Historic Trade: Reds and Astros

Yesterday marked an anniversary or sorts. For Reds fans, it was a great day. For fans of the Houston Astros, maybe not so much.

Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times has published a great piece about the deal in which the Reds and Astros swapped a few players.

In this now ever-so-famous deal, the Reds acquired Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo (maybe the most underrated player in the deal), Jack Billingham, Denis Menke and Ed Armbrister.

Morgan is in the Hall of Fame and a few still say he may be the best second baseman to ever play the game. He played parts of 22 seasons at the major league level, eight of those in a Reds uniform. During his time in Cincinnati (as a player), Morgan won two MVPs (1975 and 1976), five Gold Gloves and was a member of eight All-Star teams.

For Geronimo, it was like a new beginning. Back in February, I authored a post about the center fielder for the Big Red Machine. Even though he is a member of the Reeds Hall of Fame, I feel he gets lost in the shuffle.

Billingham became a workhorse. During his six years in Cincinnati, he hurled, get this, 45 complete games, 16 of those in 1973. In that season of ’73, he amassed 293.1 innings pitched, a thought unheard of these days. He led the NL in IP that year but did not lead the league in complete games. That honor went to Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver who each had 18.

Longtime Reds fans associate Armbrister with one play…

In Game 3 of the 1975 World Series, the score is tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th. Armbrister would become the center piece in a huge controversy. Some of you have seen the video numerous times when Armbrister, in an attempt to sacrifice bunt and move Geronimo over to second, dropped the bunt right in front of home plate. Red Sox cathcer Carlton Fisk comes lunging from behind the plate in order to field the ball and make a quick throw to second base in an effort to get Geronimo. One problem: Armbrister was attempting to get out of the box and bumped into Fisk. Armbrister initially hesitated to leave the box.

Yes, it is probably less discussed these days in Boston since they have a pair of rings since.

But something funny still strikes me. I went to YouTube to see if they had a video of this play…and there isn’t one. But there is one of Fisk’s Game 6 game-winning homer.

Anyway, Menke, as I view it, was a throw in to the deal. Good glove, little bat (for this team), but always seemed to make the right play.

The Astros received Lee May, Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart (no, not the guy from It’s a Wonderful Life which I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of over the next month). Here’s where Jaffe will take the podium…

This trade was a complete disaster for Houston, and one it easily could have prevented. Houston’s regular first baseman in 1971, Menke, hit exactly one home run, and the team wanted more power. Houston already had alternatives in its system: Bob Watson and John Mayberry. But the Astros didn’t realize their own options. Instead, they grabbed Lee May.

Yes, there have been trades that have worked in the Reds favor.

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