FLORENCE, Ky. — A fan at Florence Mall for the Reds Caravan finale asked manager Bryan Price a simple question:
Is this the year the Reds are going to win the World Series?
“There’s no reason to think it’s not,” Price said.
That got some mild chuckles from the crowd, but Price continued.
“We have a good team,” he said. “It’s a matter of battling the teams in the National League Central. The Cubs have separated themselves from the pack. But we would love to surprise the world.”
It would be more than a surprise. It would be absolute stunner if the Reds won it all. But Price’s assessment that the team would be better pleased the fans who showed up in numbers on a snowy Sunday morning.
They waited patiently for autographs and pictures. The folks who show up at Caravan and Redsfest are the core of the fan base. They love their Reds thick and thin — and the last three years have been mighty thin.
I think they understand the rebuild. They are a patient group.
During the question-and-answer session, no one asked owner Bob Castellini why he hadn’t spent more on the free agents. Fans know those days are over for the near future.
“There were years when we put every dollar we could into the Major League payroll,” president of baseball operation Dick Williams said. “That money is now invested in player development.”
One fan did ask Williams if he was going to trade for Mike Trout.
“I like our outfield,” Williams said before nixing the idea that the baseball’s best player was coming to the Reds.
Another fan wanted to know if Brandon Phillips was going to play.
“They’re all going to play,” Price said. “Brandon is still part of our team.”
That pleased the crowd. Most of whom knew Phillips is part of the team because the Reds can’t get rid of him. He’s vetoed three trades. The crowd was also pleased to hear Williams say that there’s possibility of Bronson Arroyo returning.
Sunday’s crowd was not hard to please. Again, they are the loyal believers.
But the broader fan base isn’t as loyal or as understanding. Three straight years losing seasons has kept them away. That’s why attendance was 1.7 million in 2016, down from 2.4 million in ‘15.
That’s why this is a critical year. The Reds don’t have to shock the world, as Price alluded to.
But I think the Reds have to make progress. I think they have to get back .500 at least or the loyal believers are going to be all they have left.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.