. Pat

    You’re on target Doug…look at the draft and minor league system. Both seem in pretty good shape. Then look at the confusion with the big league club and there’s obviously meddling. With this there will never be a rebuilt just a rebuilding…you still have to have consistency, spend some money and be involved in some good trades. I fear the Reds may be a feeder system for teams knowing the Teds have confusion and won’t pay talent. Other GMs just waiting and fans becoming discouraged. And if the team does get enough young talent to go with good deals done cheaply (Barnhardt and Suarez come to mind) then one decent season before it all cycles again. Could it be a mini version of the NFL’s Jerry Jones. Cincinnati writers and fans know the sport too well to let it slide.

  5. AirborneJayJay

    The thing that also caught my eye was there were far too many “we’s” in his conversation. It should have been “they” and “they’re” when talking about the front office. Budgets and payroll, OK, but roster decisions have to be made by the baseball people.
    When Bryan price was let go, it was Walt and Williams who notified Price and Jenkins they were being let go. Not Williams.
    And then Bryan Price released a very nice statement a couple of days ago. But I did notice that Price wanted to thank his “dear friend” Walt Jocketty.
    It would take John McClain (DieHard) less than 24 hours to wrap up this investigation.
    1. Castellini stay out of baseball operations.
    2. Clean house in the front office and management of all this close, intricate network and relationship stuff.
    Phil Castellini needs to go work at the family company business. Dick Williams needs to go somewhere. Hire real baseball people with a new GM, and then let that new GM bring in a manager and coaching staff we can get behind. Dick Williams, Walt and Bob Castellini are going to seriously muck up this new managerial hire. Wait and see. Larkin is already a polarizing figure, but that is who they will bring in.
    Wanted: MLB Manager, Cincinnati, OH. No Managing Experience (anywhere) Necessary!
    However, Big Bob is in serious denial to come back so aggressively to interrupt that question the way he did. Big Bob is yet another reason the Rebuild needs a rebuild.

  6. SultanofSwaff

    A top manager candidate will definitely think twice about leading a team that has a meddling owner.

  7. another bob in nc

    As Dirty Harry said. “A man has to know his limitations.” Not sure Bob C. does.

  8. terry m

    You just knew when Walt was hired while Krivsky was the GM that it was just a matter of time before Walt was sitting in Wayne’s chair. So the bottom line is hire a bunch of yes men who wouldn’t speak their mind and just go along with what Bob C. wanted. Mr. C.is a very smart business man but a baseball man not so much.

  9. Eric Wormus

    I’m glad someone else noticed this. “I sign everyone’s check and just give my opinion like everyone else. It’s not my fault everyone agrees with me.,” What a stooge. If I came into a few billion dollars and could buy a baseball team and everyone in baseball ops happened to agree with me all the time I’d fire every last one of them. Bob, you’re an owner. If the people making the baseball decisions aren’t any smarter about baseball than you are you need to get rid of them. This isn’t rocket science. The only baseball decision Bob should be making is payroll. Set that and let the baseball guys make the baseball decisions. Of course, Dick Williams only has his job because of his last name, so no telling if that would be an improvement or not.

  10. Colt Holt

    Putting myself in his shoes, if I was swimming in money and bought a baseball team, I would want to be involved trades and free agency too. We all play fantasy baseball. He is living it out. You can question the effectiveness of what he is doing, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t doing the exact same thing 90% of people would do in his shoes.

    • victor vollhardt

      Agree with COLT HOLT—and if it is OK with the other partial owners(I assume Mr. Castellini is the managing general partner)–then that is the way it should be. One would hope if results are bad then you would change your MO, but if none of the other owners complain(not talking about baseball people) then he should operate the way he wants to.. I see/read/hear many things that I would personally change or not do, but if I was in his situation I would do it my way—not think about community involvement–or how the public views me, but rather always point at a goal of making my investment grow and to increase my day to day cash flow(profit). If you follow that prescription in any business—the results will come and in baseball that is tickets sold/TV revenue and yes wins and losses.

      • redleggingfordayz

        I think the bigger problem is here, if he does have his hand in the cookie jar as much as we might all believe, does he also have the same accountability as someone like the GM or Manager? From what I have seen thus far, that would be no. At the end of the day, if trades go wrong, he can just point at everyone else and say “Why didn’t you stop me on this one?”. That doesn’t seem like a good system that will lead to winning.

    • Eric Wormus

      I think what makes this so insane, in my mind anyway, isn’t that he obviously is meddling, or that he has a desire to meddle. The question was, “Are you too involved in the baseball operations.” An honest answer would be, “I don’t think I’m involved TOO much, but I make sure my opinions are known.” Instead, he gives a 3 word answer. “No. That’s bull.” That leads me to believe he does not understand that when the guy who signs the paychecks states what he wants to happen, very few people are willing to push back on it. That’s a big problem in my mind, probably even a bigger problem than the actual meddling.

      • Colt Holt

        Can the CEO’s involvement in the most critical component of a business too involved? In any other business, a CEO demanding action is expected. For some reason, in baseball, the belief is that the CEO should be completely uninvolved. You can question whether he should be CEO or not, but as the owner, his opinion is really the only that matters on that front.

      • Doug Gray

        In other businesses you become the CEO for more reasons than “I am rich”. You almost always have experience in that business, and rose up through that organization by making decisions in that industry that were smart.

        But, as I said, Bob Castellini isn’t the only owner doing this stuff.

  11. Justin

    As an entrepreneur with employees, I can’t tell you how hard it can be to get real opposition from them. Even if you are the fairest person in the world, finding someone who is willing to stand up to you is difficult.

    So in my mind, the moment he voices his opinion is the moment that he looses real feedback.

    Also, he qualified the type of opposition. This means he ignores opposition until it reaches a certain point.

  12. wes

    I think we are better off hoping he gets better and learns more about baseball and learns from his mistakes. Doubt any of the ownership team or GM are going anywhere for a while. And I think it’s on ownership to hire the right manager and not the manager who they hire- if Reds offer you job- you make it clear it’s your team and your choices- which price seem to do and get away with.

    If they pursue and obtain Girardi- that’s a great move! And off sets lack of ownership experience. If they hire an inexperienced manager to go with inexperienced ownership- they are going to be in bad shape

  13. Redsvol

    We can point to Bob and ownership if we wish – but the bottom line in my opinion is the continued lack of player development by the organization. The Cardinals and Brewers are drafting in similar or lower positions than we are and they are developing this lower round draft picks into major league contributors.

    Pitching development is nearly non-existing in Cincinnati. Position development isn’t far behind. You can’t simply rely on the talent of your first round draft pick to build your team. We have to get contributions from the lower draft picks or from waiver claims, etc. When is the last time we produced a solid outfielder from outside the first round that actually contributed? I’m sure there is one a long time ago but I can’t recall any in the last 10 years. How have we missed on outfielders for a decade? Player development is horrible – that’s not ownership’s fault.

    • Wes

      Bailey, cuato, Chapman, and leake are 4 of highest paid pitchers in mlb. Hamilton, trammell, Siri, Fairchild are all non first rounders. Scooter and straily were waiver claims.

      If reds had Yankees money they never woulda rebuilt.

      Cuato
      Leake
      Bailey
      Straily
      Mahle
      Iglesias set up
      Chapman close

      Kept Frazier and put Suarez at 2nd.

      That’s a really, really good team !

      • Redsvol

        Which of the outfielders are major league contributors Wes? I’ll give you Hamilton- even though he was drafted and developed as a shortstop and switched to outfield later. The other outfielders are all hype for now. Basically a terrible 10 year run at developing outfielders- the most positions on the field!

    • Tom B.

      Amen — I could not have said this any better. I’m thinking the last non-first round outfielder that made any contributions to the Reds was Chris Heisey. And I would argue that his contributions were spotty at best.

  14. Cguy

    It’d be nice if the Reds roster was comprised of Eagle Scouts & First Responders. But for now, let’s find some Ty Cobb types that just want to win more than the next guy. Results talk, Hype walks.

    • Redsvol

      Good point cguy! Reds have always been too focused on draft position and 5 tools. Give me 8 bulldogs that refuse to give in. Give me 8 tommy Phams who have never been given anything and had to earn it every day!

      • Doug Gray

        For every Tommy Pham that works out, there are 50 of them that never reach Triple-A.

  15. AllTheHype

    On Sept 11, 2015 Walt Jocketty stated: “I think a couple of tweaks here and there and I think we’ll be very competitive next year.”

    His acknowledgement that a rebuild was necessary was even after that, after 2 complete losing seasons (14-15) with AWFUL 2015 season. To think he made that statement at the end of that dreadful 15 campaign.

    The rebuild started AT LEAST 12 MONTHS LATER than it should have been. If the Reds would have been able to move high value pieces 12 months earlier, in the 14-15 off-season. than they would have been trading those assets closer to peak value.

    As it was, the Reds waited and then traded assets at much less than peak value. And it continued in later years……it’s not much different than what happened with Cozart, who was rumored to be going to Seattle at the ’16 trade deadline for Gohara, but the Reds were consumed by the Frazier trade at the deadline and admittedly could not multi task and get it done with Seattle at the same time. I’ll repeat, they said they did not make the trade of Cozart for Gohara because they could not MULTI-TASK!!!

    Not only did we NOT get anything for Cozart, in 16 or otherwise, but it looks like we won’t be getting anything for Billy either, despite one club’s (Giants) very public interest over the winter.

    This was sadly one of the major reasons we are so far behind in our rebuild, the fact that Jocketty did not recognize a rebuild was in order until AFTER 2 losing seasons and the fact that we STILL cannot get value for current assets.

    And the move that needs to happen THIS trade deadline…….trade Iglesias for some significant young prospects. Will it happen? Doubtful.

    • Eric Wormus

      At this point, it is obvious that the “rebuild” has been an utter failure. That’s not to say the Reds will not be good again in a couple of years if everything shakes out, but the Reds are not following the path of recent successful rebuilds, they are just losing and hoping some draft picks work out.

      Atlanta is a good measuring stick. They’re top prospects, in some order, are:
      Acuna (MLB) Gohara (MLB, DL), Wright (AA) Soroka (AAA), Allard (AAA), Fried (MLB/AAA), Riley (21 yrs old, 2nd year of AA, I’d imagine AAA this year).

      The Reds top prospects, in some order, are:
      Senzel (AAA), Greene (A), Trammell (A+), Mahle (MLB), Shed Long (AA), Jeter Downs (A), Jose Siri (A+, DL), Tyler Stephenson (A+), Tony Santillan (A+)

      I will grant that Winker is no longer a prospect, but when you look at that list it’s a list of players who might not be able to help the big league club for at least 3 years. What were the Reds doing the last 3-4 years? Instead of trading for players who could help the Reds in the 2018-2020 time frame, they were targeting players they could plug into the big league club from 2015-2018, and then refused to sell high on those guys. An utter failure of a rebuild no matter how you look at it.

      • Doug Gray

        Here’s the problem with your analysis: It misses that Sal Romano, Brandon Finnegan, Amir Garrett, Luis Castillo, Jose Peraza, and if you’re going to stretch it to 3-4 years, Eugenio Suarez, Anthony DeSclafani, Adam Duvall, and Scott Schebler were all a part of “the rebuild”, too. Not to mention guys that aren’t considered prospects anymore, but would still be ranked guys if they were, in Dilson Herrera, Robert Stephenson, and Cody Reed.

        The rebuild has, and always was built around the premise that the young pitching would work. And I think that still holds true. If the team can get 4 average to better than average starting pitchers out of Brandon Finnegan, Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed – it’s going to work. Can they? I don’t know. I’m confident in three of them at least being league average, with Castillo being more than that with a good degree of confidence.

      • all

        All of those are nice players with some degree of potential, and I’m not denying we received “some” quality back. But the Reds’ delay in recognizing the rebuild cost us blue chip (top 50) prospects with a reasonable chance of being perennial all-star calibur players, meaning Gleyber Torres types.
        If it weren’t for our two great dumpster dive trades of Simon and Straily, the return for the talented lot of Chapman, Cueto, Leake, Frazier, Cozart, et all has been mediocrity, at best, and absolutely NO blue-chips. This leads me to think the Simon and Straily trades were more or less luck, given the track record of the other trades involving higher quality assets.
        Bottom line, I am not very impressed with the group we’ve received in trades given the assets we had.

      • Doug Gray

        I think you are massively underselling the value that was Brandon Finnegan at the time. He was not a prospect at the time, but if he were he’d probably have been an easy Top 50 guy. In that same trade you got Reed, who at the time, was a Top 75 guy. Leake got you a Top 100 guy, and Adam Duvall. Frazier got you a Top 100 guy, Scott Schebler, and Brandon Dixon.

        The assets we had is a bit deceiving. Mike Leake, Todd Frazier, and gun shooting Aroldis Chapman, at the time they were traded, weren’t exactly guys that should have brought back a ton. Now, if you want to talk about they traded them at the wrong time, absolutely let’s have that discussion, which will probably just be all nodding our heads in agreement. But, when they were traded, the Reds probably did a good job on their returns.

      • AllTheHype

        That’s the gist of my comment in this thread, that the Reds’ assets were traded at the wrong time (too late) because Jocketty thought the Reds would still be competitive “with a couple tweaks” in 2016 based on his comment late in 2015. He changed his tune in that offseason, and started the tear down. But it was one year too late. It didn’t need to take 2 losing seasons before that was recognized.

  16. R

    Castellini is a bully which I guess is very fashionable right now.Call everyone together get their opinion, berate them or get angry if they disagree.Doesn’t take long before ppl are reluctant to speak up and disagree especially the junior or new folks.
    Castellini = greed+ego

    • Doug Gray

      This is not at all what I got from the Daugherty article.

  17. Bryant

    Just great reporting, Doug! Might prove helpful to the whole organization.

  18. Klugo

    God, II wish I wouldn’t have read that. Sounds like Henry VIII. “Anyone object?? Good. Everyone keeps their heads today.” Depressing.

  19. MK

    1. His money.
    2. I believe he is the polar opposite of a Steinbrenner meddling owner. He does not like to fire people because he really genuinely likes them. He forces those around him to stick with them because of it. Examples: Price and Hamilton.

    I actually sat at a Dragons game with him when Homer was throwing a rehab game and heard. Him talk glowingly about Homer. What a great person he is; How no one cares about winning more; How he cares about teammates; blah blah blah.I have never before heard anyone talk about Homer this way. They talk about him as acerbic, self centered and genuinely a jerk. When I was in Chatanooga to see Blue Wahoos play one of the ushers told me how he missed the Resa affiliation there. He loved his association with the players all except Homer. Yet Bob thought he was greatest guy in the world. He talked like a buddy rather tan a boss.

    • Doug Gray

      Homer Bailey as a 20 year old is probably a lot different than Homer Bailey the 30 year old.

  20. Robert Mueller

    Time sell this team to a young aggressive billionaire who loves baseball. I was looking at the front office roster and I was blown away with the amount of bacon that’s up there. Totally too much of everything.

    I told most of you that jocketty really never stepped down. He’s a weasel. Won’t talk to the press or the fans. He needed someone to wear the face of the gm position. To take all the heat. Jocketty is the worst thing to happen to this franchise.

    Castellini on the other hand, never trust a lettuce salesman.