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The nuance of this Cincinnati Reds rebuild frustration

Same same, but different

Cincinnati Reds v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There is a murder of Red Reporter crows who have waded through these waters with us before. The been theres, the done thats.

The 2015 MLB All Star Game will live in infamy around these parts, really, its scheduled existence in Great American Ball Park the present day yin and yang of this cursed Cincinnati Reds franchise. On the one hand, it brought much needed funds and exposure to the club’s home base, and allowed them to add food options and brick accents and round out the riverfront redevelopment that had been nearly two decades in the making, all with a shiny bow of Home Run Derby action to top the celebration. On the other, making sure Todd Frazier wore a Reds cap in that derby was emblematic of a club past its prime wading into waters deeper than its galoshes.

That end was gutting, both literally and emotionally. It ended the Reds tenures for Jay Bruce and Johnny Cueto, who’ll both get their time forever honored as Reds Hall of Fame members. Todd Frazier was jettisoned, too, and his Dinger Derby triumph already lives in that Hall. Mike Leake was shipped west, Aroldis Chapman was lopped off for fodder, and Brandon Phillips was given away as the club embarked on a deep, thorough rebuild aimed at resetting the club’s limited finances in a way that would see the next generation of Reds club mature (read: get expensive) at a time when all parties were competent enough to compete again.

The sad reality is, in hindsight, that rebuilding at that point was based on something more tangibly built than this time around. The players mentioned above formed the backbone of a pair of National League Central champions, including a club that won 97 regular season games and held a 2-0 series lead over the eventual World Series champs despite injuries having taken their best hitter and best pitcher. They even limped into a 2013 Wild Card game as 90 game winners, that 90 now sounding like some mythical number only found on TI-82 calculators.

That team, that era achieved a modicum of success before being busted up. That team matured into something tangible. This time around, it seems the tablecloth is being pulled before dinner ever got served.

In simply giving away Wade Miley and Tucker Barnhart, the current iteration of Reds have signaled that money is both tight and the top priority. If you roll it back just a few months, though, you can even see the other side of this particular equation, too - despite obvious flaws and other teams well ahead in the standings, the 2021 Cincinnati Reds chose not to trade any of their more expendable players for the stretch run, signaling damn the torpedoes, we’re going for it this one time while we still can.

I don’t know if it’s admirable, that, or not. If the financial disaster that is this current ownership group is so awful, perhaps trading Miley at last year’s trade deadline for something of actual value would’ve looked a bit rosier right now. Fact is, they managed to win nothing of note with him, or Barnhart, or Luis Castillo or Sonny Gray, and now are ready to fire them over to the highest (or first) bidder as quickly as they possibly can.

On the one hand, I suppose I should be elated that the Reds brass might be willing to finally accept the concept of a sunk cost, something I feel they failed to do for years with other players. Get younger, get deeper, and plan for a really half-decent 2024-2025 Reds window. The only problem here is, I guess, is that they’re treating the entirety of the current roster as one (if these rumors prove to be true), and that’s the kind of tactical abdication within a 30 team monopoly that simply should not be permitted to sustain.

They’re just giving away their best players, and letting everyone on the planet know they have to. That’s the single worst sales job I think I may have ever seen.

We bought into the last go-round because at least we’d seen that the powers that be had been able to get to the cusp of good things. We tasted 97 wins, division titles, and a packed GABP on the biggest October stage. This time around, though, we’ve seen a front office cave to a greedy owner for a 2021 season that was hamstrung by its cash transactions before it ever had the chance to get off the ground (see: Raisel Iglesias), and a 2021-2022 offseason that also appears to have the show being run by the check-writer rather than any actual baseball decision-maker. Logically, and emotionally, it’s become impossible to remain invested in that kind of methodology.

There was patience the last time we were dragged through this muck. There is no patience left for this.