MLB Franchise Four - Cincinnati Reds
With Major League Baseball honoring the “Franchise Four” of each respective franchise during this year’s upcoming All-Star game, I will present my own franchise four for each team, as well as pioneers, negro leagues, and greatest living players. Today, we have the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cincinnati Reds have been around for 133 years under various names. They’ve won five World Series titles, but two of them came from the most successful era of their history. The mid-to-late 70s saw the golden age of Reds baseball, and it’s evident on this list, as 5 of the 8 players listed come from that classic team, dubbed “The Big Red Machine”. Although Dave Concepcion and Tony Perez were members of that team, their careers don’t cut it for the franchise four, even though Perez is a hall of famer. The most difficult player to keep out, the only difficult player that I had to keep out was hall of fame shortstop Barry Larkin. Spending his entire 19-year career in his hometown of Cincinnati, Larkin was a 12-time all-star, and captain from 1997 until his retirement. He was an integral part of the “wire-to-wire” 1990 season that saw the Reds win the World Series. An MVP winner in 1995, Larkin was inducted into the hall of fame in 2012.
How can this list not start with Pete Rose, the greatest Reds player of all time? “Charlie Hustle” played 24 years in the majors, 19 of them with the Reds. After starting his career with a Rookie Of The Year award, Rose made 17 all-star games, and won the NL MVP in 1973. He was one of the stars of the Big Red Machine team of the 70s that won consecutive titles in 1975 & 1976, winning the World Series MVP in 1975. A three-time batting champion, Rose is the franchise leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, total bases, doubles, walks, singles, and runs created. A prolific hitter, he broke Ty Cobb’s record of base hits on September 11, 1985, becoming the all-time hit king. He retired with 4256 base hits, 3358 of which came in a Reds uniform.
Johnny Bench is the franchise leader in home runs and RBI. Spending his entire 17-year career in Cincy, he was the 1968 Rookie of The Year, and 2-time MVP, additionally winning the World Series MVP in 1976. A 14-time all-star, Bench was ranked 16th in The Sporting News’ list of greatest baseball players, the highest-rated catcher. Alongside his 1975 World Series rival Carl Yastrzemski, he was inducted into the hall of fame in 1989.
Joe Morgan is the third member of the Big Red Machine that holds a spot on this list. He was yet another Reds player to win an MVP during the 70s, winning consecutive awards in the championship years of ‘75 & ‘76. The Big Red Machine won a combined six MVPs during the 70s. A 10-time all-star and five-time Gold Glove winner, he retired with over 2500 career base hits, and is considered one of the greatest second basemen of all time.
The final spot on the franchise four rightfully belongs to Frank Robinson, one of the most important baseball players of all time. In his Rookie of The Year award-winning season of 1956, he made his first of 12 all-star appearances. He was crowned MVP in 1961, hitting .323 with 37 homers and 124 RBI. After his first 10 years in Cincinnati, he switched over to Baltimore and won an MVP there, becoming the first and, to date, only man to win an MVP in each league. In 1975, he became the first African-American manager in MLB history. He retired with 582 home runs and 2943 base hits, barely missing out on 3000. He was inducted into the hall in 1989, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.