Some numbers allow for simple selections of legendary Reds members, and then there are times when there is no clear correct choice. The best player to ever wear the #12 in Reds history, believe it or not, has been Edwin Encarnacion.
Throughout his tumultuous history with the ballclub, Encarnacion drove fans either to extreme bouts of anger, or pure, unadulterated joy. For example, on June 14th, 2008, Encarnacion strode to the plate facing the Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, and promptly socked a game-tying home run with two outs in the ninth. That very same season (2008), Encarnacion committed 23 errors, which allowed him to garner the nickname, “E-5”, on various fan message boards.
In fairness, Encarnacion’s number varied back and forth between 12 and 28 in his tenure with the Reds before being swapped to Toronto at the Trade Deadline in 2009. Had the powerful third baseman chosen to be more Dr. Jekyll and less Mr. Hyde in his time in Cincinnati, he would almost assuredly have continued to be the Reds third basemen for an extended period of time.
Many fans have been critical of the deal that sent Encarnacion to the Blue Jays in exchange for Scott Rolen. On paper, or in the fantasy world, it seems that our neighbors to the north picked the Reds pocket on a deal in which the Jays are still reaping the benefits. Those that follow the game religiously, know that the game is not judged primarily on statistics, but on intricacies that are not always seen to the human eye. Scott Rolen’s presence in the locker room not only helped to provide consistency at a position that was desperately lacking it, but also helped to mold new leaders of the team for years to come in Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
Those that may not keep up with baseball outside of the Reds, may not know the force that Encarnacion has transformed into. Given a lineup in which he can thrive, and becoming primarily a designated hitter, has allowed the man once nicknamed “E-5” to become a slugger who has hammered 78 homeruns in these past two seasons combined.
As often the case, a change of scenery can do the trick for a player chock full of potential. There was no guarantee that Encarnacion would have ever developed into the player he is today had he been kept around the Queen City. For where Todd Frazier lacks his power, he unquestionably runs circles around him on the defensive side where Frazier almost saw a Gold Glove award come his way last season.
The other options for the best to wear #12 were quite slim to say the least. It was nearly a coin toss between Encarnacion and former Reds long-time infielder, Bobby Adams. Hopefully, somewhere out there, there’s a young ball player spraying the field with line drives who will one day bring legitimate honor and prestige to the #12 in Reds history.
Edwin Encarnacion may not be remembered for what he did as a member of the Reds, but rather as what he might have been with the Reds. I’m sure if General Manager Walt Jocketty had to do it all over again, he would certainly pull the trigger.