Cincinnati Reds all-time team: Joey Votto joined by Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and more


In an effort to avoid going stir crazy with MLB and every other major sports league shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve decided to take a look at the best of the best for each baseball franchise. We’ve created a 30-day series making an all-time team for each MLB club. We’re breaking down one team each day throughout April, continuing today in Cincinnati.

As a (hopefully?) fun twist, I’m making a Baseball Stars team for each. That’s right, the old-school Nintendo video game “Baseball Stars,” which I still consider to be the best baseball video game ever. It allowed you to create teams and I used to make all-time lineups for prominent MLB franchises. There are the eight position players with four starting pitchers, one reliever and five bench position players on each Baseball Stars squads.

Up next are the Cincinnati Reds, a franchise with 10 pennants and five World Series titles. There are some real all-timers here. Let’s get to the lineup.

Catcher

Speaking of all-timers, we don’t even really need to look anything up here. Johnny Bench might well be the best catcher of all time. 

First base

Before we go further, we need to have a quick discussion on Pete Rose. He’s going to be in the starting lineup, no matter what. That much we know. We also know he played all over the place. He played first base more than anything else at 939 games. Then there’s left field at 673, third base at 634, second base 628 games, right field 589 and center field 73. What we’ll do is keep Pete in mind at every spot mentioned and find where he’s most needed in terms of putting together the best lineup. 

We don’t need him at first base, though, as we have Joey Votto and Tony Perez with a quick shoutout to my fellow Hoosier Ted Kluszewski (and his forearms). I can see the old guard screaming at me for picking Votto, but it’s not really even close. Reds-only stats coming. 

Votto: .307/.421/.519, 150 OPS+, 1866 H, 404 2B, 284 HR, 944 RBI, 1009 R, 1 MVP, 3 Top-3 MVP
Perez: .283/.346/.474, 127 OPS+, 1934 H, 339 2B, 287 HR, 1192 RBI, 936 R, 0 MVP, 1 Top-3 MVP

The only Reds in history with more WAR than Votto are Rose, Bench, Barry Larkin and Frank Robinson. Votto is the career franchise leader in win probability added (explainer on that stat here). 

Talk about rings all you want, but teammates aren’t determining who is the better individual player for me here. 

Others who merit mention would be Lee May, Sean Casey and Dan Driessen. 

Second base

There’s Brandon Phillips and we still have Pete lingering, but Joe Morgan is one of the best second basemen in MLB history. Easy pick. 

Shortstop

Congrats on a very good career goes out to Dave Concepcion, but he can’t touch Barry Larkin here. 

Third base

We could swing Perez over here while Todd Frazier, Chris Sabo and Scott Rolen had some good years. Eugenio Suarez is working on a pretty damn fine career right now. This is where we’re gonna use Pete Rose, though. Mr. Rose is the franchise leader in WAR, hits, runs, total bases, singles, doubles, walks, extra-base hits, times on base, bets placed and much more. 

Left field

Does history remember George Foster as fondly as it should? In 1977, he won MVP after hitting .320/.382/.631 (165 OPS+), 52 homers, 149 RBI and 124 runs. It was the middle season of three straight years leading the league in RBI. He led in homers two straight years. He was top three in MVP voting three times. His peak didn’t last long, which is why he’s not a Hall of Famer, but man, it was ridiculous. From 1975-81, he averaged 38 homers and 126 RBI per 162 games with a 149 OPS+. 

Center field

A little bit tougher here. Both Ken Griffeys were considered (Sr. much more so than Junior, whose nine years in Cincy were only worth 12.9 WAR on a 122 OPS+), but it’s between Vada Pinson and Eric Davis. Pinson played in almost 600 more games with the Reds than Eric The Red, but let’s look on a rate basis. 

Davis: .271/.367/.510, 137 OPS+, 5.2 WAR/650PA
Pinson: .297/.341/.469, 119 OPS+, 4.6 WAR/650PA

Boom, gimme my man Eric Davis. He was a personal favorite growing up and the pick is fully justified, so I’m happy. 

Right field

Easy: Frank Robinson. Quick shouts to Paul O’Neill, Dave Parker and Reggie Sanders. Other outfielders we could have considered on the corners were Adam Dunn, Jay Bruce and Kal Daniels. 

Starting pitchers

The history with pitching is not quite as rich as the position player side. They didn’t have any all-time greats from the Deadball Era and the Big Red Machine years didn’t have any Hall of Famers on the staff. They did get some post-prime Tom Seaver and he was still great before his age-37 season and it’s freaking Tom Seaver, so I’ll take him. 

I always like to look at the “plus” stats because it helps adjust for offensive-friendly and pitching-friendly eras. Jose Rijo leads the Reds in ERA+ among starting pitchers. He’s sixth in WAR among Reds pitchers behind a bunch of old timers who racked up WAR based on workloads unimaginable these days. He’s our number two. 

Next up, I’ll go with Jim Maloney. He had a nice run through the ’60s that saw him go 134-81 with a 3.16 ERA (117 ERA+) with the Reds. 

Finally, I know what he means to Reds fans so we’re going with the “Ol’ Lefthander,” Joe Nuxhall. He debuted with the Reds at 15 years old and spent parts of 15 seasons with the club. A two-time All-Star, Nuxhall went on to become more beloved as a broadcaster rounding third and heading for home. 

Some other options could have been Mario Soto, Johnny Cueto, Aaron Harang and a bevy of old timers such as Eppa Rixey, Dolf Luque, Noodles Hahn and more. I feel good about my four, though. 

Reliever

Danny Graves and Francisco Cordero are the top two in saves in the franchise with John Franco being third. Too bad we can’t take The Nasty Boys (Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble, Randy Myers) as one entity. Jeff Brantley and Aroldis Chapman earned mention. Raisel Iglesias is quickly climbing the board. It’s a tough pick. I thought about Franco, but the three highest WAR seasons as a Reds reliever all belong to Dibble and I wanted a Nasty Boy from the get go. 

The Lineup

Baseball Stars uses six characters for each name. What follows is the Baseball Stars lineup. 

  1. Pete, 3B
  2. Morgan, 2B
  3. Votto, 1B
  4. Frank, RF
  5. Foster, LF
  6. Bench, C
  7. ED, CF
  8. Larkin, SS

SP: Seaver, Rijo, Jim M, Lefty
RP: Dibble

Holy smokes, that’s a lineup. We could do it in reverse and it would work. Maybe hit the pitcher eight and have Larkin be ninth so he’s setting the table for the top of the order every time the lineup rolls over? 

Regardless, we need five bench players. Ernie (Lombardi) serves as our backup catcher. Tony (Perez), Vada (Pinson), Dave (Concepcion) and Griff (you decide which Griffey it is) round us out. 

That’s a helluva squad. 





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