Ask Hal: Does Castellanos have another opt-out in contract?

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to

Q: My favorite players in years past included Dave Parker and Dwight Evans because they made great throws, but today I saw throw 15 feet off the base and does that rankle you? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: How about Roberto Clemente, Ellis Valentine, Rocky Colavito, Jesse Barfield, Andre Dawson and Al Kaline? Those guys were among the best with strong arms. But even back in the day there were weak-armed, wild-throwing outfielders. I once saw a Cleveland Indians left fielder make a throw home that bounced about 14 times and rolled to a stop 10 feet short of home plate. Actually, that might have been me making that throw in Little League.

Q: Some of us are confused about Nick Castellanos and his opt-out contract, what is that all about? — RON, Princeton, W.Va.

A: It is very simple, but very different. He signed a four-year $64 million deal, with a rare caveat. The opt-out means he can back out of the contract and sign elsewhere. He had the option after last season, but chose to come back. He has the option again after this season. With the season he is having, he probably can find a stash of huge cash with another team. But he loves it in Cincinnati, so it probably comes down to how the Reds do this season if he comes back for 2022.

Q: Did defensive shifts cause Jay Bruce to retire earlier than expected? — J.R., Oxford.

A: I read that somewhere and shook my head in disbelief. Yes, Jay was a dead pull hitter. But i can’t believe he couldn’t adjust and hit the ball the other way. Or bunt. Bruce has struggled at the plate the last couple of years and I’m certain that’s why he hung ‘em up. I love Jay Bruce, but why oh why didn’t he try to hit to the opposite field. And that’s the same question I have for all major league hitters who face the shift.

Q: Was Reds’ pitcher Jim Brosnan’s book, ‘The Long Season,’ the first book of that nature to start a steady stream of books like that? — DENNIS, Huber Heights.

A: Brosnan’s highly entertaining book was a diary of the 1959 season, the first of its genre. Ten years later, Jim Bouton wrote the controversial ‘Ball Four,’ a tell-all diary of the 1969 season of the old Seattle Pilots. While Bouton’s book ruffled feathers all over the baseball world, by today’s standards it is nothing more than hilarious. And, yes, many baseball diaries have followed, but Brosnan and Bouton still lead the league.

Q: Has it occurred to anyone else that David Bell and management have no clue how to assemble and develop a bullpen? RICHARD, Denton, Ted.

A: First of all, Bell doesn’t assemble the bullpen. He merely uses what the front office gives him. Have you seen some of the bullpens for other teams? Messy. Finding an entire stable of relief pitchers is nearly impossible. It almost always is trial and error. Unfortunately for the Reds, there has been more error with the trial.

Q: I notice that every MLB team is wearing the same hooded sweat shirt with their team name and logo with baseball printed underneath, so whatever happened to creativity? — RON, Vandalia.

A: That’s an MLB thing. It has been this way for several years. All teams were the same design, but do get to wear their team colors. Maybe MLB gets a discount from Nike for volume purchases. There is still creativity. Have you seen the powder blue uniforms, the multi-colored uniform tops and the vast array of shoe styles? Bob Howsam and Sparky Anderson are spinning in their graves.

Q: Are there any stats counting how many squats a catcher does behind home plate and do catchers have to undergo knee replacements because of all that squatting? — KAREN, Bellbrook.

A: They keep stats on everything else, but that’s a new one. Maybe they keep exit velocity coming out of a squat. Maybe they keep spin rate when a catcher lunges for a ball. Let’s make a guess. If he catches 150 pitches a game and plays in 140 games, that’s 21,000 squats. As for wear-and-tear on the knees. Ask Johnny Bench. His knees were so bad he ended his career trying to play third base.


Q: Umpires routinely ring up players on called strikes threes with exaggerated gestures and do they think this adds to the game’s entertainment.

A: Have you seen the movie Naked Gun and Leslie Nielsen’s portrayal of an MLB umpire calling balls and strikes? Now that’s entertainment. And some MLB umpires do come close to Nielsen’s act. It doesn’t bother me, but sometimes it does irritate hitters. It reminds of playing blackjack when a dealer gleefully grins at you and says,“Bust,” and scoops your chips into his tray.

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