1980’s Cincinnati Reds decade

26 09 2011

After the 70’s saw the Reds have one of  best decades of any franchise outside of Manhattan (6 playoff berths, 4 pennants, 2 titles), the Reds didn’t sniff the postseason in the 1980’s.  But, that said – they certainly didn’t have a dull decade.

The early part of the decade started well.  After Joe Morgan left for Houston via free agency in 1980, only Johnny Bench, George Foster, Ken Griffey, Dave Concepcion and Cesar Geronimo were left from the Big Red Machine.  Geronimo would be traded away after the 1980 season.  The team was still very good in 1980, finishing 89-73 despite a sub-par season by Ace Tom Seaver.  Seaver bounced back to earn 2nd in the Cy Young voting the next year, and Foster was 3rd in MVP voting.  The Reds posted the best record in all of baseball, but were kept out of the playoffs by a quirky postseason set-up due to the players’ strike.

Despite all-star seasons, Foster and Griffey were traded away prior to the 1982 campaign, and the Reds suffered a 101-loss season that was the worst in the NL.  They actually won 5 fewer games than they had in the strike-shortened year before.  Seaver had another poor season, and was traded back to the Mets.  In 1983, they won 13 more games, and Mario Soto started the All-Star game after posting his third straight outstanding season.  But they still finished last in the NL West.  The highlight of the season was Johnny Bench night in September, and the slugger didn’t disappoint by knocking a home run in one of his last games at Riverfront.

In 1984 the team played well at first, but they finished with about the same record as the year before.  Two Big Red Machiners came back, though.  Tony Perez signed on as a free agent in the off-season, and prodigal son Pete Rose returned via trade in August to become baseball’s last player manager.  Rose led the team to a 2nd place finish in 1985, but more importantly he broke on of baseball’s most hallowed records.  On September 11, Rose smashed a single of Eric Show in front of the home crowd to pass Ty Cobb as the all-time hit leader.  New Red Dave Parker was 2nd in the MVP voting, and Tom Browning won 20 games and garnered runner-up Rookie of the Year consideration.

Rose played his last game in August of the next year, finishing with 4,256 hits.  He remained the team’s manager, and again led them to a 2nd place finish.  John Franco and Eric Davis emerged as budding stars – Davis became the first player with 25+ home runs and 80+ stolen bases, a feat only Rickey Henderson has matched since.  Perez retired after the 1986 season.  The next year he had a season still unmatched – he became the only player ever with 35+ home runs and 50+ steals (Barry Bonds is the only other player with 30/50).

The Reds again finished in 2nd in 1988, but they did get the honor of hosting the All-Star game (attended by yours truly).  Rose missed 30 games for shoving umpire David Pallone.  Danny Jackson won 23 games and was Cy Young runner-up, and Chris Sabo won the NL ROY.  Franco led the league with 39 saves, and Browning pitched the only perfect game in Reds history in September.  Concepcion retired after the 1988 season, though Griffey had signed back to the Reds after the All-Star break.

The next year was a rough one for the Reds.  Their season was marred by the ongoing investigation of Pete Rose involvement in gambling, and the native Cincinnatian agreed to a lifetime banishment from baseball in August.  Rob Dibble had a unique season in that he led the team in strikeouts (an incredible 141) without starting a game.

Decade MVP – Eric Davis (.275/142/413, .530 slugging, 2 AS, 2 SS, 3 GG)

Pitcher of the Decade – Mario Soto (94-84/3.37/1360 K, 3x AS)

All told, in the decade, the Reds had 25 All-stars, 2 All-Star game MVPs (Griffey, Concepcion), 1 All-Star starting pitcher (Soto), a Rookie of the Year (Sabo), 1 Rolaids Reliever of the Year (Franco),

I gave out an “award” in each write-up I did for MVP and best pitcher, here’s the breakdown of the award:

Best pitcher: Soto 4x, Franco 2x, Seaver, Browning, Jackson, Rob Dibble

MVP: Soto 3x, Davis 3x, Griffey, Foster, Parker, Jackson

Here’s my “all-decade team”:

C – Bo Diaz

1B – Dan Driessen

2B – Ron Oester

3B – Sabo

SS – Concepcion

OF – Davis

OF – Parker

OF – Kal Daniels

SP – Soto

SP – Browning

SP – Jackson

SP – Seaver

RP – Franco




8 responses

26 09 2011
Reds Card Collector

Great post! Sad that we lost Bo Diaz at such an early age…over putting up a satellite dish of all things.

26 09 2011

Yes, too young for sure. He was a solid player for the “Pete Rose Manager era” Reds.

26 09 2011
1980?s Cincinnati Reds decade « Lifetime Topps project « Feeds « Local News Feeds

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28 09 2011

I think Sabo won the National League ROY in 1988, not the MVP.

28 09 2011

Good call – that’s a copy-paste typo!

29 09 2011

I would make two changes to your all-decade team:

Sabo over Bell at 3rd.
Esasky over Driessen at 1st.

Other than that, I can’t argue with your picks!

29 09 2011

I think my initial reason for Bell was that he just played more than Sabo – who only played 2 seasons. I looked back at it, though, and Bell really only played 2 full seasons and part of 1985. So I’m amending that. Not Esasky though – he actually played more games at 3rd than at first!

Jackson was tough to put in based on one great season and little else – but that’s how bad the starting pitching was I guess!

2 10 2011

The only reason they had Esasky at 3B was so Rose could continue his march to 4192. The Reds may have even won a few pennants during those years had Esasky been the full-time 1B.

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