1. 1970–Traded LHP Steve Mingori to Cleveland Indians for Jay Ward.
2. 1971—Traded RHP Milt Wilcox to Cleveland for OF Ted Uhlaender
3. 1972–Traded OF Hal McRae and SP Wayne Simpson to KC for OF Richie Scheinblum and SP Roger Nelson
4. 1973—Traded LHP Ross Grimsley to Baltimore for Merv Rettenmund
5. 1975—Traded RHP Joaquin Andujar to Houston for two minor league pitchers
6. 1976==Traded 1b Tony Perez and LHP Will McEnaney to Montreal for LHP Woodie Fryman and RHP Dale Murray
7. 1977—traded LHP Mike Caldwell to Milwaukee for two minor leaguers
8. 1977—traded RHP Bill Caudill, along with LHP Woodie Fryman to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Bill Bonham
9. 1977—Traded Shane Rawley to Mariners for Of Dave Collins

Bob Howsam made some great trades to make the Big Red Machine a two-time World Champion. He almost completely rebuilt the team within two years of being named General Manager. By the time the Reds won the World Championship in 1975 only Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Gary Nolan and Clay Carroll were all that remained from the 1968 season, the first season that Howsam was GM. I don’t think it’s difficult to figure out why Howsam held on to each of these guys.

Howsam has a quote in “Big Red Dynasty” (John Rhodes and Greg Erardi) that bears repeating and may seem somewhat surprising when it comes to discussing the deals listed above…

“Then we’d talk about it…Who would we be willing to give up? I often found my people were willing to give up more players than I wanted to. I think that’s normal, because when you know your own players, you misjudge their value, may be overemphasize their faults, and think the other players were worth more.”

Okay, so Howsam was afraid the Reds scouts were undervaluing their players and overvaluing the competition’s players…Rhodes and Erardi say that Howsam felt that “organizational consensus was the key for Howsam.”

Looking at the deals listed above, I find it a bit scary that the organizational consensus was they needed to go or weren’t good enough to stay.

Another factor in all this is the sheer number of pitchers the Reds mishandled from 1968-77. Everyone used a four-man rotation then and pitch counts were not a governing factor, but here’s a list of pitchers, their age at retirement, and their last “effective” year (yes, somewhat subjective) and their age at time of last effectiveness; do some math and subtract their last age of effectiveness from their age at retirement, and you’ll find out how much talent they actually had:

Jim Maloney, 31, 1969 (age 29)
Jim Merritt, 31, 1970 (age 26)
Jim McGlothlin, 29, 1972 (age 28)
Wayne Simpson, 28, 1972 (age 23)
Don Gullett, 27, 1977 (age 26)
Gary Nolan, 24, 1972 (age 24)
Gary Nolan, 28 1976, (age 28) …Nolan listed twice since he had to reinvent himself
Roger Nelson, 32, 1974 (age 30)….damaged when Reds got him, after being damaged in 1965

Every pitcher listed above was named to at least one all-star team, and all had either been huge prospects, made huge impacts, or were considered to be top quality starting pitchers.

Now, look again at the list of Reds pitchers they traded away: Steve Mingori, Milt Wilcox, Ross Grimsley, Joaquin Andujar, Mike Caldwell, Bill Caudill, and Shane Rawley….all within seven years. In order:

Mingori may be the least known of these guys, but he was a lefty reliever who pitched from 1970-79 with the Indians and Royals. He totaled 385 games with a 3.03 ERA, but never played for the Reds. He was traded for pinch hitter Jay Ward, who went 0-3 for the Reds with 2 walks and was released.

Milt Wilcox was traded to the Indians for outfielder-pinch hitter Ted Uhlaender. Wilcox went on to post a career 119-113 record with a 4.07 ERA for five different teams. Uhlaender played one season for the Reds, batting 128 times and hitting .159 with one homer. He’s then out of baseball after that one season. Wilcox had been impressive in the 1970 league championship series for the Reds, but had pitched only 23 regular season innings in two seasons, posting a 3.02 ERA.

Ross Grimsley was 37-25 over three seasons for the Reds, and then was even more effective after being traded to the Orioles and then to the Expos. Grimsley won 20 in 1978 for the Expos, and finished his career 124-99 with a 3.81 ERA. He was traded to the Orioles for outfielder Merv Rettenmund and infielder Junior Kennedy. Rettenmund was a .300 hitter for the Orioles and was expected to contend for a starting outfield position, but hit only .227 in two seasons with the Reds. Kennedy played parts of five seasons with the Reds, mainly as an infield reserve. In 325 games with Cincinnati, Kennedy batted .260 with two homers.

Joaquin Andujar never made it past AAA for the Reds (AAA record was 10-13, 5.01 ERA), but was then dealt to the Astros for two minor leaguers. He won 20 games twice for the Cardinals in 1984 and 1985, and overall was 127-118 in the majors with a 3.58 ERA.

Mike Caldwell won 22 games for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1978. He was a double digit winner for the next five consecutive seasons. With the Reds he was 0-0 with a 4.01 ERA in 14 games, in 1977 before being traded for two minor leaguers that same year. For his career, Caldwell went 137-130 with a 3.81 ERA. Only Fred Norman started more than 25 games for the Reds in 1977 when Caldwell was dealt. He won the 22 games the very next year.

RHP reliever Bill Caudill never pitched for the Reds. He was traded, along with aging Woodie Fryman to the Cubs for ailing starting pitcher Bill Bonham. Caudill went on to pitch in 445 major league games over 9 seasons, with 106 saves and a 3.68 ERA. Bonham pitched through three injury filled seasons with the Reds, going 22-13 with a 3.73 ERA.

Shane Rawley also never pitched for the Reds. Pitching in over 12 baseball seasons, the lefty starter, went 111-118 with a 4.02 ERA. Dave Collins became as starting outfielder during his first tour with the Reds and played very well in those four years.

Something else quoted from the book “Big Red Dynasty,” this time quoting Sparky Anderson:

“Bob (Howsam) was always very conscious of a ‘Reds-type’ player. He wanted the scout’s opinion on a guy’s make-up: aggressive, clean-living, good attitude. Bob always had a thing about knowing the inside of a guy….”

That may have something to do with several of the trades above. Grimsley was a “child of the 1970’s” and his carefree antics drove Sparky Anderson crazy. Andujar demonstrated his hot headedness in a World Series. I can’t speak for the others.

Tony Perez had wonderful character; I have him listed here only because his trade is generally considered the beginning of the end of the Big Red Machine. However, Howsam overvalued Fryman and Murray in this deal. Perez was in decline, having his worst season as a regular with the Reds. He did have a big resurgent season with the Red Sox in 1980 with 25 homers and 105 rbi, but the Reds need for pitching clouded the Reds’ judgment in what Fryman and Murray could do. Fryman somehow had two of this best seasons at ages 35 and 36. Expecting that to continue was a prayer that was answered with a resounding reminder that Woodie was 37. Murray’s 81 game appearances the previous year blinded Howsam, et al, to the fact that he had given up 134 hits in 111 innings the year before. It was just a bad trade in attempt to get younger with Dan Driessen.

Hal McRae is listed here, too, but not because of character. He’s one of the best players ever the Reds let get away. I believe he got caught in the shuffle during the transferring of games from Crosley Field to Riverfront Stadium. A minor league level knee injury robbed him of his speed, but he sure could hit. The lack of speed left him with no place to play in the outfield, so the Reds dealt him to the American League Kansas City Royals to serve as a DH.

In four partial seasons with the Reds, McRae batted .257 with 22 homers. In the 15 other seasons, McRae batted .293 with 169 homers, 1012 rbi, and twice finished fourth in the MVP voting. He collected over 2000 hits for his career.

The Reds also dealt injured Wayne Simpson to the Royals where KC was hoping that Simposn could regain his form. Simpson won three games for the Royals.

The Reds received Roger Nelson in the McRae trade. Nelson was an American League flamethrower who had recovered from earlier injuries enough to go 11-6 with a 2.08 ERA for the Royals in 1972, just before the Reds trade. Nelson won seven games over two years with the Reds. Richie Scheinblum was an outfielder acquired in the deal. Scheinblum had put together an outstanding season in 1972, and parlayed that into a trade to the Reds. With Cincinnati, Scheinblum played to his career norms, batting .222 with one home run in 65 plate appearances. The Reds dealt him to the California Angels for two minor leaguers when the season was half over.

So, Bob Howsam made mistakes, too, and lots of them. I think the Reds were guilty of two major things….1) that pitchers seemed to grow on trees and 2) they undervalued their talent and overvalued the opponents talent. The pinch hitters they received in trade for their young pitchers did not come close in value to the young pitchers they traded, and they didn’t protect their pitchers’ arms. The pitching began breaking down after the 1976 season and is the primary reason for the decline of the Big Red Machine.

2 Responses

  1. Bill Lack

    Undervaluing your talent and over-valuing your opponents…sounds like yesterday’s deal.