Ask Hal: Does Reds rookie Aristides Aquino have staying power?

Q: At the start of the season, who was your pick to win more games, Homer Bailey or Luis Castillo? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Never gave it a thought. I personally like Homer Bailey a lot because he is the most misunderstood pitcher in baseball, I was pulling for him, even though he was pitching for a bad Kansas City team. And he won games. Then he was traded to Oakland and is doing quite well. But, of course, I thought Luis Castillo would win a lot of games, which he has. Most Cincinnati fans despise Bailey but I wish he still pitched for the Reds. So sue me.

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Q: Is Aristides Aquino for real or is he a flash in the pan? — ARLEY, Hamilton.

A: For the month of August. Aquino wasn’t a flash in the pan, he was his own lightning show that lasted 31 days. Will it continue? Nobody can answer that. Just watch it play out. It isn’t likely he’ll hit 14 home runs every month, but there is no reason he can’t continue to be very good. He has his head on straight and his plate approach is solid. He doesn’t appear to have any holes in his swing. But if there is, pitchers will find it and he’ll have to adjust. Right now, though, just savor what you’ve seen so far. You may not see anything like it again for a long time.

Q: Isn’t a catcher framing a pitch kind of a dumb thing to do? — DAVE, Cincinnati.

A: If the ball is in the strike zone and the catcher holds the glove without moving it, that’s a good thing. The umpire can see it is a strike. But if a catcher moves his glove into the strike zone after catching it outside the strike zone, to me that’s a bad thing to do. If the umpire sees the glove move into the strike zone he thinks the catcher believes the pitch was a ball and he is trying to steal a strike. It seldom works and I fail to see why a catcher even tries it. Why upset the umpire? He might not call a close pitch a strike because he believes the catcher is trying to fool him. Umpires don’t need help in missing balls-and-strikes calls. It happens frequently, according to Joey Votto.

Q: Is Reds pitcher Sonny Gray approaching a single-season record for sacrifice bunt because he seems to good at it? — MICHAEL, Huber Heights.

A: Sonny Gray is an excellent bunter and everybody seems enamored with it. He has 12, which is second in the league.. Close to a record? Not even close. Jake Daubert of the 1919 Reds put down 39 successful sacrifice bunts. And he wasn’t even a pitcher. He played first base. The top pitcher was Bronson Arroyo with 16 in 2013. Believe it or not, the all-time record is 67, put down by Ray Chapman in 1917. Chapman, a shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, is best known as the only baseball player to be killed on a baseball field. He was hit by a pitch thrown by New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays and died 12 days later. He was not trying to bunt when he was hit.

Q: Why don’t the Reds try Amir Garrett as their closer this month as a tryout for next season because there is nothing to lose? — DOUG, Columbus, Ind.

A: Because they have nothing to lose this year they could try anybody in the bullpen, except Wandy Peralta. Garrett wants to be a starter, but so does Michael Lorenzen, Raisel Iglesias and the batboy. Garrett was untouchable the first half of the season but lately has struggled mightily. Unless they trade him in the offseason, I’d wager that Raisel Iglesias starts next season as the closer.

Q: Didn’t umpires formerly use a clenched fist to signify a full count and wasn’t that easier to read than holding up three fingers pm one hand two in the other as they do now? — BOB, Huber Heights.

A: Frankly, I never noticed until you asked. And you are right. But the umpires manual makes it clear how they signal balls and strikes. “Balls are signaled using the left hand. Strikes are signaled using the right hand. A full count is always signaled as three balls, two strikes and never signaled using clenched fists.” So there you have it. I guess an umpire’s clenched fist means, “Don’t you dare question my call … or else I have a knuckle sandwich ready for you.”

Q: Why does the catcher immediately throw out the baseball when a pitch hits the dirt because isn’t it an advantage for the pitcher to throw a scuffed ball? — GENE, Dayton.

A: A pitcher can make a scuffed ball do crazy things. That’s why in the past pitchers would sharpen their belt buckles and scuff the ball on it or slip razor blades in their gloves to scuff the ball. Catchers have even been known to scuff with ball on the buckles of their shin guards. So why do catchers throw out balls that could be scuffed? Because the umpires order than to do it. If the catcher doesn’t do it, the umpire will ask for the ball and tuck it away out of play. Umpires can be such killjoys.

Q: Anticipating legal betting on baseball in Ohio, what rationale will you use to determine your bets: Analytics, a dice roll or 47 years of baseball journalistic gut feeling? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Anybody who bets on baseball loves to self-inflict pain. On any given day the worst team in baseball can beat the best team. Betting on the game is fool’s gold, even if you have inside information, as I do. Want more proof? Ask Pete Rose, who not only lost his place in baseball but lost enough money to buy his own franchise. And who had more inside information than Rose?


Q: Your Hall of Fame career has paralleled retiring Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman for 40-some years, so can you share a story involving your relationship? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: I am one-up on Marty, 47 years to 46. I started covering the Reds in 1973 and he started in 1974. I was the first beat writer to do the second inning with him and he would always ask, “What do ya got for me?” And I would bring up a subject. One day, as a gag, when he asked me, I said, “I got nothing.” There was some dead air as Marty stared me down in the booth, the old, “If looks could kill.” Then I laughed and started talking about something or other involving the team. Fortunately, he is a good sport, even though most often it is Marty pulling gags on other people. I just hope the Reds win the last game of the season so he can sign off by saying one last time, “And this one belongs to the Reds.”

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