Reds History

Ranking the 5 best defenders in Cincinnati Reds history

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin in action.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin in action. / RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports
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We've all heard the moniker that defense wins championships, right? Despite so much of today's game being defined by big flies, OPS, and exit velocity, defense is still a key part of winning.

Each year, Rawlings hands out the Gold Glove awards to the eighteen best defenders in Major League Baseball. While fielding percentage and errors may have been replaced by outs above average and defensive runs saved, it's still apparent that defense matters.

Cincinnati Reds, one of the most storied franchises in all of baseball, has a long tradition of outstanding defensive players. Recent history would point you in the direction of Zack Cozart and Tucker Barnhart; both of whom shined with their electric play on the field.

Go back a few years and fans will remember the defensive wizardry of Eric Davis and Pokey Reese. Outfielders like Vada Pinson and Cesar Geronimo and third baseman Scott Rolen were also some highly-regarded defenders as well.

But who was the best of the best? There are any number of metrics one could use to put this list together and still be missing out on some of the greatest defenders in Cincinnati Reds history. But, here goes nothing.

5. Bid McPhee, Reds second baseman (1882-1899)

Okay, there's no way you can have a list of the greatest defenders in Cincinnati Reds history and not include Bid McPhee. If you've never heard of him, you're about to get a crash-course on the greatest second baseman of the 19th century.

For those who don't know, it was not always customary to wear a glove in the field. In fact, McPhee was the last second baseman to play professional baseball without wearing a mitt. A quote attributed to McPhee from sabr.org tells you exactly how the infielder felt about wearing a piece of leather on his hand during an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1890:

"The glove business has gone a little too far. It is all wrong to suppose that your hands will get battered out of shape if you don’t use them. True, hot-hit balls do sting a little at the opening of the season, but after you get used to it there is no trouble on that score."

Bid McPhee, Reds second baseman

I'm not sure what the exit velocity off the bat was back in the 19th century, but McPhee sounds like the type of player who would reject the idea of a glove even in the 21st century. McPhee, who was formerly a book keeper, joined the Red Stockings in 1882 and is the only member of that team to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

I know, no one reading this right now ever got the chance to see Bid McPhee play baseball, but everything you read about him makes one belief that he embodied the grit and heart of the city of Cincinnati. McPhee often led the league in several defensive categories throughout his 18-year career and is one of the greatest defenders in Cincinnati Reds history.

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