Are the Cincinnati Reds another Big Red Machine in the making? Or just a one-year wonder that will conk out in 1991?

Even they aren't sure.The Reds' shocking four-game sweep of the defending champion Oakland A's landed them in good company. The last National League team to sweep a Series was the '76 Reds - the Machine.

That team won consecutive Series titles and dominated its division for a decade. Is the current club even in their league?

"We did it for a long time," said former catcher Johnny Bench. "You have to do it for a long time. Longevity proves you're a great team, not just a shot in the dark.

"The only way they'll be remembered (as a great team) is by winning again."

History was the farthest thing from their minds as they celebrated an improbable championship. They seemed to have a hard enough time comprehending the ease with which they dismantled the defending champions.

Next year?

"It doesn't matter to me," third baseman Chris Sabo said. "This year is this year. Whatever happens, happens."

If anything, the fact that they did something last accomplished by the Big Red Machine made them a little uneasy. They've dodged comparisons with those powerful teams all season. They're still trying to dodge them even as they get measured for rings.

"They're going to compare us; you can't do that," outfielder Herm Winningham said. "It was a different time and a different era. It was a different team.

"We just wanted to prove something to ourselves. We finished fifth last year."

It's much easier to find differences between the two teams than similarities. The Machine intimidated and overwhelmed opponents. The current club pesters them until they get frustrated.

The Machine had muscle and mystique. It had Bench, Rose, Perez, Morgan and Concepcion.

The '90s Reds had grit and a bullpen. Its Series sweep was led by Hatcher, Winningham, Sabo and some rookie named Billy Bates.

"This team has a lot of heart, a lot of character," Billy Hatcher said. "It hates to lose. It does everyting it has to do to win.

"When you play the Cincinnati Reds, youknow you've been in a fight. We might lose 80 games next year, but the teams that beat us will know they've been in a fight."

The Reds ultimately became champions because they played solid defense and were able to protect small leads with their bullpen. The offense faded in and out, but they remained consistent in the other ways.

"We're very fundamentally sound," Hatcher said. "That's what Lou Piniella has stressed. We don't beat ourselves."

"They were doing the things you're supposed to do," Bench said.

Can they keep doing what they're supposed to do for another year?

"If this team stays healthy, it can win," Hatcher said. "But injuries play such a big part. And if you start to thinking you're too good, that you're bigger than the team, you lose focus. You have to remember you're one of 25 guys."

That was perhaps the biggest reason for their success this year. They had a young, hungry team that had finished second four consecutive times and then fifth last year. Winning felt good, and there were few open complaints about Piniella's decisions to platoon starters and sit down hitters when they get cold.

The closest they came to a rift was when reliever Rob Dibble openly campaigned for a trade or a huge salary hike during the National League playoffs. His teammates convinced him to stop.

It will be interesting to see how they handle their new acclaim, and whether the front office decides to give them hefty raises to keep them happy.

They don't have a lot of free-agent decisions. Starting pitchers Tom Browning and Danny Jackson are the two most important players who could leave. All of their other regulars are either under contract or not yet eligible for free agency. Some are certain to ask for big raises anyway.

So the team could be intact for another run at the World Series next year. Will it have the good fortune and the appetite to set itself apart from other one-year wonders?

Even the A's will be watching.

"I'm going to go on record right now: we'll be back next year," A's starter Dave Stewart said after losing Game 4. "The question is, will Cincinnati?"