The “save” didn’t become an official statistic in baseball until 1969, although it had been tracked for years. The definition of a save itself was defined in 1960 by Chicago sportswriter Jerome Holtzman but it has been redefined, examined and criticized since. (The first official “save” went to Bill Singer on Opening Day 1969, who relieved Don Drysdale and pitched three scoreless innings in a 3-2 LA win over the Reds at Crosley Field.)
Reds history has mirrored that of most other baseball teams when it comes to the use of the bullpen and the creation of closers. “Closers” used to come in at all times of the game. Our very own Sparky Anderson brought Wayne Granger into Game 5 of the 1970 World Series in the 2nd inning in relief of Jim Merritt. Anderson also brought in Rawlins Jackson Eastwick III in the 7th and 8th innings of games in the 1975 World Series, refusing to just limit him to the 9th inning and a potential save situation.
The one-inning save was “too easy” according to one of the best ever, Rich Gossage. He’s in the Hall of Fame (rightfully so) despite holding the record for the most blown saves with 118. But the one-inning save is “the book” now to a lot of managers in baseball, including Dusty Baker.
Thus, Chapman is somewhat limited in his role. Thus, Reds fans are a bit upset. And I have to agree with them.
These historical references are brought up simply because Reds fans in 2013 are getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of use of one Mr. Aroldis Chapman. And when you look at the recent history of the Reds in the playoffs, it’s easy to understand why.
The Closer of 2010 (Francisco Cordero) didn’t throw one pitch in the Reds 3-0 series loss to the Phillies that year. And aside from a shaky save in Game 1, Chapman was a non-factor in the Reds 3-2 series loss to the Giants last season.
The Reds have had a lot of productive and solid closers in their history. You can list them from Doug Bair to Ted Power to Pedro Borbon. But aside from Clay Carroll in 1970, Will McEnaney in 1975 and The Nasty Boys in 1990, contributions by the closers in post season were negligible.
Fred Hutchinson used two solid veteran relievers (Jim Brosnan and Bill Henry) in winning the 1961 NL pennant.
Brosnan, a righthander, was 10-4 with 16 saves while Henry was a lefty that saved 16 games as well. Hutch went
with percentages, his gut, and situations to dictate who closed the games that year. Neither were a factor in the
Reds 4-1 World Series loss to the Yankees.
Manager Dick Sisler gambled on Billy McCool in 1965 as a closer and the 21 year old lefthander produced back to back seasons of 21 and 18 saves before flaming out. He was the lefthanded Scott Williamson of that era. McCool never made it to the post season but had one of the neatest names of any Reds player.
Granger, a skinny sidearming righthander with a rubber arm, had some good seasons for Anderson but he had a disastrous 1970 World Series in which he gave up a grand slam home run to an opposing pitcher (Dave McNally) in a 9-3 loss in Game 3. The Reds best pitcher that Series was Carroll (1-0, 9 IP, 0 runs allowed) and he later became the Reds closer.
The Reds career leader in saves is Danny Graves with 182. But Graves never captured the hearts of Reds fans and was routinely ripped after blowing a save. It was even worse with David Weathers, who from all accounts was a good guy, but was routinely booed by Reds fans. In 1998, Closer Jeff Shaw was named to represent Cincinnati in the All-Star Game and the Reds promptly traded him to the Dodgers, where he appeared in the game wearing an LA uniform.
Anyway, here’s my Top 5 list of Reds Closers. It’s not based on statistics, saves, WHIP, WAR or anything else. These are the five guys I felt most comfortable and confident with in the ninth inning and the Reds clinging to a one-run lead. I could listen to Marty and Joe on the radio, have another Keystone Ice and look forward to the Hall of Famer’s signature call of a Reds win. (I omit Mr. 106 from consideration because I still hope he will be moved to the starting rotation at some point.)
1. John Franco
2. Clay Carroll
3. Jeff Brantley
4. Rob Dibble
5. Randy Myers
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.