There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Reds trading for Cleveland shortstop and superstar Francisco Lindor. Among the names mentioned to attain Lindor’s unique talents to Cincinnati are Hunter Greene and Nick Senzel.
During the robust, healthy debate at Redleg Nation of a possible trade for Lindor, many of our readers have put forth their thoughts on this process. Who should be dealt, who should be kept. It’s been to fun to read.
But I go back to when the Reds drafted Greene, a young phenom, a powerful 17-year-old right-handed pitcher that, of course, had a “can’t miss” status by his name and after Cincinnati drafted him, he was the “Face of the Reds.”. Prior to the draft he had already made the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Sorry, I never bought into that. His ability to play shortstop muddled things for me as well since the Reds can’t figure out to do with Michael Lorenzen after two full seasons.
During all of this, I reflected on Don Gullett and his career with the Reds.
Gullett was drafted by the Reds right out of high school in Lynn, Kentucky where he was a local sports legend. He was a three-sport star. At high school In a perfect game he pitched, he struck out 20 of the 21 batters he faced. He once scored 72 points in a football game (11 rushing touchdowns and six extra points.) and the Reds drafted him in 1969.
During spring training in 1970, new Reds Manager Sparky Anderson saw what Don Gullett could do. He brought Gullett north with the Reds from Florida and put him in the bullpen. The then-baseball experts laughed at Sparky and said he couldn’t take a 19-year old kid and just put him on the roster.
Anderson had the last laugh. Gullett had a great rookie season. Sparky put him in the right spots. Gullett had a 5-2 record and an ERA of 2.43. In one game against the Mets, the southpaw struck out the first six hitters he faced. After facing Gullett, Pirate slugger Willie Stargell said the Reds lefty “throws wall to wall heat.” Against the Baltimore Orioles in the 1970 World Series, Gullett pitched very well, hurling 6 and 1/3 innings with an ERA of 1.35.
In 1971, it got even better. In a disastrous year for the defending National League champions, Gullett emerged as a starter for Cincinnati and put together a 16-6 record. His future looked incredible for the Reds.
But Gullett was set back by a bout with hepatitis in 1972. He finished with a 9-10 record. The next two years were his best for the Reds. He was 18-8 and 17-7. He was on the cusp of greatness.
In 1975, he started out on fire. It was going to be his career year. But a broken thumb caused by a come backer to the mound sidelined him and he finished with a 15-4 record and an ERA of 2.42. Still, his Game 5 start against the Red Sox in the World Series that season was incredibly dominant.
But in 1976, he showed up for spring training out of shape. That frustrated Anderson. It was Gullett’s final year under contract with the Reds and free agency was starting a new era in baseball. He finished 11-3 for Cincinnati but was dominant again in the post season as the Reds repeated as World Series champions.
The Reds offered Gullett a two-year contract but he wanted financial security. The New York Yankees gave it to him with a six-year, $2 million deal. Gullett’s leaving devastated Reds fans. It cost the Reds a third straight National League pennant and possibly a three-peat as World Champions, especially if Howsam had still pursued and traded for Tom Seaver in 1977.
Unfortunately, Gullett only had one good year with the Yanks, going 14-4 in 1977 and then shoulder injuries sidelined him. He was just 4-2 in 1978 and then finished with baseball.
And so it was when Hunter Green had the notorious Tommy John surgery on his elbow, I wasn’t shocked. Of course, he’s “fully recovered” they say. But if I were the Reds, I would showcase him in a potential Lindor trade. I wouldn’t budge on Senzel.
I didn’t think Nick Senzel would be another Kris Bryant. Still, I thought he would be a great player for the Reds and I love the fact that the Reds would have control of him for six years instead of just two for Frnacisco Lindor. So I would package Greene/India/Galvis and Iglesias and hope the Tribe bites.
And do I need to remind you of Jeremy Sowers, Dustin Mosely, Chris Gruler and Ryan Wagner?
Nah. Didn’t think so.
This is nothing against Hunter Greene. I met him by accident in Burlington, Iowa when he was pitching for the Reds Class A affiliate, the Dayton Dragons. I had interviewed Dragon outfielder Stuart Fairchild and was finished for the day. I was sending a text to a friend on a bench outside of the Dragons clubhouse when Hunter came out and sat down by me to do the same thing.
I recognized him but left him alone, other than asking, ‘You texting someone back home?” and he said he was. We went about our business and made small talk for about 10 minutes.
But when he got up to leave, I couldn’t resist it. I said, “Good luck in your career, Hunter.”
He turned around and smiled. I think he felt good that I recognized him.
And as for Don Gullett, he and Gary Nolan were my favorite pitchers on the Big Red Machine. I was glad he came back as the Reds pitching coach during the 1990s. I’ll always be a Don Gullett fan.
When he was healthy, he was dominant. There’s not much doubt about that.