Cincinnati Reds Team Picture 2007 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for December 9, 2017

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This card shows the image of the 2006 Cincinnati Reds. They were a team that had some talent, pulled off a devastating trade with the Red Sox but finished with an 80-82 record.

And that sub .500 team must have watch the 2006 World Series and thought “IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN US!!!!”

Manager Jerry Narron had a Reds team with very little expectations on them. The Cardinals were the reliable Division Champs. The Astros, still in their Division, were the defending NL Champs. And of course the Cubs were loaded with talent.

The Reds had Ken Griffey Jr., but he was injury prone and a shell of his former self. Brandon Phillips, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns were all solid contributors. David Ross, before he became a beloved Dancer with the Stars, actually hit 21 homers and veteran Rich Aurilia added 23 of his own.

The Reds fleeced the Red Sox by sending them Wily Mo Pena in exchange for workhorse Bronson Arroyo who, along with Aaron Harang, made for a nice 1-2 punch in the rotation.

The rest of the rotation stunk and the bullpen was a mess.

The Reds got off to a fast 17-8 start and briefly were in first place in May. After tailing off at the end of May, they went on an 8 game winning streak that put them in first place by themselves on June 8.

But the back and forth nature of the season continued when they went on a 5-12 skid.

Despite playing uninspired ball, they caught a slumping Astros and Cubs team napping and kept in hot pursuit of the Cardinals. By August 24th, they were tied for first again.

Then between August 25th and September 18, they went 6-15, going from dead even in the standings to 7 games back with 12 to play. It was a disastrous run that lay their best chances to win the division to ruins.

But a winning streak and a Cardinals slump pulled the Reds to within 2 1/2 games of first with 5 to play. There was a chance that the Astros, Cardinals and Reds could all finish the season tied.

Alas, the Pirates shutout the Reds over the final two games of the season and the Cardinals won the division with an uninspired 83-78 record.

The Phillies, who finished with a better record, failed to make the playoffs.

Then the Cardinals upset the Padres and Mets in the post season and won the World Series against a disorganized Tigers team.

I can’t help but wonder if they did not go into that slide in late August and early September if this Reds team could have gone far. Who knows? Maybe they mirror the Cardinals and celebrate a World Series title, one finally for Ken Griffey Jr.

Or maybe they get swept by the Padres and a new champion is crowned for 2006.

Either way, this is one of the few times a losing team could watch the World Series and think “That should have been us.”

Pete Rose 1989 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for October 26, 2017

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There is something tragically poetic about this card, the final one issued by Topps before Pete Rose’s lifetime suspension.

Pete is looking over his shoulder.

He looks concerned.

He looks distracted.

He is removing his cap from his head.

Doesn’t that perfectly illustrate Pete Rose and his 1989 season as manager of the Reds.

I am not going to go over the obvious things about Pete Rose.

Yes, of course he had a career that is worthy of election to the Hall of Fame. Anyone with a set of eyes, a brain and an understanding what his numbers meant, especially the 4,256 career hits, knows that he earned a Cooperstown bid.

Also anyone with knowledge of the rules of baseball realizes that betting on baseball, even if it is for your team to win, violates the game and whether or not it is on the up and up.

And getting 4,256 hits does not exempt anyone from the rules.

If you need that explained to you, then please kindly click here to read this blog post or maybe listen to this episode of the Daily Podcast.

The 1987 Reds, a team Pete managed, fell apart down the stretch, as we found out he was betting on the games. A post season as a manager could have added to his Hall of Fame plaque. Instead he was banned, Lou Piniella took over and won the World Series the first year Pete was gone.

In the end, Pete has only himself to blame. He lied about betting for decades, throwing people like Bart Giamatti, Fay Vincent and poor Jim Gray under the bus before finally coming clean when he was paid for doing so.

He could have made an ally of the Hall of Fame and instead kept showing up on induction weekend with sleazy characters to give impromptu paid autograph sessions.

I have argued that he would rather be on the outside looking in. The minute he is in the Hall of Fame, his story becomes irrelevant until he dies. Seriously, when have superior players like Hank Aaron or Willie Mays been in the news since their induction? Rarely and usually when people are approaching their records.

If Pete is in the Hall, how is he a story?

If he is out of the Hall, he can play the martyr card to his fans and have pay days.

But is anyone defending him now? Adding underage sex to the resume isn’t going to have people clamoring for him to have his day in the sun.

That could have him end up in jail and not for something that most people shrug about, like taxes or finances.

Was it worth it Pete? If Pete came clean back in the early 1990’s, he would have been suspended and probably in Cooperstown by the end of the decade. He would have been enshrined right around the time Jim Gray was grilling him at the 1999 World Series.

Now Pete Rose, one of the brightest stars in the history of baseball, is a 76 year old man staring at rape allegations and the reality that his Cooperstown moment will probably never come.

He has nobody to blame but himself.

Russ Nixon 1989 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for October 17, 2017

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The late Russ Nixon managed for a 5 seasons in the early 1980’s and the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Over the those years, only twice did he begin and end the season with the same team.

As it turned out he arrived at the end of one of the great runs in National League history and the beginning of another. Russ Nixon was a fine baseball lifer who basically was a place holder in history as a manager.

The Cincinnati son joined the Cleveland organization in 1953. He bounced between four different minor leagues before arriving in Cleveland as a 22 year old in 1957. He had a twin brother Roy in the Indians organization with him. Roy never made it to the bigs.

Over 12 years, Russ managed to get jobs with the Indians, Red Sox and Twins as a reserve catcher. By 1970, his playing career was over but his coaching days were just beginning.

During the 1970’s he managed in the Reds organization and all the while saw many of the players who skippered head to the Big Red Machine.

Eventually he got the call. In 1976, he joined the Reds coaching staff on the big league level. That squad won the World Series, making quick work of the post season with sweeps of Philadelphia and the Yankees for the title.

In 1977, the Reds were the two time defending World Champs and added Tom Seaver to the team. But their fortunes slipped in 1977 and 1978. After the 1978 season, Pete Rose left by way of free agency and Sparky Anderson was fired. John McNamara took over as manager and Russ Nixon stayed with the staff.

The Big Red Machine might have gotten a facelift, but they were still good enough to win the 1979 NL West title. The Reds remained a solid team through the 1981 season, when they won more games than any other team.

However the stupid playoff rules in the split season of 1981 prevented the best team in baseball from making the postseason. They finished in second for both the first and second halves of the season. That would have been the Big Red Machine’s final bow.

In 1982, the Reds stumbled out to a 34-58 record over 92 games. McNamara was fired and Nixon took the reigns.

His first game was on July 21 against the Pirates. Dave Concepcion and Dan Driessen were still there. But the rest of the team bore little resemblance to a pennant winner.

Tom Lawless, a .154 hitter with an on base percentage of .241, was leading off. They blew the lead that game and lost. The restof the season didn’t get much better as the Reds went on to lose 100 games.

The Reds glory years were over and after 88 losses in 1983 as well, Nixon’s time managing his hometown team was also over.

He coached for the Expos and Braves over the next few years and managed the Double A Greenville Braves in 1988.

In 1988, he was promoted to replace Chuck Tanner as Atlanta manager. The farm system was loaded with talent and future Hall of Famers Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were on the big league roster.

The 1989 Braves was a 97 loss. They featured Smoltz, Glavine, Jeff Blauser, Ron Gant,  Mark Lemke, David Justice and Lonnie Smith, all of whom would play big parts in the 1991 pennant winning season.

Veterans Darrell Evans and Dale Murphy were also there. But the team was not fitting together. In 1990, it was more of the same and 65 games into the year, they were floundering.

Nixon was fired and replaced by GM Bobby Cox. They would lose 97 games again. But the next year the Braves would win the National League pennant and put on the greatest run the league had seen since the Big Red Machine.

Nixon briefly coached with the Mariners before becoming a minor league manager and instructor until his death.

He was too late for the Big Red Machine and too early for the great Brave squads.

Sometimes it is all in the timing. Sometimes the groundwork is put down by unsung heroes. Nixon might have had bad timing and more influence than we will know.