Ask Hal: How will the shortened 2020 season affect free agency?

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

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: With 12 players under contract for $30 million or more a year in 2020, might we now consider Joey Votto’s contract a great deal for the Reds? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: I don’t believe any ballplayer making millions and millions is a bargain — not Mike Trout, not Bryce Harper, not Mookie Betts, not anybody. Baseball salaries are absurd. And to me, not matter what Votto does as he slips down the steps of time, no entertainer is worth $21 million a year, especially with what is happening to people during this pandemic.

Q Will teams be reluctant to make big trades or sign big name free agents after the shortened 60-game schedule? — JOE, Kona, Hawaii.

A: Is the surf up? If MLB teams lost the billions the commissioner says they did, can teams afford to toss millions at free agents? We’ll see because some of those losses were recouped from post-season TV revenue. Trades will happen. I can see small market teams trading high-priced players, players like Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor. Now get back on the beach, but wear a mask.

Q: If you had the power to make a new MLB baseball rule, what would it be? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Just one? That’s tough because I hate the DH, despise the runner-on-second in extra innings, loathe the three-batter-minimum for relief pitchers and detest the seven-inning doubleheaders. If you twist my arm hard, after I quit screaming I’d eliminate the rule against bowling over the catcher and take-out slides into second base. Let’s at least make baseball a little bit of a contact sport.

Q: I miss hearing about your annual excursion to Portsmouth for the Portsmouth Murals Baseball Banquet" and do you still make the trip each year? — STEVE, Clayton.

A: It might be the best off-season baseball dinner in Reds Country. Every year about 300 people attend and I’ve made it eight years in a row. It was outstanding, with great speakers, when legendary Reds scout Gene Bennett ran it. With his passing a couple of years ago, it declined a bit and few ex-players attended. Major League umpire Greg Gibson took it over and he plans to bring it back strong. Former players from that area like Al Oliver, Larry Hisle, Don Gullett, Gene Tenace, Johnny LeMaster, Larry Luebbers, Dave Tomlin and many other have been regular attendees.

Q: I read about long-time Associated Press reporter Joe Kay retiring this year and wondered what you know about him? — RON, Vandalia.

A: What I know about Joe Kay would fill 10 notebooks with nothing but good stuff. Joe and I shared press box seats at Reds games for about 40 years. Joe is the epitome of a true professional, a fantastic reporter, fantastic writer and a better friend than anybody could have. What I’ll remember most about him is his sense of humor and the fact I never heard him say one bad word about anybody in 40 years. Not one. I’ll borrow from Tina Turner and say of Joe, “Simply the best.”

Q: Do the Reds keep manager David Bell for another year or do they cut ties and find someone who can actually motivate this team? ROGER, Westerville, OH.

A: Nick Krall, the new president of baseball operations, already said that Bell is a keeper. These days, a baseball manager is not a motivator. He is a guy who can read computer printouts and use algorithms to run a game. I’ve never understood why a manager needs to be a motivator. Baseball players are paid millions to play a game. If they need motivation to play their best, something is wrong and they shouldn’t be making millions, or even taking up space on a roster. Managers are like orchestra conductors. They stand in front of the team and give directions.

Q: What do you miss most about the way baseball was played back in the days of the Big Red Machine and is there any hope that the game could move back in that direction? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: First of all, there will never be another Big Red Machine, no matter how they play the game. That team won games in every way possible and they did it in the days of typewriters. No computers. The way the Tampa Bay Rays lost Game 6 of this year’s World Series, relying too much on analytics, might cause teams to make a slight adjustment, especially with the way the Dodgers won it with all-around baseball. But as long as computers exist, analytics will be a part of baseball.

Q: Will major league baseball resumes with a normal spring training that is only a few months away? — GARY, Bonita Springs, FL.

A: That is all up to the demon Covid-19. If the country is still under a pandemic siege, I can’t see baseball returning to normalcy. Spring training might have to done in a bubble, with players quarantined during the process. And they would probably cut spring training from six weeks to three or four. Let’s hope by mid-February that this is all behind us.

Q: How about having MLB playoffs and World Series games always played in neutral sites? — RICHARD, Tipp City.

A: Although it cuts travel costs, I’d hate to see the World Series taken away from the fans of the participating teams. After fans support their teams all season, they deserve to witness them in person during the playoffs and World Series. Yeah, I know. . .the Super Bowl. How many true fans of the two teams can travel to the site and how many can afford the obscene ticket prices. The Super Bowl is for big business. And, of course, that’s only one over-hyped game. Let’s not take away even more from the real fans.


Q: Is there any talk about bringing Brandon Phillips back just so he can retire as a Red? JODY, Beavercreek.

A: That’s what Brandon wants, but it isn’t what Brandon is going to get. The Reds can’t afford to give a roster spot to a senior citizen player. Phillips need not worry. His legacy with the Reds is safe and he’ll always be remembered as a Cincinnati Reds player. Unfortunately, sentimentality has little place in professional sports. It’s a business and Phillips has no business occupying a roster spot with the Reds.

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