1999 Cincinnati Reds season

9 12 2013

In April 1999, an era of sorts ended in Cincinnati – Marge Schott sold her interest in the team to Carl Linder, a Cincinnati businessman best known for (among many other interests) founding United Dairy Farmers, a popular regional ice cream / convenience store throughout the Midwest.  Schott was just coming off of a 2-year ban from running daily operations, and faced an ouster from the minority owners.

Greg Vaughn 1999 Reds

This coincided with an interesting change in a clubhouse rule.  The Reds had instituted a policy against facial hair since the late 1960’s, and only Schott had the authority to reverse it.  She did so in February, a little before relinquishing control, basically after the team traded for Greg Vaughn and he lobbied to keep his goattee.  The Reds made a number of other moves before the 1999 season.  To make room for prospect Pokey Reese, they traded Bret Boone to Atlanta for Denny Neagle and Michael Tucker.  They traded Paul Konerko to the White Sox for Michael Tucker.  437 Konerko homers later, I’m not sure this was the best trade.

The Vaughn trade was a good one – he became an excellent clubhouse presence and hit 45 home runs.  He helped the Reds to their best season in 4 years, as the club totaled 96 wins.  They started off slow in April, but played great ball in May and June to take a surprise lead in the NL Central 3 months into the season.  As is often the case with the Reds, they did so with a very good offense, a solid bullpen, and a bit of creativity with the starting rotation.

Only Pete Harnisch started more than 30 games, going 16-10 to lead the staff.  Five other Reds pitchers started between 19 and 26 games, with the best of those pitchers being a surprising Steve Harris (11-4 in 21 starts).  Danny Graves (27 saves), Scott Williamson (107 strikeouts in 62 games and an All-Star nod), and Scott Sullivan led a bullpen that may have been the best in the National League.

The offense was stellar.  Vaughn led the way with 45 homers and 118 RBI, but Sean Casey may have been the team’s best hitter – he hit .323 with 25 HR and 99 RBI.  Eddie Taubensee was solid from the catcher spot – he hit 29 homers and batted over .300. Barry Larkin started another All-Star game and scored 108 runs, and Reese, Cameron Dmitri Young and Aaron Boone were all solid.

The Reds were nipping at the heels of the division leading Astros for most of the season – somewhere between 1 and 3 games back after the All-Star break.  Unfortunately, they were about the same distance behind the wild-card leading Mets for most of that time as well.  In late September, though, the Reds got hot and the Mets faltered, and they caught New York on September 25th and passed them the next day.  They pulled even with the Astros (even passing them for 1 day).

Going into the final weekend, the Reds had a 2-game lead on the Mets and were tied with Houston for the division.  Unfortunately, they lost the next 2 to lowly Milwaukee, Houston split and the Mets won both games to make up the ground.  The Reds had a bit of bad luck on the last day of the season.  Houston easily dispatched the Dodgers to take the division title, but the Mets were in a close game with Pittsburgh.  They won the game on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 9th to put the Reds in a do-or-die situation.  Unfortunately, it was raining in Milwaukee, and the 5:45 rain delay meant they didn’t start the game until 9 PM Sunday night.  The Reds won their 96th game easily behind Harnisch, 7-1, but they had to take a red-eye back to Cincinnati to host the Mets in game #163.  They had Al Leiter on the hill, we had Steve Parris – and Leiter shut down the young Reds lineup.  He threw a complete game shutout, allowing only 2 hits to seal the Mets’ playoff berth.

Team MVP: Sean Casey (.332/25/99)

Best Pitcher: Scott Williamson (12-7/2.41/107, 19 SV)

Award Winners:

Barry Larkin, Silver Slugger

Pokey Reese, Gold Glove

All-Stars:

Larkin, Casey, Williamson

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