Ask Hal: Are the Reds actually overachieving?


Q: Has replay/review eliminated the dirt-kicking, base-throwing, crowd-riling disputes between managers and umpires? — JEFF, Springboro.

A: Absolutely it has, and it is a crying shame, except now there is no crying and no arguing in baseball. It is an automatic ejection if a manager argues a replay decision. Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle found that out last week when he argued one against the Reds and he was ejected. It was entertaining to see Lou Piniella throwing bases, Billy Martin kicking dirt on home plate and Earl Weaver turning his hat around so he could go nose-to-nose with umpires. They keep sanitizing baseball and taking away high entertainment.

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Q: If the Reds were to miraculously win 80 games this season might manager Bryan Price get some votes for manager of the year? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Probably not, but with more obstacles in place than a hurdler faces, he should win the award if he wins 65. On the last homestand I heard a high-ranking Reds official tell an American League scout, “We’ve won more games than we should have.” The Reds were 14-20 at the time.

Q: Will Brandon Phillips make it into the Hall of Fame? — MARY, Anderson, Ind.

A: Only if he buys a ticket. Let’s see, his career batting average is .273 and he has 192 home runs. Are those Hall of Fame numbers? Not even close. Phillips is an entertaining player and a good player, but he falls far short of Hall of Fame qualifications. If they had a defensive Hall of Fame, he would make that easily.

Q: What do you think the Reds would look like if they had not signed Joey Votto to that huge contract? — BILL, Centerville.

A: Well, there would be no Votto on the roster because some other team, probably Toronto, would have given him that money. The Reds probably would have been able to keep Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier. Then the question is how good would the Reds be without Votto’s offense. And how good had the Reds been the past couple of years with all those guys they traded?

Q: Why is Joey Votto still a Cincinnati Red when they are trading all their high-priced veterans? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: About 200 million reasons — the approximately $200 million left on his contract, a big bite for another team to take. And the major reason? Votto has a no-trade contract and they can’t trade him without his permission. As far as I know they haven’t tested him by trying to trade him so who knows if he would accept one, even to Toronto, his hometown. And I know you, Keith, you are on Votto’s case because of his slow start and never mind the Hall of Fame numbers he’s posted in the past.

Q: There have been talks about expansion to Mexico City and other international cities. What is your take on this? — TIM, Kettering.

A: Baseball needs to expand to two more cities to give them 32 teams, 16 in each league. That would enable them to finally eliminate the tired and overrated interleague play. Montreal would be first on my list after Washington stole their team. I’m not big on Mexico City, though. How about San Antonio or Nashville or Buffalo or Charlotte or some other large American city.

Q: Why is the letter ‘K’ used to indicate a strikeout? TOM, Tipp City.

A: A turn-of-the-century baseball writer named Henry Chadwick is credited with inventing the box score and assigning numbers to each position. He also came up with the “K” for strikeout, taking the letter out of the middle of the word strikeout. He never did come up with an accepted letter for a walk. Some writers put “W” in their scorebooks and some put “BB” for base on balls. Everybody has their own way of scoring and I knew a writer who put “SO” in his book for strikeout. When I asked him why he didn’t use “K,” he said, “I’m not going to let some old writer tell me how to keep score.”

Q: Do you think Homer Bailey’s career might be in jeopardy because he can’t stay healthy and seems to continue having setbacks? — MARK, Titusville, Fla.

A: There is always that possibility because every pitcher knows he is just one pitch away from shoulder or elbow disaster. Few escape trips to the disabled list. Bailey had the most serious pitching operation of all, the dreaded Tommy John surgery. But recent history shows most pitchers not only bounce back eventually from “TJ” surgery, but many are better than ever. It just takes time. It’s been little more than a year since Bailey’s procedure and he probably tried to rush back too soon.

Q: The Reds appear to have a surplus of young starting pitchers. At one point do they consider trading them for other needs like position players or relief pitchers? — RYAN, Lewisburg.

A: Yes, they do have a surplus, but half are hurt. Before the Reds can trade anybody they have to make certain they all can remain healthy for a long period. And, yes, they need position players. The bullpen? Unfixable.

Q: Does the loss of Devin Mesoraco for the season speed Tyler Stephenson’s timetable toward arriving in the big leagues? — KEN, Hamilton.

A: No. Last time I checked Stephenson was hitting about .120 with the Class A Dayton Dragons. He isn’t even ready for the next level. And it takes catchers much longer to learn all the nuances of their position. Rushing a catcher, unless his name is Johnny Bench, is a recipe for failure. Let him serve his normal time and soon enough he’ll be ready for prime time.

Q: Have Reds fans organized a boycott? Because every time I tune in on TV there are a lot of fans disguised as empty seats. — LARRY, Hamilton.

A: The boycott is not organized. It doesn’t need to be. Fans aren’t stupid and they aren’t going to pay the rent money to watch an inferior product. Somebody said they’d spend their money on the Dragons, but it must be to see Heater and Gem because the Dragons are even worse on the field than the Reds, if possible.