“12/9/1965 or 12/21/2007?”

The Reds are regretting getting rid of current Texas Rangers' star Josh Hamilton. This has been a familiar pose for Hamilton, who currently leads the League with an amazing .359 batting average.

Most are probably very confused by the title of this post.  Two random dates in December over 42 years apart.  How could these dates possibly be related by any means?  Maybe it has to do with the NFL or NCAA Football since they are December dates?  And if you thought this, you would be incorrect.  These are two dates that will forever live in infamy in Cincinnati Red’s history.  These are the dates of the two worst transactions made in club history.

12/9/1965:

The Reds were a very good team in the 1960s.  They even played in the World Series in 1961, though they were defeated in 5 games by perhaps the greatest team in baseball history, the 1961 New York Yankees.  Their best player was a man by the name of Frank Robinson.  Robinson was an immediate impact player for the Cincinnati boys, taking home the Rookie of the Year Award in 1956.  He also won the MVP Award in 1961, leading the Reds to the Pennant and a World Series loss to the Bronx Bombers.  Though he did not repeat as the MVP in 1962, he did bat .342, with 39 HRs, and 136 RBIs.  The man also fielded exceptionally well, taking home the Gold Glove in 1958 (Right Fielder).  In his time in Cincy, he made 6 All Star teams and was one of the most recognizable and well liked players in all of baseball.  Sadly, in 1964, the Reds came up one game short of capturing the Pennant.  The owner of the Reds at the time, Bill DeWitt, had big plans of relocating the franchise, and started selling off key components of the team.  So following the 1965 MLB season, Bill DeWitt executed, what many refer to as the worst trade of the century.  He gave the Baltimore Orioles Frank Robinson, in exchange for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun, along with outfielder Dick Simpson.

Frank Robinson went on to make an immediate impact in Baltimore, capturing both the MVP and the Triple Crown (in his first season, 1966)  He also led the O’s to their first World Series in franchise history (1966).  In addition, the Orioles enjoyed their best 3 year stretch in franchise history between 1969 and 1971, winning 3 consecutive pennants.  They even defeated Robinson’s former team, the Cincinnati Reds, in the 1970 World Series.

So how about the other gentlemen that were a part of this trade?  Well Milt Pappas spent 3 years in Cincinnati.  And though he had a 16 win season in 1967, his ERA was always well over 4, and he had a very rough relationship with Red’s legend, Joe Nuxhall.  A definite no-no in Cincinnati.  At least he got a shoutout in the classic movie, “Bull Durham,” by Susan Sarandon.  Susan’s character said, “Bad trades are a part of baseball, I mean who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake?”  Jack Baldschun was another pitcher included in the deal.  Baldschun spent 2 years in Cincy and had an ERA of 5.49 in 1966, and an ERA of 4.15 in 1967.  He won one game, and had 5 losses.  Then the last guy included in this horrific transaction was outfielder Dick Simpson.  In his two short years in Cincinnati, Simpson played in a combined 136 games.  He batted .238 in 1966, and .259 in 1967.  At least the guy hit 5 HRs and had 20 RBIs in his two-year stay right?  Totals that probably equaled a month’s production for Frank Robinson.

All in all this has to be one of the five worst trades in MLB history.  Frank Robinson is one of the greatest players of all time.  The Reds let him go as he was entering the real prime of his career.  DeWitt thought that Frank was an “old 30.”  Boy was he wrong. Fortunately for Cincinnati, guys like Bench and Rose were ready to make an impact.  Cincinnati was saved by the Big Red Machine.  Thank god for Bob Howsam right (Red’s GM from 1967-1977)?

12/21/2007:

I am sure many of you have figured out what happened on this date in Red’s history.  But for those of you who have not, this was the day the Reds wheeled and dealed Josh Hamilton to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Volquez and the little guy, Daniel Ray Herrera.  Though Hamilton’s stint in Cincinnati was short-lived and quite injury prone, the impact was big nonetheless.  In 90 games in Cincinnati, he hit .292 with 19 HRs and 47 RBIs.  Not to mention he put on a spectacular exhibition in the outfield and won over the city that was skeptical of the pickup from Day 1 due to his rough past.  Now we do not know if an incident happened behind the scenes that led to the Reds sending the man that they had taken a chance on in the previous year’s Rule 5 draft, but either way, Hamilton was headed out west to Texas.

Josh is currently having the best season of his 4 year MLB career.  He is batting .359, with 26 HRs and 80 RBIs.  Not to mention he has a ridiculous slugging percentage of .629 (leads the AL).  The kid is definitely a major MVP candidate.  And his team is leading the AL West.  He really had a very strong first 2 years in Texas as well.  So his production has been unquestioned and will continue.  So who did the Reds get out of this deal?

First of all Edinson Volquez.  Volquez actually was a very pleasant surprise for the Reds in 2008.  He was the ace of the staff and made an All Star appearance.  Sadly since 08, his production has been mediocre at best.  In 2009, he only was able to start 9 games due to injuries.  So he went 4 and 2 with a 4.35 ERA.  He also got a very late start in 2010 due to the same injury.  And since his return, he has been able to start 6 games, winning 3, and losing 1.  His ERA has been a little shaky though at 4.25, and he has had issues with walking too many batters (21 walks in 29.2 innings thus far).  So with Volquez, the jury is really still out.  Who knows what would have happened without the major injuries?  I do know though, that he has had some off field issues with confirmed steroid use as well.  Can Volquez salvage the deal?

The other player included in this deal was the MLB’s former smallest guy, standing at 5 foot 6 inches tall,  relief pitcher, Daniel Ray Herrera.  Herrera has been somewhat solid when given the opportunity for the Reds.  Currently he is in the Minor Leagues, but in his 3 years, he has thrown some solid innings for the big team.  After a horrendous 2008 campaign, he calmed down to become one of the Red’s go to bullpen guys in 2009.  He made 70 appearances, and had an ERA of 3.06.  He has been in the minors since the end of June and his 36 appearances with the Reds before being sent down were not the greatest.  He had an ERA of 3.91, but really struggled in June.  His chances of getting back up to the big team as a mainstay are slim to none this year.

So there you have it.  But the thing you have to realize about this most recent transaction.  A key issue on the 2010 version of the Cincinnati Reds has been a lack of production from the plate by Reds’ outfielders.  Well Josh Hamilton I think could have helped out this issue a little bit.  Volquez has hardly played this year and Herrera is down in the Minors..

So which trade was a worse deal for Cincinnati in your eyes?  Or is it hard to say at this time?

I do know these are two dates that not too many Reds fans are proud of.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

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16 responses to ““12/9/1965 or 12/21/2007?”

  1. Wow. Isn’t it so easy to look back and forget the facts at the time. Josh Hamilton had just recently come back from being suspended for being a heavy drug user. Meanwhile, the Reds had horrible pitching depth. Travis Wood, Mike Leake, and Aroldis Chapman were nowhere near the Reds 25 man roster.

    Trading a player with high risk and high reward for a pitcher with a high ceiling is not a bad trade. You are ready to declare this trade as bad as the Robinson one after Volquez is just now coming back from TJ surgery. Couldn’t you have waited to actually see what Volquez becomes when he isn’t less than a year removed from rehab?

    Most Reds fans I know miss Hamilton, but considering what our pitching depth was at the time Id imagine most of them would do the trade again. Plus you mention the struggles of the Reds outfield. The Reds lead the league in Offense. I want to see what a healthy Volquez can do for the pitching staff. When he can find the strike zone he is often times unhittable. Why cant trades work out for both teams? Why does every trade have to have a winner and loser? Can’t two talented players be swapped in a move that helps both?

    • Kevin,
      You bring up some very valid points. The Reds pitching prospects were looking slim to none at the time. In addition, Hamilton was really struggling to stay healthy. I am not saying that this trade was quite as bad as the Robinson one. But at this time, we are looking like we may have gotten the short end of the stick. A lot will hinge on how Hamilton and Volquez perform over the next few years.

      I am also quite aware that the Reds lead the League in offense. But our outfield plate production has been pretty weak. Stubbs is batting .236. Bruce is batting .258. Gomes is batting .264. Heisey .277. And Nix, who plays sparingly, is batting .283. Not exactly earth shattering averages. Add a guy like Hamilton into this lineup. And we have the best lineup in baseball without question. And those are some very interesting questions about trades having a winner and a loser. I do believe that some trades can have 2 winners or 2 losers. In this case though, we are losing until Edinson starts playing well.

      Lastly, most trades do not look bad right away. Or a team would not make them. The outcome of a trade is really decided over what happens over the next couple of years resulting from the trade. No GMs go into a trade thinking, I am going to make a horrible move on purpose. I promise you that though the Red’s GM DeWitt was sort of jumping ship in 1965, he did not mean for the trade for Robinson to be as lopsided as it was. How was he supposed to know that all 3 guys involved in the trade would tank horribly?

      -TheSportsKraze

      • kramerj7,

        There are other ways to evaluate hitting than batting average.

        Yes, Drew Stubbs has a low batting average, but he also has more HRs, RBI, Rs, and SBs than Jason Heyward.

        Most people consider Jason Heyward a star… yet Stubbs is the more productive hitter this year.

        Sure, Jay Bruce is having an average year at the plate, but his defense in right field is second to none.

        All of these guys are contributing in big ways.

        Forget about batting average, it is the worst stat to use when evaluating a player.

      • Kerry,
        You are most definitely correct in that batting average is not the only way to evaluate a player. And you are also spot on with how outstanding the fielding of Bruce has been and the amount of ground Stubbs can cover in the outfield. But if you look at some other key stats. Stubbs has struck out 118 times. Bruce has been mowed down 109 times. Heyward has struck out 91 times and Hamilton 84. In addition, Stubbs has a terrible OBP of 0.301. Bruce is not a whole lot better at 0.326. Heyward has gotten on base at a percentage of 0.368, and Hamilton knocks them all out of the water with an OBP of 0.411.

        But you are correct in batting average not being the only indicator of a players production. But you need guys to make contact and get on base. Bruce and Stubbs have struggled in this department sadly at times.

        -TheSportsKraze

  2. Yeah, Stubbs and Bruce both need to make more contact and walk more often.

    Still, I think the defense of these team is the more overlooked reason for this team’s success.

    As for the trade… I’d love to have Hamilton in the lineup. At the same time, Volquez may be the only possible “ace” the Reds have for the playoffs (Cueto is close as well). In a playoff series, Volquez has the ability to battle with an Adam Wainwright.

    This team will score runs, so Hamilton’s absense can be managable. But without Volquez, I cringe to think of the pitching matchups the Reds would face in the playoffs.

    • Kerry,
      You are definitely right about Stubbs and Bruce needing to find a way to get on base more. But the defense on this team has been phenomenal. Pitching and defense wins. The Reds have a ton of arms and one of the best fielding teams in all of baseball. We have been in the top 2 in the League in fielding percentage all year and average about 0.4 errors per game on the season.

      Volquez also may be the only possible “ace” we have in the rotation. But honestly, our best pitcher overall has been Arroyo. He is the most seasoned. Sure he gets rocked every 4 outtings. But the other 3 are always very sharp.

      The Reds will definitely need Edinson for the playoffs though. Your pitchers have to give you quality starts if you want a chance at winning a game in October. I hope Edinson can get on track.

      -TheSportsKraze

  3. Volquez is 2-0, 1.53 ERA, 14 K’s in his last three starts. (Reds 3 – 0)
    Hamilton is 1 – 10 in his last three games. (Rangers swept)

    Looks like Edinson got the rust off and Hamilton’s heading for his yearly, end of the season disappearing act…uh-oh.

    And sure Edinson missed most of last season with injury, but Hamilton may as well have missed all of last season as well…89 games, .268 Avg, 10 HR’s?

    He’s had 5 really, really good months for the Rangers since the trade, that’s it. April thru June ’08. June up to now in 2010. Let’s settle down on the the Frank Robinson talk…

    • Kevin,
      Edinson has looked solid as of late. He really needs to cut down on his walks though. And as for Hamilton, I think he has finally nixed the health issues. But with the intensity he plays with every day, it is hard to think that he will remain healthy for the duration of an entire season. He did somehow stay healthy in his first year in Texas and put up a great season (2008).

      But you are correct in that pitching wins championships. It would be nice if we could add his bat to the outfield. I guess you can’t always have your cake and eat it though.

      Very good points and it is not as bad as the Frank Robinson trade. We will see what happens over the next few years in each of these great players careers though.

      -TheSportsKraze

  4. Oh and maybe we can let Stubbs (25) and Bruce (23) play four years in the majors, or get to their late 20’s at least, before we compair them with a guy in his supposed prime in Josh Hamilton (29).

    Alls that said, I love Hamilton…loved him when he played for the Reds and was there on his Opening day in 2007 giving him a standing ovation with the rest of the sellout crowd.

    I do that trade over again and again and again in a heartbeat for a stud like Volquez…good pitching beats good hitting everytime.

    • Kevin,
      You are right in that people need to be more patient with Stubbs and Bruce. People forget how young they are and have very high expectations for them. The adjustment to MLB level pitching takes time though. And I feel like both of these guys will develop into very strong players in time.

      I am not sure if I would do that trade over and over though. Pitching does beat good hitting. But the Reds have quite a few arms now, though we did not when the trade was made.

      Once again solid points.

      -TheSportsKraze

  5. I think this trade will be one that works out for both teams. When healthy Hamilton might be the best player in the AL. Volquez is nasty and if he can stay healthy and maybe straighten his hat a little bit he could be one of the best pitchers in the NL. It’s too soon to tell but I think it was a big stretch to compare it to the Frank Robinson trade.

    As for Bruce and Stubbs. I’ve often this season talked to my friends about how many runs those guys save in the outfield. We are so used to seeing them take line drives away from hitters that we almost expect them to catch anything close. A run saved in the outfield is the same as hitting a home run in your next at bat. It just isn’t as glamorous.

    Anyone else think Stubbs would have had the ball that was over Edmunds head last night in Arizona? I do.

    • Brandon,
      We can only hope that it is a trade that works out for both teams. Hamilton is going to be a big time player. Volquez has a world of potential and should be a big time player. Bruce and Stubbs both field great and have great range in the outfield. And yes I do think Stubbs may have had the ball over Edmond’s head last evening.

      This trade probably does not compare to the Frank Robinson trade. But in time, it may, depending on the directions that Volquez and Hamilton veer towards.

      Very good points though.

      -TheSportsKraze

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