Tuesday, May 24, 2016

MLB Week 7 – As Blue as 1982

by: Dan Howard
Staff Writer

That was a tough year. President Ronald Reagan, arguably my generation's greatest leader, was facing an economic recession unseen in this nation since the Great Depression. By November 1982, unemployment was at an all-time high (it’s higher today), 17,000 businesses failed, and farmers, the staple of the American economy, were losing their land. Soviet communism was slowly progressing in eastern Europe and Asia. It was a dreary, dreadful time.

The top song of 1982 was Olivia Newton John’s Physical, although, in my humble opinion, the best song of that year was the theme from Rocky III, Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger (number two on the Top 100 list). Michael Jackson’s signature album, Thriller, was released on November 30, everybody bought a copy, except me. Thirty-four years later, I still do not own a copy of that album/CD. And to think, I considered myself a Michael Jackson fan, all the way back to his Jackson 5 days.

In sports, the San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl, defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 26 – 21. The Clemson Tigers defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers to become college football’s National Champion. The North Carolina Tar Heels, led by some unknown freshman named Michael Jordan, beat the Georgetown Hoyas to win the NCAA basketball championship. The New York Islanders won their third straight Stanley Cup by sweeping the Vancouver Canucks, and the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 4 games to 2 to win the NBA title.

Meanwhile, on the banks of the Ohio River, the Cincinnati Reds suffered through its worst baseball season ever, losing 101 games…...until 2016.

Through Sunday this group of 1982 wannabees sport a record of 15 – 29, a full fifteen games behind the division leading Chicago Cubs. At this point in 1982, Cincinnati was 18 – 26, three full games ahead of this year’s team.

Forty-four games into the 1993 season the Reds were 20 – 24, when manager Tony Perez was fired, then again Jim Bowden was, and, in some cases still is, an idiot.

Going into the 1982 campaign we knew the Reds were going to be bad. The nucleus of the Big Red Machine era championship teams was gone via trades or free agency, the remaining stars, Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion, and Dan Driessen were aging. Sixteen years of catching really took its toll on Bench, as he was moved to third base in an effort to extend his career. Bench retired in 1983. Concepcion did well at the plate, hitting .287, but with nobody hitting in front of him, he could only muster 53 RBI. Dan Driessen led the club in home runs with 17, but like Concepcion, had no one in front of him either.

An example of how anemic the Reds offense was in 1982, starting pitcher Bruce Berenyi had an earned run average of 3.36. Darn good, no matter what year he pitched in. If he were on this year’s team he’d probably win close to fifteen games. In 1982 Berenyi’s won/loss record was 9 – 18.

The Reds 1982 team ERA was 3.66, eighth in the National League. The 2016 Reds team ERA is 5.48, last in the National League. The 1982 Reds had three pitchers (out of fourteen) with an ERA above 5.00, Joe Edelen (8.80), Charlie Leibrandt (5.10) and Tom Seaver (5.50).

The 2016 Reds have ten pitchers (out of twenty-one) with an ERA above 5.00, and four of those have ERA’s above 10.00, Alfredo Simon (10.16), J.J. Hoover (14.34), Tim Melville (11.00) and Layne Somsen (19.29). These are supposed to be professional pitchers! Last week this incompetent pitching staff allowed five bases loaded walks. This is becoming a huge embarrassment for all of Reds Nation.

1982 did have one bright spot, Dave Concepcion won the All Star Game Most Valuable Player award, leading the National League to a 4 – 1 win in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.

Useless Trivia, the 1982 All Star Game was the first “Mid-Summer Classic” to be played outside the United States.

40 Years Ago; Sunday May 23, 1976, George Foster and Dave Concepcion both go 4 for 4 to lead Cincinnati to an 11 – 0 win at San Diego. Foster drives in five, with an RBI single and a grand slam. Jack Billingham throws a complete game three hitter to go to 5 – 3 on the season. The win allows the Reds to maintain their 2.5 game lead in the National League West Division.

Bottom line, to make the embarrassment end, Bryan Price must be fired. Have a blessed week.

Dan Howard

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