December 20, 2008: Aroldis Chapman, of the Holquin Cuban professional baseball team, sets a Cuban record by throwing a pitch at 102 mph.

According to baseball-reference.com’s Bullpen, Chapman’s pitch broke the record of another Cuban ace, Maels Rodriguez. Chapman would follow Rodriguez’s lead and defect from Cuba within a year’s time.

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(Editor: RN’s Bill Lack reviewed this book recently. Steve read it, as well; his thoughts are below.)

In baseball, where seas of statistics seem to remove the emotional aspect of the game, a new book by writer Doug Wilson removes all doubt that America’s pastime is played with the human element.

Fred Hutchinson and the 1964 Cincinnati Reds” tells the emotionally gripping story of Cincinnati Reds manager Fred Hutchinson’s battle with terminal cancer while his team battles for the National League pennant.

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December 19, 1985: The Reds acquire starting pitcher Bill Gullickson and catcher Sal Butera for starting pitchers Jay Tibbs, John Stuper, middle reliever Andy McGaffigan, and catcher Dann Bilardello.

The Montreal Expos made Gullickson the overall number two pick in the 1977 amateur draft. Gullickson was recalled for good by the Expos in May of 1980 and entered the Expos rotation in the middle of a pennant race. He went 10-5 as a rookie with a 3.00 ERA (119 ERA+) in 24 games, of which 19 were starts. His season highlight came when he set a rookie record with 18 strikeouts on September 10 vs. the Chicago Cubs. Gullickson finished second in the rookie of the year voting and the player with the most similar age 21 season was former Reds phenom Wayne Simpson, who was 14-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 1970.

Despite striking out the 18 Cubs in that one game, Gullickson became known as a control pitcher and not a strikeout pitcher. Gullickson was regularly among the best control pitchers in the league, allowing 2.2 walks per nine innings for his career. He had also averaged 222 innings pitched per year from 1982-85, the four years before joining the Reds, having won in double figures those four consecutive seasons. The Reds were adding Gullickson to a revamped rotation that would include Mario Soto, Tom Browning, and John Denny, with Denny having only been acquired about a week earlier.

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December 18, 2001: The Reds deal Gold Glove second baseman Pokey Reese and lefty reliever Dennys Reyes to the Colorado Rockies for pitchers Gabe White and Luke Hudson. The very next day, on December 19, Reese is dealt by the Rockies to the Boston Red Sox for catcher Scott Hatteberg. Two days after that, on […]

December 17, 1932: The Reds acquire future Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Bottomley from the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Estel Crabtree and pitcher Ownie Carroll.

Bottomley had been one of baseball’s best hitters from 1923 when he hit .371 with 94 RBI in his first full season, collecting 111 or more RBI every season from 1924-29. His best season was his MVP 1928 season, when he hit .325 with 31 homers, 136 RBI, 123 runs scored, 42 doubles, 20 triples, a .402 OBP, a .628 SLG, and a 1030 OPS (162 OPS+) as the Cardinals won the National League championship. The Cardinals were a first division team from 1925 through 1931. Bottomley slowed in 1932, hitting .296 with 11 homers as the Cardinals fell below .500 for the first time in almost a decade. Bottomley, at age 32, was supplanted by 28-year-old Ripper Collins and Bottomley was made expendable.

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December 16, 1976: The Reds trade Hall of Fame first baseman Tony Perez and lefty reliever Will McEnaney to the Montreal Expos for pitchers Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray.

Perez was a fan and clubhouse favorite who had been in the Reds organization since migrating from Cuba in 1960. Considered a great clutch hitter, manager Sparky Anderson was once quoted as saying, “When there’s a runner in scoring position, I can’t think of any batter I’d rather have at the plate than Perez.”

Perez had been with the Reds at the major league level for 13 years at the time of the trade and had driven in 90 or more runs for ten consecutive seasons. Waiting in the wings was Dan Driessen, a line-drive hitting first baseman who had just turned 24 and already had four major league seasons under his belt. Driessen’s first season as starter could have fit right into a Perez career line — .300 with 17 homers, 91 RBI — but it stopped there as he never exceeded 75 RBI again. Perez collected 91 RBI for the Expos in 1977 before dropping into the 70’s twice himself and then rebounding with a 105 RBI season with the 1980 Boston Red Sox. Perez came back to the Reds for the final three seasons of his career, primarily as a part-time player. For his 23 seasons, Perez hit .279 with 379 home runs, 1652 RBI, and an .804 OPS (122 OPS+).

The decline of the Big Red Machine is often blamed on the Perez trade. The Reds offense continued to perform at a high level even without Perez while the pitching failed, but anecdotal evidence seems rather strong that Perez had a calming effect in the clubhouse.

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December 15, 1900: The infamous Frank Robinson trade to the contrary, the Reds make the worst trade in franchise history when they deal future Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson to the New York Giants for end-of-the-line Hall of Fame pitcher Amos Rusie.

You can read it about it in more detail here. Suffice it to say, Rusie was 0-1 as a Red, making three appearances for them in his last games as a major leaguer. He won 246 games before joining the Reds (246-174, 3.07 ERA career). Mathewson won one game for the Reds, in 1916 after the Reds reacquired him to manage the team. Between 1900 and 1916, Mathewson won 372 games while with the Giants (373-188, 2.13 ERA career, 1-0 with the Reds).

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Baseball-reference.com’s blog has a couple of interesting tidbits of statistical information today that are Reds related.

With the Phillies’ signing Cliff Lee, they decided to research for starting rotations that would have had four starting pitchers making 30 or more starts each with ERA+ of 130 or greater. They found one, the 1997 Atlanta Braves, which had Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Denny Neagle, and John Smoltz in the rotation. Future Red Neagle was 20-5 with a 2.97 ERA, finishing third in Cy Young voting that season (in two seasons with the Reds, Neagle was 17-7 with a 3.89 ERA). The famous 1971 Baltimore Orioles rotation which boasted 4 20-game winners (Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, Jim Palmer, and Dave McNally) did not have any of their starters with an ERA+ of 130 or greater. Palmer had a 126 while the others were quite good (109, 116, 126, 117, respectively). That huge offense helped their outstanding pitching staff.

Baseball-reference.com found nine rotations that had three pitchers meet the criteria of 30 or more starts and ERA+ of 130 or higher, and one rotation was that of the 1925 Cincinnati Reds. The 1925 Reds finished in third place with an 80-73 record, 15 games behind the league champion Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds led the league with a 3.38 ERA, a half run less than the runner-up Pirates (3.87).

The three Reds’ hurlers that met the parameters were Pete Donohue (21-14, 3.08 ERA, 38 starts, 133 ERA+), Dolf Luque (16-18, 2.63 ERA, 36 starts, 156 ERA+), and Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey(21-11, 2.88 ERA, 36 starts, 142 ERA+). The fourth starter slot was split between Rube Benton (9-10, 4.05 ERA, 16 starts, 101 ERA+) and Jakie May (8-9, 3.87 ERA, 12 starts, 106 ERA+).

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December 14, 1938: Major league teams adopt several resolutions. The National League allows the Cincinnati Reds to play their season opener one day before other teams, as a way of honoring the 100th anniversary of baseball and of the 1869 Red Stockings being the first professional team. (from baseball-reference.com’s bullpen) December 14, 1964: The Reds […]

December 13, 1906: On this date, the Reds purchase pitcher Andy Coakley from the Philadelphia Athletics. Coakley becomes (and remains) the all-time Reds leader in career Earned Run Average. Coakley was a five year veteran of the Athletics when the Reds purchased his contract (in Coakley’s first season–3 games–he played as Jack Mc Allister), compiling […]

December 11, 1912: The Cincinnati Reds trade star outfielder Mike Mitchell, utility players Peter Knisely, Red Corriden, and Art Phelan, and pitcher Bert Humphries to the Chicago Cubs for Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Tinker, catcher Harry Chapman, and pitcher Grover Lowdermilk. Tinker is named player-manager of the Reds.

December 12, 1913: The Cincinnati Reds trade star outfielder Bob Bescher to the New York Giants for infielder Buck Herzog and catcher Grover Hartley. Herzog is named player-manager of the Reds.

From 1906-16, the Reds were a miserable lot, with the Reds finishing below .500 in every season but one. The Reds went through a series of four managers with no success, even hiring former umpire Hank O’Day as manager for the 1912 season (75-78). Reds owner Garry Herrmann had pursued Cubs shortstop Tinker to no avail in 1912, but was able to land him with an eight-player deal in 1912. The trade was the largest personnel transaction for the Reds until the 1971 Reds trade with the Houston Astros that netted the Reds Joe Morgan.

To get Tinker, the Reds had to give up outfielder Mitchell. Mitchell had been with the Reds for six seasons, setting the outfield record for assists with 39 as a rookie in 1907, and leading the league in triples in both 1909-10. At age 32, he had begun his decline phase. While the other position players were utility in nature, pitcher Humphries had a big 1913 with the Cubs, going 16-4 with a 2.69 ERA in his best major league season. Catcher Chapman had two plate appearances for the Reds and pitcher Lowdermilk never pitched for the Cincinnati team. Tinker did play and had a good year at the plate, hitting a career high .317 with 13 triples. However, Tinker had issues with Reds ownership (see below) and they sold him to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Tinker refused to report and jumped to the third major league at the time, the Federal League.
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December 11, 1985: The Reds acquire former Cy Young Award winner John Denny and relief pitcher Jeff Gray for formed Reds closer Tom Hume and outfielder Gary Redus.

1985 was Pete Rose’s first full season as Reds manager and the Reds placed second in the National League Western Division race with an 89-72 record, 5 1/2 games behind the Dodgers. The Reds pitching staff finished fourth from the bottom in the league with a 3.71 ERA, while the Dodgers led the National League with a 2.96 ERA so the Reds decided to get some more pitching.

Returning from the 1985 Reds staff was rookie 20-game winner Tom Browning (20-9, 3.55 ERA) and ace Mario Soto (12-15, 3.58 ERA, 214 K’s). The only other Reds starter with more than 15 starts in 1984 was Jay Tibbs (10-16, 3.92 ERA) who would be dealt in a few days to the Montreal Expos in a deal that netted the Reds Bill Gullickson (14-12, 3.52 ERA for the Expos).

The Reds needed another starter and Denny had won the National League Cy Young Award for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1983 when he was 19-6 with a 2.37 ERA, his finest major league season (runner-up was the Reds’ Soto who was 17-13, 2.70). The Reds had hoped that a rotation of Soto, Denny, Browning, and Gullickson would give them one of the best rotations in the league.
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