Cincinnati Reds: Ranking the Top 10 Position Players in Franchise History

Tyler Duma@@TylerDuma_BRFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2012

Cincinnati Reds: Ranking the Top 10 Position Players in Franchise History

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    The Cincinnati Reds are the oldest professional team in baseball. They've been around since 1869 and have seen their fair share of great players pass through the organization.

    Players like Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan are immortal in the eyes of Reds fans, but how do they stack up against each other?

    With that said, let's dive into the list starting with the 10th best Cincinnati Red in franchise history.

No. 10: Ernie Lombardi

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    Kicking off the list at No. 10 is Ernie Lombardi. Lombardi was a towering figure at 6'3", 230 pounds, but was not the power hitter you would assume he was.

    Quite the opposite, Lombardi hit for a great average. Over the course of his 17-year career, Lombardi compiled a .306 average and 190 HRs.

    In his career with the Reds, Lombardi made five straight All-Star games from 1936-1940. In 1938, Lombardi became the second catcher to ever win the NL MVP award and a batting title as well. In 1942 Lombardi won his second batting title as a member of the Boston Braves and was the first catcher to do so.

    That record of two batting titles as a catcher stood until Joe Mauer captured his third in 2009.

    Lombardi also has the distinction of being the man to catch both games of Johnny Vander Meer's consecutive no-hitters—the only pitcher to ever do so.

    In 1986, Ernie Lombardi was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

    Stat line as a Red: 10 years, .311/.359/.469, 120 HR, 682 RBI, 420 runs, 1238 hits

No. 9: Ted Kluszewski

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    The No. 9 spot on this list belongs to Ted Kluszewski.

    Big Klu was a monster that stood at 6'2", 240 pounds. Kluszewski's biceps were so large that he had to cut the sleeves off his jersey because they were too constricting. Kluszewski could hit, and that he did.

    Over his 11 years with the Reds, Big Klu made four straight All-Star games and probably should have won the 1954 MVP over Willie Mays. In any event, 1954 was one hell of a year for Kluszewski who went .326/.407/.642 with 49 HR, 141 RBI and 104 runs.

    That year, Kluszewski led the league in home runs and RBI. The following year, Kluszewski led the league in hits, but according to Baseball-Reference, came in just sixth place in MVP voting.

    Kluszewski never won a World Series as a player. He did, however, win two as the Reds' hitting coach in 1975 and '76.

    Stat line as a Red: 11 years, .302/.357/.512, 251 HR, 886 RBI, 745 runs, 1499 hits

No. 8: Edd Roush

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    Edd Roush played 12 seasons with the Reds and they were impressive, to say the least. Roush captured two batting titles in Cincinnati—one in 1917 and one in 1919.

    Other than Roush's final season, he never hit below .321 with the Reds. At the time, Roush was said to have had one of the best outfield arms in the game.

    Roush led the team to the heavily disputed 1919 title where they beat the Chicago White Sox. Whether the series was fixed or not isn't up for debate here, though, I can say that Roush's performance in 1919 was critical to the Reds getting to that World Series.

    Roush's .331 average with Cincinnati is second all-time in the organization by only one thousandth of a point to Cy Seymour.

    Edd Roush was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1962 by the Veterans Committee.

    Stat line as a Red: 12 years, .331/.377/.462, 47 HR, 763 RBI, 815 runs, 1784 hits

No. 7: Vada Pinson

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    Vada Pinson might be one of the most underrated Reds in franchise history. In my opinion, Pinson is one of the bigger Hall of Fame snubs in the game's history.

    Pinson made just four All-Star games and won only one Gold Glove, but that's actually impressive when you consider that he played outfield at the same time as players like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Duke Snider, Al Kaline and Roberto Clemente.

    Pinson was a stellar outfielder and led the league in hits twice as a Red. It's my guess that had he not had the misfortune of playing in the same era and leagueas Mays, Cepeda, Aaron, Robinson and Clemente, Pinson would have been a Hall of Famer. Pinson would have also made more All-Star games and won more Gold Gloves.

    With a career stat line of .286/.327/.442, 256 HR, 1170 RBI, 1366 runs, 2757 hits and 305 steals, it's a wonder why he isn't in the Hall.

    Hopefully one day Pinson will get the respect he deserves and the Veterans Committee will vote him in.

    Stat line as a Red: 11 years, .297/.341/.469, 186 HR, 814 RBI, 978 runs, 18881 hits, 221 SB

No. 6: Tony Perez

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    Tony Perez clocks in as the sixth best Red of all time. Ask the late great Sparky Anderson about Tony Perez and he'd tell you that Perez was the heart and soul of the Big Red Machine. Furthermore, Perez is one of the best clutch performers in the team's history and maybe of all time (just ask his hall of fame plaque).

    The best representation of Perez's clutch hitting ability comes from the 1975 World Series against the Red Sox. Although he only hit .179 in that series, he managed three home runs and seven RBI. One of those three, was a seventh inning two-run home run which propelled the Reds to their first of two straight championships.

    Perez, known for his power hitting, retired in 1986 as the Reds third all-time leading home run hitter behind Johnny Bench and Frank Robinson.

    Over his 16-year career, Perez was a seven time All-Star and helped lead the Big Red Machine through one of the most impressive decades of baseball by any team in baseball history.

    In 1990, Perez won his third World Series title—this time as a coach with the Reds, and in 2000, Tony Perez went into the Hall of Fame as a Cincinnati Red.

    Stat line as a Red: 16 years .283/.346/.474, 287 HR, 1192 RBI, 936 runs, 1934 hits

No. 5: Barry Larkin

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    Barry Larkin, my favorite Red, comes in at No. 5. Had it not been for injury, Larkin could have easily been No. 3 on this list. Of his 19 years, Larkin only played in 11 where he eclipsed 120 games. Had he been able to stay on the field more, he'd likely be near 3000 hits, 300 home runs, well over 1000 RBI, 1500 runs and 500 steals.

    Larkin was a crowd favorite in Cincinnati. He grew up in Cincinnati, went to Moeller High School and played three years at that school up north—that one Ohio ought not mention.

    For 10 seasons between 1990 and 2000, Larkin was one of the best shortstops in the game. In 1990 he led the Reds to a World Series championship, in 1995 Larkin won an MVP and in 1996 he became the first shortstop to blast 30 homers and swipe 30 bags in the same season.

    Over the course of his 19-year career, Larkin was an MVP, World Series champ, 13-time All-Star, eight-time Silver Slugger and three-time Gold Glove winner. Had it not been for Ozzie Smith, Larkin would likely have four more Gold Gloves.

    In any event, Larkin was elected this past year to the Hall of Fame and his 19-year career will remain one of the greatest in Reds' history.

    Stat line as a Red: 19 years, 295/.371/.444, 198 HR, 960 RBI, 1329 runs, 379 SB, 2340 hits

No. 4: Joe Morgan

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    Although he spent just eight of his 21 years in the MLB as a Red, Joe Morgan is one of the best to ever wear the uniform.

    In Morgan's eight seasons, he was an eight-time All-Star, back-to-back MVP (1975-76), two-time World Series champ and five-time Gold Glove winner (1973-77).

    Morgan came to the Reds in 1971 in a hugely lopsided trade that also brought in Cesar Geronimo and Jack Billingham. Morgan thrived with the Reds and added power to his game, becoming one of the first speed/power threats at second base. When you think of players like Brandon Phillips and Ian Kinsler, Morgan was the first of that type.

    In 1975, Morgan won his first of two straight MVPs and posted a 12.0 WAR, I'll give you a second to wrap your head around that number. Morgan was a huge part of The Big Red Machine and led the team to back-to-back titles in his two MVP seasons.

    Bill James named Morgan the second-best second baseman of all time, and, in my opinion, was shafted by fans when he came in third for voting on baseball's All-Century team.

    However, Morgan was elected to Cooperstown in 1990 and entered as a Cincinnati Red.

    Stat Line as a Red: 8 years, .288/.415/.470, 152 HR, 612 RBI, 816 runs, 406 SB, 1155 hits

No. 3: Frank Robinson

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    Frank Robinson is one of the greatest players of all time, but he's only the third-best Cincinnati Red.

    Everyone knows the infamous 1965 trade which sent the then 30-year-old Robinson to Baltimore for Milt Pappas. The Reds' owner Bill DeWitt tried to justify the move by calling Robinson an "old 30". Makes sense, since Robinson won the AL Triple Crown and MVP the following year, right?

    Prior to that awful trade though, Robinson put together the best part of his 21-year career. In his 10 seasons with the Reds, Robinson won a Rookie of the Year award in 1956, MVP in 1961, his only Gold Glove as well as making eight All-Star teams.

    Robinson's No. 20 is retired with the Reds and he's forever immortalized in the form of a bronze statue outside the gates to Great American Ball Park.

    Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982 but went in as a Baltimore Oriole. Although he chose an Orioles cap, Robinson was elected, in most part, for his years as a Cincinnati Red.

    Stat line as a Red: 10 years, .303/.389/.554, 324 HR, 1009 RBI, 1043 runs, 161 SB, 1673 hits

No. 2: Johnny Bench

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    Johnny Bench is arguably the greatest catcher in baseball history. As a catcher, he's second all time in home runs, third in RBIs and fourth in runs.

    A two-time MVP, who twice led the league in home runs and three times in RBIs, Bench was a key component of the Big Red Machine in the 1970s.

    Following his possibly his worst all-around season (while in his prime), Bench showed why he's the best in a 1976 World Series matchup against the Yankees and catching great Thurman Munson. Bench went .533/.533/1.133 with two HRs, six RBIs and four runs.

    At the post-World Series press conference, a journalist asked then-manager Sparky Anderson to compare Munson to Bench. Anderson replied, "You don't compare anyone to Johnny Bench. You don't want to embarrass anybody."

    Over the course of his career, Bench took home a slew of awards, including; two MVPs, a World Series MVP and 10 Gold Gloves (all consecutive). He was also a 14-time All-Star (13 straight appearances) and finished as the team's all-time home run leader.

    Bench made MLB's All-Century Team in 1999 (receiving more votes than Yogi Berra) and is one of 10 Cincinnati Reds players and managers in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Is there any doubt that he's the second-best Red ever?

    Stat line as a Red: 17 years, .267/.342/.476, 389 HR, 1376 RBI, 1091 runs, 2048 hits

No. 1: Pete Rose

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    Is there any doubt that Pete Rose is the best player in Reds' history? The man is the all-time hit king (4256) and also leads all players in games played (3562), plate appearances (15890) and at-bats (14053).

    Pete's the epitome of a hometown hero. He grew up in Western Hills, played high school ball in Cincinnati, was drafted by the Reds and had one of the all-time great careers of any player in the history of baseball.

    Rose played the game the right way and gave baseball everything he had. Charlie Hustle, as he was called, played so hard he destroyed Ray Fosse's career—via a collision at the plate—during an All-Star game.

    Naturally when discussing Pete Rose someone brings up the fact that he bet on baseball and tried to cover it up. While it's an unfortunate truth, it by no means dilutes what Rose did as a player.

    In his 24 seasons, Rose was a 17-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, MVP and two-time World Series champion. Rose was also named to baseball's All-Century Team in 1999 when Mastercard insisted that he be allowed to attend or they'd pull their funding.

    With any luck, Rose will be put in the Hall one day, after all, what's a hall of fame if you don't have the Hit King in it?

    As one of the most iconic players in the history of the game, there's no doubt that Rose is the best player in Cincinnati Reds' history.

    Stat line as a Red: 19 years, .307/.379/.409, 152 HR, 1036 RBI, 1741 runs, 146 SB, 3358 hits

Wrap Up

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    Those are the 10 best position players in Cincinnati Reds' history. Eric Davis, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Ken Griffey Jr. and others fall just short in my opinion. With the Reds' current crop of players, it's no stretch to say that they could wind up on a future version of this list. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce come to mind immediately.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on anybody who should have made this list, should be ranked higher or lower, and who may make it in the future.


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