Doors of Perception: The Cincinnati Reds Now and Then


The time warp that the Reds seemed to enter in 2010 continues to amaze me.  I am a nostalgic guy filled with the romance that is baseball, so this wrinkle in time fits my perception of the Cincinnati Reds perfectly.  The Reds of the past three seasons continue to strike an eerie resemblance to the Reds teams circa 1970-1972.

Take a look at the similarities:

In 1970 the Reds won 13 more games than they did in 1969, the 2010 Reds duplicated that feat winning exactly thirteen more games than they did in 2009.

The 1970 squad ended a long 9 year drought between postseason appearances while the 2010 Reds ended an even longer 15 year playoff drought.

Both the 1971 and 2011 teams suffered an identical 79-83 campaign that disappointed on almost every level.

Each team reacted to the disappointment they suffered by sealing a blockbuster that critics said would hearken the ruination of the franchise.   The deal between the ’71 and ’72 seasons sent the teams’ RBI leader (Lee May) and one of the most popular fan favorites (Tommy Helms) away to bring in an underachieving second baseman named Joe Morgan.  Following the 2011 season the Reds gave up a kaleidoscope of prospects for a young left-handed pitcher who could be described as eccentric and mercurial.  Welcome aboard Mat Latos!

Cincinnati Reds catcher Dioner Navarro (30) gets a shaving cream pie in the face by starting pitcher Mat Latos (rear) at the end of the game after driving in the winning run against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park. The Reds defeated the Brewers 2-1. Photo Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

The ensuing season was magical for both teams minus the happy ending.

The 1972 Reds finished with a 95-59 record, a team batting average of .251 and a team ERA of 3.21.  They had a winning record every month after April and finished 10.5 games in front of their nearest competitor.  The lost in the 7th game of the World Series to the Oakland Athletics when the winningest player in the history of baseball, Pete Rose, flied out with a man on first and down by just a run.  The season was capped by a 9 game winning streak and the most they ever lost in a row was 4.

The 2012 Reds team earned a record of 97-65, they also finished with a team .251 batting average, and they tied for the league lead with a 3.34 ERA.  This incarnation had a .500 winning percentage in April and went 1-2 in October, but had winning records in every other month and ended the season with a 9 game lead.  They lost in extra innings with a 2 games to none lead in a best of 5 division series to the San Francisco Giants after a baserunning error by Brandon Phillips created an out just before a Jay Bruce RBI single that could have scored two runs instead of just one.  Later Bruce again came to the plate with Joey Votto on base and this time he failed to deliver.  To say either of these plays cost the series would be poetic license unworthy of a baseball purist but it does offer the opportunity to say “What if…?”

The largest win streak for this squad was 10 and they 5 in a row along the way.

So will the 30 year convergence continue?  At this stage in the game I would guess no.  The economics of baseball make it quite difficult to maintain a dynasty like the Big Red Machine was and the 2012 Reds were a year and a half older than their 1972 predecessors.  The future is now for these Redlegs and the eyes of all Cincinnati are upon them.

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