1966 Cincinnati Reds
1966 Cincinnati Reds / Franchise: Cincinnati Reds / BR Team Page
History, Comments, Contributions
The 1966 Cincinnati Reds are mostly remembered for a trade they made before the season, on December 9, 1965, sending All-Star outfielder and former MVP Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles in return for three players - Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson. GM Bill DeWitt's justification for making the trade at the time was that Robinson was "an old 30". He couldn't have been more wrong, of course, as Robinson would immediately win the Triple Crown for his new team, win a second MVP Award and lead the Orioles to a win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. And he had a number of other great years after that.
That said, Pappas, who is the other player most remembered from the trade, was a very solid pitcher, as he won 99 games over the rest of his career to finish with 209 wins. However, he went just 12-11, 4.29 for the Reds in 1966, so the contrast with Robinson was pretty stark. Baldschun had never actually played for the Orioles, having been acquired in another trade only three days earlier after spending five seasons as a reliever for the Philadelphia Phillies. He had an even worse season than Pappas, going 1-5 with a 5.49 ERA. Simpson was a promising young outfielder who had also been acquired a few days earlier by Baltimore; at 22, he had already appeared with the Los Angeles/California Angels in three different seasons, without getting established, but he was a prototypical five-tool prospect. He hit 238 in 92 games for the Reds, but only got 94 at-bats as he was used as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement, making just 16 starts in the outfield. In both Baldschun and Simpson's case, the Orioles had given up decent major league players to acquire them, obviously in view in putting together a package that would entice the Reds to trade their best player, and Pappas had just started the 1965 All-Star Game for the American League, so he was not some generic middle-of-the-rotation type. So the trade did not look so lopsided at the time it was made, but it turned out awful.
The Reds had a very solid team and thought they were close to a pennant. It included a young Pete Rose at second base and an equally talented player in his keystone partner, SS Leo Cardenas. 3B Tommy Helms won the 1966 National League Rookie of the Year Award, while a 24-year-old Tony Perez was getting his first chance to play regularly at first base. The outfield of LF Deron Johnson, CF Vada Pinson and RF Tommy Harper was one of the best in the majors (this explains why Simpson received so little playing time), and they also had a 23-year-old Lee May on the bench, sharing playing time with Perez. Clearly, the problem was the pitching: after ace Jim Maloney, who went 16-8 with a 2.80 ERA and 216 strikeouts, the other starters, including Pappas, were shaky: Sammy Ellis posted a 5.29 ERA in 229 innings, and Jim O'Toole and Joey Jay were both nearing the end of their rope, even though they were just hitting 30, neither pitching a full season. Hank Fischer, who filled in for the pair, was an awful 0-6, 6.63 in 9 starts. Billy McCool, still only 21, was an excellent closer with a 2.48 ERA and 18 saves, and Don Nottebart gave him good support with a 3.07 ERA and 11 saves, but the rest of the bullpen, including Baldschun, was below average with a high ERA. As a result, the Reds finished well back in the race, in 7th place with a record of 76-84 and first-year manager Don Heffner lost his job midway through the campaign, replaced by Dave Bristol on July 13th. Bristol, who was only 33 at the time, would mold the talented group into a winning team within a couple of seasons.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Leo Cardenas and Billy McCool
- NL Rookie of the Year Award: Tommy Helms
- Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Tommy Helms (3B)
- Manny Randhawa: "This stunning trade was an all-time heist", mlb.com, December 8, 2021.