Thursday, February 7, 2013

An open letter to ESPN's Buster Olney

by: Dan Howard
Staff Writer

Dear Mr. Olney,

Have you taken leave of your senses? Is your office located near a mortician and the formaldehyde fumes have clouded your thinking? Or do you have a profound hatred of the Cincinnati Reds? I make the last statement considering two of your top ten teams beat the Reds to win the World Series – 1939 Yankees and the 1970 Orioles, granted two other top ten teams beat the Padres for their championship, 1984 Tigers and 1998 Yankees, but San Diego doesn’t have the baseball pedigree that Cincinnati has.

How, in the name of everything baseball, could you possibly place the 1998 New York Yankees ahead of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds on your top ten list? Yes, the ’98 Yankees was a great team, deserving of a top ten spot, but not at number one?

In writing this I wanted to do a little research about you, I found you grew up in Vermont, probably a follower of the Red Sox, so your bias against the Reds could be vengeance for the ’75 World Series. Could be the reason you had the 1986 Mets way down on your list too. (If the Sox had relief pitching that year, Bill Buckner would not have been an issue.) In your Top Ten article, you stated you covered the 1998 Yankees for the New York Times so I can understand your prejudice. Allow me to clear your thinking.

First, 1998 was an expansion year. As a baseball “expert” you should know there are anomalies that occur during expansion seasons. You, of all people, should know that with the new teams, there are more players in the league, and the pitching suffers. I’m surprised you never mentioned that in your article. It takes at least two, maybe, three seasons for the pitching to migrate back to the quality before expansion occurred.

Since 1961 baseball has had five expansion seasons, 1961, 1969, 1977, 1993, and 1998, in each of those years at least one team won 100 or more games. 1961 had the Maris/Mantle home run drama. 1969 was the Amazin’ Mets, plus the pitching mound was lowered. 1977 was George Foster’s 52 home run year. 1993 had baseball’s last great pennant race, the epic N.L. West showdown between the 103 win San Francisco Giants and division champ, 104 game winner, Atlanta Braves. Which brings us to 1998; sure the Yankees won 114 games, plus 11 postseason games en route to the championship. Let’s break it down, the 1998 Yankees won 38 of the 54 games played against teams with a winning record, the 1975 Reds won 37 of 56. So in comparison the Yanks seem slightly ahead, but add the records against teams with at least 80 wins, then the pendulum shifts toward the Reds. Cincinnati, in 1975, won 50 and lost 34, while the 1998 Yankees won 45 and lost 30. Mind you the schedule makers favored the 1998 Yankees, who played against 11 teams with a losing record. The 1975 Reds faced only 6 teams with losing records

You said the 1975 Reds had pretty good pitching, if the 1998 Yankees top ERA man, Orlando Hernandez (12 – 4, 3.13) played for the 1975 Reds, his ERA would be sixth best on the team. Each one of the Reds Big 4 bullpen, Will McEnaney, Rawly Eastwick, Pedro Borbon, and Clay Carroll, had ERA’s under 3.00. Four Reds starters earned run average was less than 3.75. The Reds did not have pretty good pitching, they had darn good pitching. As far as bullpen, I’ll give it to the ’98 Yankees, only because of Mariano Rivera although the ’75 Reds pen saved two more games, 50 to 48.

Do I really need to compare the everyday position players? For arguments sake, I will. Starting with first base, Tony Perez versus Tino Martinez, on paper their seasonal stats are similar, but “Doggie” is a Hall of Famer, Reds win. Second base, Joe Morgan versus Chuck Knoblauch, in 1975 Morgan won his first of two straight MVP awards on the way to a Hall of Fame career; Knoblauch is still arguing with an umpire, Reds win again. Shortstop, Dave Concepcion against Derek Jeter, I think you have me there, only slightly, Jeter is a sure Hall of Famer, while Concepcion should be, Yankees win, thuuuuh Yankees win! Third Base, Pete Rose versus Scott Brosius, Rose would be in the Hall of Fame had he not suffered continuous brain farts while managing the Reds. This one belongs to the Reds! (I’ll take Marty Brennaman over John Sterling any day!) Catchers, as Sparky Anderson said before the 1976 World Series, please don’t compare anyone to Johnny Bench.

In the outfield, left fielder George Foster became a superstar for the Reds in 1975, the next three seasons Foster would lead the N.L. in RBI, what exactly did Chad Curtis do after 1998? In 1975, center fielder Cesar Geronimo committed just 3 errors in 422 chances, over one hundred more chances that Bernie Williams. Right field Ken Griffey was just as consistent as Paul O’Neill, although I’ll give the nod to O’Neill. Final score 1975 Reds 7, 1998 Yankees 3.

If overall wins were a factor, the 1975 Reds, one fourth into the season, had a record of 20 wins and 20 losses, researching the box scores of the Reds losses from Opening Day to May 20, the Reds lost 7 games where they led after 7 innings, if the Reds held on to win those games their overall record would have been 115 wins 47 losses, one more than your 1998 Yankees. The 1975 Reds defeated the gritty Boston Red Sox in the greatest World Series ever, while the 1998 Yankees beat the milquetoast San Diego Padres, who somehow overcome the 106 win Atlanta Braves for the N.L. title.

In closing, you have the bully pulpit of television to broadcast your vitriolic opinions to millions of viewers, I only have a handful of readers, all of whom I sincerely appreciate. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but I’m tired of seeing the 1975 Cincinnati Reds, arguably the greatest baseball team of all time, being disrespected by the pundits in all aspects of sports media. I just wish you, like many of your peers, would get your facts straight before you make your opinions public.

- Dan Howard

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