As highlighted earlier the Reds were contenders for most of the season. After start in August this modified version of the Big Red Machine made up 4 games in the standings and took over 1st place. August 16th would be the high water mark for the Reds, because from that point on they would cede control of the division to the favored Dodgers and the upstart Astros. With a week to go in the season they battled back to 2 1/2 games from the lead, but failed to gain ground by losing 2 of 3 to Houston with 5 games left to go. This Reds team took another step further away from their "Big Red Machine" moniker. Two years ago they bid adieu to Tony Perez, who left for Montreal. Last year they lost their heart and soul when Pete Rose headed to the City of Brotherly Love. This year they dealt two time MVP Joe Morgan back to Houston. What was left was a fading 32 year old Johnny Bench, who during the previous decade etched his mark into baseball lore as the greatest all around catcher. By 1980 Bench (.250-24-68) began to breakdown. Talk of moving him to 1st or 3rd to preserve his legs were swirling around the media. Bench's greatest asset was the fact that no one else had a catcher who could dominate both sides of the ball. By this point in his career his offense began to pay the price for all those innings being behind the plate. Dan Driessen (.265-14-74) was a solid ballplayer, but he was no Tony Perez. Concepcion (.260-5-77) was still an All-Star at short, but Ray Knight (.264-14-78) was no Rose at third. The message was clear. The Reds got younger and added some competent ballplayers, but they were not the dynamic team from the previous decade. Pitching wise the Reds had to live through a sub par season from 35 year old Tom Seaver (10-8, 3.64), who began to lose that extra giddyup on his famed fastball. A normal 18-20 win season from "The Franchise" would have propelled the Reds to the division like it did the previous season, but Tom's game was in transition and so was this team. The rest of the rotation was young and learning. Frank Pastore (13-7, 3.27) had the best numbers on the staff. Tom Hume (137 IP) logged a lot of innings in relief to really earn his 25 saves. Mario Soto (10-8 3.07) was impressive pitching 190 innings while splitting his time between the pen and the rotation. I can't help but think that if Johnny Mac put Soto in the rotation for the full season the Reds would have found a second consecutive NL West title in their grasp.
15 new cards were added to complete the set.
Interestingly Sam Mejias is wearing one of those “trucker” type mesh caps that they tried to pass off at the ballpark as “authentic” caps at the concession stands. I believe I was once told that they issued those caps in Spring training because they felt that they would “breathe” better and because they were adjustable. I’ll bet it was because they were cheaper and easier to issue to those guys who weren’t going to make the team anyway. The Reds were known for being tight with their money, so this is quite plausible. The Don Warner card is interesting, only because the custom card that I created for him when we played the 1977 season, wound up on Hal McCoy’s column this past summer. Mr. McCoy is a HOF writer, but either he or his staff are lazy or selfish, because they failed to credit the creator (yours truly) for making the card. One of my buddies said, “He probably had some 19 year old college intern do the research, and that kid didn’t even know it wasn’t a real card”. If that’s true, I give Mr. McCoy a pass. If not, he’s on my sh-t list and I will refuse to talk to him again. Since we don’t exactly run in the same circle of friends, put that last line in your “idle threat” list.