November 11, 1981: Reds pitcher Tom Seaver comes the closest of any Reds pitcher to win a Cy Young Award, but loses the vote tallying to Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Fernando Valenzuela by a vote total of 70-67.
Seaver (14-2, 2.54 ERA, 1.118 WHIP) and Valenzuela (13-7, 2.48, eight shut outs, league leading 180 K’s) tied with eight first place votes apiece, with Steve Carlton (13-4, 2.42, ERA) getting five first place votes, and Nolan Ryan (11-5, 1.69 ERA) receiving three. This was the year of the “split-season” as a player’s strike interrupted play halfway through the playing year. The teams did not play the full 162 game schedule (the Reds played 108), thus explaining the lower win totals for the year.
Valenzuela had a remarkable rookie year, hurling shutouts in four of his first five games and in five of his first seven games. He allowed just one run in the other two games, both complete game victories, starting the season 7-0 with an 0.29 ERA, with five shut outs and 61 strikeouts in 63 innings. From May 14 through the end of the season, Valenzuela was 6-7 with a 3.55 ERA, but the terrific start hid the slow finish and the public “Fernandomania” was at a fever pitch for most of the season.
Fernandomania overshadowed a very steady, impressive pitching performance by Seaver. Seaver was 14-2 and was difficult to hit, posting his lowest hits/nine inning ratio of his career (6.5 hits allowed/nine innings). However, he also struck out the fewest hitters per nine innings (4.7/nine innings) of his career, an unusual statistic in lieu of his legendary power pitching of his earlier days.
Seaver finished in the top four in Cy Young Award voting three times with the Reds. He finished third in the season he was acquired from the Mets (21-6 overall, 14-3 while with the Reds, league leading seven shutouts), and he finished fourth in 1979 when he was 16-6 with a league leading five shutouts. Seaver won the Cy Young three times while with the Mets and had finished in the top five twice more.
Seaver played six seasons for the Reds, going 75-46 with a 3.18 ERA with 12 shutouts. For his 20 major league seasons, the Hall of Famer was 311-205 with a 2.57 ERA. He is fourth in his career for WAR (wins above replacement) for every pitcher in baseball history and his 3640 strikeouts are sixth on the all-time list. One of Sparky Anderson’s quotes:
My idea of managing is giving the ball to Tom Seaver and sitting down and watching him work.
Here’s the link to a YouTube video from the Mike Douglas show in 1977 of a television interview with Pete Rose and Tom Seaver on the same stage.
This comes as close s you’ll find to a Rose retirement announcement. Rose made his last major league appearance as a pinch hitter on August 17th against the San Diego Padres, striking out against Padres ace relief pitcher Goose Gossage. Rose appeared in all four games against the Padres in a weekend series and went 0-10 with three strikeouts, dropping his batting average to .219. He had entered the Padres series with his highest average of the year, .229, after struggling to get over .200 for most of the year. Even his on base percentage, which had remained high through 1985 (.395), struggled to get over .320 for most of 1986.
Rose’s last hit came in an August 14 game against the San Francisco Giants when he went 3-for-4 with three singles. His last hit was as single in the eighth inning off reliever Greg Minton, hit number 4256. Rose’s last extra base hit was a double in a 5-for-5 game against the Giants on August 11th. Rose finished the season batting .219 with 25 rbis and .586 OPS (61 OPS+).
Rose trivia….he ended his career going 0-10 with three strike outs in his final four games with his last hit coming in the eighth inning of the game before his final four appearances. Rose began his career in 1963 going 0-13 with three strikeouts in his first four games before tripling off Pittsburgh Pirates starter Bob Friend in the eighth inning of that fourth game. Rose had so many lifetime at bats (14,053) that even removing the 0-23 to start and end his career doesn’t change his career batting average from .303 (it changes from .3029 to .3033).
Pacillo, a 1984 first round draft pick, went 3-3 with a 6.13 ERA for the 1987 Reds, and finished his career 4-3 with a 5.90 ERA, pitching a total of 18 major league games (seven starts). He pitched in the minors through 1990.
This trade turns out to be one of the more important trades in recent Reds baseball history. For starters, Cameron is the major player that’s flipped a year later in making the Ken Griffey Jr. acquisition from the Seattle Mariners. And, the trading of Konerko means that the Reds have indicated that Sean Casey has won the first base job breaking up the 1998 first base logjam of Konerko, Casey, Roberto Petagine, Eduardo Perez, and Dmitri Young.
A detailed review of the series of trades leading to the Reds’ decision to keep Sean Casey as their first baseman can be found here. The one update that can be made to that posting is that Konerko is still playing today and was an all-star in 2010, batting .312 with 39 home runs and 111 rbi, while the other former players are just that…former players. (Konerko had been identified as the most likely to have a short career due to health reasons….a “degenerative” hip). In 14 seasons, Konerko has compiled a .280 lifetime batting average with 365 homers and 1156 rbi (119 OPS+). For the Reds, in 26 games, he batted .219 with three home runs.
Mike Cameron was a very good player for the Reds. In fact, according to the WAR (wins above replacement) metric, Cameron was the Reds best player in 1999, the one season he played for the Reds. Cameron hit .256 with 21 homers, 34 doubles, 37 steals, 80 walks, and an OPS of .825 (105 OPS+). He was also credited with 24 more runs saved than the average player in centerfield, and he did it all for $295,000. His salary crept over $2 million the next year with the Mariners and upward from their.
Cameron strikes out a lot and that was something that the Reds’ brass did not like. Cameron has more career strikeouts than hits, with a lifetime batting average of .250 with 269 home runs and 296 stolen bases. He’s won three Gold Gloves for his play in centerfield. Drew Stubbs reminds me of Cameron, only Cameron was a better offensive player to this point, with more doubles power and Cameron draws more walks.
As for Sean Casey, the major benefactor of Konerko’s trade to Chicago, he became the “Mayor” of the Cincinnati Reds. An all-around great fellow with a great inside-out line drive to left field swing. He played eight years for the Reds and was selected to three all-star teams. He batted .305 as a Red with 118 home runs (114 OPS+). His best season was 1999, his first year as a fulltime starter, when he hit .332 with 25 homers, 99 rbi, and 42 doubles (132 OPS+). 2004 was another outstanding season when he hit .324 with 24 homers, 99 rbi, and 44 doubles (136 OPS+). Casey was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates before the 2006 season and retired after 2008. For his career, Casey batted .302 with 130 career home runs (109 OPS+). He had an outstanding 2006 World Series for the Detroit Tigers, batting .529 with two homers (1.556 OPS) in five games.