MLB Lockout Brings Back Memories of Rick Reed

Back in 1995, after the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, the Major League owners opted to lock out the striking players, and they began the process of using replacement players. Their plans were foiled when now Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor put a preliminary injunction in place.

The ruling fortunately put the replacement player plan to bed, but it cast many players with a black mark. One of those players was New York Mets pitcher Rick Reed.

Reed was put in a completely impossible position. At the time, Reed was a borderline player who needed an income to pay for his mother’s medical bills. He was told by the Cincinnati Reds if he did not agree to become a replacement player, he was going to be released and blackballed from the game. In many ways, he had no other option.

It was something which ate him up inside in the moment and years to come. He was no longer a part of the union, and during his brief time in the majors in 1995, he was ostracized in the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse. After the season, he was granted free agency leading to his becoming a member of the New York Mets.

By and large, it was the best thing to happen for Reed and the Mets. There may be many reasons why he didn’t face the same backlash as the other replacement players did or what he faced in Cincinnati. Part of the reason was Bobby Valentine had his back after his success in Norfolk. The Mets had a strong clubhouse, and they already had one of their own replacement players in Benny Agbayani.

Mostly, it might have just been he pitched very well for the Mets. He was an extraordinary surprise going quickly from the bullpen to the rotation. It was a career best year where he had a team best 2.89 ERA and 141 ERA+. Reed would only build and grow from there becoming a gutsy veteran presence in the Mets rotation.

He backed that season up by being an All-Star in 1998 (and would be again in 2001), and he would help the Mets win the 1999 Wild Card. He stepped up with a huge 12 strikeout performance pulling the Mets to a tie with his former Reds team for the last Wild Card spot. Reed would then win the first ever NLDS Game in Shea Stadium history.

Reed would go on to become a top 10 pitcher in Mets history. He was eventually accepted by his teammates, and he was beloved by Mets fans. However, despite all of that, he was left forever banned from MLB because he needed to pay his mother’s medical bills, and he didn’t want his MLB career to be over before it eventually began. That’s why you’ll never see him in a video game.

Right now, it does not appear MLB has any intention to repeating the use of replacement players. They seem more than content to cancel games while they wait out the players. That said, who knows how long it will be before MLB gets that idea in their head again and puts the next Rick Reed in another impossible situation. Hopefully, that day will never come.