The HyperTexts

Cincinnati Reds All-Time Baseball Team, Advanced Stats and Trivia

First, I will give my personal all-time Reds team with the starters listed first in bold. Then I will provide a less subjective ranking by career WAR. An asterisk means the player in question was a member of the 1975-1976 Big Red Machine, the last major league baseball team to win consecutive World Series. The 1976 Reds were the only MLB team to go undefeated in the postseason since the interdivisional playoff system was implemented. The 1975-1976 Reds have a strong claim to be not only the best baseball team of the modern era, but the best baseball team of all time.

HOF=Hall of Fame, BA=Batting Average

C - Johnny Bench* (HOF), Ernie Lombardi (HOF)
1B - Tony Perez* (HOF), Jake Beckley (HOF)
2B - Joe Morgan* (HOF), Bid McPhee (HOF)
SS - Barry Larkin (HOF), Dave Concepción*
3B - Pete Rose*, Heinie Groh
RF - Frank Robinson (HOF .303/.389/.554/.943), Vada Pinson, Ken Griffey Sr.* (.303/.370/.434/.804)
CF - Ken Griffey Jr. (HOF), Edd Roush (HOF), Cesar Gerónimo*
LF - George Foster*, Cy Seymour, Eric Davis
SP - Tom Seaver (HOF), Eppa Rixey (HOF), Don Gullett*, Gary Nolan*, Jose Rijo, Johnny Cueto, Johnny Vander Meer, Jim Maloney
RP - Clay Carroll*, Rawly Eastwick*, Pedro Borbon*, Julio Franco, Ardolis Chapman, Ron Dibble
DH/UT - Ted Kluszewski** (.302/.357/.512/.869), Dan Driessen***
MGR - Sparky Anderson** (HOF)

* Denotes a member of the 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds
** Ted Kluszewski was a coach on the 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds and George "Sparky" Anderson aka "Captain Hook" was the manager
*** Dan Driessen was a "super sub" on the 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds, a star of the 1976 World Series at DH, and a starter at first base the following year after Perez was traded

Still playing and likely to make the all-time Reds team: Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips

High Honorable Mention: Gus Bell, Adam Dunn, Chick Hafey (HOF .317/.372/.526/.898), Noodles Hahn, Bubbles Hargrave, Bug Holliday (.311 BA), Dummy Hoy, Dave Parker, Bucky Walters, Will White

Honorable Mention: Bronson Arroyo, Jack Billingham, Rube Bressler (.301 BA), Tom Browning, Jay Bruce, Bernie Carbo, Leo Cardenas, Sean Casey (.305/.371/.463/.834), Jake Daubert (.301/.352/.409/.761), Paul Derringer, Pat Duncan (.307 BA), Todd Frazier, Tommy Helms, Ray Knight, Lee May, Frank McCormick (.301 BA), Dusty Miller (.301), Hal Morris (.305/.362/.444/.807), Randy Myers, Joe Nuxhall, Paul O'Neill, Wally Post, John Good Reilly (.289 BA), Chris Sabo, Reggie Sanders, Germany Smith, Mario Soto, Curt Walker (.303/.378/.441/.819), Dmitri Young (.304/.353/.488/.842)

Underrated: Gus Bell (slugged .454), Dave Concepción* (his stats would put him smack dab in the middle of the Hall-of-Fame shortstops along with Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Rabbit Maranville, et al), Dan Driessen* (top 25 in HR, RBI and steals), Adam Dunn (.900 OPS), George Foster* (his Reds stats were very close to those of Ken Griffey Jr.), Ken Griffey Sr.* (he "slashed" very close to Pete Rose), Noodles Hahn (he had a 2.55 career ERA and led the league in strikeouts his first three seasons), Bubbles Hargrave (.314 batting average), Bid McPhee (568 steals, 1,678 runs, 1,067 RBI), Brandon Phillips (top 10 in runs and RBI), Eppa Rixey (265 wins with a 3.15 ERA), Will White (229 wins with a 2.28 ERA), Bug Holliday (in his best season he hit .372 with 119 runs and 119 RBI), Dusty Miller (in his best season he hit .335 with 103 runs, 112 RBI and 43 steals)

Stats that may surprise you: (1) Pete Rose is #4 in RBI despite hitting leadoff most of his Reds career. (2) Dave Concepción, a great clutch hitter, had almost as many RBI as fellow shortstop Barry Larkin, despite slugging nearly 100 points lower and hitting later in the batting order. (3) Cy Seymour has the highest batting average at .332, followed closely by Edd Roush at .331 and Jake Beckley at .325. Ernie Lombardi hit .311 but did it with very little speed, having only 5 steals in 1,203 games. Just imagine what he would have hit if he'd had better legs! (4) Adam Dunn had virtually the same OBP as Pete Rose, despite a .247 batting average; Dunn is also #3 in slugging percentage at .520. (5) Dummy Hoy had a career .390 OBP and stole 596 bases, despite being deaf. (6) Wally Post slugged .498. (7) Dave Parker averaged 108 RBI in his four years as a Red. (8) Dan Driessen is in the top ten in games played. (9) When Bucky Walters was the MVP in 1939 with 27 wins and a 2.29 ERA, he also hit .325 in 130 at-bats; he was a good enough hitter to play third base for the Reds, with season highs of 415 plate appearances, 8 home runs and 56 RBI. (10) Pitcher "Red" Lucas hit an even .300 for his career as a Red. (11) John Good Reilly scored 100 or more runs five times in ten seasons.

Pete Rose is the Reds' all-time leader in games, plate appearances, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles and walks.

According to the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, Pete Rose is the #14 player of all time, Ken Griffey Jr. is #29, Frank Robinson is #36, Johnny Bench is #39, Joe Morgan is #64, Barry Larkin is #123, Ernie Lombardi is #133, Dave Concepción is #154, Vada Pinson is #184, George Foster is #189, Jake Beckley is #225, Tony Pérez is #242, Bid McPhee is #268, Ken Griffey Sr. is #494, and Cesar Gerónimo is #832.

How do the all-time Reds compare to the all-time Yankees? Quite favorably (career WAR in parens)...

C Johnny Bench (75.0), the best catcher of all time, easily over Yogi Berra (59.5), Bill Dickey (55.8) and Thurman Munson (45.9)
2B Joe Morgan (100.3), the best second baseman of the the modern era, in a landslide over Willie Randolph (65.5), Robinson Cano (58.8), Joe Gordon (57.1) and Tony Lazzeri (49.9)
3B Pete Rose (79.1), the all-time leader in games, wins, hits and hustle, over Graig Nettles (68.0), Clete Boyer (27.6) and Red Rolfe (23.5)
RF Frank Robinson (107.2) over Reggie Jackson (73.8), Dave Winfield (63.8), Roger Maris (38.2) and Bob Meusel (27.6)
SP Tom Seaver (110.5) over Whitey Ford (57.3) or any other Yankee starting pitcher

The Yankees win at the following positions:

LF Babe Ruth (183.6) in a landslide over Bid McPhee (52.4), Vada Pinson (47.7) or George Foster (43.9)
1B Lou Gehrig (112.4) over Tony Perez (53.9) although it's not a complete runaway with Perez amassing 1,652 RBI at an RBI position
RP Mariano Rivera (57.1) easily over John Franco (23.7), Clay Carroll (18.4), Randy Myers (15.1), Aroldis Chapman (11.4) and Ron Dibble (10.2)

Two positions are very close, perhaps ties:

SS Barry Larkin (70.2) in a dead heat with Derek Jeter (71.8)
CF Ken Griffey Jr. (83.6) roughly equal to Mickey Mantle (109.7) or Joe DiMaggio (78.1), although I would give the nod to Griffey with 630 homers, 1,836 RBI, 184 steals and 10 Gold Gloves

How do the teams compare? The Reds are infinitely better baserunners with Morgan (689 career steals), McPhee (568), Larkin (379), Robinson (204), Rose (198), Griffey (184) and Bench (an excellent runner for a catcher, with seasons of 11-0 and 13-2 steals versus thrown-outs). Conversely, Ruth, Gehrig and Berra were three of the all-time worst base stealers, percentage-wise, and how could any of the Yankees hope to run against Bench's cannon arm and quick release? The Reds are also clearly superior on defense with Gold Glove winners in Bench (10), Griffey (10), Morgan (5), Larkin (3), Rose (2) and Robinson (1). The Yankees have a clear defensive advantage only at third base with Graig Nettles (2). Seaver is clearly the better starting pitcher. The Yankees only appear capable of winning if Ruth and Gehrig can out-bomb the Reds sluggers, and get a lead that Rivera can hold. But Ruth's and Gehrig's stats were inflated by their era. In reality, Perez is not half the player that Gehrig was, as their career WAR suggests. And I wouldn't be surprised if George "the Destroyer" Foster was as good as Ruth, or better, if they were playing on the same field, against the same pitching and defense. I think the all-time Reds are clearly the better team, especially when considering speed, base-stealing, defense and overall excellence. All the Yankees can do is swing for the fences and pray they connect. But the Reds have just as much power, if not more when adjusting for eras, with Griffey (630 career homers), Robinson (586), Bench (389), Perez (379), Foster (348), Morgan (268), Larkin (198) and Rose (160).

I did not include Alex Rodriguez for the following reasons: (1) he made his reputation with other teams; (2) by the time he joined the Yankees it appears that he was a steroid monster; (3) he cheated, then lied about cheating and had to sit out a season. If Pete Rose can be kept out of the Hall of Fame for breaking the rules, I will keep A-Rod out of my lists for the same reason.

All-Time Reds Ranked by WAR

The first two figures below are the players' career WAR and WAR rankings; the other figures are rankings for play as Reds only. Ten 1976 Reds made the top thirty, as Dan Driessen was the top player off the bench and Ted Kluszewski was a coach. One thing I learned while compiling these stats is what great players Bid McPhee, Jake Beckley, Barry Larkin and Vada Pinson were. And what an up-and-coming star Joey Votto appears to be.

Key: BA=Batting Average, BB=Bases on Balls, GG=Gold Gloves, GP=Games Played, HBP=Hit By Pitch, IBB=Intentional Base on Balls, PA=Plate Appearances, OBP=On Base Percentage, OPS=On-base Plus Slugging, OWP=Offensive Win Percentage, PS=Power/Speed, SBP=Stolen Base Percentage, SF=Sacrifice Flies, SP=Slugging Percentage, TB=Total Bases, WAR=Wins Above Replacement , 2B=Doubles, 3B=Triples, HR=Homeruns

(#30) Bubbles Hargrave (18.6, #30 in WAR)
(#29) Dan Driessen* (20.4, #29 in WAR, #5 in SF, #9 in IBB, #9 in PS, #10 in GP, #10 in BB)
(#28) Germany Smith (21.5, #28 in WAR)
(#27) Curt Walker (21.9, #27 in WAR)
(#26) Cesar Gerónimo* (13.0, #3 in GG, #9 in IBB) and John Reilly (23.2, #26 in WAR, #2 in HBP, #9 in SB, #10 in OPS+)
(#25) Lee May (27.1, #25 in WAR)
(#24) Leo Cardenas (27.3, #24 in WAR)
(#23) Brandon Phillips (29.5, #23 in WAR, #6 in PS, #6 in HBP)
(#22) Ted Kluszewski* (32.3, #22 in WAR, #5 in HR, #6 in SP, #8 in OPS, #8 in RBI, #9 in TB)
(#21) Dummy Hoy (32.5, #21 in WAR)
-----------------------------------------
(#20) Cy Seymour (32.8, #20 in WAR, #1 in BA, #1 in OWP, #5 in OPS+, #10 in OBP, #10 in OPS)
(#19) Ken Griffey Sr.* (34.4, #19 in WAR)
(#18) Frank McCormick (34.8, #18 in WAR)
(#17) Eric Davis (35.9, #17 in WAR, #1 in SBP, #2 in PS, #5 in OPS, #7 in SP, #8 in OPS+, #8 in SB, #9 in HR)
(#16) Dave Concepción* (39.8, #16 in WAR, #1 in Defensive WAR, #2 in GG, #2 in GP, #2 in AB, #2 in PA, #2 in SF, #3 in Hits, #3 in 2B, #5 in TB, #6 in Runs, #6 in SB, #7 in RBI, #7 in PS, #8 in BB)
(#15) Joey Votto (42.6, #15 in WAR, #1 in OBP, #1 in OPS, #1 in OPS+, #2 in SP, #6 in BB)
(#14) George Foster* (43.9, #14 in WAR, #4 in SP, #6 in HR, #7 in OPS, #7 in OPS+, #9 in RBI)
(#13) Edd Roush (45.2, #13 in WAR, #2 in BA, #2 in 3B, #8 in Hits, #9 in OPS+, #9 in OWP, #10 in AB, #10 in PA)
(#12) Ernie Lombardi (45.9, #12 in WAR, #7 in BA)
(#11) Heinie Groh (48.2, #7 in HBP, #11 in WAR, #10 in OBP)
-------------------------------------------------------------------
(#10) Bid McPhee (52.4, #10 in WAR, #1 in SB, #1 in 3B, #2 in Runs, #2 in BB, #3 in Defensive WAR, #3 in AB, #3 in PA, #3 in RBI, #4 in Hits, #4 in HBP, #5 in GP, #6 in TB, #8 in 2B)
(#9) Tony Pérez* (53.9, #9 in WAR, #2 in RBI, #3 in HR, #3 in SF, #4 in TB, #6 in 2B, #6 in GP, #6 in AB, #6 in PA, #6 in Hits, #8 in Runs)
(#8) Vada Pinson (54.1, #8 in WAR, #5 in 2B, #5 in 3B, #5 in PS, #9 in PS, #7 in GP, #7 in Hits, #7 in Runs, #8 in TB, #10 in RBI)
(#7) Jake Beckley (65.1, #7 in WAR, #9 in OWP, #10 in HBP)
(#6) Barry Larkin (70.2, #6 in WAR, #1 in PS, #2 in Hits, #2 in 2B, #3 in GP, #3 in Runs, #3 in TB, #3 in BB, #3 in SB, #3 in SBP, #4 in AB, #4 in SF, #6 in RBI, #10 in HR)
(#5) Johnny Bench* (75.0, #5 in WAR, #1 in GG, #1 in HR, #1 in RBI, #1 in SF, #2 in TB, #4 in GP, #4 in Runs, #4 in 2B, #4 in BB, #5 in AB, #5 in Hits)
(#4) Pete Rose* (79.1, #4 in WAR, #1 in GP, #1 in AB, #1 in PA, #1 in Hits, #1 in Runs, #1 in TB, #1 in 2B, #1 in BB, #4 in RBI despite hitting lead-off!)
(#3) Ken Griffey Jr. (83.6, #3 in WAR, #4 in SP, #6 in OPS, #8 in HR)
(#2) Joe Morgan* (100.3, #2 in WAR, #2 in OBP, #2 in SB, #3 in PS, #4 in OPS, #4 in OPS+, #5 in BB, #10 in Runs)
(#1) Frank Robinson (107.2, #1 in WAR, #1 in SP, #2 in OPS, #2 in OPS+, #2 in HR, #4 in PS, #5 in Runs, #5 in RBI, #7 in TB)

Honorable Mention: Jay Bruce (15.2, #7 in HR), Bernie Carbo (18.4), Sam Crawford (75.1, but he played 15 years for the Detroit Tigers), Adam Dunn (16.9, #3 in SP, #3 in OPS, #4 in HR, #7 in BB), Bug Holliday (18.4, #10 in SB), Wally Post (18.3)

Capsule Bios of the 1975-1976 Big Red Machine's "Great Eight"

C Johnny Bench was the greatest catcher ever in his prime years, both offensively and defensively, and despite a plethora of injuries due to his position, he remains the Reds' all-time leader in homers, RBI and Gold Gloves (ten)
1B Tony Pérez was one of the best run producers ever, finishing with 1,652 RBI (ahead of legendary sluggers like Mike Schmidt, Rogers Hornsby, Joe DiMaggio, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew)
2B Joe Morgan was the greatest all-round second baseman ever; the 1976 NL MVP hit .320/.444/.576/1.020 with 27 homers, 111 RBI, 113 runs, 114 walks and 62 stolen bases; he also won five gold gloves
SS Dave Concepción was the most complete shortstop of his era, with speed, defense, athleticism and a potent bat for his position; he was an all-star nine times and won five gold gloves
3B Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader; in 1976 he had a banner year, batting .323/.404/.450/.854 with 215 hits, 130 runs, 42 doubles, 86 walks and 299 total bases while leading off!
LF George Foster aka "the Destroyer" was the most feared slugger of his era; in 1976 he hit .306/.364/.530/.894 with 29 homers and led all MLB with 121 RBI; he was second only to Morgan in slugging percentage
RF Ken Griffey Sr. was a .336 hitter with speed (34 stolen bases) and power (.851 OPS); in 1976 he missed the NL batting title by an eyelash and his .336/.401/.450/.851 slash line was nearly identical to Rose's
CF Cesar Gerónimo was a great defensive player with a cannon-like arm and outstanding speed; in 1976 he hit .307/.382/.414/.795 with 201 total bases and 22 steals; he also won four consecutive Gold Gloves

The 1975-1976 Reds are the only team with three of the top 40 players of all time, according to the ESPN Hall of 100, which has Joe Morgan at #18, Johnny Bench at #26, and Pete Rose at #38. To put that in perspective, they are all ranked ahead of Eddie Collins, Sandy Koufax, Nap Lajoie, Reggie Jackson, Charlie Gehringer, Cap Anson and Al Simmons. Other Reds on the Hall of 100 list include Frank Robinson at #20, Tom Seaver at #22, Ken Griffey Jr. at #35, and Barry Larkin at #75.

The Big Red Machine dominated the National League from 1970 to 1976, with a dynasty that won five National League West Division titles, four National League pennants, and two consecutive World Series in 1975-1976 while going an astonishing 14-3 (82.4%) in postseason play. The 1976 Reds remain the only major league baseball team to go undefeated with a perfect postseason since divisional playoffs began. Were the 1976 Reds the greatest baseball team of modern times? Were they the greatest baseball team of all time? I claim the answer to both questions is "yes" and intend to provide the "whys" and "wherefores" on my Great Eight page.

The 1975-1976 Reds had a star-studded starting lineup called the "Great Eight" that was the best of all time when offense, defense, baserunning and intangibles like clutch play and intimidation are considered. Members of the Great Eight collected six MVP awards, four home run titles, three batting titles, 26 Gold Gloves and 65 All-Star selections. Seven of the Great Eight made the 1976 NL all-star team. The only Reds starter who didn't make the All-Star team that year hit .307, won a Gold Glove and finished 25th in the MVP voting despite hitting eighth in the lineup! Furthermore, as I will demonstrate, the 1976 Reds were one of the best defensive and base-stealing teams of all time.

Opening Day Batting Order: Rose (3B), Griffey (RF), Morgan (2B), Bench (C), Pérez (1B), Foster (LF), Concepción (SS), Gerónimo (CF), Gary Nolan (P)
World Series Game One Batting Order: Rose (3B), Griffey (RF), Morgan (2B), Pérez (1B), Dan Driessen (DH), Foster (LF), Bench (C), Concepción (SS), Gerónimo (CF)

When George Foster and Johnny Bench are hitting sixth and seventh in your World Series lineup, followed by a potential Hall-of-Fame shortstop known for his clutch hitting, and a .307 hitter with power and speed, your team is "crazy good" on offense. It took Bench most of the 1976 season to recover from major surgery. When he rounded into form in the playoffs and World Series, the baseball world saw how formidable the Big Red Machine really was. The Reds had two of the best table setters in Rose and Griffey. They had four premier sluggers in Morgan, Pérez, Foster and Bench. They had one of the best clutch-hitting shortstops of that era, Concepción, and the "weakest" hitter on the team, Gerónimo, had an exceptional year. They had great defense and base-stealing. They had cannon arms to keep other teams from running wild. The only undefeated postseason since divisional playoffs began was no fluke. The Reds actually were that good. They were great when Johnny Bench was having a down year, for him. When Bench started hitting like the Johnny Bench who won two MVP awards with two of the all-time best years by a catcher, they became literally unbeatable.

The Reds Were Better, Top to Bottom

The Reds are one of only three teams in MLB history with four MVPs (Bench, Rose, Morgan and Foster). The other such teams were the 1939 Yankees (Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey and Joe Gordon) and the 1961 Yankees (Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard and Yogi Berra.) But in the years in question, Gehrig and Berra were on the downside of their careers. And while Gordon and Howard were good players, they were were not as dominant as any of the Reds' big four. Maris had one dominant year, hitting 61 homers in 1961, but he was not a hall-of-fame player for his career. Dickey and Berra were superior catchers, but they were not as great as Johnny Bench. Gordon was no match for Morgan at second base. Maris and Howard were RBI men who finished with 850 and 762 for their respective careers, but Perez drove in more runs by himself, and all four Reds easily exceeded those totals even though Rose and Morgan were not prototypical sluggers and were often hitting first or second in the lineup. Thus the other "big fours" really don't compare with the big four of the Reds. Furthermore, the bottom of the Reds' lineup was much deeper, without a single "weak sister" hitter. And then there are the four golden gloves at the four most critical defensive positions, and all the stolen bases with the ultra-high success rate.

Seven Reds Merit Hall-of-Fame Consideration

Pete Rose, Dave Concepción and George Foster appear regularly on lists of players not in the Baseball Hall of Fame who deserve to be there. Rose is a "no-brainer" who would have been enshrined long ago if not for gambling that had nothing to do with his on-field performance. Concepción compares favorably with a number of shortstops in the Hall of Fame. Foster was better than most Hall of Fame outfielders in his prime.

Johnny Bench leads all Hall of Fame (HOF) catchers in home runs (389), WAR (75.0), JAWS (61.0) and gold gloves (10), is second in RBI (1,376), third in games (2,158), fifth in runs (1,091) and seventh in stolen bases (68)
Tony Pérez had more RBI (1,652) than all HOF first basemen other than Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Cap Anson, Stan Musial and Eddie Murray; he ranks eighth among HOF first basemen in homers (379) and 11th in runs (1,272)
Joe Morgan ranks fourth among HOF second basemen in WAR (100.3), JAWS (79.7) and home runs (268), is second in stolen bases (689) and fifth in runs (1,650), and he won five Gold Gloves to boot
Dave Concepción would rank eighth among HOF shortstops in games; ninth in home runs, stolen bases and defensive WAR; and 11th in hits and RBI (so he definitely should belong!)
Pete Rose leads all HOF third basemen in plate appearances, at-bats, hits, singles, doubles, runs and total bases, and ranks second in JAWS (79.1)
George Foster would rank seventh among HOF left fielders in homers (348) and 11th in RBI (1,239) and slugging percentage (.480); he was the 1977 NL MVP and also finished 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 12th in the MVP voting
Ken Griffey Sr. hit .296 for his career with a .431 slugging percentage, 2,143 hits and 1,129 runs, and compares favorably with HOF outfielders George Kell, Joe Sewell, Billy Herman, Lloyd Waner, Richie Ashburn, et al.
Cesar Gerónimo does not rank with most HOF outfielders offensively for his career, but he was a great fielder and thrower, and his 1976 offensive season makes him one of the best number eight hitters of all time

If Gerónimo had been able to replicate his 1976 success over his entire career, he too would merit consideration for the Hall of Fame. If Griffey had replicated his 1976 season, he would undoubtedly be in the Hall of Fame. Ditto for Foster. In short, every member of the 1976 Reds was either a Hall-of-Famer, or would have been if he were able to repeat his successes during the 1976 season. So for that single splendid season, every member of the Great Eight was playing at a Hall-of-Fame level. If there is any justice, Rose, Foster and Concepción will soon be enshrined in Canton.

The Fearsome Foursome

At the core of the "great eight" the 1970-1976 Reds had a "fearsome foursome" of Bench, Pérez, Morgan and Rose. According to the Hardball Times Baseball Annual, this "fearsome foursome" had higher combined win shares over a three-year period of time than any other team in the last 50 years. From 1972-1973, they matched the average win shares of the 1927 Yankees and their "fearsome foursome" of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri. But there are good reasons to consider the Reds the superior team. First, the rest of the Big Red Machine were much better, as the 1927 Yankees were dreadful at catcher (Collins, Grabowski, Bengough) and weak at third base (Dugan). In his book Baseball's Ten Greatest Teams baseball historian Donald Honig said that the 1976 Reds were better at four positions (catcher, shortstop, second base and third base) than the 1927 Yankees and probably better at a fifth (left field). Second, the Reds were by far the better base-running and base-stealing team, while the Yankees had two of the worst base-stealers percentage-wise (Ruth and Gehrig). Third, the Reds were much better on defense, with four gold gloves and cannon arms up the middle, while the Yankees had a center fielder (Combs) with the worst arm in baseball history according to Bill James, and two catchers with lame arms. The primary Yankees catcher, Collins, had a psychological problem about throwing, according to his manager. (More on this later.) And while Ruth and Gehrig were undoubtedly great, the Yankees simply don't match up at the other positions: Bench was a vastly greater catcher; Morgan was a vastly greater second baseman in every respect (the Yankees' second basemen had a combined 45 errors); Concepción was much better defensively at short (Koenig committed 47 errors) and on the basepaths; Rose was a vastly superior hitter at third; Gerónimo had one of the best arms of all time in centerfield, compared to one of the worst ever. Meusel and Griffey may seem like a draw at first glance, with similar batting averages and total bases, but Meusel made 14 errors in the outfield and was far less proficient as a base-stealer. And his average was inflated by his era. Griffey is the clear winner in my book, or Foster, if we shift him over. Perhaps give half a point to Combs for his offense, and take away half a point for defense and pitiful throwing. That makes the final tally 6 1/2 to 2 1/2 in favor of the Reds. And as we will see, the same holds true with other "murderers' row" teams of the past. The Reds match up with anyone on offense and win hands down when defense and baserunning are considered. And the Reds also win on intangibles, from the dominating arms of Bench and Gerónimo, to the fiery leadership and hustle of Rose and Morgan, to the clutch bats of Pérez and Concepción, to the scowling presence of "The Destroyer" and his intimidating black bat. Click here for a detailed comparison of the 1976 Reds to the 1927 Yankees.

Bios of the Great Eight

C: Johnny Bench was the greatest catcher ever, combining hitting, power, defense, footwork, throwing, leadership, intimidation, imagination, innovation, durability and intangibles. Where others merely donned the "tools of ignorance," Johnny Baseball actually improved them. He was a baseball genius. Bench won ten consecutive Gold Gloves, two MVPs, three RBI titles, two home run titles, was an all-star 14 times, and was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot with 96.4% of the vote (the third highest ever). Bench was number 16 on The Sporting News list of the Hundred Greatest Baseball Players, and the highest-ranking catcher. ESPN named him the best catcher ever. Bench was also elected to the MLB All-Century Team as the top vote-receiving catcher, and to the All-Time Rawlings Gold Glove Team. How good was Johnny Bench? Well, he was a major league catcher and hit a home run as a teenager! At age 20, he was the NL Rookie of the Year and the first catcher ever to win a Gold Glove as a rookie. At age 22, Bench became the youngest NL MVP, leading the league with 45 home runs and a franchise-record 148 RBI. At age 24, he won his second MVP, leading the NL with 40 homers and 125 RBI. By age 24, Bench had booked two of the greatest offensive seasons ever by a catcher and had five Golden Gloves. But then a spot was detected on his lung and major surgery was required to remove it. I heard Bench speak on a sports radio show recently, and he admitted, quite frankly, "I was never Johnny Bench again." Bench also mentioned his surgeons telling him that he had the "worst shoulder" they had ever seen when they removed 30 bone chips. In 1975, he played with severely damaged cartilage in his shoulder after an early-season collision, but only missed 20 games by delaying major shoulder surgery till after the season. In 1976, he suffered with spasms due to what turned out to be a potassium deficiency, but still played 135 games. Even his mother said in an interview that his body was becoming an old man's by age 28. But he kept playing through the pain. As the years mounted, playing baseball's most demanding position, Bench's injuries also mounted: 14 broken bones, severe back pain that required hospitalization, arthritis of the chest from being hit by batted balls, surgery on the other shoulder, etc. Toward the end of his career, Bench ruefully observed: ''I've been shot with so many pain-killers that if I were a race horse I'd be illegal!'' And yet despite all his physical woes, Bench set a record by playing 100 or more games at catcher for 13 consecutive seasons. And even though he was really only "Johnny Bench" for five full seasons, he still managed to drive in 80 or more runs nine times times, to hit 10 or more home runs 15 times, and remarkably to be in the lineup nearly all the time no matter how much he was suffering. Some experts (or inexperts) claim that Mike Piazza was the better catcher because of his offense, but Bench's hitting statistics (other than batting average) are very close to Piazza's, and he had more runs, doubles, triples, walks and RBIs. Bench was also a much better and more active base stealer (over a two-year span, he stole 24 bases and was only caught twice). Defensively there was no comparison, as Bench won ten gold gloves to none for Piazza. And Bench was a pioneer of his position: one-handed catching using an oversized flex-hinged glove to protect his throwing hand, catching balls backhanded, wearing a batting helmet backwards to protect his head, etc. How good was Bench at throwing out and controlling base stealers? His manager, Sparky Anderson, said: "When we got into a tight game, we never worried about the other team running on us. They had to hit the ball to beat us. Do you realize the edge that gave us over a 162-game season?" As one sportswriter pointed out, Mike Piazza was "a likely Hall of Famer" but he lacked Bench's "off-the-chart athletic gifts." The only thing that kept Bench from owning all the important all-time catching records other than batting average was his health. But still he was the best, and second is not even close.

1B: Tony Pérez, the Reds' Mr. Clutch, was an RBI machine, with 1,652 career ribbies. He had more career RBI than Ernie Banks, Goose Goslin, Nap Lajoie, George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Rogers Hornsby, Al Kaline, Willie McCovey, Tris Speaker, Willie Stargell, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew. During the decade of the 1970s, Pérez had 954 RBI, second in major league baseball only to Bench's 1,013. Pérez was also remarkably consistent, with 14 consecutive seasons in which he had 200 or more total bases and 70 or more RBI. And he was a real "money" player. Dave Bristol said: "If there is a way to win a baseball game, Tony Pérez will find it." One of the other all-time-great RBI man agreed: "With men in scoring position and the game on the line," said Willie Stargell, "Tony's the last guy an opponent wanted to see." Pérez was also a very positive figure in the dugout and locker room. He was "always up," according to Bench. After he was traded, Reds GM Bob Howsam said: "It was the worst mistake I ever made. I didn't realize how important he was to our team." The Big Red Machine was never the same again. Sparky Anderson agreed with Howsam, saying that Pérez had been the heart and soul of the Big Red Machine. Like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Sparky Anderson, Tony Pérez is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. His full name is Atanasio Pérez Rigal.  

2B: Joe Morgan is a Hall of Famer who put together otherworldly numbers from 1972-1977; he was the best all-round player at his position in modern times, and quite possibly of all time. He won five Gold Gloves and two MVPs, was an all-star 10 times, and had an OBP of .400 or higher nine times in his stellar career. He stole 689 bases, walked 1,865 times and scored 1,650 runs. He was the first baseball player to retire with more than 600 stolen bases and a success rate of over 80%. Those are all exceptional numbers for a second baseman, in any era. And Morgan was remarkably consistent, with an OPS+ of over 100 for a remarkable 20 consecutive seasons. He leads all second basemen in times-on-base, walks and stealing efficiency; he is second in steals; third in games; fourth in at-bats (despite all the walks); fifth in runs, home runs and OBP; ninth in doubles and hits (again, despite all the walks); eleventh in RBI and OPS. And like Bench, he was selected to the All-Time Rawlings Gold Glove Team.

SS: Dave Concepción was an all-star nine times; he also won five Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. He merits consideration for the Hall of Fame, being as good or better overall than enshrined shortstops such as Phil Rizzuto, Pee Wee Reese and Ozzie Smith. There were 22 shortstops in the Hall of Fame as of 2012. Among them, Concepción ranks 8th in games, 9th in plate appearances and homers, 10th in at-bats and stolen bases, 11th in hits and RBI, 15th in slugging and 19th in average and OBP. With offensive numbers like those combined with his defensive prowess, speed and athleticism, it's hard to understand why he isn't in the HOF. Concepción's career defensive WAR of 20.9 places him in the Top 40 all-time, regardless of position, right between Honus Wagner and Graig Nettles, and ahead of defensive specialists like Ed Brinkman and Larry Bowa. Concepción also offered way more offense than most shortstops of his era. He had 2,300 hits and twice hit double-digit home runs: his 16 home runs in 1979 is the most for any National League shortstop between 1967 and 1982. He was also an accomplished base stealer who was rarely thrown out. For six years (1974-79), he was the game's best all-around shortstop. Through 1979, he had won five Gold Gloves. Then in 1980, Ozzie Smith won his first of 14 straight Gold Gloves. Smith's defensive dominance hurt Concepción's ranking, as did the rise of offensive-minded shortstops like Robin Yount and Cal Ripken Jr. Concepción was also overshadowed by the Reds' "big five" of Rose, Bench, Morgan, Pérez and Foster. Not many people know it, Sparky Anderson said, but on the Big Red Machine, the hitter with the highest success ratio with runners in scoring position was Concepción. "And as good as Ozzie Smith was defensively, Davey doesn't take a back seat to anybody," Anderson said. "Davey had a superb arm, and great, great range. And pop-ups? Oh my goodness. He loved to catch pop-ups. I told (former Reds coach) Alex Grammas, 'One of these days they are going to open the gate out in left field and Davey's going to run past the left-fielder and catch one.' He could jump higher than any man I've ever seen." So let's give honor where honor is due, and put a great shortstop where he belongs: in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

3B: Pete Rose is the all-time leader in hits, games played, plate appearances and at-bats. He is the only baseball player to play 500 or more games at five different positions (1B, 2B, 3B, RF, LF) and he was an all-star 17 times at those positions. It was Rose's versatility that allowed the Great Eight to play together, when he shifted to third base to make room in the outfield for George Foster. Rose also won two Gold Gloves despite playing musical chairs, position-wise. And while he is not usually thought of as a slugger, Rose has the most extra-base hits and total bases by a switch hitter, and he also holds the NL record for doubles. He also has more total bases than immortal sluggers like Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott and Jimmy Foxx. Hell, Rose has more than a thousand total bases more than Rogers Hornsby, Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Mickey Mantle and Mike Schmidt! Rose was also highly durable, holding the record of 17 seasons appearing in 150 or more games. And he was remarkably consistent, holding the record of 10 seasons with 200 or more hits. He was the NL rookie of the year in 1963, the NL MVP in 1973, and the World Series MVP in 1975. He finished in the NL's top 25 in batting 17 times, and in the top 25 in OBP a remarkable 20 times. At age 44, he was on base nearly 200 times, with 86 walks, a .395 OBP and eight steals while only being caught once. That year, his walks and OBP both ranked fourth in the NL. That's insane! It is absolutely ridiculous to keep Rose out of the Baseball Hall of Fame, considering some of the people currently enshrined (more on this later), so let him in too!

LF: George Foster was a five-time all-star and 1977 MVP who led the NL in home runs twice (1977-1978) and RBIs three times (1976-1978). His three consecutive RBI crowns tied a MLB record. Foster was the final piece of the "awesome eight." He was the only major league baseball player to hit more than 50 homeruns for a span of 25 years, and for a decade (1975-1984) he was the most feared power hitter in the game. During that decade he was a remarkably consistent slugger, finishing in the NL top ten in homers nine times, in RBI eight times, and in OPS seven times. He finished in the top three of the MVP voting three times, and five times in the top twelve, within a span of six years (1976-1981) in which he averaged 33 homers and 112 RBI per year. For three years (1976-1978) he averaged 40 home runs and 130 RBI at a time when such stats were unknown. Foster's main rival as the NL's chief slugger for those three years was Mike Schmidt, but Schmidt lagged considerably behind Foster with an average of 32 home runs and 95 RBI per year. Foster belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame, based on his peak years. He slugged .480 for his career, better than hall-of-famer left fielders Heinie Manush, Monte Irvin, Carl Yastrzemski, Joe Kelley, Jesse Burkett, Fred Clarke, Jim O'Rourke and Zach Wheat. Foster's 348 career homers would rank seventh among HOF left fielders, and his 1,239 career RBI eleventh. His prime years as a slugger were only exceeded by Ted Williams, Al Simmons, Joe Medwick and Ralph Kiner among the HOF left fielders. The only thing keeping Foster out of the HOF is the fact that his career was on the short side, but in fewer years he produced more than most of his left field competitors. Should he be penalized for that? And one reason Foster was a late bloomer is that it very difficult to crack a Reds outfield that from 1971-1975 included Rose, Griffey, Gerónimo, Bobby Tolan (who hit .316 and led the NL in stolen bases with 57 in 1970), Bernie Carbo (who slashed .264,.387/.427/.814 for his career), Hal McRae (a three-time all-star who slashed .290/.351/.454/.805), Merv Rettenmund (.271/.381./.406./.786) and Dan Driessen (who hit .280 or higher four of five seasons from 1973-1977, with speed and power, while moving from position to position in search of playing time). All the aforementioned players had nice careers, so the Reds outfield was a hard nut to crack, and Foster wasn't able to start regularly until Rose moved to third base in 1975. Foster’s physique was so impressive that Joe Morgan said it was surpassed only by Willie Mays’s, while Pete Rose opined that Foster was “too strong to be playing baseball. He should be hunting bears with switches.”

CF: Cesar Gerónimo won four consecutive Gold Gloves from 1974-1977. He was a stellar defender with a cannon for an arm. Ted Kluszewski, the Reds' hitting coach, said: that Gerónimo "is like a center in basketball—he intimidates you. Not only is his arm incredibly strong, it's also accurate. No one, I mean no one, runs on him." And in 1976 Gerónimo had a banner offensive year, finishing 2nd in the NL in triples (11), 5th in intentional walks (13), 6th in OBP (.382) and stolen base percentage (81.48%), 10th in batting average (.307), 16th in stolen bases (22), 20th in OPS (.795), and 23rd in slugging percentage (.414). While Gerónimo is not a candidate for the Hall of Fame, he was a damn good player. Center fielders he compares with based on his career WAR include Harry "The Hat" Walker, Albie Pearson, Mule Haas and Lyman Bostock. How good was Gerónimo on defense? Reds manger Sparky Anderson called his defense "ungodly." According to Fansided.com, Gerónimo ranks #46 among the greatest defensive outfielders of all time. He also ranks among the top 100 outfielders for career fielding percentage, tied with Don Buford and Fred Lynn at .9884, and ahead of defensive superstars like Richie Ashburn, Paul Blair, Barry Bonds, Roberto Clemente, Andre Dawson, Dwight Evans, Curt Flood, Ken Griffey Jr., Al Kaline, Kenny Lofton, Willie Mays, Kirby Puckett and Larry Walker. (By the way, in a seldom-heard fact, Pete Rose is tied for 32nd at .9911.) The list of centerfielders better defensively than Gerónimo is short and may consist of Andruw Jones and Devon White. And while sometimes fielding percentages don't tell the whole story, because slower players may not get to as many balls to make plays, that was definitely not the case with this defensive genius. I quote: "Gerónimo's arm was matched only by his uncommon grace in patrolling centerfield. His long, smooth strides allowed him to close on fly balls that most outfielders simply could not get to in time. A track coach once measured Gerónimo's stride at nine feet, nearly two more feet than that of the average runner. He excelled at making the spectacular look routine, at turning diving catches into easy outs." I think we don't hear much about Gerónimo these days for two reasons. First, Garry Maddox won eight consecutive Gold Gloves and gave Gerónimo serious competition for the crown of best defensive centerfielder. Second, Gerónimo was overshadowed by his teammates who produced more offensive fireworks. But Gerónimo hit .280 in the 1975 World Series, with two home runs and a triple, slugging .680 with 15 total bases in seven games. And he hit .308 in the 1976 World Series, slugging .462 with two doubles and two steals in six games. So he had a habit of coming through when it mattered most. In an interesting Reds trivia note, Gerónimo was the 3000th strikeout victim of both Nolan Ryan and Bob Gibson.

RF: Ken Griffey Sr. was a three-time all-star who finished as high as eighth in the MVP voting. He hit .300 or better nine times, and finished his career with more than 2,000 hits. In 1976 he had a banner year, almost winning the NL batting championship and slashing virtually even with the immortal Pete Rose. And while Ken Griffey Sr. has not been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he may deserve an asterisk of sorts, as his son Ken Griffey Jr. was elected on his first attempt in 2016, with the highest percentage of votes in baseball history, 99.32% (breaking the record of another former Red, Tom Seaver, who held the previous record with 98.84% of the vote in 1992). Ken Griffey Jr. was the first overall pick in the 1987 draft. He made it to the majors two years later as a teenager, was the AL Rookie of the Year, and always seemed destined for greatness. In 1989, Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. became the first father-and-son combination to play during the same Major League Baseball season, when Junior was called up by the Seattle Mariners while Senior was playing with the Cincinnati Reds. They became Seattle Mariner teammates in 1990. The Griffeys became the first father-and-son tandem to play on the same Major League Baseball team when they started together for the Seattle Mariners against the Kansas City Royals on August 31, 1990. In Senior's first game as a Mariner, on August 31, 1990, the pair hit back-to-back singles in the first inning and both scored. They both finished with identical stats: one hit in four at-bats with one run scored apiece. On September 14, 1990, in the top of the first against California Angels pitcher Kirk McCaskill, the Griffeys hit back-to-back home runs, becoming the first and only father-son duo ever to accomplish such a feat. The dynamic duo played a total of 51 games together before Senior retired in June 1991 at age 41. Ken Griffey Jr. who hade been a bat-boy for the Reds in his youth, later played and starred for the Reds for nine years (2000-2008). And while I will not insist that Ken Griffey Sr. should be in the Hall of Fame, he at least merits consideration, as he would rank 14th among right fielders in walks and stolen bases, 18th in games and hits, and 22nd in runs, OPS and OPS+. He is, at the very least, a contender.

Reds Records

Reds Single Season Records: Morgan .466 OBP and 132 walks in 1975. Rose 680 AB in 1973. Foster 52 homers, 149 RBI and 388 total bases in 1977. Tom Seaver .875 winning percentage and .956 WHIP in 1977.

Reds Franchise Leaders: Johnny Bench is the franchise leader in home runs, RBI, intentional walks, sacrifice flies and Gold Gloves. Pete Rose is the franchise leader in games, plate appearances, at bats, hits, runs, singles, doubles, walks, times on base, extra-base hits, total bases and runs created. Tony Pérez is second in RBI, third in home runs, fourth in total bases, sixth in games and at-bats and hits and doubles, and eighth in runs. Joe Morgan is second in steals and OBP, fourth in OPS, fifth in walks, and tenth in runs. Also, Morgan was the first player in MLB history to steal more than 600 bases and retire with a stolen base percentage above 80%. Concepción is second in games, third in hits and doubles, fifth in total bases, sixth in runs and steals, seventh in RBI and eighth in walks. Dan Driessen is tenth in games, at-bats and walks. George Foster is fourth in slugging percentage, sixth in home runs, seventh in OPS, ninth in RBI, and thirteenth in total bases. Ken Griffey Sr. is fifteenth in batting average at .303, sixteenth in runs, eighteenth in OBP and nineteenth in hits. Cesar Gerónimo is twenty-third in games.

Thus all the Great Eight and super-sub Dan Driessen show up in the top 25 rankings for the Reds franchise. The franchise rankings demonstrate that Rose, Bench, Pérez and Morgan were all-time top ten players for the Reds. The rankings also demonstrate that Foster was a premier slugger, that Concepción was a remarkably well-rounded player, and that Ken Griffey Sr. was a top 20 player. Gerónimo's defensive excellence does not show up in the offensive rankings, but the fact that he remains one of the top 25 Reds in games played demonstrates his real value as a player.

Reds General Manager Bob Howsam deserves a lot of credit for the success of the Big Red Machine dynasty. In 1971, he traded for Joe Morgan, Cesar Gerónimo and George Foster. Foster became a five-time all-star and NL MVP. Gerónimo was a great defensive center with a powerful arm, excellent speed and some pop in his bat. Morgan was a future hall-of-famer, a two-time NL MVP, and an all-star all eight years that he played for the Reds, averaging 102 runs and 51 steals per season, with a .415 OBP. Howsam also hired the then-unproven George "Sparky" Anderson as Reds manager. However, some Reds fans will never forgive Howsam for trading Tony Pérez to the Montreal Expos after the 1976 season (including this one)!

The next two big moves were up to Reds Manager Sparky Anderson. Both big moves were made in 1975. First, Sparky moved Pete Rose to third base, which allowed George Foster and Ken Griffey to both play regularly in the outfield, rather than being platooned. Then, Sparky moved Griffey to second in the batting order, which allowed Morgan to hit third. Suddenly, the Reds had three "table setters" who were on base A LOT. The three would combine for 354 runs in 1976, an average of 118 runs each. All three had OBP's above .400, led by Morgan's .444. If we determine the total "net bases" produced by the trio in 1976, by adding total bases, walks and steals, we get 446 for Morgan, 394 for Rose, and 349 for Griffey. Together, they produced 1,189 net bases. How does that compare to their main NL West challengers, the Los Angeles Dodgers? From looking at box scores, it appears the first three hitters for the Dodgers were typically Davey Lopes (265), Bill Buckner (304) and Steve Garvey (353), for a total of 922 net bases. That means the first three Reds gave their teammates 267 more chances to be driven in. It is also striking that the least productive of the three Reds, Griffey, was nearly equivalent to Garvey in net bases. So it's no wonder that the Reds finished ten games ahead of the Dodgers, even though the Reds' pitching was average for the league that year. How did the Reds compare to their main NL East competitors, the Philadelphia Phillies? Again, from looking at box scores it appears that the first three Phillies were typically Dave Cash (294), Larry Bowa (250) and Mike Schmidt (420), for a total of 964. So the Reds trio gave their teammates an advantage of 225 more net bases. And the Reds trio were not just better at setting the table. They also had markedly higher collective slugging percentages and RBIs. And they had more collective stolen bases, so they were putting more pressure on the competition in every possible way.

Credentials

One way to judge the value of a player is by how many times he makes an all-star team, how many Gold Gloves he wins, and how many times he places in the MVP voting. In the following table I "add up" such awards to determine each player's "star rating," giving two points for each all-star selection and each finish in the top 25 in the MVP voting. I have awarded ten extra points for winning the MVP and five for finishing in the top ten. To balance offense and defense, I have given two points for each Golden Glove (GG) and one point for every superior offensive season (SOS) with either a 100+ OPS or more than 162 total bases (an average of a base per game). On this scale, 0 is average, 1-25 is above average, 26-50 is a star, 50-100 is a superstar, and anything over 100 is a baseball immortal. 

(#1) Pete Rose: 1 MVP award, 15 MVP nominations with seven top tens, 17 all-star games, 2 GG, 21 SOS = 134 (immortal)
(#2) Johnny Bench: 2 MVP awards, 10 MVP nominations with five top tens, 14 all-star games, 10 GG, 15 SOS = 128 (immortal)
(#3) Joe Morgan: 2 MVP awards, 7 MVP nominations with five top tens, 10 all-star games, 5 GG, 19 SOS = 108 (immortal)
(#4a) Tony Pérez: 7 MVP nominations finishing as high as third with three top tens, 7 all-star games, 17 SOS = 60 (superstar)
(#4b) George Foster: 1 MVP award, 5 MVP nominations finishing 1-2-3-6-12, 5 all-star games, 13 SOS = 58 (superstar)
(#4c) Dave Concepción: 3 MVP nominations finishing as high as fourth with two top tens, 9 all-star games, 5 GG, 13 SOS = 57 (superstar)
(#7) Ken Griffey: 2 MVP nominations finishing as high as eighth, 3 all-star games, 16 SOS = 31 (star)
(#8) Cesar Gerónimo: 1 MVP nomination finishing 25th, 4 GG, 6 SOS = 16 (well above average)

Three interesting things to note: (1) Pete Rose nudges out Johnny Bench by virtue of six more superior offensive seasons because Rose was basically indestructible and Bench played the hardest position health-wise; (2) Pérez, Foster and Concepción are tightly bunched in positions 4a-4c; and (3) Concepción, Griffey and Gerónimo were much better players than the "weak sisters" of teams like the 1927 Yankees, the 1939 Yankees, the 1961 Yankees, and the 1998 Yankees. (Sorry, Yankees fans, but the 1976 Reds rule, with no weaknesses!)

My conclusion, after looking at the Great Eight from every possible angle, is that the Core Four were really the Superior Six, because in his prime Foster was as good or better than Pérez, and Concepción truly was a superstar shortstop for his era. And for that one magical season, Ken Griffey Sr. was about as good as Rose. Then, to top it off, Gerónimo had his best offensive season, by far, to go with his defensive excellence. I think the chart above reflects the "long-term" value of the Great Eight, but in 1976, Griffey was a superstar and Gerónimo was a star, so the team looks like this, resorted to account for 1976 performances:

(#1) Joe Morgan (immortal) MVP#1, 9.6 WAR, Gold Glove, the best player in 1976, first in OBP, slugging and OPS; second in runs, RBI, walks; third in steals and extra-base hits (all MLB)
(#2) George Foster (superstar) MVP#2, 5.9 WAR, first in RBI; second only to Morgan in slugging percentage; fourth in total bases and OPS; fifth in homers and extra-base hits (all MLB)
(#3a) Pete Rose (immortal) MVP#4, 6.9 WAR, first in games, plate appearances, hits, runs and doubles; second in total bases while batting lead-off; fourth in OBP (all MLB)
(#3b) Ken Griffey (superstar) MVP#8, 4.6 WAR, with stats almost identical to Rose's: second in batting average, fourth in runs, fifth in OBP (all MLB)
(#5) Johnny Bench (immortal), 4.6 WAR, Gold Glove, World Series MVP, first among NL catchers in runs, homers, walks and steals; second in doubles, RBI, OBP and slugging
(#6) Dave Concepción (superstar), 4.4 WAR, Gold Glove, first among NL shortstops in batting average, OBP, slugging, OPS, hits, homers and RBI; second in doubles; third in steals
(#7) Tony Pérez (superstar), 2.6 WAR, first among NL first basemen in triples, homers and extra base hits; second in runs, doubles, slugging and RBI; fourth in hits, total bases, OPS and steals
(#8) Cesar Gerónimo (star) MVP#25, Gold Glove, 2.7 WAR despite hitting eighth, first among NL outfielders in triples; third in OBP; fifth in batting average; tenth in steals

Why were the 1976 Reds so very hard to beat? They had two fantastic "table setters" in Rose and Griffey. They had a crazy-good "hybrid" slugger hitting third in Joe Morgan. If someone was on base, he led all MLB in slugging. If no one was on base, he led all MLB in OBP and was a great base stealer. So he could also "set the table" when necessary, with a walk and a steal. Next up was "The Destroyer" who led all MLB in RBI and was second only to Morgan in slugging. Then it was one of the all-time-great RBI men in Pérez. He was followed by Johnny Bench, a two-time MVP with two of the greatest offensive seasons ever recorded by a catcher. Batting seventh was Concepción, probably the best clutch hitter on the team. Then in the eight hole it was Gerónimo having his best offensive season, hitting .307 with 201 total bases. And if all that offense wasn't offensive enough, the Reds were one of the best defensive and base-running teams of all time!


All-Time Rankings

Here's an interesting fact about the Great Eight: according to Ranker, George Foster is the 23rd best left fielder of all time, Pete Rose is the 24th best left fielder of all time, and and Ken Griffey Sr. is the 29th best left fielder of all time! So the Reds had three of the best left fielders of all time, on the same team! Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Also according to Ranker, Johnny Bench is the best catcher of all time, Tony Pérez is the 22nd best first baseman, Joe Morgan is the 3rd best second baseman, Dave Concepción is 11th best shortstop, Pete Rose is the 7th best third baseman, Cesar Gerónimo is the 42nd best centerfielder, and Pete Rose is the 8th best right fielder. So according to Ranker, every starter on the 1975-1976 Reds was an all-time great, and Pete Rose was all-world at three different positions!

Based on career JAWS, Johnny Bench is the #1 catcher of all time; Pete Rose is the #2 third baseman of all time; Joe Morgan is the #4 second baseman of all time; Tony Pérez is the #28 first baseman of all time; George Foster is the #30 left fielder of all time; Dave Concepción is the #45 shortstop of all time; Ken Griffey Sr. is the #71 right fielder of all time; and Cesar Gerónimo is the #204 center fielder of all time.

Based on career WAR, Johnny Bench is the #1 catcher of all time (75.0); Joe Morgan is the #4 second baseman of all time (100.3); Pete Rose is the #7 third baseman of all time (79.1); Tony Pérez is the #27 first baseman of all time (53.9); George Foster is the #30 left fielder of all time (43.9); Dave Concepción is the #42 shortstop of all time (39.9); Ken Griffey Sr. is the #71 right fielder of all time (34.4) and Cesar Gerónimo is the #204 center fielder of all time (13.0).

According to Baseball Projection, Joe Morgan is the #19 player of all time, Pete Rose #45, Johnny Bench #52, Tony Pérez #167, George Foster #253, Dave Concepción #375, and Ken Griffey Sr. #422. By comparison, the 1927 Yankees had only three players in the top 500 (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Earle Combs). The 1961 Yankees had only two players in the top 280 (Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra) and two more in the top 500 (Roger Maris and Elston Howard). The 1939 Yankees have only one player in the top 100 (Joe DiMaggio) and four more ranked no higher than #141 (Joe Gordon, Bill Dickey, Charlie Keller, and Tommy Henrich). Once again, the Reds are clearly superior, top to bottom, with no "weak sisters."

No other team in baseball history had the 1976 Reds' quality depth from the top of the lineup to the bottom. Quite obviously, including catcher, the Reds had the greatest infield ever, with every member either in the Hall of Fame or a strong candidate. The entire Reds infield made an All-Century Team: Bench, Morgan and Rose made the official MLB All-Century Team, while Concepción and Pérez made the All-Latino All-Century Team. And in 1976 the Reds had four of the best outfielders in major league baseball: George Foster (who led all MLB in RBI), Cesar Gerónimo having the best offensive year of his career, Ken Griffey Sr. matching Rose stat-for-stat, and the immortal Rose himself. When your number eight hitter, Gerónimo, finishes 25th in the MVP voting and you have to keep Dan Driessen on the bench (he hit .300 the following year with 31 doubles, 17 homers, 91 RBI and 31 steals, slugging .468), you have an embarrassment of offensive riches. And when we consider that the 1976 Reds were also one of the very best defensive and baserunning teams of all time (something that cannot be said about the 1927, 1939 or 1961 Yankees), that pretty much clinches the debate.

Hall-of-Fame Considerations

Getting back to the Hall of Fame, should Pete Rose, Dave Concepción, George Foster and Ken Griffey Sr. be admitted, really? Yes, really. In my opinion, Rose must be in the HOF, Concepción and Foster should be in the HOF, and Griffey Sr. merits serious consideration.

The case for Rose is open-and-shut, as I will explain later on this page.

George Foster was better than most HOF left fielders in his prime, and his prime lasted a decade, so he was no flash in the pan, as I will also be glad to prove.

The case for Ken Griffey Sr. may not be as strong as the others, but he is certainly worthy of consideration. Here is a list of HOF outfielders whose stats, adjusted for eras, resemble Griffey's: Enos Slaughter, Kiki Cuyler, Earle Combs, Hack Wilson, Chuck Klein, Lloyd Waner, Richie Ashburn, Joe Kelley, King Kelly, George "High Pockets" Kelly, Billy Herman, Harry Hooper, Deacon White, Freddie Lindstrom, Edd Roush, Sam Thompson, Elmer Flick, Chick Hafey, Monte Irvin, Earl Averill, Jesse Burkett, Fred Clarke, Tommy McCarthy, Ross Youngs, Billy Southworth, Larry Doby, Buck Ewing, John McGraw, Hugh Duffy and Ned Hanlon.

Concepción was as good as most of the shortstops already enshrined in Cooperstown, and his stats prove it. In fact, I will make the case that only ten HOF shortstops had stats markedly better than Concepción's: Honus Wagner (#1, obviously), Cal Ripken (the streak), Ozzie Smith (wizardly defense), Ernie Banks (512 homers), Robin Yount (3,142 hits), Joe Cronin (1,424 RBI), Luis Aparicio (506 steals), Luke Appling (career .310 average with 2,749 hits), Arky Vaughan (slugged .453) and Barry Larkin (slugged .444). But other than slugging, Larkin's stats are very close to Concepción's, and Concepción won more Gold Gloves. Concepción compares very well with all other HOF shortstops when hitting, power, defense, athleticism, baserunning, clutch play and leadership are considered. Concepción's main problem is that he was damn good at everything and didn't stand out for one thing in particular like Smith (defensive wizardry), Ripken (indestructibility) or Banks (power). But most HOF shortstops, like Concepción, were well-rounded players. Also, Concepción is undoubtedly handicapped by the fact that he was probably the seventh best hitter on his team, even though he was the best hitting shortstop of his era. As Reds manager Sparky Anderson pointed out, Concepción was the team's best clutch hitter and a remarkable athlete, but the Roses, Benches, Morgans, Pérezes and Fosters produced more offensive fireworks and grabbed the headlines, while a truly great all-round player remained mostly in the background. In an interesting synchronicity, the day that I compiled my list of the ten HOF shortstops above, I found confirmation from an unexpected source: Bill James himself. I stumbled upon the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, which ranks players by their statistical worthiness to become hall-of-famers. Sure enough, James had ranked the ten shortstops I named higher than Concepción. But all the other HOF shortstops were ranked lower, including Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Lou Boudreau, Rabbit Maranville, George Davis, Dave Bancroft, Joe Sewell, Hughie Jennings, Bobby Wallace, John Ward, Travis Jackson, Joe Tinker, George Wright and Leo Durocher. So there are more HOF shortstops ranked below Concepción than above him. Let him in!

Let's compare Concepción to ten HOF shortstops (Rizzuto, Boudreau, Bancroft, Ward, Maranville, Jennings, Wright, Joe Tinker, Luis Aparicio and Leo Durocher). Concepción is first in home runs and RBI, second in doubles and Gold Gloves, third in hits, fourth in slugging percentage, fifth in stolen bases, and sixth in runs. And he played on championship teams that won five division titles, four pennants, and two World Series. Furthermore, if we are looking for a well-rounded shortstop, Concepción is in a select group of shortstops with at least 2,000 hits, 300 steals, 100 home runs, 950 runs and 950 RBI. The others are Honus Wagner, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Barry Larkin. Let him in!

I then decided to check my analysis of Foster against the BJHOFM. Although we didn't agree exactly, we were pretty close. We agreed that eleven HOF left fielders rank above Foster: Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, Al Simmons, Carl Yastrzemski, Goose Goslin, Ralph Kiner, Willie Stargell, Ed Delahanty, Joe Medwick, Jim Rice and Billy Williams. The monitor had three left fielders in addition to mine: Zack Wheat, Joe Kelley and Heinie Manush. But we were pretty close. And that means Foster should be in the HOF, being somewhere between the twelfth to fifteenth best left fielder of all time. Let him in!

But with Foster, I decided to dig a bit further. In reality, Foster was not all that far behind Williams, Medwick and Rice, if we consider OPS+, Slugging Percentage, Home Runs, RBI and WAR7 (the latter helps us determine how good players were in their peak seven years). Here are my conclusions (please feel free to draw your own, after examining the evidence) ...

The highest echelon of left fielders: Ted Williams (190 OPS+) and Barry Bonds (182 OPS+) ... but Bonds cheated, so in my opinion Ted Williams stands alone as the greatest left fielder of all time.

The second echelon of left fielders: Rickey Henderson (2,295 runs, 1,406 stolen bases), Pete Rose (4,256 hits, 2,165 runs), Carl Yastrzemski (1,844 RBI), Al Simmons (1,828 RBI), Goose Goslin (1,612 RBI)

The third echelon of left fielders: Ed Delahanty (152 OPS+, 1,466 RBI), Willie Stargell (147 OPS+, 475 homers, 1,540 RBI)

At this point, if we use WAR7 to determine which players had the highest peaks, including similar performance from other outfield positions, we get: Ralph Kiner (43.6), Tim Raines (42.2), Billy Williams (41.3), Joe Medwick (39.7), Jesse Burkett (37.2), George Foster (36.7), Chuck Klein (36.7), Jim Rice (36.2), Joe Kelley (36.2), Fred Clarke (36.1), Hack Wilson (35.8), Enos Slaughter (35.1), Zack Wheat (34.7), Earle Combs (34.3), Kiki Cuyler (34.9), Heinie Manush (34.7), Sam Thompson (33.2), Max Carey (32.9), Lou Brock (32.0), Edd Roush (31.5), King Kelly (31.1), Hugh Duffy (30.8), Ross Youngs (30.3), Harry Hooper (30.0), Chick Hafey (27.1), Monte Irvin (21.2), Lloyd Waner (20.3), Billy Southworth (19.8), Tommy McCarthy (18.9), Casey Stengel (17.3), Ned Hanlon (14.2)

George Foster hit 348 homers with 1,239 RBI, 126 OPS+ and a .480 slugging percentage. Those figures compare very favorably with legendary outfielders like Ralph Kiner, Tim Raines, Billy Williams, Joe Medwick, Chuck Klein, Jim Rice, Hack Wilson, Enos Slaughter, Zack Wheat, Earle Combs, Kiki Cuyler and Heinie Manush. Foster's numbers are significantly better than those of many of the other names listed above. Foster had a somewhat late start, not becoming a regular in the star-studded Reds lineup until age 27. But for a decade he was a monster hitter known as "the Destroyer." In those ten years, he was as good as just about any left fielder not named Williams, Bonds, Henderson, Rose, Yastrzemski, Simmons, Goslin, Delahanty or Stargell. And for four years, from 1976-1979, Foster was a worthy rival of any slugging outfielder.


Superior Seasons

Another way to rank the Reds is by "superior seasons" in which the players were either all-star selections, finished in the top 35 of the MVP voting, or won major awards such as golden gloves or the Rookie of the Year: Bench (14), Pérez (9), Morgan (12), Concepción (10), Rose (20), Foster (5), Griffey (3), Gerónimo (4). That's 77 superior seasons, or nearly ten per position, although it still doesn't really tell the story, because sometimes a solid run producer like Pérez or Foster can knock in 90 or more runs and get no special recognition, or a table-setter like Griffey can slash around .300/.400/.800 and get ignored, as he did a number of times.

More Esoteric Rankings from the Hall of Stats and Hall of Merit

WAE (Wins Above Excellence):

Johnny Bench (72.3, #1 catcher)
Joe Morgan (44.8, #4 second baseman)
Pete Rose (31.5, #6 third base or #6 left fielder)
Tony Pérez (14.0, comparable to Enos Slaughter, Max Carey, Nellie Fox, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, or take your pick of the HOF combo of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance!)
Dave Concepción (5.9, comparable to Steve Garvey, Harold Baines)

WWAR (Weighted WAR):

Joe Morgan (159.9, #16, #3 second baseman)
Johnny Bench (140.9, #43, #1 catcher)
Pete Rose (118.0, #5 third base or #5 left fielder)
Tony Pérez (66.0, #107, comparable to Enos Slaughter, Max Carey, Nellie Fox, et al.)

WAA (Wins Above Average)

Joe Morgan (63.2, #31, #4 second baseman)
Johnny Bench (46.5, #42, #1 catcher)
Pete Rose (28.6, #66, #5 third base or #7 left fielder)

adjWAR (Adjusted Wins Above Replacement)

Joe Morgan (100.9, #31, #4 second baseman)
Johnny Bench (88.8, #42, #1 catcher)
Pete Rose (79.6, #66, #5 third base or #7 left fielder)

adjWAA (Adjusted Wins Above Average)

Joe Morgan (63.8, #31, #4 second baseman)
Johnny Bench (57.8, #42, #1 catcher)
Pete Rose (43.8, #66, #5 third base or #7 left fielder)

All-Century Reds

Three members of the 1975-1976 Reds made the Major League Baseball All-Century Team: they were Bench, Morgan and Rose. Pérez had more RBI than any of the team's first basemenother than Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx and Eddie Murryand should have also made the team in my opinion. Pérez had 500 more RBI than George Sisler and Bill Terry, 400 more than Hank Greenberg, 200 more than Mark McGwire (who cheated), and 100 more than Willie McCovey. Obviously, Gehrig and Foxx are the top dogs at first base. But I will make the case that Pérez ranks just below Murray at number four on the list. Here's a quick comparison of their slash lines:

Eddie Murray .287/.359/.476/.836/129 OPS+
Tony Pérez     .279/.341/.463/.804/122 OPS+

That is obviously very close, but Murray gets the edge at number three because he had more hits, total bases and RBI than Pérez. After Murray, the closest competition for Pérez is Harmon Killebrew, with 68 fewer RBI and 389 fewer total bases, but a LOT more home runs. Still, what is the point of first basemen hitting home runs? To drive in runs, and Pérez drove in more. After Killebrew, the next closest competition is Willie McCovey, with 97 fewer RBI and 313 fewer total bases. In effect, Pérez was one "big" power season better than McCovey, over their careers. (And McCovey himself noted that Pérez was the man no other team wanted to see coming up to the plate with men on base!) After McCovey, the competition is really not that close. With 1,652 RBI and 4,532 total bases, Pérez has huge margins over George Sisler (nearly 500 more RBI and 700 total bases), Mark McGwire (more than 200 RBI and nearly 1,000 total bases), Bill Terry (nearly 600 RBI and 1,300 total bases), Hank Greenberg (nearly 400 RBI and 1,400 total bases) and Buck Leonard (impossible to compare). If you think home runs are the most important stat for first basemen, perhaps rank Pérez seventh after Gehrig, Foxx, Murray, Killebrew, McCovey and McGwire. But that seems silly to me, because first base is primarily an RBI position. So I would rank Pérez fourth, after Gehrig, Foxx and Murray, in a near-tie with Harmon Killebrew and both slightly ahead of McCovey. But in either case, Pérez is in the top seven first basemen. In short, Pérez is one of the most underrated baseball players of all time. And speaking of short, what about Concepción? He compares quite favorably with two members of the All-Century team:

Luis Aparicio         .262/.311/.343/.653/82 OPS+
Ozzie Smith           .262/.337/.328/.666/87 OPS+
Dave Concepción  .267/.322/.357/.679/88 OPS+

Concepción hit more home runs and had considerably more RBI; he was known for his clutch hitting with men on base. Aparicio was better known for stealing bases and scoring runs. The Wizard of Oz was of course known for his stellar defense. But all-in-all they were comparable, with different strengths, and Concepción is not far behind these "dream team" shortstops, if he is behind at all. And how about Foster, who compares favorably with a number of the "dream team" outfielders ...

Billy Williams   .290/.361/.492/.853/133 OPS+
Al Kaline         .297/.376/.480/.855/134 OPS+
George Foster .274/.338/.480/.818/126 OPS+

Ralph Kiner     .279, 369 homers, 1,015 RBI
Duke Snider    .295, 407 homers, 1,333 RBI
George Foster .274, 348 homers, 1,239 RBI

Mind you, I'm not making the case that Pérez, Concepción and Foster all belong on the All-Century team. I am simply pointing out that the Reds had six players who were true "contendahs," to quote Marlon Brando. The entire Reds infield, including catcher, was hall-of-fame caliber. Foster would rank seventh among HOF left fielders in homers, and eleventh in RBI. And in his prime years, the "Destroyer" was better than most HOF left fielders in their prime years. For three years, he averaged 40 homers and 130 RBI. For six years, he averaged 33 homers and 111 RBI. For a decade, he averaged 29 homers and 91 RBI, and that includes two seasons in which he was injured and only had around 400 at-bats. If Foster doesn't make the Hall of Fame, it will probably be because the Reds outfield was loaded with with players like Pete Rose, Ken Griffey Sr., Cesar Gerónimo, Bobby Tolan, Bernie Carbo, Hal McRae, Merv Rettenmund and Dan Driessen. (To illustrate how difficult the competition was: Rose was a baseball immortal; Griffey was a three-time all-star who slashed .296/.359/.430/.790/118 OPS+ for his career; Gerónimo won four Gold Gloves in center; Tolan twice finished in the top twenty of the NL MVP voting; Carbo slashed .264./.387/.427/.814/126 OPS+; McRae hit .300 or higher seven times; Rettenmund slashed .271/.381/.406./.786/123 OPS+; and Driessen slashed .267/.356/.411/.767/113 OPS+.) Foster didn't get much playing time until he was 26, because Pete Rose was patrolling left field and there was intense competition for the other outfield positions. When Rose moved to third, Foster quickly blossomed into a star. But in any case, how many teams can say that they had six players with legitimate Hall of Fame credentials, all playing together in their prime years? And yet the Reds can go even further than that, because Ken Griffey played like another Rose in 1976. If he had duplicated that season a few more times, he would have ended up in the Hall of Fame as well. (As I will explain, Griffey still compares favorably with a number of HOF outfielders, based on what he actually accomplished). And while Gerónimo is not a HOF candidate for his hitting, he was a defensive genius, and he too had a career offensive year in 1976. If he had been able to duplicate that one magical season, he would also have been a "contendah."

My main point is this: on the 1976 Reds, for the only time in major league baseball history, all eight starters performed like hall-of-famers. Six of the Reds duplicated their performances enough times to contend for HOF admission. Griffey came close, but may have fallen a bit short; however, his 1976 season was stellar. Gerónimo didn't hit well enough for his career to merit serious consideration, but in 1976 he did, especially if we factor in his superior defense, throwing and baserunning.

Reds All-Stars

Five Reds started in the 1976 all-star game: Bench, Morgan, Concepción, Rose and Foster. Pérez and Griffey also played. The Reds got 7 of the NL's 10 hits, scored 4 runs, and had 4 RBI in the 7-1 victory. The Reds hit .500, had a .533 OBP, and slugged .867 against the AL's best pitchers.

Reds all-star appearances: Rose (17), Bench (14), Morgan (10), Concepción (9), Pérez (7), Foster (5), Griffey (3). That's a total of 65 all-star appearances for the Great Eight alone. And there could easily have been more. For instance, Pérez had 12 seasons with 90 or more RBI, but he had major competition at first base with players like Steve Garvey (10), Willie Stargell (7), Willie McCovey (6) and Keith Hernandez (5). Concepción had similar fierce competition at short with Ozzie Smith (15), Larry Bowa (5), Bill Russell (3) and Garry Templeton (3). Foster, Griffey and Gerónimo had scads of tough competition in the outfield with Hank Aaron (21), Willie Mays (20), Tony Gwynn (15), Roberto Clemente (12), Dave Winfield (12), Andre Dawson (8), Darryl Strawberry (8), Dave Parker (7), Dale Murphy (7), Tim Raines (7), Reggie Smith (7), Al Oliver (7), Lou Brock (6), Billy Williams (6), Greg Luzinski (4), Cesar Cedeno (4), Jack Clark (4), Bobby Bonds (3) and Dave Kingman (3). The competition was so stiff that it was not unusual for players named above to finish in the top ten of the MVP voting, or even to win the MVP award, and still not make the all-star team! 

Tony Pérez definitely got shortchanged at times. For instance, in 1973 he was clearly the best first baseman in the NL, slashing .314/.393/.527/.919 with a stellar 159 OPS+ that was second only to Willie Stargell (who played outfield that year). Pérez finished seventh in the MVP voting and was in the top ten in batting average, doubles, homers, total bases, RBI, runs created, slugging, OPS and OPS+. But a non-first-baseman, Hank Aaron, was the all-star starter at first base, and the two reserves were (I assume), picked not because they were the two best first basemen in the league, but the best players on nondescript teams: Ron Fairly (.458 slugging, with a whopping 49 RBI) and Nate Colbert (.450 slugging with 80 RBI). And I believe Pérez was shortchanged again in 1980, when his stats (.467 slugging, 105 RBI) were almost identical to those of the starter, Steve Garvey (.467 slugging, 106 RBI). Ironically, this time Pérez was passed over in favor of his old teammate, Pete Rose (.354 slugging, 64 RBI). And I believe George Foster was also shortchanged in 1980, when among NL outfielders he was third in homers and RBI, fourth in walks, sixth in slugging, and seventh in OPS. There is no way that Dave Kingman (18 homers, 57 RBI, .957 career outfield fielding percentage) or Jose Cruz (11 homers, .426 slugging) should have been picked over Foster. Ken Griffey Sr. was shortchanged in 1986, when he slashed .306/.350/.492/.842 with 241 total bases and 14 steals. He easily outclassed Chili Davis, who slashed .270/.375/.416/.791 with 216 total bases and 16 steals (but was caught nearly as many times, 13). Pete Rose should have made the all-star team in 1966 when he finished tenth in the MVP voting with 205 hits, 301 total bases, and slugged .460. Rose should also have made the all-star team in 1972 when he finished twelfth in the MVP voting and led the NL in games, plate appearances, at-bats and hits, with a 134 OPS+. And Gerónimo really should have been the eighth Red on the 1976 all-star team, since he finished first among NL outfielders in triples, second in on-base percentage and fourth in batting average, with a stellar stolen base record (22-5) while winning one of four consecutive Gold Gloves at the premier defensive outfield position. Gerónimo was much better in 1976 than defensive liability Dave Kingman (.238/.286/.793 OPS), Al Oliver (another lackluster defender with only 62 runs, 61 RBI and 6 steals), Bake McBride (40 runs, 24 RBI), and catcher Steve Swisher (.236, 25 runs, 42 RBI).

I believe in correcting obvious errors, so here are my "adjusted" Reds all-star selections: Rose (19), Bench (14), Morgan (10), Concepción (9), Pérez (9), Foster (6), Griffey (4), Gerónimo (1). That's a total of 72 all-star nominations for the Great Eight, or 9 per player.

Reds Fast Facts

1976 Reds Fast Facts: All eight Reds starters had 552 or more plate appearances. The 1976 Reds still hold the franchise record for the most hits, with 1,599. The team batting average, excluding pitchers, was .291 with a slugging percentage of .444 and an OPS+ of 129. The eight starters averaged .298 with a slugging percentage of .458 and an OPS+ of 135. Amazingly, all eight Reds starters finished in the top 30 of the NL in OPS! Morgan's atmospheric OPS+ of 186 was the highest for any middle infielder after 1935. All starters other than Bench had 200 or more total bases (Bench had 183 total bases despite missing 27 games). The Reds went 13-5 against their main rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the postseason, they outscored their opponents 41-19, more than doubling the score and averaging nearly 6 runs per game. The Reds drew 2,629,708 fans to their home games at Riverfront Stadium, an all-time franchise attendance record. Joe Morgan was the NL MVP. Pete Rose won the Roberto Clemente Award. Johnny Bench won the Babe Ruth Award and was the World Series MVP.

1975 Reds Fast Facts: The 1975 Reds actually won more regular-season games, with 108. The eight starters averaged .293 with a slugging percentage of .445 and an OPS+ of 125. Bench and Pérez had better offensive seasons, with 110 and 109 RBI, respectively, and were second and third in all MLB. Bench had 6.6 WAR and was a perfect 11 for 11 on stolen base attempts. Morgan led all MLB with 11.0 WAR, .974 OPS, 169 OPS+, 145 runs created and franchise records in OBP (.466) and walks (132). Rose led all MLB in runs scored with 112, Morgan was fourth with 107, and Griffey was seventh with 95. Rose led all MLB in games played (162), doubles (47) and times on base (310), with Morgan a close second (298). Morgan led the NL in OBP (.466), Rose was second (.406) and Griffey tenth (.391). Four Reds won Gold Gloves and were among the NL top ten in defensive WAR: Gerónimo second with 2.7, Concepción third with 2.6, Morgan fourth with 2.0, and Bench eighth with 1.8. Morgan led all MLB in stolen base percentage (87.01%) with Concepción sixth (84.62%). Four Reds hit .300 or better: Morgan (.327), Rose (.317), Griffey (.305) and Foster (.300). They were followed by Bench (.283), Pérez (.282), Dave Concepción (.274) and Gerónimo (.257). Three Reds were in the NL top ten in slugging percentage: Bench (.519), Foster (.518) and Morgan (.508), followed by Pérez (.466), Rose (.432), Griffey (.402), Gerónimo (.363) and Concepción (.353).

How do the 1975 and 1976 Reds compare? Both teams were great, thanks to the Great Eight, but the 1976 team led all MLB in every major offensive category and had the advantage in hits, runs, stolen bases, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases. One big difference was that Griffey and Foster became all-stars in 1976, and Gerónimo could easily have been an all-star too. The Reds were otherworldly in 1975, then the best of all-time in 1976.

Postseason Excellence

Yes, all very impressive, you may say, but what about the postseason? How did the Great Eight perform under pressure? Well, the 1976 Reds were also the greatest post-season team of all time! They went undefeated, winning eight consecutive games (the only team to run the table since divisional playoffs were instituted).  The 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds were the first NL team to win back-to-back World Series since the 1921-1922 New York Giants, and no team has done it since. They slugged .545 as a team with a combined .914 OPS, despite facing top-notch pitchers like Steve Carlton, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Tug McGraw and Sparky Lyle. Johnny Bench hit .444, slugging .926 with an OPS of 1.390 and seven RBI in eight games. George Foster actually topped him in the RBI depart, with eight, averaging one per game. Seven Reds slugged .417 or better in the postseason, including the five hitters at the bottom of the lineup. There were no "easy outs" in this amazing lineup! In the World Series the Reds hit .313 as a team, with a team slugging percentage of .522. They were led by Bench (.533/.533/1.133/1.667 with six RBI in four games).

The 1976 Reds were superlative on offense in the postseason, as demonstrated by the bolded slugging percentages :

Bench .444/.464/.926/1.390 with 3 homers, 7 runs and 7 RBI in 7 games
Driessen .333/.412/.667/1.078 with 4 runs in 5 games
Morgan .227/.433/.500/.933 with 8 walks, 4 stolen bases and 5 runs in 7 games
Foster .308/.345./.577/.922 with 2 homers and 8 RBI in 7 games
Concepción .292/.370/.458/.829 with 5 runs in 7 games
Rose .300/.353/.467/.820 with 9 hits, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 4 runs and 3 RBI in 7 games
Gerónimo .250/.333/.417/.750 with 3 runs and 3 RBI in 7 games
Pérez .269/.300/.308/.608 with 6 RBI in 7 games
Griffey .200/.242/.267/.309 with 3 stolen bases and 4 runs in 7 games

Seven Reds slugged .417 or higher in the postseason. And while Pérez didn't have great power numbers, he still drove in six runs in seven games, which was his primary duty. The only Red who "fell off" a bit was Griffey, but he still stole three bases and scored four runs. The Reds averaged six runs per game against the best pitchers on the best teams, while more than doubling the collective score on the opposition: 41-19. In the World Series, the Reds nearly tripled the score on the Yankees: 22-8. Amazingly, Reds manager "Captain Hook" Sparky Anderson did not make a single change during the entire Series among his position players, forsaking the use of a pinch-hitter or a pinch-runner and never making a switch in either his batting order or fielding alignment. But then, the Great Eight were so great, how does one improve on near perfection? Yankee fans who came to see a dynasty in action did ... but it was the dynastic and dynamic Big Red Machine. The Yankees were overmatched at every position. Catcher Thurman Munson was the best New York performer in the World Series, hitting .529 but with only two RBI. Bench hit .533 with six RBI, so even that competition wasn't close. Bench and Foster knocked in more runs than the entire Yankees team. And to add insult to injury, the Reds out-stole an excellent base-stealing team with Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph and Roy White by a margin of 7-1. But the Yanks hadn't amassed their stolen bases against a catcher like Johnny Bench!


1976 Reds NL Rankings

#1 FA: Fielding Average
#1 AB: At bats
#1 PA: Plate Appearances
#1 H: Hits
#1 R: Runs
#1 2B: Doubles
#1 3B: Triples
#1 HR: Home Runs
#1 RBI: Runs Batted In
#1 SB: Stolen Bases (but only #7 in times caught stealing)
#1 BB: Bases in Balls (but only #12 in strikeouts)
#1 TB: Total Bases
#1 BA: Batting Average
#1 OBP: On Base Percentage
#1 SLG: Slugging Percentage
#1 OPS: On Base + Slugging Percentages
#1 OPS+: On Base + Slugging Percentages (weighted with a league average of 100)

Amazingly, the 1976 Reds also led all AL teams in every major offensive category except stolen bases (but the Reds had the highest stolen base success rate)!

1976 Reds in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game

Johnny Bench, Catcher*
Tony Pérez, First Base
Joe Morgan, Second Base*
Dave Concepción, Shortstop*
Pete Rose, Third Base*
George Foster, Outfield*
Ken Griffey Sr., Outfield
Sparky Anderson, Manager*

* = Starter
The Reds dominated the field, but had no starting or relief pitchers on the all-star team.
Reds scored four runs and drove in three, in a 7-1 NL victory over the AL.
Pete Rose hit a triple and George Foster hit a home run, both finishing with a game-high four total bases.

1975 Batting Order

The 1975 Reds won 108 games, the third highest in National League history. The Reds were great in the clutch, as 28 of those games were won in the last at-bat. They won the division by 20 games, the largest margin in the major leagues since 1906, then beat the Pirates in the NLCS and the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. But the team got off to a sluggish start: 18-19. Things changed for the better when Rose agreed to move to 3B, making room in the outfield for George Foster. Another important move was Ken Griffey batting second, replacing Joe Morgan who dropped to third. Here's the batting order that led to one of the greatest seasons in baseball history:

Pete Rose
Ken Griffey Sr.
Joe Morgan
George Foster
Tony Pérez
Johnny Bench
Dave Concepción
Cesar Gerónimo


Big Red Dynasty

The Reds had one of the longest-lived dynasties in the history of major league baseball, with winning seasons in 19 of 21 seasons from 1961 to 1981. In their two non-winning seasons, the Reds were just a few games below .500, while at their peak they averaged 100 wins for five years (1972-1976) and won two World Series titles. Obviously, not many teams have been that good for more than two decades, and with that high a peak. During this streak the Reds won seven NL West division titles, five NL pennants, and two World Series.

Here is a comparison of the Reds to other baseball dynasties that lasted more than a few "flash in the pan" years. Peak5 is the average number of wins for the team's best five consecutive year; the names listed are Hall-of-Fame caliber players who played in the field during the peak seasons and made major contributions. The names in bold are the stars of the highest magnitude.

Reds 1961-1981 (21): Peak5 100.2 Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Pérez, George Foster, Dave Concepción
Pirates 1901-1912 (13): Peak5 97.6 Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke
Dodgers 1945-1957 (13): Peak5 97.6 Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider
Orioles 1968-1980 (12): Peak5 97.8 Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell
Giants 1903-1914 (12): Peak5 97.2 Roger Bresnahan
Cubs 1903-1913 (11): Peak5 106.0 Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance
Cards 1939-1949 (11): Peak5 101.6 Stan Musial, Johnny Mize, Enos Slaughter 
Braves 1995-2005 (11): Peak5 100.2 Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones
Athletics 1968-1976 (9): Peak5 95.0 Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando
Indians 1948-1956 (9): Peak5 96.4 Larry Doby, Al Rosen
Athletics 1925-1932 (8): Peak5 101.0 Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane
Giants 1919-1925 (7): Peak5 92.2 Frankie Frisch, Hack Wilson, Bill Terry, Dave Bancroft, Travis Jackson

There were several Yankee dynasties, ruled by different stars:

Yankees 1926-1934 (9): Peak5 95.2 Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri, Bob Meusel
Yankees 1935-1943 (9): Peak5 99.6 Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri
Yankees 1946-1951 (6): Peak5 96.8 Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Charlie Keller
Yankees 1952-1964 (13): Peak5 101.0 Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Elston Howard
Yankees 1974-1980 (7): Peak5 97.8 Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Willie Randolph
Yankees 1996-2012 (17): Peak5 99.4 Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada

NOTE: Some of the dynasties above depended more on pitching than hitting; for instance, the Orioles, Giants, Cubs, Indians and Braves. But the topic at hand here is the greatest teams to take the field. The Big Red Machine was never known for otherworldly pitching, and thus depended more on position players than several of the teams listed above. For 21 years, the Reds consistently scored well above the average runs-per-game for both leagues, even after the AL instituted the designated hitter. The Reds had fourteen seasons with over 700 runs, and five over 800 (including three consecutive seasons from 1975-1977). In 1976 the Reds scored 857 runs, or 5.29 runs per game, when the average for both leagues was only 3.99. That year the non-pitcher Reds had a combined OPS+ of 129. From 1969-1980, a string of twelve years, the Reds topped 700 runs eleven times. A Reds all-star team taken from this dynasty would be: Johnny Bench, Tony Pérez, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepción, Pete Rose, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and George Foster. A comparable 1920-1940 Yankees all-star team that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig would be overmatched at catcher (Bill Dickey), second (Tony Lazzeri or Joe Gordon), short (Mark Koenig), third base (Joe Dugan or Red Rolfe) and one outfield position (the weak-armed Earle Combs). And the Yankees would be tremendously disadvantaged defensively and on the basepaths. There is no doubt that Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio were all-time great players, but the Reds were better at five positions, and Frank Robinson, Tony Pérez and George Foster would give up much less to the Yankees' big three than Dickey, Lazzeri/Gordon, Koenig, Dugan/Rolfe and Combs would to Bench, Morgan, Concepción, Rose and any of the Reds' outfielders. 

I find amusing that the 1927-1928 Yankees get so much positive press these days because of Ruth and Gehrig, but the same Yankee team was dominated by the 1929-1931 Athletics. So even in their own day Ruth and Gehrig couldn't assure their team of victory, and the 1975-1976 Reds were much deeper talent-wise than the Athletics, and were far better base-stealers and defenders. Here's how the Reds compare in career WAR with the 1929 Athletics team that outclassed the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees for three consecutive years:

Joe Morgan 100.3 vs. Jimmie Foxx 97.4 = 2.9 WAR advantage
Pete Rose 79.1 vs. Al Simmons 68.7 = 10.4 WAR advantage
Johnny Bench 75.0 vs. Mickey Cochrane 52.1 = 22.9 WAR advantage
Tony Pérez 53.9 vs. Max Bishop 37.4 = 16.5 WAR advantage
George Foster 43.9 vs. Bing Miller 28.8 = 15.1 WAR advantage
Ken Griffey Sr. 34.4 vs. Sammy Hale 12.5 = 21.9 WAR advantage
Dave Concepción 39.9 vs. Mule Haas 12.4 = 27.5 WAR advantage
Cesar Gerónimo 13.0 vs. Joe Boley 3.3 = 9.7 WAR advantage

So the Great Eight had a whopping 126.9 WAR advantage over the 1929-1931 Athletics. That argument that the superiority of Ruth and Gehrig made the 1927 Yankees "better" simply doesn't hold water, because Ruth and Gehrig couldn't defeat a team that was radically outclassed by the 1976 Reds. Yes, Ruth and Gehrig were two of the all-time greats, but they couldn't make up for teammates who were outmatched by players like Max Bishop, Bing Miller, Sammy Hale, Mule Haas and Joe Boley. So how could they overcome the much larger disadvantage posed by the far more potent Reds?

I think the 1935-1943 Yankees were actually better than the Ruthian team, and the Peak5 numbers back me up. But the highest peak for the Yankees was achieved when Mickey Mantle was in his prime and teamed up with Roger Maris for a few magical seasons. Maris was a shooting star, not an all-time great by his career numbers, but they did make quite a dynamic duo, supported by a cast that included Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Bill Skowron. But the 1961 Yankees would be overmatched by the 1975-76 Reds on defense, on the basepaths, and at catcher, first, second, short, third and one outfield position. And really, at their peaks Roger Maris and George Foster were pretty damn close. So the 1961 Yankees only have one clear winner: Mickey Mantle in center.

None of the other dynasties had four stars as good as the Reds' "core four," and as I have pointed out elsewhere on this page, Foster and Concepción stack up well against many hall-of-fame left fielders and shortstops. And no other dynastic team had seventh and eight position players as good as Griffey and Gerónimo in 1976. The Cubs have the highest Peak5 number, but that is due to superior pitching, not the hitting of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance (three of the more "challenged" offensive players in the Hall of Fame).

One of the more interesting dynastic teams is the 1919-1925 Giants, who had a whopping ten Hall-of-Fame position players, then added a 17-year-old Mel Ott in 1926, giving them eleven. Now, not all the HOF-ers were playing at their peaks for the Giants, and some seem marginal, if not questionable, based on their stats. But still, they were obviously highly accomplished players. Yet for all that talent, the Giants still had the lowest Peak5 number and the shortest reign ... go figure! The HOF-ers were Frankie Frisch, Bill Terry, Hack Wilson, Dave Bancroft, Travis Jackson, Ross Youngs, Freddie Lindstrom, High Pockets Kelly, Billy Southworth and Casey Stengel. Amazingly, two more Giants were of similar caliber: Irish Meusel and Heinie Groh. But none of them played for the Giants at the level of Morgan, Bench, Rose, Pérez and Foster in their primes.

Reds Chronology: A Brief History of the Big Red Machine

It bears noting that many great Reds players were "homegrown" talents developed and nurtured by the Reds farm system, which was directed by Sheldon "Chief" Bender from 1967-1988. Another important cog in the Big Red Machine was Joe Bowen, the Reds' director of scouting from 1967-1982. (His brother Rex Bowen was the head scout in the field.) Along with Bob Howsam and Dick Wagner, Chief Bender and Joe Bowen formed a managerial "big four" who helped assemble the Big Red Machine as the chronology below indicates ...

Keys: AS=All-Star, GG=Golden Glove, MVP=Most Valuable Player, RoY=Rookie of the Year

1956 Frank Robinson (age 20): HOF, MVP(2), AS(12), RoY, 586 home runs, 1,812 RBI, #1 WAR 107.2, 154 OPS+
1958 Vada Pinson (age 19): AS(2), GG(1), 2,757 hits, 256 home runs, 305 steals, #5 WAR 54.1, 111 OPS+
1963 Pete Rose (age 22): HOF*, MVP(1), AS(17), GG(2), RoY, #3 WAR 79.1, #1 in games, at-bats, hits, times-on-base
1964 Tony Perez (age 22): HOF
, AS(7), 379 homer runs, 1,652 RBI, #6 WAR 53.9, 122 OPS+
1965 Bernie Carbo is drafted ahead of Johnny Bench by the Reds!
1965 Lee May (age 22): AS(3), 354 home runs, 1,244 RBI, #11 WAR 27.1, 116 OPS+
1966 Tommy Helms (age 25): AS(2), GG(2), 1,342 hits, 414 runs, 79 OPS+
1968 Johnny Bench (age 20): HOF, MVP(2), AS(14), GG(10), RoY, 389 home runs, 1,376 RBI, #4 WAR 75.0, 126 OPS+
1969 Bobby Tolan (age 23): 1,121 hits, 193 stolen bases, 95 OPS+
1969 The Reds are given the nickname "Big Red Machine" by a Cincinnati Enquirer sportswriter, Bob Hertzel
1970 Dave Concepcion (age 22): AS(9), GG(5), 2,326 hits, 993 runs, 321 stolen bases, #8 WAR 39.8
1971 George Foster (age 22): MVP(1), AS(5), 348 home runs, 1,239 RBI, #7 WAR 43.9, 126 OPS+
1971 The Reds trade all-stars Lee May and Tommy Helms for Joe Morgan and Cesar Geronimo; Reds fans are aghast!
1977 Tony Perez is traded to Montreal Expos (the Big Red Machine loses its first major cog); Tom Seaver is traded to Reds
1979 Pete Rose joins the Phillies as a free agent with a record $3.2 million deal; Rose at age 38 leads the NL in OBP
1980 Joe Morgan returns to Houston where he leads the Astros to first in the NL West over the Reds at 89-73
1980 Pete Rose leads the Phillies to their first World Series win, playing 162 games at age 39 and leading the NL in doubles

Please click here for an expanded Big Red Machine Chronology


Related Pages: All-Time Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team, The Greatest Baseball Infields of All Time, Cincinnati Reds Trivia, Is Mike Trout the GOAT?, Best Baseball Nicknames, Weird Baseball Facts and Trivia, Baseball Hall of Fame: The Best Candidates


The HyperTexts