1998 Cincinnati Reds season

16 09 2013

The Reds had hired Jack McKeon halfway through the 1997 season, and he stayed on as the team’s manager after some success at the end of the year.  The Reds were mediocre in the 1998 season – they weren’t the worst team in baseball, but they were never in contention.  For the first month of the season, they battled around .500, but for the 5 weeks from May 15th to June 24th, they were the worst team in baseball by quite a bit – going 9-29 in that stretch to fall out of relevance.  They were 11 games over .500 the rest of the way, primarily due to some young talent augmented by Barry Larkin and Pete Harnisch, who were easily the team’s best players.

The Reds traded closer Jeff Shaw midway through the season, and created an interesting situation in doing so.  They shipped Shaw, who had been selected to the All-Star team, to the Dodgers for Paul Konerko and Dennys Reyes.  They did so on July 4th, the day before the All-Star break.  Shaw got into the game in the 8th inning, thus he ended up pitching his first game in a Dodger uniform in the All-Star game.  He’s the only player I know of who has ever made his debut for a new team in the All-Star game.  Too bad we didn’t hold on to the Konerko guy…

In addition to Shaw, the Reds did have on true All-Star representative.  That was second baseman Bret Boone, who made the team as a reserve with 11 home runs, 51 RBI and 27 doubles at the break.  Boone ended the season on a little bit slower pace, but still hit 24 homers, 38 doubles, knocked in 95 runs and won the Gold Glove award.

As mentioned, Larkin was the team’s best hitter.  He scored 93 runs and knocked in 72, hitting .309 with 10 triples and 26 stolen bases.  Reggie Sanders was also productive, but was starting to strikeout a lot more than you’d want.  The Reds did have quite a few exciting young players.  Willie Greene again showed some promise.  They’d picked up Dmitri Young in the offseason from the Cardinals for former closer Jeff Brantley – he led the team in batting and tied Larkin for the team lead in hits.  Sean Casey was also picked up in a trade from the Indians.  Aaron Boone, Chris Stynes, Pokey Reese and of course Konerko were all players 25 and under who looked to have promising futures.

The starting pitching wasn’t very good other than Harnisch, who went 14-7 with a 3.12 ERA.  Brett Tomko did log 210 innings and posted a 13-12 record.  The bullpen was solid – Shaw certainly was a deserving all-star for his 23 saves and 1.81 ERA at the break.  The Reds were willing to let him go because they had Scott Sullivan (though Sullivan didn’t have a very good year), Danny Graves and Gabe White in the wings – plus receiving Reyes in the deal meant they got another promising young arm.

The highlight of the season may have had more to do with team history, as the Reds retired a whopping three numbers in 1998.  Frank Robinson’s number 20 was retired on May 22nd, Joe Morgan’s number 8 was retired on June 6th, and the late Ted Kluszewski received the honor for his number 18 on July 18th.

Reds Klu and Robinson retired numbers

Another interesting story was the starting lineup on September 27th of the season.  The lineup that day featured something that had never happened before and I daresay may never happen again.  Stephen Larkin played the only game of his Major League career, starting at first base and batting third behind his brother, Barry.  Bret Boone hit cleanup, playing 2nd base, with Aaron starting at third and batting sixth.  It’s the only time in Major League history that an all-brother infield was featured.  It’s kind of similar to the Alou brothers making the only all-brother outfield in 1963.  Like the Alou trio, there was one inning where all 4 came to the plate – the sixth inning.  And the youngsters starred here.  Stephen singled (the only hit of his career) and Aaron Boone homered to knock him in, which went a long way toward the 4-1 Reds’ victory.

Team MVP: Barry Larkin (.309/17/72, Silver Slugger)

Best Pitcher: Pete Harnisch (14-7/3.14/157)

Award Winners:

Larkin, Silver Slugger

B. Boone, Gold Glove

All-Stars:

Bret Boone, (and sort of) Jeff Shaw

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