When I originally started this blog, I wanted this section to include the best Reds players at each position. The only problem is I’m not sure I can accurately define the best players in the Reds storied franchise. My earliest memories of the Reds include guys like Danny Graves, Eddie Taubensee, and Pokey Reese. Not exactly players you would include in a “best of” discussion.
I remember very little about the 1995 team that won the division, but I was also only 6 years old. Obviously, I’ve heard about and seen highlights of the Big Red Machine and all their greatness. I’ve heard stories about the 1990 wire-to-wire team. I have even researched Ted Kluszewski (mainly because he’s always an answer during the scoreboard stumper). While these are all iconic teams and players that help make up such a rich and storied franchise, they aren’t my Cincinnati Reds. These aren’t the players or teams I think of when I think about the Reds.
Instead of ranking and talking about guys I’ve never seen play, I’m simply going to highlight some of my favorite Reds players and moments. This is what I think of when I hear the words, Cincinnati Reds:
Barry Larkin immediately makes me think of kid glove games at Cinergy Field. It seems like I went to a million kid glove games and Barry Larkin was the only guy to ever get a hit. With the “C” on his chest and his all around game, Barry embodied Reds baseball. My favorite memories of Barry include the 1999 season when the Reds won 96 games and somehow didn’t win the division and seeing Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. play on the same team.
The Mayor! One of my all-time favorite Reds players. Sean Casey had more fun playing baseball than anyone I’ve watched since. Whether he was changing his batting gloves between pitches or talking a players ear off at first base, he made the game look fun. A lot of people forget how good Casey was during his time in Cincinnati. Take a look at his career numbers with the Reds. Also, “The Mayor” is just about the best nickname going.
I have no logical explanation for liking Aaron Boone, but I absolutely loved this guy when I was growing up. Maybe it’s because he played the hot corner and I fancied myself a third baseman. Whatever the reason, I was always on my feet when Boone came to the plate. More than anything, Aaron Boone was a symbol of consistency during some brutal years in the Queen City.
I had to include one pitcher on this list. There was a stretch of about 3-4 years where I think Harang is the only Reds starter who could make it to the sixth inning. He was the ace of some of the worst Reds teams ever assembled and he took the ball every fifth day giving the team everything he had. Although he became a bit maligned during the end of his tenure in Cincinnati, you have to respect the big guy for always doing his part to help the ball club win.
Ken Griffey Jr.
The Kid. Acquiring Jr. is one of the biggest days in Cincinnati sports history. I still remember hearing the news while riding home on the school bus in the fifth grade. Ken Griffey Jr. was the best player in baseball and he was coming to play for the Reds. Obviously things didn’t go as expected during his time in Cincinnati and Griffey was never quite the same player. Regardless, he remains one of my favorite Reds ever. The swing, the persona, and the excitement every time he stepped to the plate was something truly special. My favorite memory is seeing Griffey hit his 500th career homerun while wearing a Cincinnati Reds jersey.
The Big Donkey. A lot of Reds fans didn’t like Adam Dunn, but I was certainly never one of those fans. He was one of the worst outfielders I’ve ever seen and he couldn’t run the bases very well. However, Dunn was good for 40 homers and 100 RBI’s every year. Say what you want about strikeouts, it’s tough to find a guy to consistently put up those numbers. Furthermore, Dunn hit some absolute bombs and it was always exciting to see him step to the plate. My favorite Dunn moment occurred off the baseball field when he prank called Marty Brennaman…..
He’s kind of goofy and he’s not the first player you think of when the Reds are mentioned, but he has been one of the most underrated Reds in recent history. Arroyo has gone at least 200 innings six of the seven years he’s been in Cincinnati. While he doesn’t have top of the rotation stuff, Arroyo is the veteran leader of a very good rotation entering 2013. A lot of teams would love to have Bronson Arroyo as their number four or five starting pitcher. Arroyo may get overlooked, but he’s a key cog for the Reds success. Furthermore, his performance in game two of the 2012 NLDS was a work of art.
When it’s all said and done, Votto might go down as the greatest Red ever. That is extremely high praise when comparing him to the likes of Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan, but it’s possible. Votto is a different breed of superstar who loves the analytical side of the game. I recently heard an interview with Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel, who compared Votto to Ted Williams. You know, the guy who batted .400 and is considered one of the greatest players of all time. Personally, I’ve never witnessed a player more locked in and invested in the game than Joey Votto. He’s the best player on the best team in the National League and he’s just starting to hit the prime of his career.
Bruce is one of the most talented players in the Reds organization. It’s weird to think he’s only 24 years old and still coming into his game. Bruce burst onto the scene in the early part of the 2008 season by going 15-for-26, with three home runs, three doubles, and nine singles in his first week in the big leagues. He was one of the few bright stops for a bad 2008 Reds team. Today, Bruce is a cornerstone of a Reds team seeking its first championship in 23 years. He has improved his home run and RBI total in each of his three full seasons with Cincinnati and is key member of a young core of Reds players. Furthermore, he provided the greatest Reds moment in my lifetime…..
I left off plenty of great Reds, but these are the guys who come to mind when I think about the Cincinnati Reds. They have resonated with me in one way or another while growing up and watching or listening to their games. The exciting part is seeing where this team has gone over the last five or six years and realizing they have a legitimate chance to win a Championship in the coming years. As a lifelong Cincinnati sports fan, it’s easy to get swept up in the negativity and unfortunate luck of the Reds and Bengals. It’s also important to realize when a team has the opportunity to do something special. This Reds team has the talent and the leadership to do something special. Hopefully, that will be the greatest memory of them all.