The oldest professional sports franchise in the United States has sure had some great players come through their organization. Established in 1869, the Cincinnati Reds have 5 World Series titles (1919, 1940, 1975, 1976, 1990) to their credit and a great number of Hall of Famers. It is very difficult to narrow a franchise like the Reds to just four players who embody the leadership and accomplishment of the storied club. However, I carefully chose the top four players in Cincinnati Reds history based off a combination of WAR, career accomplishments, and a compilation of career statistics with the franchise. This is strictly my opinion alone, so I hope you guys agree with my top players to ever put on a uniform for the Redlegs.
To kick off my list, I wanted to include the guys that were very close to being immortalized on Cincinnati’s Mount Rushmore, but did not make the list.
- Barry Larkin (1986-2004) Career Reds WAR: 70.4
It was very difficult for me to leave Barry Larkin off of the list, but he just missed the cut. Larkin played every single inning of his professional career with the Reds. Over the span of 19 years, Larkin was an All-Star 12 times, a 9-time Silver Slugger, and won the NL MVP in 1995. The fact that I did not choose him as a face on Reds’ Mountain is painful, but the list is such a strong one, and I partially knew that going in. One person that I can compare Larkin to in recent memory is Derek Jeter. Their numbers are very similar, except Larkin was a lot better defensively and Jeter was better offensively, so honestly, they even out. Barry Larkin was born and raised in Cincinnati and truly exemplifies the honor and prestige that goes along with being a Red. His name was in the discussion this offseason for the Reds Managerial position, but withdrew himself from consideration. I personally would have liked to have seen what Larkin could bring to the table as a manager, but some were concerned that it would affect his legacy as a player. Larkin is, without a doubt, the best SS in the history of the Reds franchise, although some would argue that Dave Concepcion deserves the top spot among the Reds number 6 position. Concepcion definitely earned his due, but I personally give the advantage to Larkin. Both just missed the top four.
- Tony Pérez (1964-76, 1984-86) Career Reds WAR: 45.6
Born in Cuba, Tony Pérez was among some the greatest Cuban players ever to play in the MLB. The majority of his seasons were with the Cincinnati Reds, while he also played with the Red Sox, Expos, and Phillies over the span of a 23-year career. Pérez spent his first 13 seasons with Cincinnati and those were the best seasons of his career. He later came back to the Reds when he was 42 years old, where he played out the rest of his career. Pérez hit 287 HR and had a .283 BA with the Reds and was a 7-time All Star. He was a key member of the Big Red Machine when they won back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. He played a decent amount as a third baseman, but was a first baseman for the majority of his career. He is arguably the best player to ever play at first base in Reds history, but there is more to that story later in the article.
- Frank Robinson (1956-65) Career Reds WAR: 63.9
One of the most underrated players of all-time, Frank Robinson certainly put together an excellent career. He started off his marvelous career in Cincinnati, where he spent his first 10 seasons. When I finish this article, I may kick myself for not putting him on Reds Mount Rushmore, but I have good reason not to. While he has the 4thbest All-Time WAR for Reds position players, I personally feel like he is not remembered as vividly as a Red in his career. He did win the NL MVP in 1961, but that was not enough to make the cut. After he left the Reds in 1965, he went on to play for the Baltimore Orioles, where he won an AL MVP (1966), hit for the AL Triple Crown (1966), and led the Baltimore club to 2 World Series titles (1966, 1970). In proportion to his Reds career, his career in Baltimore comparably identical to his time in Cincinnati, but people rarely think of Robinson as a Red, except Reds fans. Robinson hit 324 HR and had a .303/.389/.554 slash line in Cincinnati which is absolutely amazing in 10 seasons, but he does not make the list because his career in Baltimore is slightly better than his Reds career.
- Other Consideration: Dave Concepcion (1970-88), Vada Pinson (1958-68), George Foster (1971-81), Eric Davis (1984-91, 1996)
Reds Mount Rushmore
These are the top four players in the history of the Cincinnati Reds organization. The best of the best. The cream of the crop. The four faces that should be presented on a stone overlooking the Ohio River.
- Pete Rose (1963-78, 1984-86) Career Reds WAR: 78.1
No doubt about it. Pete Rose is the epitome of Cincinnati Reds baseball. Baseball’s controversial Hit King was the pack leader during the 1970’s Big Red Machine campaign, which resulted in 2 World Series titles (1975,1976). Charlie Hustle spent 19 seasons with the Reds while playing his games at 1B, 2B, 3B, and OF. He played with the Philadelphia Phillies for 5 seasons and was an Expo for a little more the half a season, but he did not build any sort of legacy with those clubs. Rose obviously is known more for betting on baseball, but his legacy on the field is one that is unmatched. He was the most reliable hitter in the franchise and from 1974-1977, he did not miss one game. He showed up when the Reds needed him the most and his grit and determination placed him in a class of his own. He was a 17-time All Star and won the NL MVP in 1973. Regardless of his gambling situation, Pete Rose is Cincinnati baseball and his impact is still felt among the baseball community.
- Johnny Bench (1967-83) Career Reds WAR: 75.2
Arguably the greatest catcher of all-time, Johnny Bench is another no doubt selection for Reds Mountain. He was another huge part of the famed Big Red Machine in the 1970’s and the biggest proponent of his success was his reliability. From 1968-75, Bench averaged 151 games per season. That is just outstanding for a catcher to play in that many games. During his career, he racked up 2 MVP awards (1970,1972), 10 Gold Gloves, and was a 14-time All-Star. He played every game of his professional career with the Redlegs and compiled 389 HR, which is the most in Reds history. He also drove in at least 100 runs six times in his career. To go along with his strong offensive numbers, Bench was also a very solid fielder. Over the entirety of his career, he had a dWAR of 19.7. A great catcher is so vital to the success of a team, because they literally call each pitch and basically control every game that they are in. Johnny Bench exemplified success and proved every bit of his worth throughout his career. It would have been something to get a firsthand look at those 70’s Reds teams. Time machines are not available, yet, but for now we can just admire statistics and re-watch the game film of the Big Red Machine.
- Joe Morgan (1972-79) Career Reds WAR: 58.0
The reason why I chose Joe Morgan was the reason why I didn’t choose Frank Robinson. Morgan played nearly half of his career with the Houston Astros, but he is remembered as a Cincinnati Red. He only played 8 seasons with Cincinnati, but he absolutely made the most of his time there. The guy was literally an on-base machine and to put the icing on the cake, he was one of the best base stealers during the 1970’s. During his time in Cincinnati, he totaled 152 HR, 612 RBI, and 406 SB. He also had a slash line of .288/.415/.470 to add to his marvelous numbers. Morgan is considered by many to be the best second basemen to ever play in the MLB and that would not be possible without his great play in Cincinnati. He played 10 seasons in Houston, but he nearly doubled the production that he had in Houston as a Red. He was almost a completely different player in Cincinnati and that is largely the reason why I chose him over Frank Robinson. It was a very difficult choice, but it was the choice I made. He won two MVP’s in 1975 and 1976, those also happened to be two years that the Reds won the World Series. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the Big Red Machine was a very important part of Reds history. Morgan played the whole prime of his career with the Reds, but his best years in particular were between 1972-76. During this span, he averaged 22 HR, 85 RBI, 62 SB each season, with a slash line of .303/.431/.499. The biggest stat that I love about Morgan is his walk numbers. During that same stretch he averaged 118 BB. Morgan was certainly one of the greatest to put on a Cincinnati uniform and well deserving of a face on Reds Mountain.
- Joey Votto (2007-present) Career Reds WAR: 58.8
The decision to put Joey Votto on the Reds Mount Rushmore might be a biased one, but he certainly has the numbers to back it up. Votto is 5thon the Reds career WAR list, and he lead the organization in career OBP. He is 2ndin BB, but if he has a healthy 2019 season, expect him to be the Reds career leader sometime in September. Votto has only played 11 full seasons with the Reds, but has compiled a long list of accomplishments. He won the NL MVP in 2010, he has also led the NL in OBP 7 times, and currently has a career slash line of .311/.427/.530. Votto has compiled 269 HR, and is another player that has played every single game of his professional career with the Reds. The main thing about Votto is that his career is not over. He could feasibly turn in 2-3 more productive seasons. Some may disagree with putting Votto in the Reds top 4, but he is one of the best hitting talents the MLB has ever seen. His ability at the plate is a thing of beauty and those who do not watch Votto regularly do not really understand how great he is in the batter’s box. Barry Larkin definitely had more accolades, but Votto has already passed Larkin in many statistical categories. Larkin also played 19 seasons, which helps tremendously. I expect Votto to be at least top 4 in career Reds WAR by the time his career is over, but let’s hope he get that World Series ring that he fully deserves.