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1 Cincinnati Reds The arrival of Griffey gives Cincinnati the powerful look of a new Big Red Machine

Taped above Scott Williamson's locker at the Reds' spring
training complex was a small, handwritten placard that read I AM
TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED. It was placed there early in March by
the ever-helpful Deion Sanders after the Neon One--who was in camp
on a minor league contract--watched the 1999 National League
Rookie of the Year pitch a fit over a tardy equipment shipment.
"I was pissed off because I needed those shoes and they were
supposed to be here the day before," says Williamson, who won 12
games and saved 19 last season. "Deion came over, told me not to
stress and said he'd take care of it. He got on the phone, and
the next day the shoes were here."

The sign has a proper place over Williamson's locker--he is,
after all, blessed with the ability to throw a baseball 98 mph.
But Cincinnati should also post a mural-sized version in its
clubhouse at Cinergy Field. The Reds, the low-payroll,
little-engine-that-could upstarts who forced a one-game playoff
for the wild card last season, have been smiled upon by the
baseball gods, and not just because they happen to be the one
team the game's best player wanted to play for. Consider the
karmic windfall: In addition to the acquisition of Ken Griffey
Jr., the penurious Marge Schott has been replaced by
deep-pocketed new owner Carl Lindner; the lineup, top to bottom,
is now as potent as any in the National League; and the bullpen,
too, is talented and deep. That's blessed. Right now that little
baseball-headed fellow in the Reds' logo is kicking back on a
chaise lounge somewhere, less stressed than a surfer on Prozac.
"I knew they had a good club because they won 96 games last
year," says rightfielder Dante Bichette, who was obtained from
the Rockies in October for reserve outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds
and reliever Stan Belinda. "But I kind of feel like I hit the
jackpot here."

If general manager Jim Bowden can fill his most pressing
need--namely, a frontline starting pitcher--that jackpot could well
include a World Series share. Lefthander Denny Neagle and
righthander Pete Harnisch combined to go 25-15 last season and
were saviors for Cincinnati down the stretch, but they aren't
enough to carry the rotation. Neagle spent two months on the
disabled list in '99 with a shoulder injury, and Harnisch spent
the off-season trying to strengthen his damaged rotator cuff
without going under the knife. With health a constant concern and
manager Jack McKeon seemingly picking names out of a hat to fill
out the rotation (seven pitchers made at least 10 starts for the
Reds in '99), it's imperative that Cincinnati find help. "I
always say I'm working harder to find starting pitching than I
did to get Junior," Bowden says.

Opposing pitchers may start lobbying for a trade to the Reds, if
only to avoid facing their lineup. With Bichette and Griffey,
Bowden more than replaced the 66-homer, 184-RBI void created by
the departures of outfielders Greg Vaughn (free agent) and Mike
Cameron (dealt to Seattle for Griffey). Bichette and Griffey
combined to hit 41 points higher and strike out 90 fewer times
than Vaughn and Cameron. Those extra balls in play--plus the fact
that all eight Reds in the every-day lineup hit at least 10
homers last year--should ensure that the franchise shatters its
records for runs (865) and extra-base hits (558) set in '99.
"I've never been on a team with this many horses," says veteran
shortstop Barry Larkin.

The bullpen, which led the majors with a 3.36 ERA last year, is
equally loaded. Williamson and Danny Graves (27 saves) will again
be co-closers, but the group is so deep and balanced that McKeon
will summon any one of the bunch to pitch in any situation. "We
don't really like that," Williamson says of the relievers'
amorphous roles. "To go in in the ninth one night and the sixth
the next is tough." But it worked, and McKeon will stick with the

The fact that Bowden was able to acquire Griffey without breaking
up the young core of his team borders on the absurd, and it
caught even Junior's new mates by surprise. "Without a doubt,"
second baseman Pokey Reese says when asked if he thought he'd be
traded in the Griffey deal. "I got my umbrellas out because I
thought I'd be in Seattle by now."

"The key to last year was the development of all of our young
players," says McKeon, whose acrimonious contract talks were the
one black mark on the team's otherwise euphoric off-season. (He
reluctantly signed a one-year deal worth $600,000 in October.)
"But you have to realize there are a lot of veterans like Neagle
and Harnisch and Griffey and [Hal] Morris here. This team knows
how to win."

Count that as another blessing.


COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON HOMECOMING KING Playing in the city in which he grew up--and stepping into the league's most lethal lineup--has Griffey feeling like a Kid again.


around the Horn

[5 stars]
[4 stars]
[2 1/2 stars]
[5 stars]
[3 1/2 stars]

by the numbers

1999 Team Statistics (NL rank)

Batting average .272 (6)
Runs scored 865 (4)
Home runs 209 (3)

1999 record: 96-67 (second in NL Central)

Opponents' batting average .241 (1)
ERA 3.98 (4)
Fielding percentage .983 (6)

next up...

Say this for Jason LaRue, the Reds' catcher of the future: He
sets an inviting target for pitchers. In 35 games last season he
caught three one-hitters and four shutouts. A fifth-round draft
pick of Cincinnati's in 1995, the 26-year-old defensive whiz
will get more playing time this season, even though starter
Eddie Taubensee had a career year in 1999 (.311 average and 21
home runs). "Eddie had a good year last year because we didn't
overwork him," says Jack McKeon, who nonetheless is concerned by
Taubensee's 14.9% success rate at throwing out base stealers in
1999. By contrast, LaRue gunned down 43.5% of the runners
attempting to steal. Though LaRue only hit .211 in 90 at bats
with Cincinnati, the Reds believe the batting title he won in
the Double A Southern League two years ago is a better indicator
of his potential at the plate. Says McKeon, "In time he'll be a
Number 1 guy."

the lineup
projected roster with 1999 statistics

Manager: Jack McKeon (fourth season with Cincinnati)


2B Pokey Reese R 64 .285 10 52 38
SS Barry Larkin R 56 .293 12 75 30
CF Ken Griffey Jr.[1] L 1 .285 48 134 24
RF Dante Bichette[1] R 43 .298 34 133 6
1B Sean Casey L-R 38 .332 25 99 0
LF Dmitri Young S-R 176 .300 14 56 3
C Eddie Taubensee L-R 154 .311 21 87 0
3B Aaron Boone R 195 .280 14 72 17


OF Michael Tucker L-R 242 .253 11 44 11
OF Alex Ochoa[1] R 290 .300 8 40 6
IF Mark Lewis R 345 .254 6 28 0
C Jason LaRue R 358 .211 3 10 4
IF Hal Morris L 366 .284 0 16 0


RH Pete Harnisch 23 16 10 6.0 1.25 3.68
LH Denny Neagle 55 9 5 5.8 1.21 4.27
RH Steve Parris 74 11 4 6.0 1.37 3.50
LH Ron Villone 107 9 7 5.7 1.31 4.23
RH Mark Portugal[1] 225 7 12 5.3 1.46 5.51


RH Scott Williamson 44 12 7 19 1.04 2.41
RH Danny Graves 48 8 7 27 1.25 3.08
RH Scott Sullivan 205 5 4 3 1.19 3.01
LH Dennys Reyes 217 2 2 2 1.45 3.79
LH Gabe White 239 1 2 0 1.34 4.43
RH Scott Winchester* 289 1 1 0 1.14 2.79

[1] New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 164)
*Class A stats

the book
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Reds

"This is a fun team to watch. They'll trot out All-Stars at half
the positions on the field. The key for the Reds is the health of
the pitching staff. They don't have a horse you can ride for 200
innings.... Pete Harnisch is a great competitor, but how long can
he last?... With so many health questions they'll need some
soldiers from the minors. Righthander Rob Bell will start at
Triple A, but he's not far away.... Can you overwork a bullpen
two years in a row and get away with it? There's a lot of quality
people out there, and it's the strength of the club.... Ken
Griffey's going to earn his money in center. Dmitri Young is a
mediocre outfielder at best; at worst he's atrocious. Dante
Bichette is also an atrocious outfielder.... There's a Coors
Field factor with Bichette, but not as big as you might think. He
won't have as many homers, but he'll still hit for average and
drive in a ton of runs.... Pokey Reese improved with the bat
faster than most of us thought he would.... Eddie Taubensee is
O.K. behind the plate, but he can't throw. Teams that can run
will steal him blind."