Looking Back On The Ill-Fated Trade That Brought Junior Home
Mike Cameron Became A Fan Favorite After Replacing Ken Griffey In Seattle
The 1999 Reds Were Well-Prepared For Years Of Contention
Hopefully it will not happen next week, which will mark the end of the regular season for Major League Baseball. The team that suffered the trio of losses will not be eligible to repeat it this year, for the Cincinnati Reds two days ago were mathematically eliminated from the postseason.
Thowe unfortunate losses were recalled yesterday by MLB.com columnist Chris Haft, who also found something positive about the dubious distinction of losing games 160, 161, and 163. Haft points out the bright spot about the last game which, with less than twelve hours notice, drew a sell out crowd to Cinergy Field (Riverfront Stadium).
The Reds, amidst a race with the Houston Astros for the National League Central Title as well as with the New York Mets for the Wild Card spot, lost game 160 against the Milwaukee Brewers. That setback allowed the Astros to tie tie the Reds for first place, and the next loss put Cincinnati in second place.
Needing a win just to qualify for the Wild Card, captain Barry Larkin and his teammates beat Milwaukee. That victory, delayed more than five hours by rain, forced a one-game playoff against the Mets to determine which would represent the Wild Card and which would turn in their gear until Spring Training.
In front of the sellout crowd, the Reds succumbed to New York pitcher Al Leiter. The loss would not terribly dampen the spirit of the Cincinnati fans, for they had much reason for hope in the upcoming season.
As Haft explains in the article, the lineup featured a fabulous mix of young players and hard-nosed veterans! mentored by veteran manager Jack McKeon. All-Star outfielder Gregg Vaughn, who had just arrived through a trade with San Diego, powered the team with 45 home runs and 118 runs batted in.
Surrounding him in the batting order, besides the 12 year All-Star Larkin, were talents in their early twenties. Among them were third baseman Aaron Boone, first baseman Sean Casey, and center fielder Mike Cameron.
The last of these, unfortunately, would spend the next season in a different uniform, a trade which actually resulted in a literal parade of joy in Cincinnati. General Manager Jim Bowden traded Cameron in a package that brought Ken Griffey Jr. from the Seattle Mariners to the Reds.
Because Griffey had attended Cincinnati Moeller High School, fans were ecstatic to have him joining the Reds. They ignored the obvious signs of trouble, including the troublesome way Griffey forced the Mariners to trade him.
He was upset about the new ball park being built in Seattle, which had been designed as a pitcher friendly venue. Conversely, Cincinnati already had in the works Great American Ball Park, which was designed with an embarrassingly short right field porch.
As the author Thomas Wolfe so famously titled his signature novel, the deal reinforced the fact that "You Can't Go Home Again." Griffey was never the same player as he had been in Seattle, and the Reds were never the same starless but successful team as they had been in 1999.
It took Cincinnati well over a decade to once again reach the postseason, and by then Griffey had been dealt away. That trade from twenty years ago, in addition to reinforcing the aforementioned adage from Thomas Wolfe, also affirms another: if it isn't broken, don't fix it.