1997 Cincinnati Reds season

19 06 2013

Make no bones about it, the 1997 Reds not only underachieved, they just weren’t all that good for most of the year.  Ray Knight started the season in his second year as manager.  About the only good thing about the start of the year – the Reds got opening day back temporarily by hosting the first game of the year.  They won that game and the next, but then lost 19 of the next 31.  They reached a low point of 14-31  on May 23rd.  From there, the team did play respectably, never falling below 17 games under .500, but the team was never in contention.  Ray Knight was fired after 100 games, and replaced with Jack McKeon.  Under McKeon, they did post a winning record, climbing to 76 wins for the season and 3rd place in the division.

Injuries were a big factor – former stars Barry Larkin (played in only 73 games), Reggie Sanders (86) and Hal Morris (96) all missed significant time.  The starting pitching was below average – Brett Tomko (11-7, 3.43) was the lone bright spot in the rotation.  Looking at the team’s statistics, it’s actually hard to see how they won 76 games.

A big reason for that was closer Jeff Shaw, who saved a league-leading 42 games.  The team’s Pythagorean W-L record was actually 69 wins, so Shaw’s performance clearly helped them take some close victories.  He won the Rolaids Relief Award for his efforts.  The team also had some speed, stealing 190 bases, which easily led the majors.  Deion Sanders came out of retirement to lead the way there – he stole 56 bases which was 2nd in the league to Tony Womack.  Willie Greene was also a bright spot – the 25-year old hit 26 home runs with 91 RBI.  Brett Boone had a down year offensively, but he did set the Major League record for the best fielding percentage by a second baseman (.997).

Unfortunately for the Reds, the biggest story of 1997 may have been the number of family ties to previous generations of Reds glory.  Pete Rose, Jr. saw the only Major League action of his career in 1997 – his 2 hits in 14 at bats were 4,254 less than that of his father.  Another Big Red Machine son was on the team – Tony Perez’s son Eduardo, who did hit 16 homers and knock in 53 runs when Morris was out of the lineup.  September 2nd was the first day both guys played in the same game.  Aaron Boone made his Major League debut for the Reds in 1997, mid-June, and on the 22nd he and Brett both played in the same Major League game.

Larkin was the team’s only All-Star – he made his 9th All-Star team in 10 years, but only played 16 games after the middle of June.  As with the year before, Cincinnati had the Rolaids Relief Winner named Jeff (Brantley & Shaw) – though, both years the closer didn’t merit an All-Star game nod.

Team MVP & Best Pitcher: Jeff Shaw (4-2/2.38/74, 42 SV, Rolaids Relief Award)

Award Winners:

Shaw, Rolaids Relief

All-Stars:

Barry Larkin

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