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The Greatest Baseball Infields of All Time

Which major league baseball teams had the greatest infields of all time? Catcher is an obviously important infield position, so my rankings may vary from other rankings which ignore that key position. An asterisk denotes a well-above-average player, two asterisks a Hall-of-Fame caliber player, three asterisks a mega-star or all-time great. The teams are ranked and ordered by total stars.

(4)  1977 Texas Rangers: Jim Sundberg*, Mike Hargrove*, Bump Wills, Bert Campaneris*, Toby Harrah* (good players, but no top-rank superstars and Campaneris was on the downside of his career)
(5)  2009 Tampa Bay Rays: Dioner Navarro, Carlos Pena*, Ben Zobrist*, Jason Bartlett*, Evan Longoria** (Zobrist started just 81 games at second base and Navarro slashed only .218/.261/.322)
(5)  1974 Los Angeles Dodgers: Ferguson/Yeager, Steve Garvey**, Davey Lopes*, Bill Russell*, Ron Cey* (good players, but no mega-stars except perhaps Garvey)
(6)  1963 St. Louis Cardinals: Tim McCarver, Bill White*, Julian Javier*, Dick Groat**, Ken Boyer** (four all-stars but no mega-stars; Javier had a .296 OBP and McCarver slugged only .383)
(6)  1910 Chicago Cubs: Jimmy Archer, France Chance**, Johnny Evers**, Joe Tinker**, Heinie Zimmerman (despite the famous poem, three of the weaker HOFers then a big drop-off at C and 3B)
(7)  1999 New York Mets: Mike Piazza***, John Olerud*, Edgardo Alfonzo*, Rey Ordonez*, Robin Ventura* (five superior seasons except for Ordonez's offense and Piazza's defense)
(7)  1968 Chicago Cubs: Randy Hundley, Ernie Banks***, Glenn Beckert*, Don Kessinger*, Ron Santo** (star power, but Hundley, Banks, Kessinger and Santo each hit .246 or lower)
(7)  1969 Baltimore Orioles: Hendricks/Etchebarren, Boog Powell**, Davey Johnson*, Mark Belanger*, Brooks Robinson*** (three Gold Gloves but not great offensively other than Powell)
(8)  1912 Philadelphia Athletics: Lapp/Thomas/Egan, Stuffy McInnis*, Eddie Collins***, Jack Barry*, Home Run Baker*** (Collins was a top three second baseman, Baker a top ten third baseman)
(9)  1981 Philadelphia Phillies: Bob Boone*, Pete Rose***, Manny Trillo*, Larry Bowa*, Mike Schmidt*** (two superstars, four superior seasons, but Boone slashed only .211/.279/.285)
(9)  2000 Cleveland Indians: Sandy Alomar, Jim Thome***, Roberto Alomar***, Omar Vizquel**, Travis Fryman* (three Gold Gloves with batting prowess but Sandy Alomar was so-so offensively)
(10) 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers: Roy Campanella***, Gil Hodges**, Junior Gilliam*, PeeWee Reese**, Jackie Robinson**/Don Hoak (Robinson did not have a great season, nor did Gilliam or Hoak)
(10) 1927 New York Giants: Zack Taylor, Bill Terry***, Rogers Hornsby***, Travis Jackson**, Freddie Lindstrom** (Lindstrom and Jackson are among the worst HOFers; Taylor slugged an anemic .283 and the Giants finished third)
(11) 1982 Milwaukee Brewers: Ted Simmons**, Cecil Cooper**, Jim Gantner*, Robin Yount***, Paul Molitor*** (four stars having great seasons; Gantner was good but not great)
(11) 1934 Detroit Tigers: Mickey Cochrane***, Hank Greenberg***, Charlie Gehringer***, Billy Rogell*, Marv Owen* (five superior seasons, three mega-stars, but two bit players in the great scheme of things)
(12) 2009 New York Yankees: Jorge Posada**, Mark Teixeira**, Robinson Cano**, Derek Jeter***, Alex Rodriguez*** (five stars having superior seasons, but only two mega-stars)
(14) 1975 Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Bench***, Tony Perez***, Joe Morgan***, Dave Concepcion**, Pete Rose*** (at last, five superstars worthy of HOF consideration and four mega-stars)

Are all five Reds infielders really worthy of the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. Johnny Bench is the greatest catcher of all time, and a shoo-in. Joe Morgan is the greatest all-round second baseman of all time, another shoo-in. Pete Rose is the all-time leader in games, wins, at bats, plate appearances, hits, singles and times on base. He was an all-star 17 times at a record five different positions. While not considered to be a slugger, Rose finished with just 41 fewer total bases than Babe Ruth, and with over a thousand total bases more than Rogers Hornsby, Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Mike Schmidt, Jim Thome, Al Simmons and Mickey Mantle. Rose is yet another shoo-in except for gambling that had nothing to do with his on-field performance. Tony Perez had an astounding 1,652 RBI for his career at a RBI position; he knocked in more runs than immortal sluggers like Rogers Hornsby, Joe DiMaggio, Mike Schmidt, Ernie Banks, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell. That is rarified territory, to say the least. And according to my rankings (and Bill James agrees on his Hall of Fame Monitor), Concepcion was better than all but ten HOF shortstops. James has Concepcion ranked above such HOF luminaries as Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Lou Boudreau, Rabbit Maranville, George Davis, Dave Bancroft, Joe Sewell, Hughie Jennings, Bobby Wallace, John Ward, Travis Jackson and George Wright. So there are more HOF shortstops ranked below Concepción than above him. Let him in!


How do the Reds compare to the 2009 Yankees? Bench, Perez and Morgan sweep three of the five positions. The 1934 Tigers only win outright at one position, with Hank Greenberg, and that's no runaway. The 1982 Brewers only win at one position with Yount. The 1927 Giants are competitive only with Terry and Hornsby. The 1955 Dodgers lose in a clean sweep despite some competitive races. Ditto for the 2000 Indians. The 1981 Phillies are vastly outmanned at catcher and second base, and only win outright with Mike Schmidt. The 1910 Cubs with their famous Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double play combination are not seriously in the running.

While I believe the 1976 Cincinnati Reds were the greatest baseball team of all time, I think the 1975 Reds had the greatest infield of all time time because Johnny Bench and Tony Perez had better seasons in 1975. The excellence of the 1976 Reds was due to superior seasons by outfielders George Foster, Ken Griffey Sr. and Cesar Gerónimo, with all three having career years (although Foster would go on to supersede his). The 1975 Reds infield was superior offensively, as the chart below demonstrates. The 1975 Reds had four Gold Glove winners at the four most important defensive positions: catcher, second base, shortstop and center field. As a matter of fact, they had three defensive immortals. Johnny Bench won ten consecutive Gold Gloves at catcher and was named the best defensive catcher on the Rawlings all-team. Joe Morgan was named the best defensive second baseman of all time on the Rawlings team, and had five consecutive Gold Gloves. Dave Concepcion, a Rawlings finalist, won five Gold Gloves at shortstop, and would have undoubtedly won more if not for the appearance of Ozzie Smith, the Wizard of Oz. And while Pete Rose was not the prettiest of defenders, he only made 13 errors after switching to third base after being a two-time Gold Gove winner in the outfield. So the 1975 Reds were a superior defensive team, having the fewest errors (102) in the National League by a wide margin and the best fielding percentage (.984).

Furthermore, the 1975 Reds were extremely proficient on the basepaths. Bench stole 11 bases and was never thrown out, outstanding for a catcher. Morgan and Concepcion stole 100 bases between them. Super-sub first baseman Dan Driessen stole ten bases, giving the top infielders a combined record of 122-22 for a success rate of 84.7%. That's remarkable, since Morgan was the first player to retire with more than 600 steals and a success rate above 80%. That suggests that the Reds infield collectively were HOF-caliber baserunners.

If we look at everything: offense, defense, baserunning, leadership, intimidation, intangibles, and Hall of Fame worthiness, it becomes obvious that the 1976-1976 Reds infield was in a class by itself. No other team in the history of baseball had five players worthy of serious consideration for the Hall of Fame, at such exalted levels of play. 

The Best Infield of All Time (my personal rankings)

C: Johnny Bench #1, followed by Yogi Berra, Mickey Cochrane, Roy Campanella, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Bill Dickey, Mike Piazza
1B: Tony Pérez #8, after Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, Cap Anson, Hank Greenberg, Eddie Murray (I have Jim Thome and Frank Thomas at DH)
2B: Joe Morgan #2, after Rogers Hornsby, followed by Nap Lajoie, Eddie Collins, Charlie Gehringer, Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg
3B: Pete Rose #8, after Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson, George Brett, Chipper Jones, Eddie Matthews, Wade Boggs, Pie Traynor
SS: Dave Concepción #11, after Honus Wagner, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Ernie Banks, Arky Vaughan, Joe Cronin, Robin Yount, Barry Larkin
Utility: Pete Rose (2B/3B/1B/LF/CF/RF) #2, after Babe Ruth (P/RF/LF)

C: Johnny Bench was the greatest catcher ever, combining power, defense, throwing, leadership and intangibles. Second place isn't even close. Bench won ten Gold Gloves, two MVP awards, three RBI titles, two home run titles, was named an all-star fourteen times, and is justly enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Bench was number sixteen on The Sporting News list of the Hundred Greatest Baseball Players, and the highest-ranking catcher. ESPN has called him the greatest catcher in baseball history. Bench was also elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team as the top vote-receiving catcher. And he was selected to the All-Time Rawlings Gold Glove Team. At age 20, Bench won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, the first time the award had been claimed by a catcher. He also won the 1968 NL Gold Glove for catchers, the first time that award had been won by a rookie. His 102 assists in 1968 marked the first time in 23 years that a catcher had more than 100 assists in a season. In 1970 at age 22 he became the youngest player to win the NL Most Valuable Player Award, hitting .293 and leading the league with 45 home runs and a franchise-record 148 RBI. In 1972, he won his second MVP award, leading the NL in home runs with 40 and RBI with 125. In 1974, Bench led the league with 129 RBI and scored 108 runs, becoming only the fourth catcher in major league history with 100 or more runs and RBI in the same season. Bench retired with 2,048 hits, 1,376 RBI and 389 home runs (at that time record for catchers). He still holds the Major League record for the most grand slams by a catcher, with 10. He led the National League three times in caught stealing percentage and ended his career with a .991 fielding percentage. Bench also won the Lou Gehrig Award (1975), the Babe Ruth Award (1976), and the Hutch Award (1981). To this day, no player has hit more career home runs in a Cincinnati uniform than Bench's 389, nor has any Reds player driven in more runs than Bench's 1,376.

1B: Tony Pérez was an RBI machine, with 1,652 career ribbies. He had more career RBIs than Ernie Banks, Goose Goslin, Nap Lajoie, George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Rogers Hornsby, Al Kaline, Willie McCovey, Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio and Harmon Killebrew. During the decade of the 70s, Pérez had 954 RBI, second in the NL only to Johnny Bench. Dave Bristol said: "If there is a way to win a baseball game, Tony Pérez will find it." After he was traded, Reds GM Bob Howsam said: "It was the worst mistake I ever made. I didn't realize how important he was to our team." The Big Red Machine was never the same. Sparky Anderson agreed with Howsam, saying that Pérez had been the heart and soul of the Big Red Machine. Like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Sparky Anderson, Tony Pérez is in the Hall of Fame.

2B: Joe Morgan is a Hall of Famer who put together otherworldly numbers from 1972-1977; he was the best at his position in modern times. He won five Gold Gloves, two MVP awards, and had an OBP of .400 or higher nine times in his stellar career. He also stole 689 bases and scored 1,650 runs. He was the first baseball player to retire with more than 600 stolen bases and a success rate of over 80%. Those are exceptional numbers for a second baseman, in any era.

SS: Dave Concepción was an all-star nine times, won five Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. He merits consideration for the Hall of Fame, being as good or better overall than other enshrined shortstops such as Phil Rizzuto, Pee Wee Reese and Ozzie Smith. There were 22 shortstops in the Hall of Fame as of 2012. Among them, Concepción ranks 8th in games, 9th in plate appearances and homers, 10th in at-bats and stolen bases, 11th in hits and RBI, 15th in SLG and 19th in AVG and OBP. With offensive numbers like those combined with his defensive prowess, speed and athleticsm, it's hard to understand why he isn't in the HOF. Concepción's career defensive WAR of 20.9 places him in the Top 40 all-time, regardless of position, right between Honus Wagner and Graig Nettles. Concepción also offered more offense than most shortstops of his era. He had 2,300 hits and twice hit double-digit home runs: his 16 home runs in 1979 is the most for any National League shortstop between 1967 and 1982. He was also an accomplished base stealer who was rarely thrown out. For six years (1974-79), Concepción was the game's best all-around shortstop. Through 1979, he had won five Gold Gloves. In 1980, Ozzie Smith won his first of 14 straight Gold Gloves. Smith's defensive dominance hurts Concepción's ranking, as did the rise of offensive-minded shortstops like Robin Yount and Cal Ripken Jr. Concepción was also overshadowed by Reds' "big four" of Rose, Bench, Morgan and Pérez. Not many people know it, Sparky Anderson said, but on the Big Red Machine, the hitter with the highest success ratio with runners in scoring position was Concepción. "And as good as Ozzie Smith was defensively, Davey doesn't take a back seat to anybody," Anderson said. "Davey had a superb arm, and great, great range. And pop-ups? Oh my goodness. He loved to catch pop-ups. I told (former Reds coach) Alex Grammas, 'One of these days they are going to open the gate out in left field and Davey's going to run past the left-fielder and catch one.' He could jump higher than any man I've ever seen."

3B: Pete Rose is the all-time leader in hits, games played, plate appearances and at-bats. He is the only baseball player to play 500 or more games at five different positions (1B, 2B, 3B, RF, LF) and he was an all-star 17 times at those positions. It was Rose's versatility that allowed the Great Eight to play together, when he shifted to third base to make room in the outfield for George Foster. Rose also won two Gold Gloves despite playing musical chairs, position-wise. And while he is not usually thought of as a slugger, Rose has the most extra-base hits and total bases by a switch hitter, and he also holds the NL record for doubles. He has more total bases than sluggers like Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott and Jimmy Foxx. And Rose has more than a thousand total bases more than Rogers Hornsby, Ernie Banks, Sammy Sosa, Mickey Mantle and Mike Schmidt. Rose was also highly durable, holding the record of 17 seasons appearing in 150 or more games. And he was remarkably consistent, holding the record of 10 seasons with 200 or more hits.

LF: George Foster led the NL in home runs twice (1977-1978) and RBIs three times (1976-1978). He was the final piece of the "awesome eight." He was the only major league baseball player to hit more than 50 homeruns for a span of 25 years, and for a decade (1975-1984) he was the most feared power hitter in the game. He finished in the top three of the MVP voting three times, and five times in the top twelve, within a span of six years. For three years (1976-1978) he averaged 40 home runs and 130 RBI per year. Foster's main rival as the NL's chief slugger for those three years was Mike Schmidt, but he was far behind Foster with an average of 32 home runs and 95 RBI per year.

CF: Cesar Gerónimo won four consecutive Gold Gloves from 1974-1977. He was a stellar defender with a cannon for an arm. Ted Kluszewski, the Reds' hitting coach, said: that Gerónimo "is like a center in basketball—he intimidates you. Not only is his arm incredibly strong, it's also accurate. No one, I mean no one, runs on him."

RF: Ken Griffey Sr. was a three-time all-star who finished as high as eighth in the MVP voting. He hit .300 or better nine times, and finished his career with more than 2,000 hits. (He is, of course, the father of Ken Griffey Jr., the Hall of Fame outfielder who also played for the Reds and finished his career with 630 home runs, good for sixth all-time.)

1975 Reds Stats

PLAYER        POS   G  AB   R    H   2B 3B HR   RBI   BB  SO SB CS  BA OBP  SP OPS

Bench, J            C  142 530   83 150  39    1   28   110   65 108   11   0 .283 .359 .519 .878
Perez, T           1B 137 511   74 144  28     3  20   109   54 101     1   2 .282 .350 .466 .816
Morgan, J         2B 146 498 107 163  27    6  17     94 132   52   67 10 .327 .466 .508 .974
Concepcion, D SS 140 507   62 139  23    1    5      49   39   51   33   6 .274 .326 .353 .679
Rose, P            3B 162 662 112 210  47    4    7      74   89   50     0   1 .317 .406 .432 .838
Geronimo, C    CF 148 501   69 129  25    5    6      53   48   97   13   5 .257 .327 .363 .690
Foster, G          LF 134 463   71 139  24    4  23      78   40   73     2   1 .300 .356 .518 .875
Griffey, K         RF 132 463   95 141  15    9    4      46   67   67    16  7 .305 .391 .402 .793
Driessen, D      1B   88  210   38   59    8    1    7      38   35   30    10  3 .281 .386 .429 .814

Big Red Machine

The Big Red Machine dominated the National League from 1970 to 1976, with a dynasty that won five National League West Division titles, four National League pennants, and two consecutive World Series in 1975-1976 while going an astonishing 14-3 (82.4%) in postseason play. The 1976 Reds remain the only major league baseball team to go undefeated with a perfect postseason since divisional playoffs began. Were the 1976 Reds the greatest baseball team of modern times? Were they the greatest baseball team of all time? I claim the answer to both questions is "yes" and explain why on this page.

The Reds had a star-studded starting lineup called the "Great Eight" that was the best of all time when offense, defense, baserunning and intangibles like clutch play and intimidation are considered. Members of the Great Eight collected six MVP awards, four home run titles, three batting titles, 26 Gold Gloves and 65 All-Star selections. Seven of the Great Eight made the 1976 NL all-star team. The only Reds starter who didn't make the All-Star team that year hit .307, won a Gold Glove and finished 25th in the MVP voting despite hitting eighth in the lineup! The "slash lines" below are batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage/OPS. An asterisk means the player is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, or should be. A plus sign means the player was well above average for his position. A minus sign means the player was below average, but you won't find any weak spots in this stellar lineup:

*C Johnny Bench was the greatest catcher ever in his prime years, both offensively and defensively, and despite a plethora of injuries due to his position, he remains the Reds' all-time leader in homers, RBI and Gold Gloves (ten)
*1B Tony Pérez was one of the best run producers ever, finishing with 1,652 RBI (ahead of legendary sluggers like Rogers Hornsby, Joe DiMaggio, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt and Harmon Killebrew)
*2B Joe Morgan was the greatest all-round second baseman ever; the 1976 NL MVP hit .320/.444/.576/1.020 with 27 homers, 111 RBI, 113 runs, 114 walks and 62 stolen bases; he also won five gold gloves
*SS Dave Concepción was the most complete shortstop of his era, with speed, defense, athleticism and a potent bat for his position; he was an all-star nine times and won five gold gloves
*3B Pete Rose is the all-time hits leader; in 1976 he had a banner year, batting .323/.404/.450/.854 with 215 hits, 130 runs, 42 doubles, 86 walks and 299 total bases while leading off!
*LF George Foster aka "the Destroyer" was the most feared slugger of his era; in 1976 he hit .306/.364/.530/.894 with 29 homers and led all MLB with 121 RBI; he was second only to Morgan in slugging percentage
*RF Ken Griffey Sr. was a .336 hitter with speed (34 stolen bases) and power (.851 OPS); in 1976 he missed the NL batting title by an eyelash and his .336/.401/.450/.851 slash line was nearly identical to Rose's
+CF Cesar Gerónimo was a great defensive player with a cannon-like arm and outstanding speed; in 1976 he hit .307/.382/.414/.795 with 201 total bases and 22 steals; he also won four consecutive Gold Gloves

Should Pete Rose and Dave Concepción be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, really? Yes, really. The case for Rose is open-and-shut. Concepción was as good as most shortstops already enshrined in Cooperstown, and his stats prove it. In fact, I will make the case that only ten HOF shortstops had stats markedly better than Concepción's: Honus Wagner (#1, obviously), Cal Ripken (the streak), Ozzie Smith (wizardly defense), Ernie Banks (512 homers), Robin Yount (3,142 hits), Joe Cronin (1,424 RBI), Luis Aparicio (506 steals), Luke Appling (he hit .310 with 2,749 hits), Arky Vaughan (slugged .453) and Barry Larkin (slugged .444). But other than superior slugging, Larkin's stats are very close to Concepción's, and Concepción won more Gold Gloves. Concepción compares very well with all the other HOF shortstops when hitting, power, defense, athleticism, baserunning, clutch play and leadership are considered. Concepción's main problem is that he was damn good at everything and didn't stand out for one thing in particular like Ozzie Smith (defense), Cal Ripken (indestructability) or Ernie Banks (power). But most HOF shortstops, like Concepción, were well-rounded players. Also, Concepción is undoubtedly handicapped by the fact that he was probably the seventh best hitter on his team, even though he was the best hitting shortstop of his era. His manager Sparky Anderson pointed out that Concepción was the best clutch hitter on the Reds and a remarkable athlete, but the Roses, Benches, Morgans, Perezes and Fosters produced more offensive fireworks and grabbed the headlines. So a truly great player remained mostly in the background. In an interesting synchronicity, the day that I compiled my list of the ten HOF shortstops above, I found confirmation from an unexpected source: Bill James himself. I stumbled upon the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor, which ranks players by their statistical worthiness to become hall-of-famers. Sure enough, James had ranked the ten shortstops above higher than Concepción. But all the other HOF shortstops were ranked lower, so do the right thing and let him in!

One very unusual thing about the 1975-1976 Reds compared to the other "greatest of all time" teams is how good they were offensively at the "more defensive" positions. At catcher they had the greatest of all time, Johnny Bench. They also had the greatest second baseman of the modern era, if not the greatest ever, in Joe Morgan. They had the best overall shortstop of that era, Dave Concepción. They had the all-time hits and hustle leader at third base, Pete Rose. And they had one of the best defensive center fielders of all time hitting in the eight hole, Cesar Gerónimo.

How good were the Reds on defense? Well, Bench is number one among catchers all-time with ten Gold Gloves and was the number one defensive catcher on the Rawlings all-time Gold Glove list with 59% of the vote (more than Ozzie Smith!). Morgan earned five Gold Gloves and was the number one defensive second baseman on the Rawlings list. Concepción also garnered five Gold Gloves and was one of six finalists at shortstop on the Rawlings list. Gerónimo won four consecutive Gold Gloves and thus qualifies as one of the best defensive centerfielders of all time. Pete Rose won two Gold Gloves and has the 32nd highest fielding percentage of all time among outfielders at .9911. When he switched to third base, despite playing out of position for the sake of his team and not always looking pretty, Rose only committed 13 errors in 1975 and again in 1976 despite playing his usual 162 games. Pérez had his best fielding year at first base in 1976, only committing five errors with a fielding percentage of .996, but Steve Garvey had an even better year at .998 and won the Gold Glove. Griffey and Foster were above-average defenders, with excellent speed and athleticism, and strong arms.

The 1975-1976 Reds were the best baseball teams of all time. In 1975 the Reds had the best infield of all time. In 1976 the infield was down just a bit, after Johnny Bench had major surgery and took most of the year to recover, but the outfield responded with career years by Griffey, Geronimo and Foster. Bench reemerged as the Bench of old in the 1976 World Series, and when he did the Reds were unbeatable. Seven of the Great Eight deserve strong consideration for the Baseball Hall of Fame, since George Foster was better than most HOF left fielders for a decade in his prime. The entire infield, including catcher, was Hall of Fame caliber. Such things cannot be said of any other team in the history of baseball.

The Best Infield Ever, and the Best Outfield of their Era

Here's an interesting fact about the 1976 Reds: they had far-and-away the best infield of all time, if we include catcher, and in 1976 they also had four of the best outfielders in all baseball (since Rose was an all-world left fielder and right fielder). If you do a 1976 screen for all MLB outfielders based on OBP, the top three are all Reds: Rose (.404), Griffey (.401) and Gerónimo (.382). If you do a screen for runs, the top two outfielders are Rose (130) and Griffey (111), with Foster twelfth (86). In total bases, Rose was first (299), Foster second (298) and Griffey thirteenth (253). A screen for batting average turns up all four Reds outfielders: Griffey first (.336), Rose third (.323), Gerónimo ninth (.307) and Foster tenth (.306). A screen for OPS has Foster first by a wide margin (.894), Rose second (.854), and Griffey fifth (.851). Rose and Griffey were in a virtual dead heat in OPS with the mighty Reggie Jackson, and Foster had him comfortably outslugged. In OPS, the aforementioned three Reds ranked ahead of famous slugging outfielders of the day like Greg Luzinski, Dave Parker, Dave Winfield, Fred Lynn and Jerry Rice. And Gerónimo was not far behind (.795), leading Dave Kingman (37 homers) and Carl Yastrzemski (21 dingers with 102 RBI). And even though Foster was the only prototypical slugger among the Reds outfielders, all four ranked in the top 25 in slugging percentage: Foster first (.530), Rose and Griffey tied at thirteen (.450) and Gerónimo (.414) still ahead of most of the outfield pack. Now we can see why Sparky Anderson moved one of baseball's all-time best outfielders to third base: he had four of the very best outfielders in all pro baseball, and only one weak spot on the entire diamond! It seems like a genius move in retrospect, but the numbers suggest that he really had no choice, as long as Rose could adapt to third base, which he did. (It bears noting that the runs and RBI rankings are a bit unfair to Gerónimo, since he was forced to hit eighth in such a formidable lineup. He was the only Reds hitter who could be "worked around" since the pitcher was coming up next. But as I will point out below, Gerónimo did have one of the best seasons by a number eight hitter in modern baseball history, so he certainly played his part by turning a lemon into lemonade.)
1976 Batting Statistics (bold italics indicates the league leader; bold indicates top ten NL or top fifty MLB)

Pos   Name                 Age    -G-   PA    AB    -R-    -H-  2B  3B    HR   RBI   SB  CS    BB    SO    BA   OBP  SLG   OPS   OPS+  TB WAR MVP
3B    Pete Rose             35    162   759   665   130   215   42    6     10      63     9     5      86    54    .323  .404   .450   .854     141   299     7.0     #4
LF    George Foster      27    144   627   562     86   172   21    9     29    121   17      3      52    89    .306  .364  .530    .894    150   298      5.9    #2
2B    Joe Morgan          32    141   599   472   113   151   30    5     27    111   62      9    114    41    .320  .444  .576  1.020    186   272      9.7    #1
RF    Ken Griffey          26    148   628   562   111   189   28    9       6      74   34    11      62    65    .336  .401  .450    .851    140   253      4.6    #8
1B    Tony Pérez           34    139   586   527     77   137   32    6     19      91   10      5      50    88    .260  .328  .452    .779    118   238      2.6
SS    Dave Concepción 28    152   636   576     74   162   28    7       9      69   21    10      49    68    .281  .335  .401    .736    107   231      4.4
CF   Cesar Gerónimo    28    149   555   486     59   149   24  11       2      49   22      5      56    95    .307  .382  .414    .795    125   201      2.7  #25
C     Johnny Bench        28    135   552   465     62   109   24    1     16      74   13      2      81    95    .234  .348  .394    .741    109   183      4.6

As an indication of the Red's hitting dominance in 1976, their eight-place batter, Cesar Gerónimo, was in the top ten for OBP and the top thirty for OPS (both leagues included).

Bill Madlock of the Pittsburg Pirates edged out Ken Griffey Sr. for the NL batting championship on the last day of the season.

George Foster led the NL in RBIs and was second to Morgan in slugging percentage.

Johnny Bench and Tony Pérez had off years in 1976. If they had produced typical results, the team's offensive numbers would have been even more off the charts. Bench was battling physical problems, particularly bad shoulders. But Bench hit .385 in the NLCS against Philadelphia, and when New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson hit .529 in the World Series, Bench rose to the occasion, hitting .533 with two home runs, for which he was awarded the World Series MVP award. When Sparky Anderson was asked to compare Munson to Bench, he demurred, saying: "You don't compare anyone to Johnny Bench. You don't want to embarrass anybody."

Dan Driessen was the DH in all four World Series games. In fact, 1976 was the first year the DH was allowed the the Series. At that time, the DH was allowed on an every-other-year basis and in ALL games (until 1986 when it became yearly and only in the AL parks).  In 1976, Driessen DH-ed in both Yankee Stadium & Riverfront. He went 5 for 14 (.357) with one homer and two doubles.

Related Pages: All-Time Cincinnati Reds Baseball Team, Were the 1976 Reds the Greatest Baseball Team of All Time?

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