At 4 o'clock this afternoon, new Reds Owner Bob Castellini spoke at a long-anticipated press conference. You can find the transcript of his speech on The Official Reds Site. If you're familiar with the official site, you'll notice a new look touting the slogan “The Power of Tradition.”
Marc Lancaster, writer for the Cincinnati Post, says on his blog that there were decorations around the 4192 Club, where the press conference was held, bearing the slogan “Reds Pride.” The logo appears here and at the end of the short video Marc mentioned in that post. This video was shown before the press conference. It is available on the Cincinnati Enquirer's website.
Here at Red Hot Mama, we get a lot of non-Reds fan readers, so I imagine that a lot of you could be wondering why everyone's getting so riled up about a press conference. You have to understand that here in Reds country, fans have felt like we've been kept out of the loop for a long time. The ownership and front office has been very tight-lipped, offering sound bytes that are infuriatingly vague or cryptic. Carl Lindner, previous controlling share-holder, rarely spoke about the team in public.
So to have a new owner, whose newness already brings with it the promise of hope for the future, actually schedule a press conference and put in the extra effort to make it a big event…well, that's just something we're not used to.
And it sounds like it really was a big event, with a multi-media presentation, fancy decorations, city officials and former ballplayers, and time set aside for interviews with all the major media outlets in addition to the speech proper.
I listened to the speech on 700 WLW on my drive home from work. It was impossible not to notice the repeated references to “bringing championship baseball to Cincinnati.” In the Q&A after the presentation, someone asked how soon we could expect to see a contending team, and Mr. Castellini said that his goal was to field a contending team in 2006. He pointed out that the team has many challenges to overcome, mentioning specifically the pitching. So at least he has been paying attention.
Castellini talked about budgeting to break even. That's pretty much what the last ownership group said, so no huge change there, though his spin on it sounded better. Before I always felt like the ownership's message was scarcity-focused: we'll only give you as much as you give us. Castellini's words felt growth-focused. In a description of the plan used to get the Cardinals organization on track and similar to the one to be implemented for the Reds, he said “Improved attendance led to more revenue. More revenue led to more payroll.”
In the Q&A, though, he also said that they don't plan to take a big hit up-front to get this cycle going. That's a little bit of a disappointment, I suppose, but probably a good thing in the long run. How many time have fans seen new ownership burst onto the scene, throw a bunch of money and promises at them, and then fizzle out? Hopefully Castellini's plan will make a lasting impact.
The Reds will be experiencing an organizational change. The business operations and baseball operations of the club will be further separated, with John Allen heading up the business side and Dan O'Brien heading up the baseball side. On a day when some people were hoping that O'Brien would lose his job, in fact he got a promotion.
This is a very good change. Not only will it allow Allen to focus his talents on the business side exclusively, but it will also give us as a fan community a real opportunity to evaluate the skills of Dan O'Brien as general manager. Before, O'Brien's situation was so much different than that of other general managers around the league, it was hard to make a fair comparison.
Castellini spent a little time talking about the marketing of the Reds. He pledged increased community involvement, a more memorable experience at the ballpark, and communication that is “timely, transparent, and truthful.” I know that I'm not the only Reds fan out there that is excited to hear those three Ts. I hope that the new ownership and organization will consider alternative outlets for their communication. The Reds have a burgeoning online community that's hungry for more team involvement.
Listening to the speech on the radio, I thought Castellini sounded intelligent and passionate. He did not come off as being overly polished or rehearsed; instead, he sounded like he was just telling the world what he felt about his new position with the Reds. He sounded realistic and down-to-earth. He sounded like his plan might just work.
And that's just the sort of thing that's worth getting riled up about.