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Reds owner blames media for slower than expected season ticket sales

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Whose fault is it that Reds' season tickets aren't selling as well as expected?
Whose fault is it that Reds' season tickets aren't selling as well as expected? (USATSI)

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After winning 90 games and qualifying for the postseason last year, the Reds had a very quiet offseason. They lost Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo to free agency, signed Skip Schumaker and Brayan Pena, traded Ryan Hanigan for a pitching prospect, and that's about it. They did sign Homer Bailey to a long-term extension, but he's not a new addition.

Team owner Bob Castellini told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that the team has to watch itself financially -- "We're not going to blow this franchise up by overextending ourselves ... It's never going to happen." -- and he is not happy with the way the media covered their offseason. He went so far as to say season ticket sales did not increase as much as expected because of the media coverage.

“That season-ticket number is the most important number we can generate,” Castellini said. “Sponsorships are very important. Advertising is important. But the biggest thing we concentrate on is season tickets.

“So when you guys start writing right during the caravan about money, the fact that we didn't add any guys ... well, we had all these guys hurt. We knew we wanted to sign Homer. We knew we were going to make some other commitments. It's not that we didn't look. It gets written in such a way – ‘Well, the Reds aren't doing anything' – that really does affect people buying season tickets.

“Personally, I get a little ticked off. That's life. But it's the franchise. (Chief operating officer) Phil (Castellini) and his guys are out there trying to sell 20-game packages. It hurts when (the media is obsessed with money). It came at the wrong time with the wrong emphasis. That hurts us. If you're going to write that we didn't sign anybody, at least write that we had (Johnny) Cueto, (Ryan) Ludwick and all these other guys hurt.”

Fay says season ticket sales are up compared to last year but are still short of the team's goal of 13,000 to 14,000. Attendance has increased every season since 2007, topping out at just under 2.5 million fans in 2013. The team has won 90-plus games and gone to the postseason in three of the last four years.

The Reds' local television contract is up in 2017 and the club should see a big boost in revenue when they work out a new deal. Fay says they currently receive about $30 million annually from their current deal, which isn't much compared to what teams are getting through recent agreements.

More than saying the media is the blame for the slower than expected season ticket sales, Castellini is wrong to imply that Reds' fans can't form opinions of their own. The media could have spent the winter saying letting Choo walk was a great move, but the fans can see for themselves that losing him will be a huge downgrade. This isn't rocket science.

Nothing affects ticket sales as much as winning and roster moves, and the Reds didn't do much of the latter these last five months. Not at all.

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