The virtual 1962-69 Cincinnati Reds (Part 2)

Last time, we identified four transactions executed by the Cincinnati Reds between 1961 and 1965 that were questionable in concept, and would prove highly regrettable. So we cancelled them (as well as several subsequent deals whose cancellations would logically flow), and this time we’ll find out just how differently things would likely have gone for the Reds over the course of the decade.

1962

The initial trade we erased was the puzzling autumn 1961 pitcher swap of Claude Osteen for Dave Sisler. Keeping the 22-year-old Osteen in place of the 30-year-old Sisler would not only pay off handsomely for the Reds in the long run, but would yield dividends as soon as 1962.

Sisler was of modest use that year, contributing just 44 innings of so-so effectiveness in mop-up relief. The developing Osteen would be entirely capable of handling that and more. It isn’t realistic for us to imagine Osteen working his way into the Cincinnati starting rotation as he did with the cellar-dwelling 1962 Washington Senators, but it’s quite plausible to picture him taking innings away from three pitchers—Johnny Klippstein, Moe Drabowsky and Ted Wills—who struggled to one degree or another in long relief/spot starting work for the ’62 Reds.

The net effect would be an improvement in the staff, not to a dramatic extent, but not insignificant. Whether the improvement would be enough to nudge the Reds ahead of the Giants and Dodgers, who finished the regular season tied for first, just three games ahead of the late-charging third-place Reds, is a good question. We’ll err on the side of conservatism and say no, but at any rate, with Osteen in Cincinnati, the 1962 National League pennant race—well-remembered as an all-time classic summer-long duel between the California arch-rivals—would become an even more intense three-way extravaganza.

1963

For this season, we have a second non-transaction to contend with, as we have the Reds deciding against dumping minor league left-hander Mike Cuellar that spring. But Cuellar spent that year still toiling in the minors, with moderate effectiveness but not enough for us to see him as making the Cincinnati major league staff. So that deal has no impact yet.

But Osteen is back again, and 1963 was another season of substantial progress for him, exceeding 200 innings for the first time in the majors and emerging as one of the better young starters in the American League. In Cincinnati he wouldn’t grab such a prominent role, but he’d strongly compete for starting assignments, and contribute nicely out of the bullpen as well. He would meaningfully improve the Reds’ staff.

Alas, the ’63 Reds encountered various slumps and injuries, and dropped to fifth, 13 games behind the pennant-winning Dodgers. Our version would be stronger, but certainly not enough to make up all that.

1964

There are no additional cancelled trades to consider for this season. However, the Reds in 1964 promoted two players from their farm system and deployed them in utility roles: infielder Bobby Klaus and outfielder Mel Queen. One of the fellows we talked about last time, Cesar Tovar, wasn’t promoted to the majors in ’64 despite the fact that he was clearly ready, and clearly a better prospect than either Klaus or Queen. With Tovar’s remarkable defensive versatility he might have handled either or both of the duties given to Klaus and Queen by Cincinnati that year, and made a more useful contribution.

Claude Osteen stepped forward as a full-fledged ace for the Senators in 1964. With the Reds—who presented a remarkably deep and strong pitching staff that year—he wouldn’t be the front man, but Osteen would settle in splendidly as the third regular starter behind Jim Maloney and Jim O’Toole. Osteen’s presence would eject the 35-year-old, close-to-the-end-of-the-line Ryne Duren from the back end of the Cincinnati bullpen, and allow the team to rely less heavily upon the swingman quartet of Bob Purkey, Joey Jay, John Tsitouris and Joe Nuxhall in starting assignments. The Reds’ pitching was excellent in 1964, and with Osteen on board it would be even better, definitely the best top-to-bottom staff in the league.

Nineteen sixty-four was the season in which Mike Cuellar dominated Triple-A over the first couple of months, and was then finally given a genuine opportunity in the majors, by the Cardinals. Used as a long reliever and spot starter over the balance of the year, Cuellar didn’t set the world on fire for St. Louis, but he held his own. However, there simply would be no room for Cuellar on this Cincinnati staff; he would spend the full season lighting up Triple-A, appearing with the Reds only as a September call-up.

The actual Reds missed the National League pennant by the margin of just a single game behind those Cardinals. Take Cuellar’s moderate contribution away from St. Louis, add Tovar’s moderate contribution and Osteen’s significant contribution to Cincinnati, and it seems pretty clear that our Reds would have been the team squaring off against the Yankees in October 1964.

1965

We don’t trade Tovar for Gerry Arrigo, and anyway Arrigo would be entirely superfluous to this pitching staff. We allow Tovar to provide his multi-faceted help off the Reds’ bench, and we allow Osteen and Cuellar to assume the two pitching roster spots variously juggled between Arrigo, Ted Davidson, Bill Henry, Jim Duffalo and Bobby Locke, and the team is meaningfully improved.

The particular improvement would be on the pitching side, of course. That would be where it was particularly needed: the ’65 Reds, as mentioned last time, were an offensive juggernaut, but failed to closely contend due to pitching issues, most crucially the complete collapse of erstwhile star Jim O’Toole. The presence of Osteen and Cuellar would greatly mitigate the run prevention problems.

The key question is whether our version would be improved enough to make up the eight-game deficit by which the actual Reds trailed the champion Dodgers, or for that matter the six games they finished behind the second-place Giants.

Bear in mind that Los Angeles would be without the services of Osteen, but on the other hand the Dodgers would instead have at hand the significant talents of the key trio they traded to acquire Osteen in the 1964-65 off-season: outfielder Frank Howard, third baseman Ken McMullen and pitcher Pete Richert. Whether the Dodgers kept those players for 1965 or cashed in one or more in the trade market, it’s difficult to say how more or less competitive they would be in ’65.

Altogether it’s too close to call just how the 1965 National League pennant race would wind up. All we can say with confidence is that it would have been, as in 1962, another ferocious contest between the Dodgers, Giants and Reds.

And this brings us to the latter years of the decade, and a Cincinnati team that retains the services of that Frank Robinson guy.

1966

Not everything would go well for the Reds in 1966. Catcher Johnny Edwards suddenly and inexplicably suffered a disastrous year with the bat. Pitcher Sammy Ellis, a rising star in 1964-65, encountered a serious reversal. First base platoon partners Gordy Coleman and Tony Perez were both ineffectual. Power hitter Deron Johnson, fourth in the NL MVP voting in 1965 as he led the majors in RBIs, tailed off.

But most things would go very well:

  Pos   Player       Age      G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
   1B   G. Coleman*   31     91  227   20   57    7    0    5   36   16   45 .251 .299 .348 .647   73
   2B   P. Rose#      25    156  654  106  205   38    5   16   65   37   61 .313 .351 .460 .811  115
   SS   L. Cardenas   27    160  568   59  145   25    4   20   81   45   87 .255 .309 .419 .728   93
 3B-1B  D. Johnson    27    142  505   72  130   25    3   24   86   39   87 .257 .309 .461 .771  103
   RF   F. Robinson   30    155  576  108  185   35    2   44  112   75   92 .321 .404 .618 1.02  179
   CF   V. Pinson*    27    156  618   89  178   35    6   16   76   33   83 .288 .326 .442 .768  103
   LF   T. Harper     25    122  442   72  121   18    4    4   25   46   68 .274 .337 .360 .697   96
   C    J. Edwards*   28     98  282   24   54    8    0    6   38   31   42 .191 .269 .284 .553   48

 LF-RF  A. Shamsky*   24     96  234   41   54    5    0   21   47   32   45 .231 .321 .521 .842  121
   C    D. Pavletich  27     83  235   29   69   13    2   12   38   18   37 .294 .344 .519 .863  127
 1B-3B  T. Perez      24     82  206   20   54    8    3    3   30   11   35 .262 .294 .374 .668   85
 3B-2B  T. Helms      25     83  181   24   49    7    0    3   14    7   11 .271 .297 .359 .656   82
   UT   C. Tovar      25     75  141   20   36    5    2    1   10   11   16 .255 .306 .340 .646   81
   C    J. Coker      30     50  111    9   28    3    0    4   14    8    5 .252 .300 .387 .687   83
  INF   C. Ruiz#      27     61   73    9   18    1    1    0    3    3    9 .247 .276 .288 .564   59

        Others                    31    5    9    2    0    1    4    1    6 .290 .313 .452 .764  110

        Pitchers                 414   32   67   10    2    2   16   18  142 .162 .188 .210 .399   12

        Total               160 5498  739 1459  245   34  182  695  431  871 .265 .316 .422 .738  104

        * Bats left
        # Bats both

        Pitcher      Age      G   GS   CG   IP    W    L   SV    H    R   ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        C. Osteen*    26     39   38    8  240   20   11    0  244   95   88   10   67  135 3.30  120
        M. Cuellar*   29     38   28   11  227   16    6    2  198   69   64   17   55  172 2.54  156
        J. Maloney    26     32   32   10  225   17    7    0  174   75   70   18   90  216 2.80  140
        S. Ellis      25     41   18    4  148    9   12    2  146   87   82   21   49  107 4.99   79
        J. O'Toole*   29     25   19    2  122    5    5    0  117   51   47   13   41   84 3.47  114
        J. Nuxhall*   37     28   11    1   84    4    5    1   84   42   39    8   26   47 4.18   95
        J. Jay        30     12   10    1   62    6    1    0   63   27   26    7   19   37 3.77  105

        D. Nottebart  30     59    1    0  111    6    3   12   97   41   38   11   43   69 3.07  128
        B. McCool*    21     57    0    0  105    9    7   21   76   32   29    5   41  104 2.48  159
        T. Davidson*  26     43    0    0   57    4    2    3   54   27   24    7   15   37 3.79  104
        H. Fischer    26     11    3    0   23    1    3    0   32   19   17    2    9   14 6.65   59

        Others                     0    0   32    0    1    2   44   29   27    5   18   27 7.59   52

        Total                    160   37 1436   97   63   43 1329  594  551  124  473 1049 3.45  114

        * Throws left

Robinson, in his 11th season in Cincinnati, would mount his best performance since 1962, and almost certainly capture his second MVP award. He would be the centerpiece of a robust offense, featuring Pete Rose and Vada Pinson, and with Don Pavletich and Art Shamsky delivering superb contributions in supporting roles.

Osteen, Cuella, and Maloney would comprise a first-rate starting front. With Billy McCool and Don Nottebart anchoring the bullpen, the pitching staff would be among the better in the league. All in all it would be a terrific team, clearly winning the National League pennant.

1967

This season would bring a host of challenges to the Reds’ run production. Edwards’ bat remained fully inert. Shamsky’s hitting was as bad in 1967 as it had been outstanding in ’66. Injuries would knock Robinson and shortstop Leo Cardenas out of the lineup for significant periods, while injuries as well as slumps would bedevil Deron Johnson and left fielder Tommy Harper.

But on the pitching side, things could hardly have gone better. An already strong staff would be bolstered by three key new arrivals: sensational rookie Gary Nolan, outfielder-turned-pitcher Mel Queen and veteran submarine reliever Ted Abernathy (like Nottebart a year earlier, a shrewd Rule 5 pickup).

  Pos   Player       Age      G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1B-3B  D. Johnson    28    108  361   40   81   18    1   13   54   22  104 .224 .270 .388 .658   78
 2B-SS  T. Helms      26    123  373   30  102   20    3    2   26   18   31 .273 .302 .359 .661   80
   SS   L. Cardenas   28    108  379   32   97   14    3    2   21   34   77 .256 .320 .325 .644   77
 3B-1B  T. Perez      25    152  570   79  166   27    7   25   99   31   97 .291 .328 .495 .823  122
   RF   F. Robinson   31    129  479   87  155   25    8   28   96   64   82 .324 .406 .585 .991  168
   CF   V. Pinson*    28    158  650   90  187   28   13   18   76   26   86 .288 .318 .454 .771  109
 LF-2B  P. Rose#      26    148  585   96  176   32    8   12   66   56   66 .301 .364 .444 .808  120
   C    D. Pavletich  28     81  254   29   61   15    3    7   38   23   42 .240 .311 .406 .716   95

   UT   C. Tovar      26    109  325   52   88   17    4    2   24   20   25 .271 .318 .366 .684   87
 LF-RF  T. Harper     26     69  243   39   54   11    2    5   15   29   34 .222 .301 .346 .646   77
   C    J. Edwards*   29     80  209   11   43    6    0    2   20   16   28 .206 .261 .263 .524   44
 1B-LF  L. May        24     64  175   18   45   11    1    5   24    7   37 .257 .296 .417 .713   93
 LF-RF  A. Shamsky*   25     76  147    7   29    3    1    3   13   15   34 .197 .274 .293 .567   55
  INF   C. Ruiz#      28     70  125   17   27    6    2    0    7    6   18 .216 .252 .296 .548   50
   C    J. Coker      31     54  116   10   22    3    1    2    5    5   24 .190 .223 .284 .508   38

        Others                    70    6   11    2    1    1    5    5   14 .157 .208 .257 .465   27

        Pitchers                 416   20   60   12    4    2   26   18  151 .144 .167 .207 .374    2

        Total                   5477  663 1404  250   62  129  615  395  950 .256 .306 .395 .701   91

        * Bats left
        # Bats both

        Pitcher      Age      G   GS   CG   IP    W    L   SV    H    R   ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        C. Osteen*    27     35   35   11  246   18   13    0  262  110   99   20   51  128 3.62  105
        M. Cuellar*   30     36   32   13  234   17   10    1  234  102   92   18   66  193 3.54  108
        G. Nolan      19     33   32    8  227   15    7    0  193   73   65   18   62  206 2.58  148
        J. Maloney    27     30   29    6  196   16   10    0  181   76   71    8   72  153 3.25  116
        M. Queen      25     36   12    3  125    9    5    0   94   41   36    9   37  102 2.59  147
        S. Ellis      26     32   16    3  111    5    7    0  120   51   45   10   43   52 3.65  104

        T. Abernathy  34     70    0    0  106    6    3   28   63   19   15    1   41   88 1.27  299
        D. Nottebart  31     47    0    0   79    0    3    4   75   25   17    4   19   48 1.93  197
        B. McCool*    22     31    3    0   65    2    4    2   56   28   23    4   37   58 3.18  120
        G. Arrigo*    26     29    2    0   56    5    4    1   47   23   19    5   27   45 3.05  125

        Others                     1    0   22    2    1    1   16   11   11    2   15   15 4.50   85

        Total                    162   44 1468   95   67   37 1341  559  493   99  470 1088 3.02  126

        * Throws left

One major advancement on the hitting side was the breakthrough by Tony Perez, who grabbed the starting third base job with a hot start and never let it go. The presence of Tovar and the slick-fielding Tommy Helms to handle second base would allow the Reds to shift Pete Rose to left field in place of the struggling Harper.

The pitching would be excellent from top to bottom. Even the very last man in the bullpen was effective: our old friend Gerry Arrigo, whom we’ve allowed the Reds to acquire (as they did) in a waiver deal late in the 1966 season.

The superb run prevention capability of this ball club would counter its so-so offense, and render these Reds a strong contender. But their 95 wins wouldn’t be sufficient to catch the runaway ’67 Cardinals, and this Cincinnati team would have to settle for second place.

1968

Robinson would endure an injury-nagged season with production below his standard. But below Robinson’s standard left plenty of room, and he was still a very fine hitter. And otherwise the lineup received two boosts that plugged the holes of 1967: First baseman Lee May enjoyed a breakout season similar to that of Perez the year before, and Rookie of the Year Johnny Bench suddenly emerged as one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball (along with his stunning defensive prowess) at the tender age of 20.

Thus the Reds’ offense more than bounced back from its ’67 doldrums, and performed as clearly the best in the league in this ultra-low-scoring “Year of the Pitcher.”

  Pos   Player       Age      G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1B-LF  L. May        25    146  503   71  146   29    1   20   78   31   90 .290 .336 .471 .807  135
 2B-SS  T. Helms      27    114  406   28  115   22    2    2   39    9   22 .283 .299 .362 .661   93
   SS   L. Cardenas   29    137  452   46  106   13    2    7   42   36   83 .235 .292 .319 .611   79
   3B   T. Perez      26    160  625   94  176   25    7   18   97   51   92 .282 .338 .430 .769  125
   RF   F. Robinson   32    130  421   74  117   29    1   12   62   61   83 .278 .383 .437 .820  140
   CF   V. Pinson*    29    130  499   64  135   29    6    5   49   32   59 .271 .311 .383 .694  103
 LF-CF  P. Rose#      27    149  626   97  210   42    6   10   50   56   76 .335 .391 .470 .861  152
   C    J. Bench      20    154  564   68  155   40    2   15   85   31   96 .275 .311 .433 .743  117

 2B-CF  C. Tovar      27    105  307   47   85   16    3    2   23   13   21 .277 .320 .368 .688  102
   OF   M. Jones*     29    103  234   42   59    9    1   10   34   28   46 .252 .341 .427 .768  124
 RF-LF  A. Shamsky*   26     77  173   17   41    8    2    6   28    9   30 .237 .284 .410 .695  102
   1B   F. Whitfield* 30     87  171   15   44    8    0    6   32    9   29 .257 .302 .409 .712  107
  INF   C. Ruiz#      29     85  139   15   36    2    1    0    9   12   18 .259 .316 .288 .604   78
  1B-C  D. Pavletich  29     46   98   11   28    3    1    2   11    8   23 .286 .352 .398 .750  120
   C    P. Corrales   27     20   56    3   15    4    0    0    6    6   16 .268 .349 .339 .688  103

        Others                    29    1    6    0    0    0    3    1   10 .207 .226 .207 .433   28

        Pitchers                 397   25   61   11    1    4   16   20  149 .154 .181 .217 .398   16

        Total                   5700  718 1535  290   36  119  664  413  943 .269 .319 .395 .715  109

        * Bats left
        # Bats both

        Pitcher      Age      G   GS   CG   IP    W    L   SV    H    R   ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        C. Osteen*    28     39   36    5  254   16   13    0  272  114   97   16   56  121 3.44   92
        J. Maloney    28     33   32    8  207   16    9    0  183   96   83   17   80  181 3.61   88
        G. Culver     24     42   28    4  203   10   13    4  203   82   71    7   76  104 3.15  100
        M. Cuellar*   31     28   24   11  171   12    7    1  152   62   54   10   48  135 2.84  111
        G. Nolan      20     23   22    4  150    9    4    0  105   47   40   10   49  111 2.40  132
        G. Arrigo*    27     36   16    3  137    8    6    2  116   53   48    8   51   96 3.15  100

        T. Abernathy  35     78    0    0  135   10    7   26  111   42   37    9   55   64 2.46  129
        J. Ritchie    31     38    2    0   74    2    3    1   80   41   38    9   17   42 4.62   68
        B. Kelso      28     35    0    0   54    4    1    1   56   26   24    6   15   39 3.98   80
        B. McCool*    23     34    1    0   51    3    3    4   56   31   26    4   40   32 4.59   69

        Others                     2    0   54    1    5    0   68   39   37   16   29   46 6.17   51

        Total                    163   35 1490   91   71   39 1402  633  555  112  516  971 3.35   94

        * Throws left

But this time it was the pitching staff’s turn to encounter some difficulties. Osteen, Maloney and Cuellar weren’t bad, but none was at his best. Nolan, in his sophomore year, was still terrific but missed quite a bit of time with a tender arm, while Queen flamed out completely with a bad arm. And the bullpen behind Abernathy was weak.

Thus the balance of strengths and weaknesses was different than that of 1967, but the result would be the same: a strong second-place ball club, but not enough to overtake the high-flying Cardinals.

1969

And then the stars would come into alignment.

Stars including Robinson, back in healthy form, and Rose, who was never better. And including Perez, May and Bench all maturing into peak performance.

And new-arrival center fielder Bobby Tolan, acquired from St. Louis as part of the Vada Pinson trade, blossomed into stardom himself. Meanwhile Leo Cardenas would be at the top of his game, and Tovar’s superior offensive tools would finally allow him to beat out Tommy Helms for the regular second base job.

Not to be outdone, both Osteen and Cuellar would deliver career-best seasons, giving Cincinnati a pair of aces at the top of the rotation. And the bullpen would be solidified by the addition of Wayne Granger, the other piece of the clever Pinson deal.

  Pos   Player       Age      G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
   1B   L. May        26    140  481   76  135   26    3   31   90   37  111 .281 .335 .541 .875  137
 2B-CF  C. Tovar      28    127  428   57  123   19    4    7   52   28   30 .287 .337 .400 .736  102
   SS   L. Cardenas   30    160  578   65  160   24    4    8   67   59  101 .277 .339 .374 .713   96
   3B   T. Perez      27    160  629  104  185   31    2   37  125   63  131 .294 .357 .526 .883  140
   RF   F. Robinson   33    148  539  114  168   20    6   29  101   80   66 .312 .411 .532 .943  158
   CF   B. Tolan*     23    152  637  113  194   25   10   21   93   27   92 .305 .347 .474 .821  124
   LF   P. Rose#      28    156  627  129  218   33   11   16   82   88   65 .348 .428 .512 .940  158
   C    J. Bench      21    148  532   84  156   23    1   26   92   49   86 .293 .353 .487 .840  129

 2B-SS  T. Helms      28     84  215   21   56    8    1    0   15    8   16 .260 .282 .307 .589   62
 1B-RF  A. Shamsky*   27     75  152   23   46    5    2    6   29   18   17 .303 .375 .480 .855  134
   OF   T. Savage     32     61   73   13   16    4    0    1    6   12   19 .219 .322 .315 .637   76
   UT   J. Stewart#   30     60   74    9   17    1    1    1    6    6   12 .230 .280 .311 .591   63
   C    P. Corrales   28     29   72   10   19    5    0    1    5    8   17 .264 .346 .375 .721   98
  INF   C. Ruiz#      30     59   65    9   14    1    0    0    3    4   10 .215 .250 .231 .481   33
   1B   F. Whitfield* 31     49   49    1    7    0    0    1    5   12   18 .143 .311 .204 .516   45

        Others                    23    2    3    0    0    0    2    1   10 .130 .148 .130 .279  -23

        Pitchers                 423   28   72    8    5    4   32   19  148 .170 .187 .241 .447   17

        Total                   5597  858 1589  233   50  189  805  519  949 .284 .343 .445 .788  115

        * Bats left
        # Bats both

        Pitcher      Age      G   GS   CG   IP    W    L   SV    H    R   ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        C. Osteen*    29     41   41   16  321   24   12    0  303  114  106   20   74  180 2.97  128
        M. Cuellar*   32     39   39   18  291   24   11    0  233  103   89   18   71  180 2.75  138
        J. Maloney    29     30   27    6  179   14    5    0  135   64   55   11   86  102 2.77  137
        J. Fisher     30     31   15    0  102    5    4    1  121   68   61   13   27   50 5.38   71
        G. Nolan      21     16   15    2   98    8    6    0   91   40   38   10   36   76 3.49  109
        G. Culver     25     30   13    0   91    6    5    4  104   48   42    7   47   53 4.15   91
        G. Arrigo*    28     26   10    1   82    5    5    0   80   44   38    8   55   32 4.17   91

        W. Granger    25     82    0    0  136   10    5   30  133   57   41   10   37   63 2.71  140
        T. Abernathy  36     56    0    0   85    5    3    6   73   35   28    8   43   54 2.96  128
        A. Jackson*   33     33    0    0   27    1    0    3   27   17   16    5   17   16 5.27   73

        Others                     3    0   55    3    1    0   68   43   38    8   24   32 6.28   61

        Total                    163   43 1467  105   57   44 1368  633  552  118  517  838 3.39  112

        * Throws left

The result would be an immensely efficient, well, Big Red Machine. This wouldn’t be a perfect ball club, as there is a weakness here in pitching depth. But it would be about as close to perfect as ball clubs realistically get, prominently among the greatest teams of the 1960s/70s era, cruising with ease to the first-ever National League West Division flag.

Something fun to ponder is how this team would have matched up against the Miracle Mets in the NLCS; bear in mind that the Mets would be without Shamsky, who went 7-for-13 in that series. Moreover, whoever won, who would they play in the World Series, bearing in mind that the American League pennant-winning Baltimore Orioles would be without Robinson and Cuellar, while the AL West Champion Minnesota Twins would be without Cardenas and Tovar?

Into the 1970s

As we discussed last time, it was the 1970 season in which the actual Big Red Machine rolled onto the scene, flattening opponents on the way to a 102-victory runaway division title, and a three-game NLCS sweep into the World Series. Our version would present nearly all of that team’s many weapons and much more; indeed our version would be faced with a delightfully perplexing issue of how to squeeze rookie outfielder Bernie Carbo and his 164 OPS+ into the lineup. Certainly, these virtual Reds would be poised for a tremendous 1970s run.

And unlike the actual Reds, these virtual counterparts would be executing their 1970s domination after already having been dominant through the 1960s: four certain flags (’61, ’64, ’66 and ’69), plus two possible ones (’62 and ’65), unquestionably the best team in the National League over the decade.

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Comments

  1. Steve Treder said...

    No, the rules of the game are that we can’t invent any trades that didn’t happen, but we can cancel some trades that did happen.  We aren’t obligated to cancel all trades that did happen.

  2. John said...

    I’d like to see an analysis of the 1980s New York Yankees, who kept missing the AL East title by a few games year after year, if they hadn’t made the awful trades they made. Would the Yankees have gotten over the top if they had held onto McGee, McGriff and Buhner, not to mention some other useful players like Doug Drabek, Bob Tewksbury and Al Leiter? (I think I’m missing a few, even at that.) It seems like to me that if they had just not made these deals, they could have won about a half-dozen divisional titles, and avoided the early ‘90s collapse. Don Mattingly would probably already be in the Hall of Fame.

  3. Kahuna Tuna said...

    I’d be curious about the Cardinals for roughly the period 1971-81, if the following five transactions could be undone:

    1.  4/15/71 — returned Rule V draft pick Cecil Cooper to the Red Sox.
    2.  6/15/71 — traded Mike Torrez to Montreal for Bob Reynolds.
    3.  2/25/72 — traded Steve Carlton to Philadelphia for Rick Wise.
    4.  4/15/72 — traded Jerry Reuss to Houston for Lance Clemons and Scipio Spinks.
    5.  10/24/74 — sold José Cruz to Houston.

    Torrez, Carlton and Reuss were all still putting up ERA+s of 100 or better into the early ‘80s, and Cruz and Cooper had OPS+s of 100 or better into the mid-‘80s.  Adding Carlton to the Cardinals while subtracting him from the Phillies would put the Cards in contention for a division title in several of the seasons during this period.

    I’ll leave it to you to figure out how to get Cooper and Keith Hernandez into the lineup at the same time. (-;þ

  4. John Proulx said...

    If the Reds don’t trade Tovar for Arrigo, why is Arrigo still listed on the pitching staff in 1967-69?

  5. Steve Treder said...

    Great suggestion about the Cardinals as well … it’ll be a test of “out of the box thinking” to figure out how to make use of Cooper and Hernandez simultaneously …

  6. Steve Treder said...

    Arrigo is on the team because even though we didn’t do the Tovar-for-Arrigo trade, in early 1966 the Reds sold Arrigo to the Mets, and then purchased him back later that year.  We’ve allowed the second Arrigo acquisition to go through.

  7. Steve Treder said...

    “So how does he get to the Mets ?”

    Well, we’re getting into second-order effects now, aren’t we … grin

    The assumption I make, which can certainly be challenged, but I think it’s reasonable, is this:  we don’t know what the Twins would have done with Arrigo had the Reds not accepted their Arrigo-for-Tovar offer.  But we do know that by May of 1966, Arrigo’s fortunes had deteriorated such that the Reds gave up on him, and we also know that by August of that year, the Mets gave up on him too.

    Essentially as of late 1966 Arrigo had become waiver-wire fodder, so it’s fair to assume that whatever team had him would be adverse to letting the Reds grab him on waivers, as they actually did in August of ‘66.

  8. John Proulx said...

    Well, if Arrigo stays in Minnesota, perhaps he doesn’t crash and burn in ‘65 (he was only 24 at the time, after all) and doesn’t become waiver wire fodder. Remember, Johnny Sain was their pitching coach at the time, not exactly a slouch in that department.

    This kind of speculation is addictive! :-D

  9. Craig Tyle said...

    Re Yankees 80’s idea, don’t forget Jim Deshaies, who had some decent years with the Astros after being traded for Joe Niekro.

  10. Steve Treder said...

    Good point about DeShaies!  I’ve actually been noodling around a little bit this afternoon regarding those ‘80s/‘90s Yankees, and I think there’s definitely something there.  And I’d overlooked DeShaies.

    You’re right, he was a good pitcher.  But still, I can’t help but recall a line offered by one of my Fantasy Baseball compatriots some time in the late ‘80s, when we were undertaking our draft:

    “Jim DeShaies!”

    “What is that, French for ‘Jim da shits’?”

  11. dave silverwood said...

    you know the Reds were very good,Bristol was a little bit thin skinned and a poor judge of proper batting orders.

  12. Paul said...

    The Yankees in the 80s would be a very good subject.  George wanted to win and win now so they kept shipping out good young players for proven veterans.  If we were lucky, said veterans gave a couple of good years before getting old.  Some imploded immediately.  Some of those trades are hard to explain even then.

    Players of interest include Willie McGee (basically given away), Bill Caudill, Gene Nelson (both for Shane Rawley), Greg Gagne (Roy Smalley), Fred McGriff (Dale Murray!), Mike Morgan (also Dale), Tim Burke (given away), Jay Howell, Jose Rijo, Eric Plunk (all for Ricky Henderson, so that was probably fair), Jim DeShaies (Joe Niekro, though Yankee announcers used to insist that they had a choice of Joe or Nolan Ryan and picked Joe), Ron Hassey (first Britt Burns, then Ron Kittle), Doug Drabek (though they got him when they traded Smalley), Bob Tewksbury (Steve bleepin’ Trout), Jay Buhner (Ken Phelps), Jack Clark (for basically nothing), Al Leiter (Jesse Barfield), and probably a handful more that I am missing, along with some terrible free agent signings.  They also managed to lose Tim Belcher to the ridiculous free agent rules of the time.  This could get complicated.  Some of these trades interconnect, reversing some trades eliminate the need for some free agents, and the Yankees had the bad habit of trading guys and then getting them back in another trade or through free agency.  It would take some effort to figure out which configuration you want to use.

    If you want to go back a bit further the 1976 trade that sent the Orioles Scott McGregor, Rick Dempsey, Tippy Martinez, and Rudy May was not exactly a shining moment either.  Doyle Alexander and Grant Jackson were useful for the rest of 1976 so maybe that does not apply.

  13. Steve Treder said...

    Yeah, I’ve already started working on the 1980s Yankees.  They did make a whole lot of more-or-less giveaway trades in the ‘80s.

  14. dave silverwood said...

    There is a perfect subject about anything the Yankees———the evil empire buyers of competing as a need to make up for lack of ability to draft and educate.

  15. Thomas R. Kettler said...

    Also, please do one for the mid-to-late 90’s Expos. Remember after 1994 when the owners canceled the seaon, ‘Dumb” Claude “without a Clue” Brochu and Jim “Brain Dead” Beattie let Larry Walker go to Colorado without any compensation and traded Ken Hill to the Cardinals for Bryan Eversgerd, John Wetteland to the Yankees for Fernando Seguignol, and Marquis Grissom to Atlanta for Roberto Kelly and Tony Tarasco. After 1997, the Expos traded Pedro Martinez to the Red Sox for Tony Armas, Jr. and Carl Pavano.

    As an Expos fan, I’m still torqued off.

  16. dave silverwood said...

    I agree the Expos had some great talent and were ahead in the east at the time of the strike—MONTREAL WAS CHEATED OUT OF A FRANCHISE BY GREED AND POLITICS.

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