Hopefully, his stint as an announcer hasn't diminished his abilities as a player in the minds of sports fans, because Joe Morgan was one of the most impactful players the game has ever had. He was the ultimate multi-faceted player: he had the ability to get on base (he led the league in on-base average 4 times), he could hurt you when he was on the basepaths (a dangerous baserunner, he stole 689 bases even though he had Johnny Bench and Tony Perez hitting behind him for much of his career), he rarely got caught stealing (career 81% success rate), he had power (he had 268 career HR), and he fielded his position as well as anyone of his era (he won 5 Gold Gloves and led the National League in fielding percentage on 3 occasions).
In the batter's box, Morgan would flap his front elbow distinctively as a timing device, a trigger that allowed him to unleash tremendous power from his small frame. Second behind Rogers Hornsby on my list of the best second basemen of all time, Morgan was the sparkplug of the offensive machine that came to be known as the Big Red Machine. He won back-to-back MVP awards in 1975 and 1976, the years when the Reds won the World Series, and retired with 2,527 games played as a second baseman - a major league record.
Though he actually spent more years with the Houston Astros than with the Cincinnati Reds, his success with the Reds made me list him on these pages. Batting on the spacious Houston Astrodome, he struggled early in his career. When he moved to Riverfront Stadium in Cincy, he experienced a rare thing - he improved in the middle of his career from a mediocre player to a Hall-of-Famer. In Houston, he never hit more than 15 home runs in a year, and was a .260 hitter.
After moving to his new team, he quickly doubled his home run output. In 8 years there, he won his two MVP awards, led the league in runs created twice, in runs created per 9 innings 3 times, in total walks 3 times and in on-base average 4 times.
"Whether you steal or not, you're changing the rhythm of the game. If the pitcher is concerned about you,
he isn't concentrating enough on the batter."
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