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Cincinnati Reds
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On this page: Arrivals | Departures | Spring Cleaning | Team Breakdown | Prospects | Predictions

   The Reds are still waiting for Ken Griffey Jr. to lead them to the promised land. AP

By Jarrod Breeze,

"Feb. 10, 2000 ... when the Michael Jordan of baseball came home to Cincinnati."
-- Reds GM Jim Bowden

The trade for Ken Griffey Jr. was supposed to catapult the Cincinnati Reds into the postseason following their 96-win season and wild-card playoff loss in 1999.

But the euphoria stemming from the acquisition of Cincinnati's most beloved son (Note: Griffey actually was born in Pennsylvania) since Pete Rose quickly wore off and reality set in as the Reds were ill-equipped to handle the misfortunes that didn't plague them the previous season.

First, Griffey struggled in his full-time indoctrination into the National League. Griffey's average hovered in the .220-240 range for much of the year until a late-season surge boosted his final number to .271. He finished with his worst numbers since his injury-plagued 1995 season.

Then there were the spats with the media and his seemingly never-ending surliness, which included a heated dugout exchange with his dad, Ken Griffey Sr.

Top Guns
Reds 2000 team leaders
Avg.  Sean Casey  .315 
HR  Ken Griffey Jr.  40 
RBIs  Ken Griffey Jr.  118 
SB  Pokey Reese  29 
Wins  Steve Parris  12 
ERA  Steve Parris  4.81 
Ks  Scott Williamson  136 
Saves  Danny Graves  30 
Go Figure


Wild pitches thrown by the Reds' staff -- a major league record.

Also, injuries to Griffey, Barry Larkin, Sean Casey and Eddie Taubensee weakened an everyday lineup that was being compared to the Big Red Machine of the 1970s. Still, the Reds ranked fourth in the NL in runs scored last season.

Primarily, the Reds' downfall can be traced to their starting staff. Ron Villone and Steve Parris couldn't follow up on their breakout seasons of 1999. Pete Harnisch was limited to 131.0 innings because of a shoulder injury, and Denny Neagle was traded during the All-Star break.

The Reds did little to address their starting pitching woes in the offseason. In fact, they traded Villone and Parris in cost-cutting moves, leaving a plethora of second- and third-year players and relative unknowns to vie for rotation spots.

Although Villone and Parris combined to lose 27 games with an ERA above 5.00, the Reds were maligned this offseason for their salary-dumping purge. Trades of Neagle and Dante Bichette during the season and Villone, Parris, Taubensee and Chris Stynes brought only one player in return with significant major league experience -- utility infielder Donnie Sadler.

The Reds' financial constraints even spilled into the dugout, where Ron Oester rejected a low-ball managerial offer. Thinking that was the beginning of a contract negotiation, Oester was stunned the next day to learn the job had gone to Bob Boone.

Still, the Reds are one of the few teams who have the talent to possibly overcome their small-market mentality. They return a young everyday nucleus and a solid bullpen that helped produce 85 wins last season. If Harnisch, Rob Bell and Scott Williamson can anchor the rotation, and Elmer Dessens (11-5, 4.28) improves upon his 2000 emergence, the Reds expect to be in the thick of the NL Central race.

Pos.  Player  From  Via 
LHP  Clayton Andrews  Blue Jays  Trade 
RHP  Jim Brower  Indians  Trade 
LHP  Justin Carter  Rockies  Trade 
OF  Michael Coleman  Red Sox  Trade 
RHP  Leo Estrella  Blue Jays  Trade 
RHP  Seth Etherton  Angels  Trade 
INF  Wilton Guerrero  Expos  Free Agency 
RHP  Robert Pugmire  Indians  Trade 
RHP  Frank Rodriguez  Mariners  Free Agency 
INF  Donnie Sadler  Red Sox  Trade 
Kelly Stinnett  Diamondbacks  Free Agency 
RHP  Jeff Taglienti  Rockies  Trade 
Matt Walbeck  Angels  Free Agency 

Pos.  Player  To  Via 
OF  Kimera Bartee  Angels  Free Agency 
SS  Wilmy Caceres  Angels  Trade 
OF  Brian L. Hunter  Phillies  Free Agency 
RHP  Steve Parris  Blue Jays  Trade 
INF  Chris Stynes  Red Sox  Trade 
Eddie Taubensee  Indians  Trade 
LHP  Ron Villone  Rockies  Trade 

Spring Cleaning
Barry Larkin
  • Larkin has a new three-year contract and a grass field to play on. Now it's time for the lifelong Red to act like the captain he is supposed to be. Last season, when clubhouse chemistry came into question, Larkin said the Reds missed the leadership of Greg Vaughn. Never mind the fact Vaughn was a one-year Red while Larkin had anchored shortstop full time in Cincinnati since 1987. Larkin took a major step in the right direction when he welcomed Boone's idea of Larkin batting leadoff, a notion he has been reluctant toward in the past.

  • Boone must shine through the cloud of controversy under which he was hired and show he is not the same manager who led the Kansas City Royals to a 181-206 record in 2 1/2 seasons (1995-97). Boone used more lineups than any other manager in 1995 (127) and 1996 (152), prompting the The Kansas City Star to gauge the number of different lineups with "The Boone-meter." A major league catcher for 19 seasons, Boone had a surprisingly poor rapport with Royals pitchers. He'll be tested again with a young Reds staff.

  • Harnisch, who opted for rehab instead of surgery on his problematic shoulder, must stay healthy and prove durable. Harnisch won 30 games with a 3.40 ERA in 1998-99, pitching 407.1 innings. He slipped to 8-6 with a 4.74 ERA last season.

  • The Reds are still two years away from the opening of their new park, but they'll play in a revamped Cinergy Field until then. Changes include grass, shorter dimensions, a 14-foot wall in the gaps and a 30-foot wall in center field (to serve as a batter's eye backdrop after the enclosed stadium's outfield was opened due to construction of the overlapping new park next door). It hasn't been decided whether a home run line will be drawn or if the ball will have to clear the wall to be a homer.

  • Team Breakdown
    Projected Lineup  Projected Rotation 
    SS  Barry Larkin  RHP  Pete Harnisch 
    RF  Alex Ochoa/Michael Tucker  RHP  Scott Williamson 
    CF  Ken Griffey Jr.  RHP  Rob Bell 
    LF  Dmitri Young  RHP  Elmer Dessens 
    1B  Sean Casey  RHP  O. Fernandez/LHP Ed Yarnall 
    3B  Aaron Boone  Bullpen  
    2B  Pokey Reese  RHP  Danny Graves (closer) 
    Jason LaRue  RHP  Scott Sullivan 
    Key Reserves   RHP  Seth Etherton 
    INF  Juan Castro  RHP  John Riedling 
    OF  Michael Coleman  LHP  Dennys Reyes 
    UT  Wilton Guerrero  RHP  Mark Wohlers 
    INF  Donnie Sadler  LHP  Hector Mercado 
    Kelly Stinnett     

    Prospects to Watch
  • SS Gookie Dawkins -- The 21-year-old Dawkins is major league-ready defensively. Dawkins had a stint in the majors last season when Larkin was injured, hitting .220 in 14 games. He played most of the year at Class AA, batting .231 with 22 stolen bases. He was a member of the U.S. gold medal-winning team at the Summer Olympics.

  • OF Adam Dunn -- Dunn is proving his decision to quit football -- he was a collegiate quarterback -- for baseball was the right one. Dunn hit .281 with 16 home runs and 79 RBIs in his first full season at Class A. He was second in the Midwest League with 101 runs and 100 walks. Dunn runs well for a 6-foot-5, 235-pounder, stealing 24 bases in 29 attempts.

  • 3B Drew Henson -- He's been compared to Mike Schmidt. Unfortunately for the Reds, he'll probably wind up like Peyton Manning and Tim Couch, top picks in the NFL Draft who signed huge bonuses. One of the prizes in the Neagle trade, Henson is a 6-foot-5, 222-pound third baseman. He batted .266 last season with nine homers and 49 RBIs in 80 games between Class A and AA.

  • LHP Ty Howington -- The Reds' top pick of the 1999 draft, Howington was only 5-15 with a 5.27 ERA in his first year of pro ball at Class A. Howington, 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, complements a mid-90s fastball with a nasty curveball.

  • OF Austin Kearns -- Kearns is the prize of the system. The strong-armed 20-year-old hit .306 with 27 homers and 104 RBIs at Class A Dayton last season. The seventh overall pick in the 1998 draft, Kearns shows patience at the plate (he walked 90 times last season and struck out just 93). Kearns was named the Reds' Minor League Player of the Year.

  • Best-Case Scenarios
    The smile returns as "The Kid" challenges his best season. Griffey hits 60-plus homers and drives in more than 150 runs for the first time in his career to win his first NL MVP award. Griffey's production has a trickle-down effect throughout the lineup. The Reds lead the NL in runs scored in clinching their first playoff berth since 1995.

    Harnisch wins 20 games for the first time in his career, and a couple of gems are discovered in the Reds' bargain-basement rotation. Perennial prospect Ed Yarnall finally makes good on his promise, winning 12 games from the No. 5 spot. Scott Williamson, the 1999 NL Rookie of the Year as a reliever, settles into the rotation full-time and is among the league leaders in strikeouts.

    After a season of expections, the Reds revert back to 1999 and surprise the league. This time, however, a wild-card playoff is not needed. Much like the 1990 champions, also a surprise team, the Reds lead wire-to-wire and win the Central going away. They sweep through the division series and NLCS, then extend their World Series winning streak to 13 games, second only to the Yankees' 14.

    Worst-Case Scenarios
    Griffey is driven up a wall by Cinergy Field's 30-foot monstrosity in center field. No longer able to scale above the fence to rob batters of home runs, Griffey runs into the wall trying to make a leaping catch, shattering his shoulder and wrist. Deion Sanders is summoned to replace Griffey, but his on-base percentage is worse than Brian L. Hunter's.

    Still seething at being passed over for the manager's job, third base coach Ron Oester sends slow-afoot Dmitri Young to the plate from second on a sharp single to rifle-armed Vladimir Guerrero. Young is out by 10 feet, prompting a heated exchange in the dugout between Oester and Boone. A fight breaks out and both men are arrested on assault charges. Griffey Sr. takes over as interim manager. Hmmm, maybe that's what Reds management had in mind all along.

    Carl Lindner, the Reds' 81-year-old owner and Chiquita king, slips on one of his banana peels and bangs his head on the floor, resulting in amnesia. Contracts to Griffey and Larkin are voided, and Marge Schott resumes control of the club. Her first order of business is to fire Boone and hire washed-up minor leaguer Pete Rose Jr. as manager.

    Bottom Line
    If the Reds were a cooking show they would be called The Frugal Gourmet. With an expected payroll of about $42 million, projected to be the lowest in the NL Central, the Reds may need smoke and mirrors to make the playoffs.

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