Ask Hal: Can Joey Votto turn it on down the stretch for Reds?

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: I cannot recall you ever quoting a player or coach that asked to remain anonymous so is this your choosing or baseball writer’s etiquette? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: It is my choosing. If they want to tell me something they want me to use, I tell them they have to put their name to it. I fear too many writers who quote somebody anonymously are just making up the quote and to me that’s unethical. And I’ve never used anything when I’m told, “That’s off the record.” Over the years players and managers have trusted me enough to tell me tons of off-the-record stuff, knowing I won’t use it.

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Q: At the All-Star break, the average production for National League Central first basemen, excluding Joey Votto, was 19 home runs and 54 RBI. Votto is way below that at 9 homers and 22 RBI, so if Votto matches the other division first basemen in production do the Reds have a chance? — BILL, Springfield.

A: A chance at what? I hate to say this because Votto works so hard and is so highly respected, but I fear his future is all in the past. His power plant is in blackout mode and pitchers don’t seem to fear him as much as they once did. Yes, he could still turn it on and the Reds need it and need it now.

»PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Are Joey Votto’s better days behind him?

Q: Can the Reds please get rid of Homer Mahle? — BOB, Washington Twp.

A: That’s a bit harsh on both Tyler Mahle and Homer Bailey. Granted, Mahle hasn’t been good lately, but early in the season he pitched some solid games and got little run support, as Tanner Roark and Sonny Gray are discovering. As for Homer Bailey, he went 7-and-6 for the Kansas City Royals, a team worse than the Reds. Oakland, trying to win the AL West, traded for Bailey and he won his first start for them, giving up two runs and seven hits in six innings. That gives him eight wins. Luis Castillo with nine is the only Reds pitcher with more victories. I fear the Reds gave up too soon on Bailey. He was still recovering from three surgeries when they traded him. Bailey might just be pitching in the postseason.

Q: Which pitches do most rookie hitters struggle with the most when they finally make the majors? — JOE, Kettering.

A: It depends on the hitter and the pitcher. They are all different. When I played at Kent State it was any pitch over the plate. If you watch Reds rookie Nick Senzel, he doesn’t seem to struggle with any pitch. I’d say the change-up gives a rookie the biggest challenge. But if the pitcher has a change-up like Luis Castillo even guys like Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger have trouble.

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Q: How about the Reds trading Jesse Winker or Phillip Ervin to San Francisco for left handed relief pitcher Will Smith? — VIN, New York City.

A: There are, at last report, at least five teams interested in Smith. I believe the Giants can get more for Smith than Winker or Ervin. They might not take both for Smith. Would they take Yasiel Puig, a guy they hated when he was with the Dodgers? Probably not. And the last I heard the Giants and Brewers were in deep discussion about Smith going to Milwaukee. For sure, though, the Reds need bullpen help. But it is probably too late.

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Q; I noticed a Yastrzemski in the San Francisco lineup last week, so is he the son of Carl Yastrzemski? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: Man, we’re getting old. Mike Yastrzemski is not the son of Hall of Fame outfielder Carl Yastrzemski. He is the grandson. And he is 28. Seems like only yesterday I was covering the Cincinnati-Boston World Series in 1975 with Yaz on the Red Sox roster. Mike was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2013 and played 700 minor league games with 2,600 at bats without making the majors. The Giants traded for him this year and he was tearing up the Triple-A Pacific Coast League at Sacramento when the Giants called him up. And he got his first major league hit in his second game, playing left field like his grandpa.

Q: What do you think of the people who sit behind home plate in the expensive seats and use their cellphone? — TOM, Springfield.

A: It is the times. You can’t walk 50 feet anywhere without encountering somebody on a cellphone. And at ball games it isn’t just those sitting behind home plate. Those are the ones you see on TV, but there are ‘fans’ sitting all over the stadium either talking or punching texts into their cellphones. I half expect some day soon to see a right fielder talking on his cellphone with a 3-and-2 count on the hitter.

Q: Since Scooter Gennett has returned to the lineup, the Reds are playing below .500 and making more errors than usual, so can you recall any player returning to the lineup and screwing up the team chemistry? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Surely you aren’t laying the Reds’ woes on Scooter, are you? The team was playing below .500 without him and it isn’t him making all those errors and blunders. Gennett is not a guy who would screw up any chemistry. He is probably the most popular guy in the clubhouse and the most upbeat and definitely a leader. He isn’t a scooter for the Reds, he is a Harley-Davidson.


Q: I hear the Reds lineup has been All Shook Up, so how will this affect them down the stretch? — ELVIS, Memphis, Tn.

A: First of all, I know this isn’t ‘The King’ because I’ve never seen him in a Wal-Mart as a lot of people have. I know this is Ryan, the best Elvis Presley tribute singer in the country. I’ve seen your act and it is fantastic. Yes, manager David Bell continues to shake up his lineup and I fear it might lead the team to Heartbreak Hotel. Bell likes to keep all his players sharp by playing them all and he is the master of the double switch. But concerning talk about Bell’s methods I’d like to hear A Little Less Conversation.

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