Sunday, May 20, 2012

All-Time Teams #7: Cincinnati Reds

This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises, and using this as a vehicle to discuss their greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.

The Cincinnati Reds all-time team features 10 Hall of Famers (including the soon-to-be inducted Barry Larkin and manager Sparky Anderson) and a handful of players about whom I've heard serious arguments regarding their credentials. And, of course, Pete Rose. I probably don't need to say a word about his Hall of Fame status, though.

Franchise History
Cincinnati Reds (1890-1953, 1960- )
Cincinnati Redlegs (1954-1959)
Cincinnati Red Stockings (1882-1889)

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

C - Johnny Bench* (1967-1983)
1B - Tony Perez* (1964-1976, 1984-1986)
2B - Joe Morgan* (1972-1979)
SS - Barry Larkin* (1986-2004)
3B - Heinie Groh (1913-1921)
LF - Pete Rose (1963-1978, 1984-1986)
CF - Vada Pinson (1958-1968)
RF - Frank Robinson* (1956-1965)

Noodles Hahn (1899-1905)
Jose Rijo (1988-1995, 2001-2002)
Bucky Walters (1938-1948)
Eppa Rixey* (1921-1933)
Tony Mullane (1886-1893)

John Franco (1984-1989)

C - Ernie Lombardi* (1932-1941)
1B - Ted Kluszewski (1947-1957)
2B - Bid McPhee* (1882-1899)
SS - Dave Concepcion (1970-1988)
OF - Edd Roush* (1916-1926, 1931)
OF - George Foster (1971-1981)
OF - Eric Davis (1984-1991, 1996)

Clay Carroll (1968-1975)
Frank Dwyer (1892-1899)
Jim Maloney (1960-1970)
Dolf Luque (1918-1929)

Sparky Anderson* (1970-1978)

Rose's versatility allowed me a little flexibility, but not as much as you'd think. He started at 1B, 2B, 3B, LF and RF in his career, but the guys at second and in right here aren't going anywhere, and Tony Perez is certainly worthy of his spot as well. Plus, Rose didn't play regularly at first until late in his career anyway. So, it really came down to putting him at third and plugging George Foster in left, or playing him in left in favor of Heinie Groh at third. I chose the latter.

Actually, the biggest advantage Charlie Hustle's versatility added to this team is it allowed me to choose Eric Davis as a third reserve outfielder since Rose could serve as the backup third baseman.

Greatest Eligible non-Hall of Famer

Of the 16 non-HOF players on this team, nine received seven or more votes in Baseball Past and Present's 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame poll last December: Rose, Concepcion, Mullane, Pinson, Kluszewski, Davis, Franco, Foster, Groh. There were 86 voters in the poll, so seven may not seem like a high number, but it's not insignificant either. I can almost guarantee nobody's throwing a vote to Heinie Groh because he was a nice guy and is from their hometown.

Besides Rose, Concepcion received the highest vote total, but I'm not a big fan of his Hall of Fame credentials. To me, it comes down to Mullane or Pinson, with Groh and Foster worthy of consideration as well.

At this time last year, I was leaning towards the Irish-born Tony Mullane as the successor to Larkin. Although that opinion hasn't really changed, I've grown increasingly skeptical of using the same standards to judge 19th century pitchers that we employ to evaluate their modern counterparts. In six of Mullane's 13 seasons in the big leagues he pitched over 400 innings, an obviously unheard of total these days. As a result, he's 24th all-time in innings pitched, but 61st all-time in WAR among pitchers.

Tony Mullane

Don't get me wrong here. This is not a knock on Mullane, but rather a question about how much of his career production to attribute to the way pitchers were used in the 1800s.

Now that Bert Blyleven is in the Hall, Mullane moves up to third all-time in wins among eligible pitchers who are not inducted:
  1. Bobby Mathews - 297
  2. Tommy John - 288
  3. Tony Mullane - 284
  4. Jim Kaat - 283
  5. Jim McCormick - 265
  6. Gus Weyhing - 264
  7. Jack Morris - 254
  8. Jack Quinn - 247
  9. Dennis Martinez - 245
  10. Jack Powell - 245
I guess the kicker for me, when it comes to Mullane, is that he was a pretty good hitter as well, posting a career OPS+ of 87 and an additional 6.4 WAR from batting. I think he falls a little short of my standards for the Hall of Fame, but he's still a prime example of how many borderline worthy 19th century players there are that very few people know anything about.

Next Up: Cleveland Indians


  1. What struck me most about your list is that nobody from the "Big Red Machine" rotation is on the pitching staff. Contrast that with the position players, and the contrast is stark.

    Good stuff!

    1. Yeah, there's no doubt those teams were loaded with hitters, but had pretty unspectacular starting pitching. The bullpen was strong, though, especially in '75 with Rawly Eastwick, Clay Carroll, Will McEnaney and Pedro Borbon.