Ask Hal: Is the Reds catching tandem the best in baseball?

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: Is it unfair to the great players of the past to reference current players as the greatest ever at their positions? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Very unfair to all concerned, past, present and future. The game keeps evolving and is much different now from even 20 years ago. The equipment gets better, the players get bigger and stronger, the ballparks change. So it is impossible to compare a current player to one that played in 1930 or 1940. We can speculate, but never prove that Mike Trout is better than Ty Cobb or that Clayton Kershaw is better than Grover Cleveland Alexander. It’s like comparing Jim Murray to Grantland Rice. Different times, different animals.

Q: As a catching duo, is there a better one-two punch than Cincinnati’s Tucker Barnhart and Tyler Stephenson? — JOHN, Oxford.

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A: As of right now, it is close between the Reds’ pair and San Francisco’s Buster Posey/Curt Casali. Barnhart/Stephenson have combined for four homers and 19 RBI. Barnhart is hitting .307 and Stephenson is hitting .333. They are the perfect platoon because Barnhart bats left and Stephenson bats right. And Stephenson is deadly as a pinch-hitter. Posey/Casali have combined for eight homers and 17 RBI. Posey is hitting .385 and Casali .225, but Casali’s value is handling pitchers, like the five straight shutouts he caught this season from five different pitchers.

Q: With commissioner Rob Manfred’s changes to the game, if Wade Miley had taken a perfect game into the 10th inning, would the ghost runner placed on second base end his perfect game? STOCC, Miamisburg.

A: If he retired all three batters, the perfect game remains intact. That runner is not charged to Miley. If he scores, it is not an earned run. And if that runner is bunted to third and scores on a sacrifice fly, it is still a perfect game because that runner is a ghost, doesn’t exist, and the run would be charged to Rob Manfred.

Q: What are your thoughts on the circumstances that sent Tom Seaver from the New York Mets to the Cincinnati Reds? — GARY, Huber Heights.

A: Seaver and Mets owner M. Donald Grant were feuding and it became so contentious that Seaver asked for a trade. Grant gladly granted it. And Seaver was far from finished. He was 7-3 in 1977 when he was traded and went 14-3 the rest of the year for the Reds, 21-6 on the season and nearly won the Cy Young. And he pitched his only no-hitter with the Reds. Be sure to check out Bill Madden’s book on Seaver, ‘Tom Seaver, A Terrific Life,’ for all the gory details about the trade.

Q: What is your opinion of the Reds pitching staff so far, starting and relief? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: Consistently inconsistent. It is like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you’ll get. Amazingly, the best bullpenners right now are two late comers, Heath Hembree and Ryan Hendrix. The rest, especially Amir Garrett, are breath-holders. Of the starters, Luis Castillo is underachieving. Sonny Gray is getting better, but Wade Miley, Tyler Mahle and Jeff Hoffman are up-and-down.

Q: With batting averages no longer serving any purpose, is it time to look at Dave Kingman for the Hall of Fame? — BOB, Washington Twp.

A: Whomever said batting averages don’t matter never stood in a batter’s box. Do you mean King Kong Kingman, the King of Whiffs? He would hit a ball 450 feet, then strike out nine times. In 16 seasons with seven teams, he hit 442 home runs and struck out 1,816 times. In 14 of his 16 seasons he struck out more than 100 times. He was ahead of his time in strikeouts. If there was a Hall of Fame for strikeout artists, he would be in the first induction class, along with Adam Dunn.

Q: Announcers use the terms front door slider/curve or back door slider/curve, so what does that mean? — LARRY, Piqua.

A: Baseball slang and terms change as quickly as Billy Martin changed hats. Simply stated, using a right-handed batter: A pitch that starts on the outside corner and break over the plate is a back door pitch. A pitch that starts on the inside corner and breaks over the plate is a front door pitch. The way some pitchers pitch these days, they should just leave by the back door.

Q: Do the managers and coaches have uniforms like the players and if so why don’t they wear them? — GREG, Miamisburg.

A: Yes, they do. The first base coach and third base coach are in uniform. A lot of managers just like to wear windbreakers or hoodies, but they all have uniforms with numbers. Dusty Baker always wears his uniform. But if you ever saw Tommy Lasorda waddle onto the field, you know why some managers don’t want to show their girth in a tight-fitting uniform.

Q: Umpires miss calls on balls and strikes all the time, so how are they evaluated, and do they ever get sent down to the minors? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: To err is human, to err and get vilified is to be an umpire. Yes, they are constantly evaluated. Every call is checked on video and umpires are graded. And they are admonished. We just don’t hear about it. Umpires are never demoted to the minors once they are on the major league roster. Why not? The umpires’ union is nearly as strong as the players’ union and the Teamsters.

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