Ask Hal: Reds corner the market on shortstop prospects

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: If you had made it to the Major Leagues which player number would you have chosen and why? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: If I had made it, I would wear any number they gave me, even 117. I wore ‘1′ in Little League, Pony League and American Legion. My favorite player as a kid was Cleveland’s Vic Wertz, who wore ‘23.’ So, in high school I wore 23 for baseball and basketball. And I did nothing for any of them to consider retiring my numbers.

Q: Elly De La Cruz and Jose Barrera are both shortstops with supreme talent and high ceilings, so do you see the Reds moving one or both to other positions? — RUSTY, Dayton.

A: The Reds seem to be collecting shortstops as if they are bubblegum cards. With all the trades they’ve made since spring training they have acquired seven shortstops. They say a shortstop can play any position (Eric Davis started as a shortstop) and can be moved. De La Cruz is having a monster season, but at 6-foot-5 some believe he is too tall for a shortstop, although I see no height requirements in MLB’s rules. The Reds probably will move him to third base or second base. Despite Barrero’s penchant for striking out, he probably is Cincinnati’s shortstop for the immediate future.

Q: Do you think commissioner Rob Manfred is watching the Little League World Series and wonders if MLB should be played this way? — JOE, Englewood.

A: He was in Williamsport when the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox played a game. Don’t know if he watched any Little League games, but if he did, he saw no ghost runners, no three-batter requirement for relief pitchers and no designated hitters … true grass roots baseball. Isn’t it a pleasure to watch those kids play — with all-out hustle, all-out emotion and all-out sportsmanship (no bat flipping and no pointing to the sky)?

Q: What year do you predict that the Reds will next make the playoffs? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: Remember the Zager & Evans song, “In the Year 2525?” Well, it may or may not be that long. But I’m 81 and I fear it won’t happen in my lifetime. The Reds are in a perpetual rebuild. They are excited that their farm system is ranked fourth best, but those are all prospects/suspects. And if any of them make it, if history holds, when they become arbitration-eligible or are close to becoming free agents they will be traded. Just call me Mr. Doom and Gloom.

Q: The Cincinnati Bengals sold their stadium naming rights to Paycor for $12 million a year while the Reds get only $2.5 million from Great American, so based on number of games played isn’t that backward? — RICHARD, Tipp City.

A: Great American Ball Park opened in 2003, 19 years ago. Prices on everything have sky-rocketed since then (check your meat and potatoes prices). I’m really surprised the Brown family let go of the name Paul Brown Stadium. But money talks and it spoke much louder for the Bengals than it did for the Reds. For sure, Great American has a better ring that Cinergy Field.

Q: Back in the 70s, when the Atlanta Braves used over-the-hill pitcher Jim Bouton as a gimmick, Johnny Bench protested and said the Braves were making a mockery of the game, so how do you think Bench feels about position players used as pitchers in blowout games? — LARRY, Dallas, Tex.

A: I can’t speak for Bench, but I have a feeling he feels the way I do. It should be embarrassing to the team using a position player. It is like an NFL team using a center to play quarterback in a blowout game. For once let’s have commissioner Rob Manfred make a rule that makes sense and have him ban position players taking the mound.

Q: Doesn’t it seem like a good time to trade Joey Votto to Montreal so he can hit .200 for some other team for $25 million a year? — RICHARD, Hazard, Ky.

A: Two things here: Votto has a no-trade clause in his contract and Montreal doesn’t have a team unless you are talking about the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Thirdly, not even the Montreal No Team would trade for a 39-year-old first baseman sitting for the next six months after shoulder surgery.

Q: Has anybody ever won that Toyota truck perched high above the Great American Ball Park field? — FORREST, Clayton.

A: An individual? Nope. But to the credit of the Cincinnati-area dealerships, the Toyota Tundra truck is given to an area fire department or to some first responders. For a fan to win it, a Reds player must hit a Toyota sign high up the stands in deep right center. Not only does it require a Ruthian wallop, it has to have the accuracy of a sniper’s scope to hit that sign. It would be pure luck.


Q: Have you seen anything like the Albert Pujols run we are seeing now? — JON, Washington, Mo.

A: When the St. Louis Cardinals brought him back, I thought it was a publicity gimmick to give the ol’ boy a chance for a victory lap around the league with his old team. But, wow, he is not only a productive player, but he is helping the Cardinals march toward winning the National League Central title. If I’m a left-handed pitcher right now, the last guy I want to see dragging a bat to home plate is Jose Alberto Pujols. a.k.a La Maquina (The Machine).

About the Author