This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.
Has the Internet given us shorter attention spans?
Tl;dr yes it has.
As a lifelong Reds fan, I can’t help but be amused by the howls of outrage that have greeted the team’s current rebuilding plan. After three playoff appearances in four seasons, the Reds faced a problem that most teams eventually face after such a run of success: Their core players were all headed to free agency at roughly the same time, and they couldn’t afford to resign them all.
Two strategies exist for dealing with the problem. One — let’s call it the Steinbrenner method — calls for doubling down on your aging veterans, signing them to pricey contract extensions and filling whatever gaps remain with new free agent signings.
The other is rebuilding, making the painful admission that this particular team’s window for winning pennants had closed, and setting about the task of assembling a group of players who could propel the team towards its next string of pennants.
The Reds, under GM Walt Jocketty, opted for the accelerated rebuilding plan, one executed most recently by the Astros and the Cubs. It combines a painful house cleaning of veterans with a rapid accumulation of young talent, through trades, high draft picks, and an increased emphasis on player development.
In a span of about 12 months, the Reds traded four All-Stars — Johnny Cueto, Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman, and Alfredo Simon– and two solid starting pitchers — Mat Latos and Mike Leake.
In return, the Reds received an assortment of sixteen minor league players. Most were playing at AA or higher, and Jocketty said he’d focused on acquiring players who were close to the majors with a focus on getting the team back to contention by 2018.
The reaction from most Reds fans has been outrage, with many calling it an unnecessary dismantling, blasting Jocketty for getting rid of popular and talented players, and some even going so far as to renounce their allegiance with the Reds.
On Twitter, one fan wrote:
Walt Jocketty @Reds deserves to be tarred and feathered in downtown cincy for what he’s done to this team & fanbase. @FlavaFraz21 @DatDudeBP
— Jordan Lee (@jordanthelion) December 16, 2015
I am officially done with the Reds and Walt Jocketty. They’re idiots
— Aidan (@Aidank727) December 16, 2015
Time will tell whether the trades work out, of course. The rapid rebuild only works if some of those prospects develop into stars.
But what strikes me is the level of impatience with what’s billed as a three- year rebuilding process. That’s practically light speed in the baseball world.
I moved to Cincinnati as a 9-year old in 1977. By the time I turned 40, I’d only seen the Reds make the playoffs three times. Before their run of three playoff appearances from 2010 to 2013, they had gone 14 straight years without reaching the postseason.
And that’s not unusual. The Seattle Mariners haven’t been to the playoffs for 14 years. The Miami Marlins haven’t reached the postseason since 2003. Neither team seems likely to break those streaks anytime soon.
We’ve watched teams like the Royals and the Pirates reach the playoffs after decades of futility. The Blue Jays went last year for the first time since 1993. The Rangers and Nationals recently ended streaks of more than 30 years.
Of course, none of those teams planned to struggle for so long. Nobody unveiled a 20-year plan to become competitive.
As a fan, you root for your team to reach the playoffs every year. But if you’re honest, you know it’s not reasonable to expect success one hundred percent of the time.
When your team loses year after year, and there’s no sign of improvement on the horizon, then by all means air your complaints and call for the GM to be run out of town on a rail.
But when a GM says “give me three years and we’ll be back on top,” I for one am intrigued. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
Sean Lahman is a reporter for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and the Database Guru for the Society for American Baseball Research. He can be reached at SeanLahman@Gmail.com
This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.
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