PORTSMOUTH — Two men, both donning Cincinnati Reds number-44 jerseys, walk into a radio station suite.
There’s where the joke ends.
What is no laughing matter is that last Thursday, during the annual Reds Caravan stop in downtown Portsmouth at the WNXT radio studios, the shear power of the Reds from their past bridged with their bright present — as former Reds great Eric Davis and current Reds star Aristides Aquino were part of the group sweeping through Southeastern Ohio.
Now, 30 years after Davis and the Reds went wire-to-wire in winning the 1990 World Series championship, can Aquino — “The Punisher” as you all know him — be that highly visible home-run hitting outfielder that spearheads Cincinnati back to another hunt for a Red October.
Davis and Aquino joined other individuals of the Reds organization, including pitcher Lucas Sims and newly-retired Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman, for their yearly January public relations tour across the region.
Perhaps there’s symbolism in bringing Davis AND Aquino along for the SAME Caravan, as both —besides wearing the number 44 — were and are regarded as the best young slugging talent for the Reds on teams 30 years apart.
It’s the home-run ball both are often identified by, as Davis was the centerfield smasher for the Reds in the late 1980s — while Aquino is the Davis of today when it comes to knocking the baseball out of Great American Ball Park.
Now do remember that Davis did do much more than just hit home runs in his time in Cincinnati, such as stealing an average of 40 bases per season from 1986 thru 1990 — and making home-run robbing catches that drew comparisons to the legendary Willie Mays.
Over that same span, Davis finished in the top-15 each year in voting for the National League’s Most Valuable Player —and was among the NL’s top-10 from 1986 thru 1989 in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS.
In his 17 seasons, including with the Reds from his rookie campaign of 1984 thru 1991, Davis batted .269 with 282 home runs and 934 runs batted in.
He also scored 938 runs, conked 239 doubles and 26 triples, stole 349 bases, walked 740 times, and posted a slugging percentage of .482.
Still, it’s all about the home run ball —even back then.
It was arguably Davis’ most memorable moment of his career —when he homered off Oakland Athletics pitcher Dave Stewart in his first World Series at-bat.
The Reds went on to sweep the Athletics in four games, as 1990 remains the last season in which Cincinnati has won the World Series.
Fast forward 30 years, and now “Eric The Red” perhaps returns in the form of “The Punisher”.
Aquino is 25-years old, and actually debuted for the Reds in August 2018.
However, what Red fan — or any Major League Baseball fan for that matter — in his or her right mind can forget what Aquino accomplished last August?
His contract was selected on Aug. 1, and he smashed seven home runs in 10 games, tying the MLB record of Trevor Story.
On Aug. 10, against the Chicago Cubs, he hit three homers — becoming the first MLB rookie to hit a home run in three consecutive innings, and only the second rookie to have a three home-run game in his first 10 career games.
Oh, but that’s not all.
On Aug. 16, Aquino became the first player in modern MLB history to club 10 home runs through his first 16 games.
The next day, he made it 11 blasts in 17 tilts.
His 14th home run in August established a new MLB rookie record.
Hey, don’t believe what Wikipedia lists, check out Youtube sometime — and listen to Thom Brennaman, son of Marty and the Reds’ play-by-play announcer on FOX Sports Ohio television, go crazy calling it.
For those keeping track, Aquino is at 19 home runs and 47 RBIs with a career batting average of .257.
Yes, the sample size is small with basically two months in 2019, but Aquino’s upside is big — and it’s big because baseball is all about hitting that home run and electrifying the fans.
Or, if swinging for the fences fails, the end result is usually a strikeout.
“This game today is all about home runs and strikeouts and walks. You don’t see teams hitting and running much anymore. Stolen bases have become almost a lost art,” said Marty Brennaman, in an interview with The Daily Times. “And that’s the way the game ought to be played as far as I am concerned.”If a guy hits 35 home runs in a season in this era, that’s no big deal. And pitchers are happy if they pitch five innings and qualify for a win.”
That’s correct — pitchers are indeed thrilled to make it to the fifth frame anymore —because Aquino and others are often launching their fastballs 400-plus feet.
Marty Brennaman said the 2020 Reds “may be good enough to win the (National League Central) division right now,” but believes “they need one more big bat in that lineup”.
Any other bat would be difficult to mask what Aquino did for two months, and even though playing and winning championship baseball begins and ends with starting pitching, fans continue to clamor for the home-run ball —and just the energy it injects a stadium with.
Davis is arguably the most remembered Red from 1990.
Aquino is already the most remembered Red in 2020.
Both hit home runs.
It was nice to see two men, both donning Cincinnati Reds number-44 jerseys, walk into a radio station suite —and the past and present be bridged by three full decades.
Aristedes Aquino of the Cincinnati Reds was part of the annual Reds Caravan, which made a stop a week ago at the WNXT radio station studios in downtown Portsmouth. Aquino is pictured with Daily Times sports reporter Paul Boggs.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved