The Modern Red Machine


Photo Courtesy of Cincinnati Reds/Cam Miller

Few things in baseball are certain.

Records are broken. Players come. Players go. Teams are good. Teams are bad.

And unless the rules change and the baseball Gods throw us a curveball, there is one thing that is certain:

There will never be another team like the Big Red Machine.

From 1970-1976, the Cincinnati Reds constructed a team that cruised through the National League. They won four NL titles and two World Series Championships. The Reds were so dominate that from 1972-1976, they averaged 100 wins a season.

The Big Red Machine teams were built like cars used to be.

They were built to last.

Of course those teams were built in an era before free agency and “big market” was somewhere you went for groceries.

General Managers in those days weren’t hip, young, or cool and they certainly didn’t make movies about them.

It is an impossible and futile task to try and reasonably compare the Big Red Machine that Bob Howsam built to any other team. It was a team built for winning and consistency. All the gears ran smoothly with few malfunctions.

But what if a Reds team took the philosophical blueprints from the Big Red Machine and tweaked them to build a sleek and modern version?

Don’t look now, but the Cincinnati Reds just might be doing that very thing.

For the last few years, the Cincinnati Reds have done something that they hadn’t done since the 1970s. They have developed a core group of players and locked them up long term. They have revamped the farm system, acquired pitching, and most importantly have made winning year in and year out the number one priority.

When is the last time this has happened?

The 1980s teams got terrible gas mileage. With the exception of a few solid years and a few great players, the 80s teams were like a sports car that was decent in the city, but terrible on the highway. The post-Machine Reds never could quite live up to the promises.  Every time they got going, they would have to stop for gas.

The 1990s began with the shocking and accidental World Series Championship. There was talk at the time of a New Red Machine. But by 1993, the machine had stalled and was left at the salvage shop waiting for the junkers to take what they thought was still useful.  By 1999, there seemed to be a plan in place. But changing the spark plugs wasn’t enough. There was a lot of body work to be done.

The 2000s brought us a new stadium, and the misguided notion that a team can be built around one player ( Ken Griffey Jr.) It was like putting racing stripes on a Pinto.

When Bob Castellini took over the driver’s seat, he found  franchise and fan base yearning for the glory days. Winning  and winning consistently was the objective. And the only way to to that was to build a team that would last. It meant not only getting great parts, but paying attention to details. The interior had to look as good as the exterior.

By locking up the superstars, the Reds have a well-oiled engine under the hood. They will never again have The Great Eight, but The Big Three of Votto, Phillips and Bruce  are well on their way to finding a place in Reds history.

The Reds finally have a solid pitching rotation with Cueto, Latos, and Bailey. They have somehow figured out how to bring stability and consistency to a small market.

Reds fans can only hope that much like the 1970s, the early years of the decade provide the learning experiences needed to make the jump to a championship.

There are still a few good miles left in this machine.