MLB 9s: Cincinnati Reds—Johnny Bench, Frank Williams, Joe Morgan On Top

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst INovember 15, 2009

Jun 1983:  Jonny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds in action during a game. Mandatory Credit: Allsport  /Allsport
Getty Images/Getty Images

A 22-year-old Most Valuable Player named Johnny Bench.

One of the greatest second basemen of all-time, Joe Morgan.

An outfielder named Cy Seymour who missed out on the Triple Crown by a single home run.

The Cincinnati Reds have seen some of the greatest baseball players who ever lived pass through their organization.

From its first World Series victory in 1919 to four trips to the fall classic under Sparky Anderson in the 70s, the Reds have a rich baseball history.

But which Cincinnati Red had the greatest offensive season ever at his position?

Major League Baseball has been asking fans this question in an effort to choose each team's best lineup of stars. They are calling it MLB 9s.

Here I separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream Reds' lineup. Have your say by commenting below, or by voting on the MLB site here .

My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:

Diamondbacks , Braves , Orioles , Red Sox , Cubs , White Sox , Indians , Rockies , Tigers , Marlins , Royals , Angels , Dodgers , Twins , Mets , and Yankees.

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Catcher: Johnny Bench (1970)

Bench displayed some awesome power in 1970, hammering 45 home runs and finishing the season with 145 RBI. He scored 97 times and batted .293.

Winning the MVP just two seasons after taking Rookie of the Year honors, it is important to remember Bench was only 22 years old.

No other Reds’ catcher has ever hit more than 28 home runs or recorded 100 RBI.

Highlight Game: July 26, 1970 vs St Louis. Bench hit three home runs in one game, going 4-for-5 with seven RBI in a 12-5 win over the Cardinals. He would have a three-home run game twice more in his career.

Competition: Ernie Lombardi currently owns four of the top five batting averages for any Reds’ catcher, batting at least .333 for four consecutive seasons between 1936 and 1938.

His 1938 was one of his best single-season performances when he batted .342, drew 40 walks and batted in 95 men. He hit 19 home runs and only struck out 14 times.

First Base: Ted Kluszewski (1954)

Big Klu had a career year in 1954, leading the National League in home runs and RBI, but fell to Willie Mays in the MVP voting by a handful of ballots.

Kluszewski batted .326, drew 78 walks, had a slugging percentage of .642 and scoring 104 runs. He ranked third in the NL in total bases (368), and fourth in extra base hits (80). He hit a home run every 11.7 at bats, which made him a NL leader in that category in 1954.

Highlight Game: September 12, 1954 at Pittsburgh. In the first game of a double-header, Klu hit two home runs and drove in six men in an 11-5 victory. It was one of six multi-homer games of the year for the first baseman, with his first home run coming as one of his 33 go-ahead hits.

Competition: Lee May (1969) and Sean Casey (1999) both deserve mention.

Behind Kluszewski, May hit more home runs as a first baseman than any other Red in history, while Sean Casey’s 103 runs ranks fifth all-time among Cincinnati first basemen.

May finished 1969 with 38 homers, 110 RBI and 85 runs. In 1999, Casey batted .332 with 25 home runs, 99 RBI and 103 runs.

Frank McCormick had more runs batted in in a single season, other than Big Klu, and I am also going to mention Frank Robinson for the 1960 season, although his real production came after he moved to left field.

Second base: Joe Morgan (1976)

An easy choice at second base, Morgan had the greatest single offensive season by a middle-infielder in Reds’ history, in my opinion.

Winning his second consecutive MVP award, Morgan batted .320, scored 113 runs and drove in 111 more. He also stole 60 bases. His .444 on base percentage and .576 slugging percentage both led the National League, and his 114 walks ranked second behind Jimmy Wynn.

His OPS+ (A measure of on-base percentage and slugging percentage adjusted to take into account the league average and ballpark factors) is the highest of any Reds player ever.

Highlight Game: September 6, 1976 vs Houston. Cruising towards the National League West Division title and a 100-win season, Morgan his his second grand slam of the season to give the Reds a commanding 8-0 third-inning lead. Three familiar names were on base ahead of him: Pete Rose, Ken Griffey, and Dave Concepcion.

Competition: Brandon Phillips is the only second baseman that comes close. And I mean "close" in the same way that a sprinter finishes "close" behind Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

So really, not at all. Phillips batted .288, hit 30 home runs, scored 107 runs, knocked in 94 batters and stole 32 bases.

Third Base: Tony Perez (1970)

In 1970, Perez hit 40 home runs and recorded 129 RBI. He also batted .317 and scored 107 runs. In his seventh year with the Reds, the future Hall of Famer finished third in the NL MVP voting behind teammate Johnny Bench and Billy Williams.

Perez ranked second in the National league in slugging percentage (.589) and runs batted in, and third in total bases (346) and home runs.

He walked 83 times and was selected to his fourth consecutive All Star Game.

Highlight Game: April 17, 1970 vs Giants. With the score tied 5-5 and one man out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Perez hit a walk-off home run to left-centerfield after Frank Linzy had intentionally walked Bobby Tolan to set up the double play.

Competition: Deron Johnson hit 32 bombs and drove in 130 back in 1965 and Aaron Boone combined power and speed in 2002 with 32 steals and 26 home runs. Chris Sabo had a similar season in 1991 with 26 home runs, 19 steals and a .301 average.

Shortstop: Barry Larkin (1996)

Another relatively straight-forward choice. Larkin tops almost every offensive single-season category for a Reds third baseman on the strength of his 1996 campaign.

His 33 home runs, 89 RBI, 117 runs, and .440 on-base percentage are all franchise highs for Cincinnati third baseman, while his 36 steals ranks fifth all-time (Larkin is also first and third on the list for different seasons).

Barry Larkin somehow won the National League MVP in 1995 and, although his following year was arguably better across the board, he failed to even figure into the top 10.

Highlight Game: July 23, 1996 @ Philadelphia. Larkin hit a pair of home runs, recorded all of his team’s five RBI and walked once in a 5-3 victory against the Phillies.

Competition: Three shortstops have provided noteworthy offensive seasons, according to the MLB shortlist, and I am inclined to agree with them.

Most recently, Felipe Lopez hit 23 home runs, scored 97 runs, batted in 85 and stole 15 bases. In the 70s, Dave Concepcion stole 41 bases, drove in 82 runs and scored 70 times, while in 1947 Eddie Miller hit 19 jacks, had 87 RBI and scored 69 times.

Outfield: George Foster (1977)

Foster had the greatest season of his career—and probably the best single season by any Reds’ outfielder—in 1977.

I will go one step further and say that Foster had the greatest single offensive season by any outfielder from any team in that decade!

The numbers he put up on his way to winning the NL MVP were remarkable. He hit 52 home runs—nine more than anyone else in the baseball that year—and drove in 149 batters—19 more than Philadelphia's Greg Luzinski.

His .631 slugging percentage was 37 points more than any other batter in the league and even today it ranks third all-time for any Reds’ player.

His .320 batting average was the fourth best in the National League, while his OPS+ of 165 ranked second. Foster's 388 total bases was the best in baseball, aided by a then-career-high 61 walks.

Foster holds the Reds’ all-time record for home runs on the road with 31.

Frank Robinson (1962)

Having already appeared in my all-time single season outfield for the Baltimore Orioles , Robinson makes his second mark on my 9s list here for the Reds.

Four years before winning his first MVP award outside of Cincinnati, Robinson was leading the way in the early '60s for the Reds.

He was awarded the NL Most Valuable Player in the 1961 season, but I want to focus on his following year when I believe he was even stronger.

He led the league in hits (134), doubles (51), on-base percentage (.421) and slugging percentage (.637), and the then-26-year-old also set new career highs with 39 home runs and 136 RBI.

His 134 runs is still a franchise record, and he was the first Cincinnati Red to hit three grand slams in one season.

Highlight Game: August 20, 1962 vs Los Angeles Dodgers. His record-breaking third grand slam of the season came against Larry Sherry in the bottom of the tenth inning.

With the game tied at 3-3 and the bases loaded, Robinson hit a ball deep into the Crosley Field bleachers to give the Reds a walk-off victory.

Cy Seymour (1905)

Despite all of the great Cincinnati Reds’ outfielders that have played the game, I am going to give my third and final spot to Cy Seymour who came one home run short of winning the triple crown.

He led the National League in hits (219), doubles (40), triples (21), RBI (121), batting average (.377), slugging percentage (.559) and total bases (325).

He hit eight home runs, the most of his career, but fell short of teammate Fred Odwell’s nine. Odwell only played four seasons and two of those were injury-ridden. Odwell hit one home run in his first year and then zero in each of his final two seasons.

His .377 average remains a franchise high.

Highlight Game: October 3, 1905 vs New York Giants. With just five games remaining in the season and Seymour one home run away from being in line to win the Triple Crown, he hit a first-inning two-run inside-the-park home run off of Claude Elliott.

The home run—the 34th of his career—came in the second game of a double-header and tied him with Odwell for eight. But fate was not on Seymour’s side.

Two games later—with just 19 innings left in the season—Odwell hit what would be the last home run of his career in the second game of a double-header at home to the St Louis Cardinals.

Only 14 players have ever won the batting Triple Crown.

No Cincinnati Red has ever won the Triple Crown, and it is ironic that a Reds teammate was the one who stopped it from happening.

Competition: Wow, was this a hard choice. I had a shortlist of six outfielders that I narrowed down to three. Foster (1977), Kevin Mitchell (1994), Robinson (1962), Pete Rose (1969), Edd Roush 1923, and Seymour (1905)

Regardless of who I chose, any or all of the six men listed had seasons good enough to be on this list. I had to pick three, but recognize the achievements of the others.

Pitcher: Red Lucas (1930)

In 1930 Lucas batted .336 with 19 RBI and 18 runs scored. He hit a pair of home runs, a triple and four doubles.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the pitchers’ spot when it comes to batting.

Competition: No pitcher, who played half of his games as a pitcher, has ever recorded 40 hits, and Hal Jeffcoat is the only Reds’ pitcher to hit four home runs in a season (1957).

I would like to mention Bill Philips who, despite not hitting a home run in 1902, had 39 hits, three triples, 11 runs, 11 RBI and six walks. His .342 batting average is the highest by any Reds’ pitcher with at least 100 at bats.

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