Ask Hal: Did the Reds do enough in the offseason to make the playoffs?

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Q: Considering the widespread legalization of sports gambling, does this pose a threat to the integrity of baseball? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Absolutely, which is why the Shohei Ohtani mess is a crisis. MLB players are permitted to gamble, if it is with legal wagering sites and emporiums (and states) and if they don’t wager on baseball. But we all know there are mavericks who do illegal things. Somebody is going to get caught, you can bet on it.

Q: How did the Reds do in the offseason and was it enough to surge into the playoffs? — SHAUN, Huber Heights.

A: Do teams ever do enough? Fans believe not. They want their teams to sign the highest-priced free agents and trade for other team’s best players. It doesn’t work that way. Usually, teams can only fix one or two needs when they have four or five. The Reds could have used a top-notch starting pitcher, although we’ll wait to see how Frankie Montas pans out. And they could have acquired a power-hitting right-handed outfielder, like Adam Duvall. No, I don’t believe they did enough, but on the bright side, the National League Central is weaker than iced tea.

Q: Several articles have been written about the Cincinnati Reds practicing their bunting, but I did not see one laid down in an exhibition game, so what gives? — DON, Westerville.

A: The Reds have a special small infield near their spring training clubhouse for bunting practice and I’ve seen them practice it every day. Practice makes perfect, but that perfection is useless if it’s not used in games. We live in the age of analytics and analytics say, “Don’t bunt for hits.” So, why practice them?

Q: Is conditioning the reason the Reds have so many injuries? — DAVIID, Springfield.

A: That’s the big head-scratcher. Reds fans believe it is all Reds, but it isn’t. Check every team’s injured list and they are filled up like my wife’s grocery list. Why? It isn’t conditioning with the Reds. Conditioning and working on it throughout the season is a priority. Most injuries are the result of physical activity — diving for balls, trying to beat out his and throws. Most players no longer miss games due to headaches or stomach cramps. Wally Pipp made certain of that.

Q: If it is discovered that Shohei Ohtani gambled on baseball and is banned, are the Los Angeles Dodgers still obligated to the terms of his contract? —RYAN/ELVIS, Englewood.

A: That’s $700-plus million that would come off LA’s books. It would deem the contract null and void. The Dodgers, though, want the player and the contract. This stuff is not rare. Maverick Carter, business manager to LeBron James, admitted last year that he bet on NBA games. Fortunately, an investigation exonerated James of playing any part in it. MLB and the baseball world are holding breaths and crossing fingers than Ohtani is as clean as Snow White.

Q: What is the latest with Jose Rijo and does he mentor any Reds pitchers? — JAY, Englewood.

A: When I broke a hip a couple of years ago, when I was recuperating at home Rijo showed up at my front door, bearing cigars, t-shirts, and hats. What a guy, always one of my favorites. Unfortunately, the Reds are not using him, even though he was one of the best pitchers to pass through Cincinnati. He does do a lot of autograph sessions in southwest Ohio, but young Latinos in the Reds’ system could absorb a lot of positivity from Jose Rijo Abreu (His real name).

Q: If you could write the life story of one MLB player, who would it be? — JOE, Kettering.

A: All the obvious ones, nearly all the Hall of Famers and superstars, have had their lives chronicled by some illustrious authors. There has not been one done about/by Barry Larkin. Late in his career he told me he’d like me to write his book. Then he decided he didn’t want one done. Maybe, hopefully, he’ll change his mind. I need cigar money.

Q: Do MLB players get paid for spring training and spring training games? — MARILYNNE, Sugar Creek Twp.

A: Spring training and exhibition games are all part of their contract, so the poor guys get no extra pay. Each player residing in the team’s headquarters hotel gets $369.50 a day. If they live off-campus, they get an additional $65.50 a day. And each player gets $104.50 a day in meal money. Notice that every stipend ends in fifty cents? What’s that about?

Q: Have you read the newest book on Pete Rose, ‘Charlie Hustle,’ and if so, what did you think? — MICHELLE, Floyds Knobs, IND.

A: There are enough books on Pete Rose to fill the Floyds Knobs library, if there is one. ‘Charlie Hustle’ just came out this week, but author Keith O’Brien sent me an advance copy and I devoured it. Without hesitation, this is the best book on Rose, the definitive work that provides the good, the bad and the ugly. O’Brien thoroughly researched it and did a long list of interviews. The Index is 22 pages, and the notes/bibliography is 85 pages. It is a book one can’t put down. And it reminds of something Rose once said about his autobiography: “I wrote a book before I ever read one.”

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