Ask Hal: Reds best leadoff option could be Shogo

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: Can you recall any player who defied what Joe Nuxhall used to say, “If you swing the bat, you’re dangerous?” — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Most every pitcher who swings the bat is unarmed and not dangerous. Atlanta pitcher Mike Foltynewicz owns an .070 career average. But he was Tony Gwynn compared to Ron Herbel, a pitcher for the San Franisco Giants in the 1960s. He was 6 for 206, an .029 average. But I guess Herbel was dangerous at least six times.

Q: Who do you believe is the best choice for the Reds at the leadoff spot? — JAMES, Campbellsville, Ky.

A: Pete Rose, but he is banned from the game and he is too old now. Currently, manager David Bell has used Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Jonathan India and a few others. Winker did well up there, but with his power and RBI prowess is better suited at second. India is the best choice right now but probably won’t be there his entire career. My choice would be Shogo Akiyama, but the poor guy can’t break into the lineup because of the production from Winker, Nick Castellanos, Tyler Naquin and now Aristides Aquino is back.

Q: With Jonathan India, Kyle Farmer and Eugenio Suarez where they belong, what should the Reds do when Mike Moustakas comes back? – ED, Kettering.

A: Right now it is a moot question because Moustakas suffered a rehab setback and his return is on hold. I have a rash suggestion. I would leave Suarez at third, but move India to shortstop. I’d move Moustakas back to second and use Farmer as the all-purpose utility player for which he is best-suited. And where does that leave Nick Senzel? On the 60-day injured list. The poor guy can neither catch a break nor avoid a break.

Q: Why did MLB decide to enforce the rule against pitchers using foreign substances in mid-season instead of waiting until the offseason? — JIM, Kettering.

A: I thought the same thing. I can’t recall MLB making any drastic changes in mid-season and this one is drastic. A large number of pitchers are losing their security blankets. So let’s see which pitchers drastically reduce their spin rate now that MLB has outlawed the gook and the bunk pitchers used to get firmer grips and more spin. But why didn’t they enforce it from the beginning of this season or wait until next season? Only Rob Manfred knows and he is too busy seeing what other game-changing rule he can muster.

Q: The Reds are hanging around the top of the standings, so how long before they are in Heartbreak Hotel? — ELVIS, Memphis, Tenn.

A: Hey, I recognize you, Ryan Roth, the world’s best Elvis Presley tribute singer and huge Pete Rose/Reds fan. With the bullpen finally operating efficiently to go with top-notch starting pitching and the best offense in baseball, it won’t be long before the Reds will be occupying the penthouse suite of the National League Central. Right now, you can’t help falling in love with Winker, Castellanos, Votto and the rest of them, right?

Q: Besides selling some of them, what do they do with game-used baseballs and why do they use so many and how many are available for one game? — LOWELL, Hamilton.

A: When balls are thrown out, some actually make their way back into the umpire’s bag, if they aren’t too scuffed or grass stained. Some of them are used for batting practice and some have found their way to New York for, ahem, forensic examination. They use so many because they want perfect, unblemished balls — no nicks, no stains, no added advantage for the pitchers. Every umpire starts a game with six dozen game balls. And there are dozens more back in the clubhouse, if needed.

Q: If a pitcher is pitching a perfect game going into the 10th inning and the ghost runner is placed on second base, if that pitcher retires all three batters is he credited with a perfect game? — CARL, Kettering.

A: Yes. That runner, in my book, belongs to Rob Manfred. The pitcher didn’t put that runner on, commissioner Manfred did. The pitcher retired all 30 men he faced? Perfect game.

Q: Have you ever been involved in or witnessed an altercation between sportswriters? —ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: My only altercation in 59 years of writing sports came in 1968 when I was covering the Dayton Flyers in the NIT in New York. A New York writer removed my typewriter and working materials from a press row seat and claimed the seat. We argued and I pushed him over the table. So I’m 1-and-0. I did serve as referee once on a Pittsburgh hotel elevator when two Cincinnati scribes started to go at it. I separated them and made them go to a neutral corner. I saw two Chicago writers get into it because one thought the other was taking up some of his work space. I saw two Atlanta writers come to blows arguing about whom took whom’s seat in the press box. Real important stuff, huh?

Q: Would you ask your wife who she thinks is the best-looking Reds player? — JEFF, Springboro.

A: I would and I did. Nadine thinks relief pitcher Lucas Sims “is just the cutest. But how old is he, 16?” Sims is one of the few Reds players without facial hair and she is not a fan of the Jonathan India look and says his barber is going to starve to death.

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