Ask Hal: Who will be in Reds’ Opening Day lineup?

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: Who will be the leader in the Cincinnati Reds’ clubhouse now that Tucker Barnhart is bye-bye? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Barnhart was not the only leader. Nick Castellanos and Wade Miley were outspoken leaders. And what do they have in common with Barnhart? Gone guys. Leadership is an evolving thing, and the only veteran left is Joey Votto, a leader by example and always available to answer questions from the young guys. But every team’s best leader should be the manager. Does that ring a Bell?

Q: Who do you predict will make up the Reds’ opening-day lineup, including the dreaded DH? — Greg, Beavercreek.

A: It is rather early to peer into my cloudy crystal ball. But barring injuries or GM Nick Krall answering his phone and accepting a trade, it is easy on the infield with C-Tyler Stephenson, 1B-Joey Votto, 2B-Jonathan India, 3B-Mike Moustakas, SS-Kyle Farmer (Jose Garcia is injured). The outfield is messy. Who replaces Jesse Winker in LF., T.J. Friedl? Is it Nick Senzel, Tyler Naquin or Shogo Akiyama in CF.? Is it Aristides Aquino (he is out of options). It will be some sort of combination among those names. DH? It will be one of those outfielders who isn’t playing a position. Please don’t hold my fingers to a fire over those predictions.

Q: Why do the Cincinnati Reds need 12 coaches when Sparky Anderson only needed four for The Big Red Machine? — MARK, Barbourville, Ky.

A: Sparky’s coaches were George Scherger, Alex Grammas, Ted Kluszewski and Larry Shepard. And you are not quite correct. At last count manager David Bell has 13 coaches. Why? Total specialization, I guess. And if you can name six or more of them off the top of your head, your uncle must be a member of the staff.

Q: Is Ken Griffey Jr. still on the Reds payroll and if so how much? — Greg, Miamisburg.

A: Indeed, he is. He hasn’t played for the Reds since 2008, but former GM Jim Bowden signed him to a deferred-payment contract that calls for the Reds to pay him $3.6 million this year. That’s the eighth highest on the roster behind Joey Votto ($25 million), Mike Moustakas ($16mm), Mike Minor ($10mm), Shogo Akiyama ($8mm), Luis Castillo ($7.5MM), Tyler Mahle ($5.5mm) and Donovan Solano ($4,5mm). Maybe the Reds should call Griffey back and install him as the designated hitter, even at age 52.

Q: With the Reds recent roster moves, will they relive the glory days of 1982? — STOCC, Miamisburg.

A: Oh, ye of little faith. You mean the inglorious days of the club record 101-loss 1982 season? Doubtful. As long as there are teams tanking like Pittsburgh, Cleveland and others, it will be closer to what Las Vegas is saying …only 91 losses. But if they try really hard, that’s only 10 shy of the team’s futility record.

—Q: Some may find it hard to feel sorry for a guy making $25 million a year, but in Joey Votto’s case do you believe it is justified? Do you agree his quest to bring a World Series championship to Cincinnati is over due to the recent slew of fire sale trades? — RICK, Trenton.

A: No reason to plan a Pity Party for Joseph Daniel Votto. He has a no-trade clause and if he lifted it Toronto probably would grab him. He will make $25 million this year and $25 million in 2023, when he turns 40 in September. The Reds have a $20 million option for 2025, which it is unlikely to be exercised. That gives Votto this season and next to win a ring in Cincinnati. His finger will remain naked.

Q: Name one legitimate reason to eliminate the shift? — DICK, Hendersonville, Tenn.

A: I don’t like the shift, but I can’t give a legitimate reason for banishing it. Basketball players aren’t told they can’t switch on defense. Football players aren’t told they can’t shift before the snap. If the players don’t want to face the shift, don’t count on legislation. Learn to hit the ball the other way and learn how to push a bunt toward the empty defensive positions. As Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keeler always said, “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.”

Q: What are the temperatures of the club owners for the job commissioner Rob Manfred is doing and how much longer is his contract? — DAVE, Hattiesburg, Miss.

A: My thermometer doesn’t reach into the mahogany-paneled offices of the owners. But the owners hired him, and he represents their best interests. They must like him. He became commissioner in 2015 and in 2019 they unanimously approved a five-year extension. It calls for $11 million this year with incremental raises through 2024. And they could extend him again. Did you know that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell makes $64 million a year?

Q: Why do we need a faster game that necessitates all the rules changes to speed it up? —MIKE, West Carrollton.

A: In my opinion, they don’t need them. They have tried and tried the past few years with different scenarios to speed it up. Nothing works. Games still last more than three hours. And what’s wrong with that. If you love baseball, you don’t care how long it takes. It is the lack of consistent action that bothers me. Watching walks and strikeouts is like watching cement harden.

Q: When Bob Castellini took over the Reds he said if mama isn’t happy, nobody is happy, so is mama mad yet? — Jo Ellen, Macon, Ga.

A: Don’t know for sure, but she probably has been unhappy since 2019 when they traded Billy Hamilton. If has been reported that former GM Dick Williams wanted to trade Hamilton before 2019 but was told by Mr. Castellini that he couldn’t do that because Hamilton was Mrs. C’s favorite player. Let’s hope her recent favorite player wasn’t Wade Miley, Tucker Barnhart, Nick Castellanos, Michael Lorenzen, Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez or Amir Garrett.

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