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Sports fans love to reminisce over the days that it all went wrong: the wasted draft pick, the tragic trade or the defecting hero. These may not be, by definition, the worst roster moves ever made, but they were the ones that affected us on a personal level. These are the events that caused -- and still cause -- us to sit on our bar stools and lament the cruel twists of life.
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Then keep your eyes open for when we run the best and brightest of your reactions on CNNSI.com.
Like many Reds fans, CNNSI.com Night Site Producer Jarrod Breeze thinks the Big Red Machine would still be winning championships if the pieces hadn't been stripped, beginning with the 1976 trade of Tony Perez. Breeze also looks at the trade of future Triple Crown winner Frank Robinson; the departure of Pete Rose; the squandered stable of closers Trevor Hoffman and John Wetteland; the loss of Paul O'Neill; and the first "worst trade of the century" -- Christy Matthewson for Amos Rusie in 1900.
| December 16,
| Reds trade 1B Tony Perez and P Will McEnaney to Montreal for P Woodie Fryman and P Dale Murray
Tony Perez returned to manage the Reds in 1993, and was rudely dumped again. Rick Stewart/Allsport|| |
The beginning of the end was at hand. With this trade, the Big Red Machine ceased to be. While firebrands Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench were still around, the loss of Perez had an adverse effect on a team coming off back-to-back World Series titles. The low-key Perez was often credited for molding the outspoken personalities inside the clubhouse into one cohesive unit.
Perez also provided a steady bat (averaging 26 HRs and 103 RBIs over the 10 years before the trade) and was one of the game's most clutch hittes. His two-out, two-run homer off Boston's Bill Lee in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the 1975 Series rallied the Reds to their first world championship -- a game saved by Will McEnaney -- since 1940. Teammate Lee May came up with the moniker "Doggie," saying, "He's the big dog, the top dog ... you could always depend on Doggie to drive in the big run."
Several factors led to this deal, most notably the impending era of free agency and the emergence of young first baseman Dan Driessen. Nine years Perez's junior, Driessen hit .300 with 17 homers and 91 RBIs in the first season as the full-time first baseman. But he never hit more than .277 with 18 homers and 75 RBIs in the following six years before being traded to Montreal.
Neither Woodie Fryman nor Dale Murray made a difference in Cincinnati and were traded by midseason 1978. The Reds finished 10 games behind the Dodgers in 1977. Perez's absence was not lost on Morgan, who said the Reds "would've won it in '77 too had they not traded Perez."
Perez, who turned 35 one month into the 1977 season, played 10 more years that included a 25-homer, 105-RBI season with Boston in 1980. He returned to the Reds in 1984 and played three seasons before retiring.
Perez became a coach for the Reds and later the manager, only to be unceremoniously dismissed -- by telephone -- just 44 games into his first season in 1993. But that's a Say It Ain't So for another day.
|| Anderson, Perez made Machine hum
Atlanta Journal-Constitution -- July 23, 2000
By Terrence Moore
I dealt with the Machine up close and personal as a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Then, as I moved further in journalism and the Machine members slid closer to retirement, I got to know most of them even better. That included Anderson, the consummate manager, and Perez, the greatest clutch hitter of his time.
Actually, Perez was more than that. He was the Machine's quiet leader. Rose was its physical leader with his hustle, Bench was its appointed leader as team captain, and Morgan was its emotional leader by throwing his feelings around.
Then there was Perez, who joined Anderson as the water that kept the Machine's sparks behind the scenes from becoming an inferno. As Anderson once told me during his days of managing the Tigers after his nine seasons with the Machine, "No one will ever know how tough it was to keep things together in that Reds clubhouse. Believe me, there was no love lost between them guys."
Let's just say that Hall of Fame players have Hall of Fame egos. Perez was the exception. While this Machine clique didn't like that Machine clique, nobody didn't like Perez, the always pleasant Cuban with the smile as big as home runs.
The first time I ever went into a clubhouse in the majors was May 14, 1975. I remember, because it was Perez's birthday. His teammates gave Perez a large cigar and a fancy cake, and they all sang "Happy Birthday." Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall such a thing happening for Johnny, Pete, Joe or the rest during the Machine's run. Not coincidentally, when Reds management foolishly traded Perez to the Expos after the 1976 season, the Machine never won another world championship.
|| Patricia Miller, Madison, Wis.:
I cried when the Cincinnati Reds traded Tony Perez. I don't think management understood just how essential he was to the team. He was the heart and soul of the Big Red Machine. Cincinnati was never the same; even Sparky Anderson says that trade was the biggest mistake he ever made. Pete Rose was who we were, Tony Perez was who we wanted to be.
Scott Georgie, London, Ky.:
In 1993 after only 44 games, GM Jim Bowden decided to fire manager Tony Perez. As a Reds fan for nearly 30 years it was disappointing, confusing and heartbreaking. Perez was a guy that led the Big Red Machine of the 70s. He came back and played his final years there and served as hitting coach for six seasons, molding some of the games great young hitters such as Larkin, Davis, Sanders and Morris. To only give this man 44 games to prove his worth as manager was unnerving to me and any other Cincinnati fan. A record of 21-24 deserved better, considering all of the injuries the Reds had been beset by at that time. Apparently, loyalty was not a part of Mr. Bowden's vocabulary.
| December 9,
| Reds trade OF Frank Robinson to Baltimore
for P Milt Pappas, P Jack Baldschun and OF Dick Simpson
As trades go, intangibles notwithstanding, this ranks right up there with the worst in baseball.
Despite a .296, 33-homer, 113-RBI season in 1965, Frank Robinson was deemed "an old 30" by general manager Bill DeWitt Sr. All Robinson did in his first year in Baltimore was hit .316 with 49 homers and 122 RBIs to win the Triple Crown and MVP, the only player in major league history to win the MVP award in both leagues (1961 with Cincinnati).
Frank Robinson hit an old .316 with 49 old homers and 122 old RBIs the season after he was traded to Baltimore. AP|
The Orioles went to four World Series in Robinson's six years, including a 1970 championship against the Reds. Robinson hit .273 with two homers and four RBIs in the Series, including a homer in the Game 5 clincher.
Robinson had 324 homers and 1,009 RBIs in 10 seasons with the Reds, but the old man managed 262 homers and 803 RBIs in 11 seasons after the trade. His 584 career homers rank fourth on baseball's all-time list. Despite a longer tenure with the Reds, Robinson is most often associated with Baltimore and went into the Hall of Fame as an Oriole.
Milt Pappas, unfairly, is the man most ridiculed in this trade, primarily because Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson were that forgettable. Pappas was a decent pitcher -- only twice in his 16 full seasons did he fail to win double-digit games. He also reached 10 or more losses 10 times. He went 30-29 in 2 1/2 seasons with the Reds.
|| At 'An Old 59,' Robinson Still Angry With Reds
Louisville Courier-Journal -- December 13, 1994
By John Erardi
"I'll admit it now, I am old," Robinson said. "Every birthday since my 31st, people have called me old. 'Frank, you're an old 31. You're an old 35. You're an old 40.' They're teasing me about that 'old 30' thing. I'm just happy to be around to hear it."
Twenty-nine years ago, he wasn't so happy to hear it.
"I kept waiting for [DeWitt] to explain what he meant by 'an old 30.' I was all ears. But he never did say," he said. "I guess it could have something to do with the fact that I was kind of nicked up during my 10 years there."
He was so nicked up his last year in Cincinnati that he smashed 33 home runs and 33 doubles, had 113 RBIs and scored 109 runs in 156 games. In 10 years in Cincinnati, he averaged .303, 32 homers, 32 doubles, 101 RBIs, 104 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 150 games.
Being called "an old 30" didn't stoke Robinson's fire as much as a DeWitt comment that came later in the 1966 season.
Cincinnati writers asked him what he thought of Robinson's production in Baltimore.
"Let's see what he does toward the end of the season," DeWitt said. "He never did much here [in August and September]."
Robinson went on to win the Triple Crown and lead the Orioles to a four- game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series. He also became the first to win a Most Valuable Player award in both leagues.
|| Terry Brown, Gahanna, Ohio:
I could not believe the news when I heard that the Reds had traded Frank Robinson to Baltimore for Milt Pappas. Their explanation was that Robinson was an "old 30" and had passed his peak. He only went to the American League and won the MVP.
| December 5,
| 3B Pete Rose signs with Philadelphia
The native Cincinnatian in another uniform and cap other than the wishbone 'C'? It can't be! But it was. Free agency was a reality, and even Pete Rose was ready to cash in. He wasn't eager to leave the Reds after 16 years and two World titles. But general manager Dick Wagner left him little choice.
Rose, who was coming off a .302 season with 198 hits (including a 44-game hitting streak and career hit 3,000), was willing to accept less to stay with the Reds, but the soon-to-be 38-year-old wasn't about to take a pay cut. Even back then, Rose's rumored association with gamblers in part derailed his negotiations with the Reds.
August 7, 1978 Sports Illustrated|
So Rose went looking for a new team, one he could help get over the top and would pay handsomely for his services.
With new third baseman Ray Knight hitting .319, the Reds won the division title again in 1979, but were swept out of the NLCS by the Pirates. They wouldn't make another postseason appearance (despite having the league's overall best record in the strike-shortened 1981 season) until 1990. Rose, in his burgundy Phillies attire and having moved to first base, helped lead the Phillies to their only World title in 1980.
All was right in the world on Aug. 16, 1984 when Rose returned as player-manager. And he was at home when he broke Ty Cobb's career hits record with No. 4,192.
But Pete and the Reds were in for another SIAS chapter when he was banned for allegedy betting on baseball as the team's manager.
|| Rose Homecoming: Cheers for 0-for-4
The Washington Post -- June 2, 1979
By Thomas Boswell
Pete Rose, master of the cleanly defined act, enemy of subtletly, prefers his diamond universe kept simple like his perspective on life in general.
Tonight, for his Cincinnati homecoming, Rose could not have his way. His adopted Philadelphia Phillies lost for the eighth time in nine games, 4-2, as Rose went 0 for 4 amidst a confusingly rich and ambiguous crescendo of mingled affection and boos.
For the 46,968 fans in Riverfront Stadium, Rose's first appearance here in a blue Phil uniform was a disturbingly complicated and murky matter for the emotions.
May 28, 1979 Sports Illustrated|
No one felt it more acutely than Rose, who arrived at the park five hours early and spent the day building an uncharacteristic wall of noncommital dullness around himself.
"I'm not an emotional person," he said, long before the media mobs appeared. "I'm a little bit afraid of myself. I don't want this thing to sneak up on me and get me too emotional." ...
... "I didn't want to damage those 16 years of memories here, 'cause, ya know, I understand that they want to see me lose now, since I'm wearing this here gray Phillies uniform," said Rose, looking down at his jersey."Oh, it's blue isn't it . . . I haven't been a Phillie as long as I was a Red.
"I understand that now I'm a Reds' opponent, and not just any opponent but maybe the most hated one, since I left as a free agent. Yeah, I understand that. That song they play in the seventh inning - "Root, root, root for the home team" - well, nobody does that no better than us folks from Cincinnati."
Rose refused to be drawn into the debates about just how warm his reception was. To the eye, the huge majority of the fans were standing and clapping for his first appearances. But to the ear, the vocal minority of boo-birds made the reception sound close to a love-hate standoff. During game situations, Rose was roundly booed in every at-bat, then cheered after he made outs.
| November 3,
| Reds trade OF Paul O'Neill and minor league 1B Joe DeBerry to the New York Yankees for OF Roberto Kelly
No one could see this coming. O'Neill had never hit better than .276 in his six full seasons with the Reds. His power numbers dropped from 28 homers and 107 RBIs in 1991 to 14 and 85 in 1992. While O'Neill had the better power numbers, Roberto Kelly was a .280 hitter with 151 stolen bases in six seasons with the Yankees. It seemed like a good deal at the time.
Paul O'Neill never hit higher than .276 in six full seasons with the Reds; he hasn't hit below .283 in eight with the Yankees. John Swart/Allsport|| |
Eight years and four Yankees World Series titles later, it would seem New York got the better of this one. O'Neill blossomed, hitting better than .300 in his first six seasons. He has driven in 100 runs in each of the past four seasons.
But much like Tony Perez was to the Big Red Machine, O'Neill is to the Yankees. While the Yankees get their cool from Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams, they get their fire from O'Neill. Some may forget he was a member of the Reds' wire-to-wire championship in 1990. His .471 average and stellar defensive play in the NLCS propelled the Reds into the World Series, where they swept the heavily favored A's.
Kelly hit .319 in 1993 with the Reds, but played in only 78 games. He was shipped to Atlanta during the next season in a trade that brought Deion Sanders to Cincinnati -- for the first time.
If any solace can be taken from this trade, it's that through a series of other deals, it ultimately yielded current first baseman Sean Casey.
|| John Moore, Cincinnati, Ohio:
I guess I can't say it broke my heart, since I don't specifically remember the day of the trade, but Paul O'Neill was my favorite player with the Reds. While he wasn't putting up the numbers with the Reds that he eventually did in New York, he was a great player and I hated to see him go.
| December 11,
| Reds trade P John Wetteland and P Bill Risley to Montreal for OF Dave Martinez, P Scott Ruskin and 3B Willie Greene
| November 17,
| Florida selects P Trevor Hoffman from Cincinnati in the expansion draft
Cincinnati possessed two of the premier closers of the '90s, yet neither threw a pitch as a Red. Which was the worse trade? Hard to say. John Wetteland was primarily a starter when the Reds acquired him; Trevor Hoffman was a converted infielder who had immediate success as a reliever in the low minors. And the Reds still had Nasty Boys Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble.
Wetteland was a Red for all of two weeks, having been acquired along with Tim Belcher in the deal that sent Eric Davis to Los Angeles. But after being dealt to Montreal for "can't-miss" prospect Willie Greene, he saved 37 games that season for the Expos.
Entering the 2001 season, John Wetteland (top) and Trevor Hoffman have combined for 601 career saves ... none for the Reds.
Harry How (top), Al Bello/Allsport
He now has 329 career saves.
Greene's potential never materialized. He hit .253 with 26 homers and 91 RBIs in 1997, but despite a career-best .270 average the next season, his power numbers dropped to 14 and 49 before the Reds finally gave up and traded him to Baltimore.
Dave Martinez played one season with the Reds before continuing his quest to become the ultimate journeyman. He has played on 10 teams (two twice) in 18 seasons. He was traded three times alone in 2000.
Hoffman was the Reds' 11th pick in the '89 draft -- as a shortstop. But after two seasons in which he hit .249 and .212, the Reds had the presence of mind to try him on the mound. Only problem was: They didn't hold onto him.
The Marlins snagged him in the expansion draft. He saved only two games in 1993 before being dealt -- in a Florida SIAS -- to San Diego in the Gary Sheffield deal. He blossomed in 1994 with the Padres with 20 saves and had 53 in the San Diego's World Series season of 1998. He heads into the 2001 season with 271 career saves and 665 strikeouts.
| December 15,
| Reds trade P Christy Mathewson to the
New York Giants for P Amos Rusie
The Reds traded the future for the past and were left with a bleak present. Rusie had won 246 games in nine years en route to a Hall of Fame career. But he went 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA in three games with the Reds. He never pitched again.
Mathewson's 1906 card by the American Tobacco Company.
Mathewson went on to win 372 games with the Giants and pitch in four World Series. The Reds had no postseason appearances during that span. The Reds reacquired Mathewson as pitcher-manager on July 20, 1916 along with Hall of Famers Edd Roush, who spen the majority of his career with Cincinnati, and Bill McKechnie for Buck Herzog and Red Killefer. Mathewson won one game for Cincinnati his final season, in which he also managed the team.
Mathewson's 373 wins ties him for third on baseball's all-time list.
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