Several Reds players appeared on the most recent ESPN Hall of 100, the networkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s list of the one hundred greatest players of all time. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s my general post on their rankings. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve previously covered Barry Larkin (#75), Ken Griffey Jr. (#35) and Pete Rose (#38). The numbers in parentheses reflect the player ranking on the ESPN list.
Tom Seaver (#22), affectionately known as Tom Terrific, is one of the greatest pitchers of all time. His greatness has been celebrated by fans and former players alike. Reggie Jackson once quipped that Ã¢â‚¬Å“blind people come to the park just to listen to him pitch.Ã¢â‚¬Â
That greatness led to induction in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 with 98.84% of the vote. He is one of only two pitchers to ever have at least 300 wins, 3000 strikeouts, and a career ERA of less than 3.00.
Seaver played for 20 seasons from 1967-1986, most notably with the Mets.Ã‚Â He won the Rookie of the Year award, two Cy Young Awards, and was elected to 12 All Star Games. While he played his best years in a Mets uniform, he also excelled as a Red.
On June 15, 1977, the Mets traded Tom Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman. The trade happened mostly because of a contract dispute between Seaver and the Mets that turned ugly multiple times. The Reds had won back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976, but they were 6 Ã‚Â½ games behind the first place Dodgers and in need of pitching help.
While the Reds finished a distant second to the Dodgers in 1977, Seaver dominated in his first half season with the Reds. He won 14 games in only 20 starts (14-3) while posting a 2.34 ERA and 2.87 FIP. Even with only 20 starts, SeaverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 4.2 WAR was by far the best WAR posted by a Reds pitcher that season (Fred Norman was second at 1.8 WAR).
One way to understand SeaverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dominance in 1977 with the Reds is to look at his ERA-. ERA- is a stat that adjusts ERA for ballpark and league. In ERA-, 100 is average and every number under 100 is a percentage point better than league average. SeaverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ERA- for the Reds in 1977 was 59, 41% better than league average.
In 1978, Seaver again put up impressive numbers. He pitched 259 2/3 innings with a 2.88 ERA (3.17 FIP). His 21.0% strikeout rate (K%) was the fourth highest in all of baseball. Seaver finished with 226 strikeouts in 1978, the last of his ten 200+ strikeout seasons.
Seaver no hit the St. Louis Cardinals on June 16, 1978. The Cardinals are evil. If you have some free time, watch Seaver dismantle the Cardinal lineup. Even with SeaverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s performance, the Reds struggled to put together a solid pitching staff. The Reds would win 92 games but finish in second place once again.
After two years of missing the playoffs, the Reds would return to the post season in 1979 behind a strong finish from Seaver. Seaver continued to outpitch the league with an 84 ERA-. While pitcher wins fail to paint an accurate picture of pitcher performance, SeaverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eleven consecutive victories in 1979 remains impressive. He also won 14 of his last 15 decisions, willing the Reds into the playoffs.
In the NLCS against the Pirates, Seaver pitched eight strong innings and left the game with the score tied 2-2. The Reds would lose in eleven innings, and Seaver would not pitch for them in the post season again.
Seaver struggled some in 1980 as his strikeout rate continued a steady declineÃ‚Â and his walk rate rose. He had a respectable 3.64 ERA based largely off holding batters to a career low .229 batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
In 1981, Seaver returned to form and recorded his lowest ERA (2.54) in six years. He went 14-2 in a strike-shortened season structured in a way that left the Reds out of the playoffs in spite of having the best record in the league. Ã‚Â He held hitters to a paltry .218 BABIP. Seaver finished second in CY Young voting that season, his highest finish as a Red.
SeaverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s biggest personal accomplishment in 1981 came on April 18 when he struck out the 3000th batter of his career. He would finish his career with 3,640 strikeouts.
Seaver struggled in 1982 and was traded back to the Mets before the 1983 season. His masterful run in Cincinnati had come to a close after 5 Ã‚Â½ seasons.
The Reds of the 1970s were known for their offense, but Seaver gave them a pitching presence lacking even in their World Series seasons. Sparky Anderson had the ultimate faith in Seaver, saying that his idea of managing was Ã¢â‚¬Å“giving the ball to Tom Seaver and watching him work.Ã¢â‚¬Â
For his career, Ã‚Â Seaver posted the tenth most WAR ever among pitchers with 98.2, 15 of those WAR coming with the Reds from 1977-1982. He also won 75 games with a 3.18 ERA during his Reds career. Reds fans may not have seen Seaver pitch in his prime, but he still produced at a high level deep into his thirties as a Red. Ã‚Â Seaver entered the Reds Hall of Fame in 2006.
Tom Seaver is known for his sustained excellence but also his will to win. He had one of the greatest pitching careers in the history of the game but seemed much more concerned about team wins than pitching accolades. In his words, Ã¢â‚¬Å“There are only two places in the league: first place and no place.Ã¢â‚¬Â