How is it that in just a few weeks, Reds right fielder Aristides Aquino has went from another Reds prospect getting a shot in the big leagues to being in the same company as two Reds legends in Frank Robinson and Johnny Bench?
It’s incredible and can only happen in baseball, the most unique of all sports.
I watched Aquino play twice for the Dayton Dragons in 2015. He was nothing special that year (.234, 5 home runs, 27 RBI’s) and the only thing that stood out for me was his play in right field. I loved his arm, size and athleticism – but that was about it.
His reign of terror the last two weeks batting cleanup for the Cincinnati Reds is history in itself. Only two other Reds in my lifetime have done anything like this; Frank Robinson in 1962 and Johnny Bench in 1972.
In many ways, Robby’s 1962 season was better than his MVP year of 1961. Virtually all of his numbers were better. During the month of August, Robinson went on a power hitting binge but it was too little, too late for the defending champion Reds.
And in May-June 1972, Bench and the Reds went on a memorable road trip in which the Reds catcher was in a home run groove that propelled the Reds from third to first place. Bench clobbered home runs off a lot of pitchers, ranging from Woody Fryman to Steve Carlton and in the process, stopped all the chatter that his 1970 MVP season was a fluke.
And now Aquino?
He’s energized the Reds fan base. He wears #44, the number worn by Eric Davis. He’s kept Cincinnati within striking distance of the playoffs. (One caveat for me– they need to reach .500 before I take that seriously). In many ways, he’s taken pressure off of Nick Senzel and Eugenio Suarez. And, as a Reds fan and observer, he seems to be a likeable guy.
Sure, he’s going to cool off. Pitchers will adjust. He’ll come down to earth. But as weird as it sounds, he’s shown the capability to be able to “carry” a team with his hitting.
And he’s just a rookie. Robby was an established veteran when he went on his roll. So was Johnny Bench.
After I watched his homer against the Cardinals last night, I tried to recall a rookie who had an impact on the Reds, not just statistically, but in creating such enthusiasm among the fans.
I came up with a few names. Wayne Simpson exploded on the scene with a 14-1 record in the first half of the 1970 season. Bernie Carbo had a nice year in ’70 as well. Dan Driessen struck out in his major league debut against Rick Reuschel at Wrigley Field with the bases loaded but went on to have a solid season. There was Eric the Red, of course. Chris Sabo was a fan favorite.
But no, nothing like this guy.
Just sit back, watch, have a cold one and enjoy.
And how fitting is it that the Reds are honoring Frank Robinson by having his #20 on the uniforms this season?