Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.


He has 17 home runs through the Rangers’ first 30 games while the Reds struggle to simply score runs.  And the question:  Why did the Reds ever trade him?

The question on a radio talk show Thursday night was this:  Is Josh Hamilton the worst trade made in the history of the Cincinnati Reds?

There were, of course, many answers…many opinions.

Some (actually many) said no.  The Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas trade 44 years ago, in 1966, still tops them all.  Pappas was a so-so starting pitcher for the Reds for three seasons while Robinson went to Baltimore and promptly won the Triple Crown while leading the Orioles to a World Series sweep of Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

For purely sentimental reasons, I have another “worst” Reds trade, although it worked out well for the Reds. 

In December of 1960 the Reds traded shortstop Roy McMillan to the Braves for pitcher Joey Jay and it broke my heart.  Roy McMillan was my favorite Red of all-time up to that point, and for what reason I’m still at a loss to explain.

As an eight-year-old I loved Roy’s baseball card, and those horn-rimmed glasses that he wore.  The name…Roy McMillan…rolled off the tongue of broadcaster Waite Hoyt with a certain flourish.  And while I never saw him play for the Reds in person, I know that Roy McMillan was a very accomplished fielding shortstop.  In today’s vernacular, he could “pick it”. 

But I digress.

So, knowing what we know currently about Josh Hamilton and the promise he showed in that brief stint he had with the Reds…was that a worse trade than Robinon for Pappas?

No, probably not.  And here’s my reasoning.

I’m sure Hamilton would have been a fine player for the Reds.  But I also know that nothing’s guaranteed in baseball, and the Reds needed pitching when they made that trade.  They got a great arm, Edinson Volquez, and Daniel Ray “What’s-His-Name” (Herrera).  Volquez is now in San Diego striking out people…and walking people.  Daniel Herrera is out of baseball.  Like I say, nothing’s guaranteed.

I also know this about baseball and sports.  Location…location…location.  Meaning, certain players do better in certain scenarios.  And I’m not so sure that Josh Hamilton would have put the numbers in Cincinnati that he’s put up in Texas.

In Texas he’s been surrounded by great talent, experienced talent that can hit…Michael Young, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus.  Josh Hamilton did not “have” to be “the man”.  He was on a team full of “men”, playing for an organization willing and able to spend what it took to be successful.

No such scenario in Cincinnati, where that organization waits for its prospects to blossom…to become “the men”.  Their one extravagance…Aroldis Chapman, perhaps, and Joey Votto, who by all rights is one of  baseball’s finest hitters, when he gets a pitch to hit.

But the point is, they can pitch around Votto in Cincinnati.  It’s hard to pitch around anyone in Texas.  And then, there’s Josh Hamilton hitting in the middle of the order, surrounded by Beltre, Young, Cruz (who hit six home runs in last year’s ALCS).  No pressure.  He’s been allowed to blossom at his own pace.  I can’t imagine that could have happened in Cincinnati.

Different players, for different teams, at different times. 

No, it wasn’t a great trade, but I don’t know that you can prove that it was the “worst” trade the Reds have made.  Talk about it amongst yourselves.

And did I mention…Roy McMillan for Joey Jay?