OBSERVATIONS: The One Player The Cincinnati Reds Miss Most

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, rooting for the ex-Reds playing in the playoffs while the current Reds watch them, too.

—MISSING NICK: Of all the players who have left the Cincinnati Reds over the past two seasons — Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Wade Miley, Kyle Farmer, Eugenio Suarez, Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, Tyler Mahle, Mike Moustakas, Tyler Naquin — there is only one I really wish the club had kept.

Nick Castellanos.

When he roamed the Reds outfield, he was considered an average or below average defender. So guess who was the only qualified player in the National League to not make an error this season?

That would be Castellanos, now patroling the outer limits of the Philadephia Phillies outfield. He played 147 games and handled 264 chances without an error. Even more startling, he didn’t make an error in 2022, either — 122 games, 230 chances, no errors.

Offensively, only five Reds players have hit higher than .300 with 30 or more homers and 100 or more RBI in a season since Frank Robinson did it three times during his 10 seasons with the Reds. Tony Perez did it in 1970, George Foster in 1977, Dave Parker in 1985, Joey Votto in 2010 and 2017. . .and the last to do it? Nick Castellanos in 2021 at ,309, 34 homers and 100 RBI.

He took free agency after 2021, signed with the Phillies and helped lead them to the World Series last season and the Phillies are back in the playoffs this season.

He is 210 sweet-natured pounds, a clubhouse leader who would talk baseball with a fire hydrant and was as loyal as a hound dog. He showed the way to many victories.

He was sorely missed the last two seasons.

—QUOTE: From Nick Castellanos at his press conference when he signed with the Phillies: “I’ve played over 1,000 big league games and I have zero playoff wins. I’ve made money. I’ve hit homers. I’ve played on TV, But I haven’t won no games that matter. I would like to do that.” (And since he said that, he has helped the Phillies to play in the post-season two straight years.)

—BURSTS IN FIRST: Clearly, opposing teams displayed too much generosity to the Atlanta Braves in the first inning this season. From the game’s first pitch, the Braves had their batting eyes wide open, seeing the ball at 20/15.

The Braves made it routine to score runs in the first inning with 146. But that’s not the most ever. The 2000 St. Louis Cardinals scored 147. The 1977 Reds scored the fourth most all-time in the first inning with 143.

And the 2023 Braves barely beat out the 2019 Reds for most home runs hit in the first inning, 47-46.

Atlanta scored runs in the first inning in 65 games this season and scored four or more runs 14 times.

—HEY, ELMER: The Cincinnati Reds were in Philadelphia and I was sitting in the visitors dugout wiith shortstop Dave Concepcion.

Philliies shortstop Larry Bowa was taking ground balls and yelling at Concepcion, “Hey, Elmer. Hey, Elmer.”

Finally Concepcion yelled back, “Why are you calling me Elmer?”

Bowa laughed and said, “Because every time I read a Reds box score in the papers it says, ‘E-Concepcion.’ So I thought you first name was Elmer.”

The ‘E,’ of course, stands for error and Bowa knew it. Bowa was a good shortstop, but he only dreamed of being on Concepcion’s level.

—MORE McKEON: There was a season under manager Jack McKeon that the Reds endured injury after injury after injury.

When asked about them in his office one day, McKeon took a long drag on his Padron cigar and said, “Yeah, we have more MRIs than RBIs.”

And Jack had a favorite remark to writers who second-guessed him. “I always tell the second-guessers, ‘Call me in the dugout before something happens and let me know what I should do. Don’t tell me afterward. Be a first-guesser, not a second-guesser.’”

I never had the occasion to second-guess Jack McKeon.

—READ AND REACT: Can a newspaper headline fire up a team or a player? I believe it.

The 1967 World Series was tied at three games each between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. Boston ace Jim Lonborg was scheduled for Game 7 and a Boston Globe headlines screamed, “Lonborg. And Champagne.”

What the Globe didn’t realize was that St. Louis ace Bob Gibson, who already had pitched two complete-game victories, was going to pitch Game 7.

Said Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver, “We thought that was rather presumptious. Gibby was really ticked off.”

So Gibson pitched his third straight complete game. For the three games (1, 4, 7), he gave up three runs and struck out 26 in 27 innings.

The Cardinals should have voted that Boston Globe headline-writer a World Series share and given him a ring.

—THE NEXT DAY: Speaking of World Series played in Boston, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk became instant lore with his 12th-inning game-winning home run in Game 6 off Cincinnati’s Pat Darcy that clanged off the left field foul pole.

Video of Fisk dancing and hopping down the first base-line, frantically waving for the ball to stay fair, is famous. . .or infamous if you’re a Reds fan.

OK, the Reds won Game 7 to claim the World Series trophy. And do you know what Fisk did in Game 7? He struck out all three times he batted.

Baseball is a fickle game.

—THE BIG-GAMER: Dave Stewart, the man with a Bob Gibson glower and scowl, was the epitome of a big-game pitcher.

For his career, in one-on-one match-ups against Roger Clemens, Stewart was 9-0.

He lost his first two post-season games, then went 10-2 with a 2.58 earned run average and held opposing hitters to .200., Those two losses? Both to the Cincinnati Reds in the 1990 World Series.

—LISTEN TO THE BEAT: How effective was Houston’s sign-stealing scandal in the 2017 World Series? Ask Clayton Kershaw.

He was masterful in a game in Dodger Stadium and the Astros swung and missed 30 of his breaking pitches. Then the Series shifted to Houston for the Astros’ tub-thumping sign-stealing. Kershaw threw 51 breaking pitches and not once did the Astros swing and miss.

—QUOTE: From Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw: “The way I look at it, 29 teams fail every year and one team succeeds. “ (You don’t have to ask him how he feels about the way Houston succeeded.)

—TRIVIA TIME: Willie May never hit a home run in a World Series game, but Kansas City’s Willie Mays Aikens hit four World Series home runs.

Wonder if Willie Mays Hayes from the movie ‘Major League’ hit one? In the movie, the Cleveland Indians qualified for the World Series, but we didn’t get to watch any of those games.

One of my favorite lines from a baseball writer was penned by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bob Stevens. When he witnessed a line drive triple in the gap hit by Mays, he penned, “The only man who could have caught that ball was the man who hit it.”

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