You’ve seen the movie. You know the line.
If you build it, he will come.
As the Cincinnati Reds descend upon the cornfields of Iowa for tonight’s Field of Dreams Game, they do so while stuck in the cellar of the National League Central yet again, fresh off a sweep at the hands of the New York Mets. They do so while Luis Castillo makes the New York Yankees look silly for the Seattle Mariners once a week, while Top 100 prospect lists become ever-more-littered with names on rosters at the lowest rungs of the team’s farm system.
The Cincinnati Reds are deep, deep into their second attempted rebuild since I bought an MLB.tv subscription, a demarcation point that doesn’t feel that long ago. The first time that auto-renew hit the credit card still rings fresh in my mind, at least, and in that span of time the Reds haven’t built anything despite now multiple attempts.
They’ve allowed more runs than any team in baseball this season not named the Coors Field Rockies or Just-Gave-Away-Juan-Soto Nationals. Their team wRC+ of 87 in the second half of the 2022 season ranks fifth worst in all of baseball despite them playing in a matchbox of a stadium. Tyler Naquin, former Red, has punked them already.
Still, they’re going to play in old-timey jerseys in said cornfield for a national FOX broadcast tonight. It could be a fun game, in a vacuum. It probably will, given that their opponent for the night - the Chicago Cubs - look just as busted-up and torn down as the Reds at this juncture, with less of an in-house solution on the books as an answer. (That they have the financial might and will to simply spend their way out of their self-inflicted muck and mire is the difference here, I guess, putting their timeline as quickly as they want it to be.)
As the Reds go through this rebuild (again), their average home attendance has plummeted to the third-lowest in the National League, behind only that of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the five dudes who show up at every Miami Marlins game. At just 18,345 per game in GABP, they’re drawing over 10,500 fewer fans per game than they did in 2012, the last time this team threatened to do just about anything in the NL - a club that, you’ll recall, was also almost exclusively homegrown. And while the 2013 club fell apart at the end, the fact that GABP drew 31,288 fans that year - nearly 2,500 fans more per game than in their 97 win, division-winning year - shows that fans in Cincinnati who get the rare chance to both a) watch a winner and b) watch it show back up the next year are precisely the sleeping giant waking to be galvanized.
Prospects are just that - they’re prospective good players. The Reds have a lot of them right now, to their credit, like a giant block of Carrara marble that still needs to be cut into countertops and tiles for the build without cracking and shattering along the way. I’ll allow myself to get excited by this current cast of them because I like baseball and that’s where the best of it is being plied in this organization, but I’ll reserve my expectations for a concrete build date until I see some actual big league progress from some of the faces dotting the AA and Class-A rosters.
In other words, while the Reds have stockpiled during this extended rebuild, they haven’t yet begun to build, yet. We’ll get to watch that tonight, a day after T.J. Zeuch got a start against a playoff-bound Mets club while Matt Reynolds, Alejo Lopez, and Mike Papierski got playing time on the same infield.
Rebuild it, Bob. Rebuild it, Nick. If you do, we just might show back up again, finally.