These couldn't have been the Cincinnati Reds. For one thing, they were dressed in green. For another, George Foster was in blue, orange and white, the colors of the Mets. In the Reds' outfield were Clint Hurdle, Cesar Cedeño and Paul Householder. Alex Trevino was behind the plate, and Johnny Bench, who used to be the catcher, was taking a day off from his trial at third base.

The green uniforms can be explained: They are a Reds tradition for St. Patrick's Day. Every year the green shirts of departed players are sold off, and one fan stayed in line all night for the chance to buy Foster's jersey for $60. The Mets got Foster himself for considerably more, and on St. Patrick's Day he hit two home runs against his ex.

Cincinnati's traditional reluctance to part with the green led to the dispersal of Foster and the other outfield regulars, Dave Collins and Ken Griffey. The Reds are a somewhat conservative outfit. Not only do they forbid facial hair on players, but they also went so far as to airbrush the mustache off new Infielder Wayne Krenchicki in the press guide.

In all, the team with the best record in baseball last year will open the season with new starters in five positions. Hurdle goes to left, and it may be now-or-never for the former Royal, who says his hot-dog days are over. "I used to be dressed in Christmas paper. Now I'm in a plain brown wrapper," he says. Cedeño is much happier in Cincinnati than he was in Houston, although he's miffed at the haphazard tilde sewed over his name on his uniform. Householder, too, has problems with the name: It's so long that only USE-HOLD fits on the uniform back. How well the Reds do may depend on how well usehold fits into the leadoff spot.

Trevino, who came from the Mets with pitchers Greg Harris and Jim Kern, will be much tougher on base runners than his predecessor, Joe Nolan. Trevino won't scare many pitchers, however; in 247 major league games, he has 67 RBIs and zero home runs.

Bench is still a productive player, but hasn't quite gotten the hang of third base. He says one of the toughest parts of his new job is understanding what Dave Concepcion is saying at shortstop. Concepcion has a new—and, for the Reds, unprecedented—five-year, $4.5 million contract. Second Baseman Ron Oester was third on the club in RBIs last year behind Foster and Concepcion.

The pitching is topped by Tom Seaver, if he fully recovers from a nagging thigh injury, which sidelined him for much of March. He should have won the Cy Young Award last year (Fernando did) off his 14-2 record and 2.55 ERA. Mario Soto is his worthy second, but he was having elbow problems in spring training. Kern, now beardless, should help Tom Hume in the bullpen.

The players seem happy, which has something to do with the departure of Foster and his chafing personality. "I hope we can live up to our attitude," says Manager John McNamara. The Reds will probably need the luck of the Irish, though, to make the other NL West clubs green with envy.

No team has won a championship of any kind while retaining only three regulars from the previous season since the Cardinals and Red Sox did it in 1946. The Reds' five new starters—Alex Trevino, Johnny Bench, Clint Hurdle, Paul Householder and Cesar Cede√±o—hit about as well last year in limited playing time (.284) as the five players they are replacing (.288).