The final scene of the film Cast Away shows Tom Hanks’ stoic and heroic Chuck Noland in the middle of a dusty Texas road. The camera shows a faceless man who is not only figuratively but literally at a crossroads, as if we hadn’t done it. I got the message at the end of roll three. When the news came on the Mirror that Dick Williams was stepping down as President of Baseball Operations and Chief Bottle Washer, I thought of Chuck looking one way and the other as he pondered the future and what it might mean. While I’m pretty sure our protagonist will take the next step and the hint of a smile creeps across his face as the screen goes black, thinking about the street on the Williams – and the Cincinnati Reds, I have nothing – will now go down.
The teams have already walked down an alley and then retraced the familiar passage with more Sheetz truck stops, the motorway with recognizable billboards and reliable rest areas, ie the street that is more convenient to drive on. The Boston Red Sox formed a solid foundation under the leadership of Ben Cherington and built an unparalleled farm system to show the young GM the door and get Dave Dombrowski. The ex-Detroit Tiger leader’s only wish was to hop on the HOV lane, step on the accelerator, and spend Cherington’s prospect of owner and owner John Henry’s right to a quick championship. The end result left the farming system barren and owner Henry unwilling to continue spending money to keep perhaps second best baseball player, Mookie Betts.
Why? Possibly because he had used so much extravagance on fake services. The best example was a Pablo Sandoval and his overcrowded $ 95 million contract. The day an overweight panda swung around on a pitch and broke its belt, its corpulence oozed from its uniform – well, it was a fitting metaphor for the way a baseball organization was at the seams with wealth bursting with cash and prospects, ready to cram himself with talent options. Dombrowski bought the Red Sox a world championship as well as two seasons with the highest payroll in the game. Finally, he rewarded his 2018 heroes with celebratory expansions before pushing back from the table. After Dombrowski did all of this, his reward was to be fired himself. His skills were no longer suited to the difficult task of rebuilding an organization from the ashes of bad contracts and an exhausted farm system. Owner Henry’s Zigzag – and then Zigzag – should be a reminder of what the rich do when it comes to money and the unexpected happens.
Baseball lost money in 2020. From the owners’ point of view, the money faucet was completely closed by the end of July and only then turned into a relative trickle with just cardboard fan cutouts and maybe some branded face masks.Keep the crowds connected and – oh, forgive me – pour some money back into their wallets.
You don’t have to be Colonel Mustard to see clues everywhere. The aforementioned Red Sox had no interest in building their future around Mookie. Cleveland sees little value in a final season from Francisco Lindor, one of the best players the game has to offer. The Chicago Cubs, still hungover after their long-awaited championship, now have no real desire to keep Yu Darvish. The Tampa Bay Rays, a bat bat away from a World Cup, exchanged their best pitcher. Baseball has withdrawn completely as the game’s immediate future remains grimmer than ever.
Still, baseball was almost always full of money. Long before Amazon, Netflix and Zoom were able to reap gigantic rewards in a world that was suddenly confiscated from their homes, Major League Baseball was feeding itself insatiable on the money trough, bringing in almost half a billion more in 2019 than the year before, Jan. Year just year of record profits. While some focus on Forbes franchise reviews and the potential owner groups at the time of sale adds in as an argument that owners should keep spending and buzz, it overlooks an important point: This is not how the rich work. While the rest of us would take our lottery winnings and spend on God Knows what, the rich take our fortunes and put them into service to make even more money. When a company does not return the expected profit, the checkbooks are closed. The bountiful version of the austerity is a can of roe by the pool at home instead of beluga caviar overlooking Central Park in Per Se.
They look ahead and at best see another season with limited attendance. Incredibly, the pandemic is worse today than it was when it began terribly almost a year ago, and is showing a tremor and wavering in the world’s frailty. Vaccines are rare and many may refuse to take them. Even if much of the country gets vaccinated by summer, how many will be ready to sit shoulder to shoulder with their neighbors? How many who have suffered financially will have the disposable income to return to baseball and its $ 5 hot dogs and $ 14 beers?
There is more. Beyond the 2021 season, baseball sees a tenth of a percent in a collective agreement that will expire in the weeks following the next World Series. The rich see another job stoppage on the horizon, possibly as early as mid-2021 season, as players try to regain position lost over the years while owners hide their books and weep poverty.
When I was talking on talk radio last week (regrettably), I was treated to the sound of the iHeartRadio shofar blowing out the tired, unvarnished melody of another remodel on the horizon at the Great American Ballpark.
Most hated. Most abused. The word that was banned from our local lexicon just a season ago and the sad melody it evokes are back on the DJ record and are spinning hearts and minds across the Tri-State because of course it is.
The Reds have actually started losing salaries. Gone are Raisel Iglesias, Archie Bradley, Curt Casali, Brian Goodwin, and Robert Stephenson. None of these players changed the fate of the Reds significantly. It’s the rumors of Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo and Eugenio Suárez that freak the fan base. At the moment it’s nothing more than a guess, but the fact that Reds’ brass players are listening intently can tell us something.
That something may not be “rebuilt”, but probably a break while waiting for the game and it is a power struggle to shake yourself. Plus, the expansion of the playoffs has made winning the division less important. If you just need to “step in”, spending less on securing dominance in the form of a division title may become less important. When the Players Association, tired of six years of service to the players, just learning as freelance agents that no one is willing to pay for past accomplishments, decides to go on strike in August, well …
Last off-season, Williams Moustakas pulled out of the owner’s ATM and received a paltry 139 ABs for its splendor. The dollars for Castellanos had a disappointing exchange rate of 0.1 WAR. After a season of silent turnstiles and the likelihood of them spinning slowly, if at all, next spring, Bob Castellini and other MLB owners seem skeptical about further spending. Gray and Suarez’s value signatures that should power the team going forward could easily be wasted on circumstances beyond the Red’s control.
Steve Cohen, the new rich man on the block, has something to prove to New York Mets fans, so it’s no surprise he takes advantage of Cleveland, snatches Lindor, and maybe signs him long-term. Toronto Blue Jays’ $ 150 million commitment to George Springer contributes to the widespread belief that “there is gold in the hills,” not just west of Dodgertown and Arte Moreno’s Big A, but also northern Canada and to the east in Flushing, Queens. Right now these guys are still runaways.
I wonder what the Philadelphia owners think now, having traded their best pitching prospects and more for another non-winning season with JT Realmuto, followed by 47 games and less than 200 record appearances in 2020. Guessing, but I’d bet The Reds are glad they kept Hunter Greene when so many pressed for him to be put on the trail of the coveted catcher for two short years.
While some resented a far-reaching search for his replacement before it was announced that Nick Krall would take Williams’ role as operations manager, I keep coming back to something owner Bob Castellini told Paul Daugherty during the first month of the year when asked if he was too involved in baseball operations and the question quickly broke off:
“No. It’s Taurus. We make decisions together. When we meet, we all give our opinions. I’ll come in and say that’s what I think we should do. If I don’t get a lot of resistance, meet.” we will make the decision based on what I have said. I am not overly involved in our operations. ”
We don’t know how the owner’s relationship with Krall will be in relation to the relatively free hand he has given Williams. At that moment, it probably doesn’t matter. The uncertain future of baseball has turned the sport on its head.
It’s entirely possible that the Reds are now relying heavily on their development team and mining the gold within the organization, rather than spinning the wheel on established cast members who long in each other’s way. Trevor Bauer may be gone, but he leaves Kyle Boddy and a new way of doing things. It’s not hard to believe that his eccentric and groundbreaking way of preparing for the game has touched not only his teammates but the people in the organization as well. Remember, the Dodgers may have spent money, but they also found forgotten gamers like Max Muncy, who turned into a star by changing his approach to the plate. When people speak in admiration of the way the Tampa Bay Rays do things, whether they know it or not, they are talking not only about the eye they have for talent, but also about their ability to develop it. If the reds move there, call it what you will, just call it no rebuilding.
Back to Dick Williams standing in the middle of his own dusty intersection before heading out on what he hopes will be greener pastures. It’s a strange time for a man who has just risen to the right hand of the throne to suddenly step back just as the organization is moving in the right direction. At 49 he is young. He is not retiring but is moving to other family businesses in his own words. Personal and professional considerations aside, one has to think that he saw the very unsafe landscape ahead of him, the decisions he knew the owner would make – and decided to take a more familiar road after the drive.
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