As I’ve said in pieces past, I like to write on topics the audience is talking about. So when I was presented with the name Paul O’Neill, I couldn’t back down.
I saw this as an opportunity to touch on a player some may have forgotten about, after his disagreement with then team manager Lou Piniella, and trade to the New York Yankees, as well as a way to brush up on my Reds facts, stats and history.
For some of the unfamiliar Reds fans, here’s some background.
O’Neill was drafted in the fourth round of the 1981 Amateur Draft. However, he did not debut until September of 1985, and became a starter in 1988. He spent the next seven years, after ’85, with the Cincinnati Reds, including the ever-famous 1990 World Series team. While with the Redlegs, O’Neill hit 96 home runs, 411 RBIs and achieved a .270 batting average.
Jay Bruce, a more recent light within the red and white uniforms, has been with the team for six years now. Bruce was drafted in the 2005 Amateur Draft as the no. 12 overall pick. He made his major league debut in 2008 and has been with the Reds ever since.
In his tenure, he has clocked 148 balls out of the park, 14 of them being in the 2013 season and owns a .277 batting average. Bruce’s 14 home runs is enough to take over the home run lead for the Reds this season, claiming that stat from Joey Votto, who leads the team in three other categories (batting average, on-base percentage and hits).
So, simply, who is/was better?
Right now, Bruce is hitting .304/.338/.580 in the month of June. He’s clubbed a home run in four of his past six games and has stolen multiple game changing home runs from opponents, including notable ones from the latest Cardinals and the Pirates.
O’Neill checked out of his final season with the Reds in 1992 (statistically, his best season) with only 16 home runs and a batting average of .246. Bruce’s seasonal average: .278.
Bruce is playing with some modern day (Reds) greats. The team has Votto, Phillips, a decent pitching rotation and guys that get on base. In fact, the Reds are No. 5 in Major League Baseball in terms of OBP (.330). And Bruce is helping them get there.
My final count: Bruce has just got the edge on O’Neill. Playing with legends, such as Barry Larkin, Ken Griffy Sr., and Eric Davis, O’Neill was right up there with some of them. But with Bruce on track for somewhere around 32-36 home runs, an average of .275 and maybe even another postseason appearance, I’d have to go with Bruce to put on my roster.
Note: While I was writing this piece, Bruce hit his 14th home run of the season in the ninth inning last night, and then Brandon Phillips won the game in 13 innings in walk-off fashion. If you missed it, take a look.