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Throwback Madness: Round 1/Game 5

1990 vs. 2019

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

Team: 1990

Seed: 3

Record: 91-71, finished 1st in 6-team National League West. Beat Pirates in 6-game NLCS. Swept 4-game World Series over the A’s.

Did this team matter?: At the risk of overemphasizing two personal details, I think the answer to this has to be Yes. Risk #1: this remains the only championship by the Reds in my sentient lifetime. Risk #2, I had not yet entered high school when this season concluded, meaning baseball was still occupying as large a place in my brain as it ever would. So, I think it was a big deal that the underdog Reds swept the heavily favored A’s. I think it was a big deal that the jingoism of 1990 was portrayed via American flag patches on the uniforms. I think Billy Hatcher and Jose Rijo and Randy Myers and Eric Davis’s kidney were big deals. I also think that baseball maybe held a bigger place in the national zeitgeist pre-1994 strike, pre-internet, pre-cord cutting. It feels like a very distant and different place, 1990. And so I think I elevate the importance of that season accordingly.

Performances to remember: In 1990, the NL leaders in games started by a pitcher all had 35 starts. In taking the mound 29 times that year, we could say that Jose Rijo left six starts on the field compared to his peers (shoulder issue). Perhaps belying the notion of a team’s ace struggling with a history of arm injuries, Rijo averaged nearly seven innings per start for a total of 197. Again, we could compare that to the year’s league leader (249.2 innings pitched) and conclude that Rijo was not as durable as a number of his peers. Despite the relative durability downgrade, Rijo posted downright solid numbers: 14-8, 2.70 ERA (148 ERA+), 1.16 WHIP, 152 strikeouts. His ERA+ was 2nd best in the NL. He was the best pitcher on a team that led its division wire-to-wire. He received zero votes for the league’s Cy Young Award.

Cosmic injustices aside, he started four of the team’s ten postseason appearances in 1990, went 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA across the playoffs (including one run allowed in 15.1 innings against the A’s) and won the World Series MVP award.

Wikipedia says: “Starting with a club best nine straight wins to open the season, as well as holding the top spot in the National League West every game during the season, the Reds went 41-21 after 62 games, splitting the remaining 100 games 50-50 to end up with a 91-71 record.”

Uniform notes: These uniforms are the wind-down of the Riverfront Stadium era of jerseys: pullovers with the uniform number over one side of the chest and the wishbone C logo over the other. The only practical difference between the 1990 version and the 1972 version (when this style first appeared) is the addition of red and white stripes down the pant leg. The inclusion/addition of the American flag patch (as best as I can remember) was introduced for the World Series.

My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: “I like the American flag <giggles>.”

Team: 2019

Seed: 14

Record: 75-87, finished 4th in 5-team National League Central.

Did this team matter?: They didn’t finish last in their division for the first time in five years. They added some interesting pieces before the season began only to stumble to a 1-8 start. Overall, it was a better season than the recent past had given us, but…this team definitely didn’t matter.

Performances to remember: If confirmation bias doesn’t exactly explain many of our long-held beliefs, it almost certainly reinforces them. I don’t really know if some players “just can’t cut it” in New York or not. I do know that some players post worse numbers than expected after jumping to the Yankees/Mets. Somebody go order up a poorly written article at FiveThirtyEight to explore this phenomenon.

Either way, I’m willing to go all-in on the New York Is A Scary Place theory if it provides us more players like Sonny Gray. New York Yankees Sonny Gray (2018): 11-9, 4.90 ERA (86 ERA+), 9.5 hits per 9 IP. Cincinnati Reds Sonny Gray (2019): 11-8, 2.87 ERA (158 ERA+), 6.3 hits per 9 IP. Cincinnati has long been regarded as a pitcher’s paradise and this data point should perpetuate that Fact. Fire up the marketing campaign and let’s get Noah Syndergaard to the Queen City for a song.

Wikipedia says: “The Reds were eliminated from playoff contention on September 16 after a loss to the Chicago Cubs.”

Getty Images

Uniform notes: The Reds have had the same basic get-up since 2007, with only an added patch here and there driving any year-to-year variation. The jersey design is essentially a modernized twist on the 1969 era uniform; piping and shadowing create the most notable distinctions. Which means that, uniform-wise, the Reds are in a place of continuity and stability while playing in a season which drew attention to the fact that uniform changes every few years was the historical norm. I think I once counted 32 materially different uniform styles for the Reds from 1900 to present. Based on math, they’re overdue for a refresh, but one gets the feeling that these uniforms will be around for a good bit longer.

My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter says: My fashion-conscious, non-baseball-fan tween of a daughter did not review the 2019 uniforms.


Who had the better uniforms?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    1990 Reds
    (51 votes)
  • 45%
    2019 Reds
    (42 votes)
93 votes total Vote Now