At the end of the 1999 season the Reds walked away from a possible playoff appearance, cocky that the golden ring would be obtained on the next turn of the carousal. In their corner they boasted of their 24 year old 1st baseman, whose hitting .332/.399/.539/.938 and contagious smile endeared him to the fan base, young as well as old.
As the 2000 season approached the Reds talked of linking their young 1st sacker to a deal that would please both parties.
”I would like to sign a long-term deal, but that’s not up to me,” Casey said. ”I love Cincinnati. I love playing for this team. It’s a great bunch of guys. But I’ve always said I’ll never play this game for the money. I think if you just go out and play the game and keep your focus on the field, then all the off-the-field stuff will take care of itself.”
Following the 1999 season the Reds picked up All world center fielder Ken Griffey Jr to add him to the “young core” the ones that helped bring the Reds over 95 wins that season for the first time since 1976. The future looked bright and the team was loaded with players under the age of 28.
Scott Sullivan 28 Michael Tucker 28 Aaron Boone 26 Pokey Reese 26 Chris Stynes 26 Danny Graves 25 Dmitri Young 25 Sean Casey 24 Williamson 23 Dennys Reyes 22
On May 23rd 2005 the list was whittled down to one player, Sean Casey… the poster boy for that years intoxicating success. Through the years since 1999 Sean has had a few things to say about the exit of some of these players. Some of them received complete silence in their departures from Sean, but that’s not what intrigues me, what I find interesting is the words that came out as Sean’s friends were moved out of the clubhouse.
So come with me and let’s revisit the1999 base of young guns and the words from the “Mayor” as the curtain fell on their time as a Red.
The following Reds left the building without a mention from Sean. Stynes, Tucker, Young, Reese and Reyes. It’s the bolded players that created the core of Casey’s peers and playmates.
The summer of 2003 was the first real summer that first touched Casey’s core group. After 2001-2002 left the Reds with a 144-180 record the team hoped to perform better… they didn’t.
Three losing months led up to the Reds purge of the front office and manager, with them went some of Sean’s best buddies, packaged for cash, bodies and the pleasure of having someone else pay their salary.
In the span of 2 days, both Williamson and Boone were traded as well as Jose Guillen.
Boone left with this line .273/.339/.469, Guillen with this line .337/.385/.629. However it was Williamson’s loss that touched Casey first and instead of lamenting Jose’s departure he keyed on the Willy deal.
“Until the trade deadline’s over,” said first baseman Sean Casey, “I think everyone’s kind of on edge right now.”
A day later it was then the Boone trade that really began Seans lament and it reached a roar when Sullivan was traded in August..
“My reaction is it’s a salary dump. It doesn’t make a difference if I’m upset or whatever. It’s not about our feelings. It’s about money, obviously.”
“I understand you have to get young talent and this and that, but Scott Sullivan came here below market value to remain in Cincinnati because he loved pitching here and he came up through this organization,” Reds first baseman Sean Casey said.
“It’s just a money thing. This one is so frustrating because Sully has led the league and led the world four of the last five years in appearances. They say no guy is irreplaceable, but Scott Sullivan is irreplaceable. The leadership he brought here and the things he brought to this team, for what Scott Sullivan brought, he was cheap. … It’s a sad day here for a lot of guys.”
More love was spread around on Boone this past weekend.
He’s one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever had,” Casey said. “As a fan watching, you know who’s genuine and who’s not and who goes out there and takes pride in what they do every day and who doesn’t. Watching Boone play, you know he takes pride every day. He goes out and gives everything he has every night. That’s why people in Cincinnati love him and that’s why we loved him here in the clubhouse.”
On Monday Danny Graves was DFA by the Reds leaving Sean as the one remaining Red from the young core of 1999, oddly enough it was in the wake of another DFA last week handed out to Jimenez.
For the first time Casey had a statement about a player that wasn’t within his circle.
“I tried to be nice to the guy, but he was mean to me. I felt like putting a fence in front of my locker and putting up a sign that said, ‘Keep that negative attitude on your side of the clubhouse.’
Pretty strong words from the “nicest guy” in baseball; after the weekend it was Graves turn to walk to the gallows, it was then that Casey let loose with his most robust critique of the Reds so far.
“This is getting hit by a shovel,” Casey said. “Guys loved that guy. Guys loved Danny Graves. It’s got to have a negative effect.
“Right now is one of lowest points I’ve ever been involved in with the Reds.”
“I’m shocked more than anything,” Casey said. “It’s just shocking. Anytime this organization asked Danny Graves to take the ball, he did. He never complained. He never griped. You never heard anything out of him.”
“This is not his fault,” first baseman Sean Casey said. “We stink. For us to be 15-28 has nothing to do with Danny Graves. That’s the frustrating part for me.
“I know I’m a little emotional right now, but I think the Cincinnati Reds as an organization owe a lot more to Danny Graves for the eight years he stepped up every year. They owe him more than to just release him like this. I just disagree with it.”
I’m getting a mixed message from Casey here, he seems to believe that the workplace is solely the clubhouse, as a stat guy I spend a lot of time looking at the numbers, but I also am aware that personalities matter, the clubhouse matters, being happy matters.
But in the end the stats are why the player is on the team.
One thing for sure is I won’t be taking Casey’s word on talent over my own.
The 1999 core has experienced some rocky times since the firesale, great clubhouse guys moved on, not so great players… but great in the clubhouse.
What have they done since they left?
Aaron Boone as a Yankee 220 PA’s .254/.302/.418/.720 Currently Boone is hoovering it up in Cleveland with this line .158/.213/.273/.487 and the rumor around the league is that he’s going to end up in Buffalo working on his game.
Scott Williamson is currently on the Cubs, nursing and arm injury that ended his season in Boston last year after pitching a grand total of 49 innings since he left Cincinnati. Some say he’ll be lucky to ever throw again.
Scott Sullivan currently lives on the Royals 60 day DL with arm problems as well, he earlier was experimenting with a new arm slot this past spring and since he left the Reds he’s thrown 74 innings with a 4.55 era. Last season he allowed over 15 runners every nine innings.
Danny Graves departure brought on this from Sean in an interview with Dan Patrick yesterday.
He believes the loyalty was really hurt and he was concerned a little about his future. He wants to finish his career in Cincinnati, but it really made him realize it’s a business first.
Yes Sean… guys who make over 6 million bucks a year are expected to be more than a good teammate and fun guy on the plane.
Because baseball is a business and has been since the Red Stockings decided to pay everybody who played on the team.
So don’t act so surprised.
Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the “American League”…. but I digress.
Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be.
After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A’s fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey.
A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia