Reds president Phil Castellini, less than a year shy of his infamous Opening Day comments, spoke to the Reds’ supporters club on Saturday, saying the Reds operate as a “non-profit organization,” calling baseball an “industry in crisis” and bemoaning the state. a sport that has seen an increase in the number of teams that are out of contention on opening day.
Castellini and his father, team CEO Bob Castellini, have been the subject of many fans’ ire online since they began dismantling a team that made the playoffs in a COVID-19-shortened 2020 season.
Last opening day, Castellini dismissed Reds fans by asking “where are you going?” in response to the team trading away some of its big names before the start of the season. On the team’s flagship radio station before the home opener, Castellini said the way to make the team more profitable and competitive “is to take it and move it somewhere else, so be careful what you wish for.” Castellini doubled down on his comments in a pre-match TV interview, but apologized for his remarks after the game.
Castellini was the keynote speaker at the Rosie Reds luncheon on Saturday. The Rosie Reds are a charitable and social organization formed in 1964 amid rumors that owner Bill DeWitt wanted to move the team to San Diego. The group was founded as a “women’s only group” (but not only women from 1967) and Rose’s name was an acronym for “Radicals Organized to Promote Interest and Enthusiasm in the Reds”.
Castellini began by noting that he only recently learned that “Rosie” was an acronym and asked if anyone else knew it. The members sighed and said they did.
— table 28 (@Kelly_Gretchen) January 14, 2023
It didn’t seem to get any better from there.
Reached Sunday, Karen Forgus, the Reds’ senior vice president of business operations, declined to comment. Major League Baseball also declined to comment.
Although it was a members-only event, Castellini’s words were tweeted by several people in attendance.
Among his words was that the ownership group ran the team as a “non-profit organization”. Rosie Reds president Sarah Matthews said that was only part of the statement, noting that she believed the overall message was that Castellini meant the team was giving any profits back to the team. Others didn’t get it from the comment.
“This team operates as a non-profit organization.”
—☃️❄️Brooke🥂🍾 (@HawkeyeBrooke) January 14, 2023
“He opened that conversation by insisting that the Reds are a non-profit organization,” said Tracy Johnson, a season ticket holder and member of the Rosie Reds. “I worked for a 501(c)(3) and was amazed, to say the least. He went down from there. He was trying really hard to defend, “hey, we’re trying, and the system is stacked against us.”
Castellini bemoaned guaranteed game contracts, asking the group: “Is anyone here getting paid not to do their job?”
Rosie Reds board member Suzanne Davis, who attended Saturday’s meeting, said she believed Castellini’s remark about guaranteed contracts was “tongue-in-cheek” and that his comments were generally misconstrued by social media.
Castellini also called Major League Baseball a “business in crisis,” citing economic disparity among franchises due to individual television deals, among other factors. Castellini presented a slide show, including a slide announcing a 75 percent increase in teams out of contention on Opening Day since 2019. For that definition, he used FanGraphs’ playoff odds; his criteria included teams listed as having a 25 percent or less chance of making the playoffs when the season begins.
— Amy (@amyeditress) January 14, 2023
The Redskins were one of those teams in 2022 and are expected to be again in 2023.
For now, Castellini said the team’s goal is to “progress” from 2022.
Guys, we will lose less than 100. “Progress”. pic.twitter.com/Uhos4ohtfA
— table 28 (@Kelly_Gretchen) January 14, 2023
According to Johnson, Castellini mentioned the team’s farm system and noted that the team had promising prospects who would one day become great Reds, then joked that they would be former Reds, saying, Johnson recalled. “Of course, we are going. to lose them.’
Johnson said Castellini also bemoans the economics of the game and what he sees as its inequity, including new rules that will allow teams to sell uniform advertising rights. While that’s, in theory, a revenue generator, in his mind it’s inequitable, as he explained that the Reds got $5 million for their ad space, while the Red Sox got $17 million.
“It was terrible. The biggest part of his presentation was his analysis of where the game is going, which is basically the regional sports networks are going to fold, and it’s not sustainable,” Johnson said. “He kind of acted like it was new information. And he said that in the next two years, the league will have an opportunity to take those rights back.”
Matthews said he was surprised to see the video, photos and tweets of Castellini’s comments.
“Overall, the feeling I got in the room was positive,” Matthews said. “Quite a few people came up to me and said they really appreciated the presentation. And even based on the question and answer (it was positive).”
Matthews said he felt online comments were limited to a small group of attendees. Several people who tweeted from the event declined to comment or did not respond to interview requests.
Johnson said most of his table was unhappy with the comments, and some of his members decided not to attend when Castellini was announced as the keynote speaker.
“It was a heated conversation,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how they could present it any other way.”
Castellini declined to comment on the incident.
The Redskins lost 100 games in 2022, just the second time a team has reached that dubious milestone in franchise history. Before the lockout that follows the 2021 season, the Redskins traded Tucker Barnhart, did not sign Wade Miley and had outfielder Nick Castellanos opt out of his contract. The Redskins were the only team not to sign a major league contract prior to the lockout. After the lockout, the team traded former All-Stars Sonny Gray, Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez, as well as reliever Amir Garrett. The Redskins opened the season 3-22 and lost 11 straight after Castellini’s comments.
At the trade deadline, the Redskins traded several veteran players, including pitchers Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle, as well as Brandon Drury, Tyler Naquin and Tommy Pham. General manager Nick Krall was praised for his moves throughout baseball, receiving what were considered impressive returns for traded players. But that resulted in an inexperienced team, coupled with injuries to key players like Joey Votto, Tyler Stevenson and Mike Moustakas.
Moustakas, who was owed $22 million in the final year of his four-year contract, $64 million, was designated for assignment and released. Moustakas was the team’s last remaining player after the 2019 season. Then-president of baseball operations Dick Williams signed Moustakas along with Castellanos, Miley, reliever Pedro Strop and outfielder Shogo Akiyama. Strop didn’t last long, Castellanos opted for free agency and a $100 million deal with the Phillies after the 2021 season, Miley didn’t declare and the Redskins bought out the final season of Akiyama’s contract in the spring.
Castellini’s opening day comments and his “where are you going?” The rhetorical question fluctuated throughout the season as the team’s attendance dropped to 1,387,947 over 79 home games. Excluding the 2020 pandemic season, it was the lowest attendance in Great American Ball Park’s 19-year history and the lowest overall since 1984. It was the fifth lowest attendance of the entire season since the team moved from Crawley Field. In 1970, the Reds drew even fewer fans than in 2021 when there were attendance restrictions due to COVID-19.
Rosie Reds, Matthews noted, had 150 more members in 2022 than in 2021, and he said membership numbers are trending in the same direction in 2023.
Rosie’s matchup with the Reds was a rare appearance for Castellini after the Opening Day fiasco. Neither he nor his father asked questions at RedsFest. Bob Castellini has often participated in fan Q&As at the team’s annual Fan Fest, held each December. Ownership was notably absent from the program this year.
(Photo of Castellini by John Minchillo/Associated Press)