Add the Reds to the list of teams that are slashing, rather than spending, this off-season. Fanhouse's Ed Price and Jeff Fletcher are reporting that Cincinnati is looking to cut their payroll from $71MM in 2009 to between the $65-$70MM range next season. While it may not sound like much of a reduction, Cot's Baseball Contracts lists the Reds as owing just under $66MM to just ten players for next season, leaving little room to fill out the rest of the roster.
Lagging attendance figures are to blame for the Reds' financial cutbacks. Price and Fletcher noted that attendance at the Great American Ballpark dropped by more than 15 percent from 2008 to 2009. General manager Walt Jocketty was quoted in the piece as saying, "We're going to probably have less to spend this year than we have in the past...It just depends on how [ticket] sales go this offseason."
This is why it's so hard for me to care about baseball or the Reds anymore. I've often got baseball on in the background in the summer, and I like following individual Reds players, but I have zero belief that the Reds will ever be able to build anything approaching a sustainable winner. Forget the 70's, I'm not sure the Reds can afford a team anymore that could match the mid-late 80's Reds that finished in second most every year before winning the World Series in 1990.
They will luck into the playoffs again at some point by catching lightning in a bottle (a la 1999), but until baseball fixes things (ha) I just have lost most of my interest.
I've never thought this until recently, but there needs to be a salary cap, and MLB needs to consolidate media deals and distribute TV (and possibly radio money) equally. I'm pretty sure the Dallas Cowboys could get a lot more TV money for their games than the Cincinnati Bengals, but luckily the NFL is too smart to allow that to happen.
Sadly attendance for baseball hasn't cratered, and probably never will because going to the ballpark is an enjoyable activity even when your team sucks, so I'm not holding my breath for changes. It's just all a shame, the sport could be so much more interesting with a more level playing field.