I know I will be thoroughly attacked for being a pessimist, but I have to write what I believe to be true: it’s going to be close, I don’t believe the Reds will win the World Series in 2015.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best collections of Redlegs that have every played in the Queen City. The Reds have hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy three times in baseball’s modern era (1975, 1976, 1990). These groups provide marking posts for the two most successful eras in the Reds history: “The Big Red Machine” (1975, 1976) and the “Nasty Boys” (1990). The maddening middle ground of the 2010-2015 Reds might go by a less prestigious era moniker: just good enough to make the playoffs but never successful enough to win a championship (perhaps a “Marquis” era?).

Would one of the Reds from years’ past be able to rescue our team from mediocrity? Let’s play a game: let’s take one player from the 1975 and 1976 World Champion teams and put them on the current roster. Who would you select?

Three rules:

  1. You can only take a player once (You can’t start Pete Rose in both left and third).
  2. No position swapping.
  3. You can only selection position players (aka “the Sparky Anderson rule”).

I thought I would provide a short summary for a few of these choices.

1975: The Rise of the Machine

Joe Morgan .327/.466/.508 (169 OPS+). Largely because of his offensive prowess, Joe Morgan would end up winning his first of back-to-back NL MVP awards in 1975. His .466 on base percentage is not a typo and helped him create 10.9 (also not a typo) wins above replacement for the Reds.

George Foster (.300/.356/.518; 139 OPS+). The Reds primary left fielder could also man all three outfield positions and cover first base in a pinch (that is, unless you think we have Jack for that). All in all, Foster was able to create 4.8 wins for the Reds in 1975.

Johnny Bench (.283/.359/.519; 140 OPS+). Perhaps you decide to replace an injured Mesoraco with this guy named Bench. He was a pretty good catcher, putting up 6.6 wins above replacement and played 140 games. His 1975 campaign was not as impressive as his 1974 campaign (7.8 WAR) largely due to a reduction in playing time.

1976: The Machine, Part II

Cesar Geronimo had the lowest on base percentage for a position player on the 1975 Reds (.327). They had six players with an on base percentage above .350, and two over .400 (with Ken Griffey clocking in at .391). Not surprisingly, that team was pretty good two years in a row.

Ken Griffey (.366/.401/.450; 140 OPS+). Ken Griffey got his on base percentage above .400 in 1976 and was able to create 4.6 wins above replacement. It would be very enticing to put him at the top of the lineup with Joey Votto hitting second. Speed also would not be a problem as he swiped 34 bags in ’76.

Pete Rose (.323/.404/..450; 141 OPS+). No Reds list would be complete with Peter Edward Rose. His 1976 was fairly typical for Rose: he led the NL in plate appearances (from 1972 to 1978, Rose would do this six of seven seasons). He played 162 games. Rose led the NL in hits, doubles, runs, and finished fourth in MVP voting. All in all, Rose would end up with 6.9 WAR that season.

Joe Morgan (.320/.444/.576, 186 OPS+). When a guy creates 9.6 wins above replacement, its hard to leave him off the short list.

There are other good choices as well, but these are five that jumped out at me. So tell me Nation, which two Big Red Machine players would you select to help the Reds escape their 30 game deficit in the NL Central?

32 Responses

  1. Jared Jernagan

    Go with Bench and Foster.
    Bench is a no-brained, and while Morgan was the better than Foster, LF is a way bigger need for the current team than 2B.

    • Jared Jernagan

      No-“brainer.” Looks like I was insulting him.

      • gaffer

        There are no bad choices. That being said, this team has one switch you could make with that one. Votto instead of Doggie on the Big Red Machine would not have been out of place, but that is really it. Even Cesar is better than Billy by far.

  2. preacherj

    You know one (of several) reason Votto leads the universe in OBP? Why pitch to him? I wouldn’t. Would Bench face the same thing in this current line up? Most likely. Of course, a Votto hitting in front of JB might change some dynamics. I go with Bench. Anytime you have the opportunity to add the best all-around player at their position hands down, I have to take that. The ability for a catcher to affect a game is tremendous. I want the best there.

  3. preacherj

    Oh, for number two……..give me Griffey. Looking at the lineup as constructed, I would love to add him in the outfield and have him on base ahead of Votto and Bench. Of course, Morgan is far superior, but that is not where we need the most help currently.

  4. per14

    I’d do Morgan in 1975. His fWAR was 11.0. That’s about a 8.5 improvement over BP. Then, Foster in 1976, who’d be about a 5-6 win improvement over this years cast of characters. (I agree catcher is a bigger need for the 2015 Reds than 2nd base, but Morgan was SO good in 1975, that I’d still take him over Bench in 1975.)

  5. i71_Exile

    Morgan and Griffey. Yes, BP still has some life left, but he’s no Morgan. Not even close. Griffey solidifies the outfield, a clear Reds weakness and I’d like to see if he could really steal 90 bases like he thought he could if allowed to run.

    Peak Morgan was so, so good.

  6. Steve Mancuso

    1. Pete Rose in left field (where he played at the start of 1975). Rose would fill the need for a lead-off hitter and solve the LF problem.

    2A. Johnny Bench at catcher, if we’re assuming Mesoraco is hurt, but not otherwise.

    2B. Joe Morgan at 2B because of the huge upgrade at the plate.

    Rose LF
    Votto 1B
    Morgan 2B
    Mesoraco C
    Frazier 3B
    Bruce RF
    Shortstop
    Pitcher
    Hamilton CF

    The top of that lineup would be the best ever.

    • kmartin

      As as close follower of the Big Red Machine I agree with the above. Pete Rose career OBP .375, Joe Morgan .392, and Joey Votto .422. They would wear out the starting pitcher. With modern managers following pitch counts so closely there would be a lot of early exits by the starting pitcher.

    • reaganspad

      I would have to go Rose, Morgan, Votto

      but what a fun thing to argue about

      • reaganspad

        meaning which MVP do you bat second

  7. Chuck Schick

    This is a very interesting piece.

    This season has proved that one great player, producing at a historic level, while surrounded by burning garbage,has very little positive impact. Two great players makes a difference, but not enough.

    Adding Votto to the 75′ Reds would make them greater….replacing whatever bag of refuse manning left field with George Foster would make the current team slightly less bad……slightly.

    The BRM presented a Sophie’s Choice of conflict for teams. Pitch around Morgan and you still have 3 guys who can beat you. Pitch around Votto and your win probability goes up.

    As Votto’s OBP has risen, the Reds record has fallen. Walk Joe Morgan and you face Perez, Bench or Foster. Walk Votto and you get a Port-O-Let at Riverfest.

  8. lwblogger2

    One player and one player only? To add to the current roster? Well, I’m in a Johnny Bench t-shirt (The engine behind the machine) because I’m going to the game tonight. I also love Joe Morgan. I like Pete Rose but am not a fanatical proponent of his like many here in Cincy are. That said, I’d take Pete as my one player and I’d play him in LF like he did during the start of the ’75 season.

  9. Steve Mancuso

    Most of you know this already – the Big Red Machine was not only a great hitting lineup, but also one of the best defensive teams. Four Reds won the Gold Glove in both 1975 and 1976 – Morgan, Concepcion, Geronimo, Bench. Strong up the middle, eh?

    Total GG:
    Morgan – 5
    Concepcion – 5
    Geronimo – 4
    Bench – 10 (!)
    Rose – 2 (in outfield ’69, ’70)

    • CI3J

      I thought many people derided the GG as nothing more than a popularity contest? Hasn’t it been proven that there is a strong bias to award the GG to players who also have had extrememly productive offensive seasons?

      • gaffer

        Look at the defensive WAR of some of those guys. Bench, Morgan and Concepcion all had 1-3 wins positive on defense each, Geronimo also is positive. Morgan actually rates out similar to BP.

      • gaffer

        Probaly should not include Pere, but he was fine given his versatility.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Look, I was just making a quick comment, busy with other stuff. Sorry I didn’t build a comprehensive case using dWAR/DRS/UZR to make the not-debatable point that Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Davey Concepcion and Cesar Geranimo were good at catching and throwing.

      • CI3J

        Wasn’t debating the point at all, just surprised you used Gold Gloves to make it.

        To me, using Gold Gloves to quantify someone’s defensive ability is like using Wins to quantify someone’s pitching ability.

        But the point is well taken, the teams of the 70’s had it all: hitting, pitching, and defense.

  10. Craig Z

    I agree with those who said Morgan. In 75 and 76, he was one of the best players of all time. Who knows what kind of numbers Votto could put up hitting in front of him.

    • per14

      I’d bad Votto behind Morgan. Whether they are 1-2, 2-3, whatever.

      • Craig Z

        I don’t think you can go wrong either way.

  11. Chuck Schick

    Joe Morgan’s ascent from being a great Houston Astro to perhaps the greatest 2B of the modern era reflects the multiplier effect great players have on great players.

    In 1971, Morgan was a 5.6 WAR player and his best teammate was 1982 Red great Cesar Cedeno at 1.9. The Astros were about a . 500 team. If a team mitigated Joe Morgans impact they won.
    The next year, Morgan was a 9.3 WAR with the following teammates:
    Bench 8.6
    Rose 6.1
    Tolan 4.9
    Perez 4.7

    Morgan and his teammates elevated each other. You couldn’t pitch around Rose because of Morgan…Morgan because of Bench….etc. Joe Morgan got on base more because of Johnny Bench….Johnny Bench had better numbers because of Joe Morgan.

    Votto’s greatness doesn’t translate to wins because the players that surround him aren’t good enough to be elevated. Every time Votto walks a pitcher is happy he gets to face an average to mediocre player. Every time Joe Morgan walked Johnny Bench came up with a runner on base.

    • gaffer

      While there is some truth here, Votto clearly translates to lots of wins, as this team had 3 playoff appearances with Votto (more than Barry Larkin)!

      Pitching has been a huge factor in this teams decline but clearly the offense has been full of holes. I submit that this team would be better off with Votto and 7 slightly better than average offensive players than no Votto and a few borderline stars. The problem is the waste of a lineup spot that has been LF, C and CF recently. Bruce also has not been able to hold down the “second best hitter”.

      • Chuck Schick

        In a perfect world, the Reds would surround Votto with a line up of good players. However, the only way to do that is pay more than they can afford for proven talent or develop talent and take advantage of the cost control associated with younger players. Votto is worth every penny paid to him, but it is reasonable for one to point out that the best 30 game stretch of his career has coincided with one of the worst 30 games periods in team history.
        Were I an opposing manager, I’d walk him every time and take my chances with everyone else. Even if his OBP were 1.000, this team wouldn’t score that many more runs.

  12. PRoseFutureHOFer

    I could talk about the BRM all day long. So many virtually unbelievable stats. One tidbit I always like to bring up: The 1976 Reds had five starters on the all star team. The 3 regulars who did not start were a hall of famer, a gold glove centerfielder who hit over .300 that season, and a rightfielder who came one hit away from winning that season’s batting title. The 1976 Reds could have literally played the American League all star team and won more than it lost.

    I wonder – does anyone else think that the 1979 team gets shortchanged when talking about the BRM? It was still the 1970s, the team still had Bench, Morgan, Concepcion, Griffey, Foster, and yet people seem to treat it as if it was a completely different team. The BRM era is not 1970-1976, it’s 1970-1979, imo.

    • Craig Z

      I think of 1981 as the last gasp of the BRM. They had the best record in baseball. Bench, Concepcion, Foster, and Griffey were still there. Driessen was on the BRM, although not as a starter. Driessen, Knight, and Collins were the direct successors to Perez, Rose, and Geronimo. The following years were a different story however.

  13. Scot Lykins

    I would have to take Rose and Bench. But would love to have Griffey and Morgan. The BRM was so Good.