Unless you have been living under a rock then you surely remember the blowup just before the Cincinnati Reds home opener when Phil Castellini went on a little bit of a tirade at the thought that there were some fans that believed his family should sell the team to someone who would be willing to spend money to put a winning baseball club on the field. He would later apologize, and over the last eight months has been about as silent as humanly possible in the public space.
The spending habits of teams has seemingly changed in the last year-and-a-half, with a few teams being the leaders. The New York Mets have gone wild under Steve Cohen. As things sit today, the Mets luxury tax penalty for the 2023 season is more than multiple teams have in payroll (which could change on both ends – as teams spend more, but also if the Mets spend more). But it’s not just the big market owner disrupting things. The San Diego Padres, who are in one of the smaller television markets in all of baseball, have been spending at levels of just about any non-Mets team in the game over the last two years. The Philadelphia Phillies have also gone from the upper middle tier of spending to the upper level of spending.
At The Athletic on Monday we saw Ken Rosenthal write about all of this, and perhaps the most well known baseball reporter on the planet laid into teams that aren’t spending money. Rosenthal specifically called out three teams that need a change in ownership because of how they run their clubs.
This is a new breed of owner, operating under a new collective-bargaining agreement that reflects the union’s success in raising the luxury-tax thresholds and staving off harsher penalties. Cohen took over the Mets in late 2020. Seidler became the Padres’ control person not long after that. Middleton became a 48 percent shareholder in the Phillies in 2014 and their control person in 2016. With any luck, the Nationals and Angels, both currently for sale, will be bought by like-minded individuals or groups, and the turnover will continue with the Reds, A’s and Pirates, to name three clubs that need a change.
There are plenty of notes that follow that, of course, don’t say these teams should be expected to operate at the same level as the Mets or Padres for a multitude of reasons. But the fact is that Rosenthal believes there’s no reason whatsoever that the teams at the bottom of the payroll ledger are operating the way in which they are.
Cincinnati’s current payroll is right around the $73M mark. That’s about half of what it was two years ago. It’s about the same as it was at the end of the Carl Lindner era of Reds baseball. This is also the third rebuild in the ownership of the current group and it’s an organization who last won a playoff series in 1995. A club that needs a change, indeed.