Reds’ Top 5 second basemen: Sheldon’s take

April 7th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Mark Sheldon’s ranking of the top 5 second basemen in Reds history. Next week: third basemen.

(Note: Hall of Famer Bid McPhee was not included because this series only covers modern era players who played after 1900.)

• Reds' All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B

1) , 1972-79
Key fact: His 98.9 career WAR is second behind Rogers Hornsby all-time at second base.

When Morgan was acquired from the Astros after the 1971 season in an eight-player trade, it gave the Big Red Machine the extra gear it needed to create a true dynasty team. It gave the Reds something they lacked amid all of their power hitting -- speed. Morgan is the Reds’ all-time leader with 406 steals. A 10-time All-Star, he appeared in eight of those games in a Cincinnati uniform and was also a five-time Gold Glove winner. Morgan’s ability to get on base helped separate him from others in his era. The Reds went from 10th in the league in OBP in ‘71 to 2nd in OBP in ‘72 after his arrival.

The pinnacle years for Morgan came during the 1975 and ’76 World Series championship seasons for the Reds as he earned consecutive National League Most Valuable Player Awards. In ’75, Morgan batted .327 with a league-best .974 OPS, 67 steals and 17 home runs.

“I have never seen anyone, and I mean anyone, play better than Joe has played this year,” Reds manager Sparky Anderson told reporters in 1975.

During the 1976 campaign, Morgan hit .320 with a league-topping 1.020 OPS, 27 homers and 60 steals. His time in Cincinnati ended when he returned to Houston after signing as a free agent in '80. Morgan was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in '90 and had his No. 8 retired by the Reds in '98.

2) , 2006-16
Key fact: His 1,586 games played at second base are most in Reds history.

After he was designated for assignment by Cleveland, the Reds acquired Phillips shortly after the start of the 2006 season for Minor League pitcher Jeff Stevens. It proved to be one of the best trades in recent franchise history. Phillips became a mainstay for a decade and the rare power-hitting second baseman who could also make frequent spectacular plays defensively.

Over his 11 seasons with Cincinnati, Phillips hit 191 home runs and 311 doubles -- both at the tops among Reds second basemen. His 1,774 hits and 851 RBIs were second-most for the position with the franchise.

Along the way, Phillips was a three-time NL All-Star, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner and also earned a Silver Slugger Award.

3) Lonny Frey, 1938-46
Key fact: Led the NL with 22 stolen bases in 1940.

A three-time All-Star, Frey’s career-best .291 average, .840 OPS and 11 homers while scoring 95 runs helped lead the Reds to the NL pennant in 1939. The following season, he was a key player in the '40 World Series championship and scored a career-high 102 runs. His third and final All-Star Game came in '43 at the age of 32 before he spent two years in the military during World War II. He was unable to recapture his strong performance when he returned to baseball in '46.

Frey was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1961.

4) Johnny Temple, 1952-59, 1964
Key fact: Inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 1965.

Temple was a four-time All-Star and batted .291/.372/.361 during his nine seasons with the Reds. A consummate leadoff hitter, he had a 2.09 walks-to-strikeouts ratio while with Cincinnati and led the NL with 94 walks in 1957. His best season was '59, when he batted .311 with eight homers, 67 RBIs and 102 runs scored -- all career highs. Cincinnati traded him to Cleveland after that season for three players that included Gordy Coleman and Billy Martin.

5) Miller Huggins, 1904-09
Key fact: All nine of his career home runs were inside-the-park, including four with the Reds.

Before he was the Hall of Fame Yankees manager in the 1920s, including the famed Murderers' Row dynasty, Huggins grew up in Cincinnati, played for the Univ. of Cincinnati while in law school and began his professional career playing for the Reds. He was listed at 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds but was believed to be much smaller and was nicknamed “Mighty Mite.” He led the NL in walks twice and stole 27 or more bases in four straight years.

Honorable mentions
Ron Oester (1978-90) is fourth all-time among Reds second basemen with 1,118 hits and third with 1,276 games and was part of the 1990 World Series team.

(1994-98) was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 1998 while hitting 24 homers with 95 RBIs.

(1997-01) was a fantastic fielder and two-time Gold Glove winner.