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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: As an avid baseball fan how do I evaluate Billy Hatcher’s first year as third base coach other than what I have heard or read? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: As an avid baseball fan you should know that this Hatcher’s third year as the Reds’ third base coach. I don’t know what you’ve heard, or from whom, or what you have read. The best way to evaluate a third base coach is how many times you read about him being asked about decisions he made that backfired. You haven’t read much about that, have you? Hatcher is a life-long baseball guy who should be interviewed by teams as a possible manager. Why that hasn’t happened is a mystery to me and it would have made more sense to me if the Reds had named him manager instead of Bryan Price.
Q: Has any interim manager ever been named Manager of the Year? — MARK, Beavercreek.
A: Many guys have had the interim removed from their titles and remained as managers, the latest being Brian Snitker of the Atlanta Braves, Pete Mackanin of the Philadelphia Phillies and Lloyd McClendon of the Pittsburgh Pirates. And many have done outstanding jobs, which earned them the job, but none has been named Manager of the Year. Could Jim Riggleman be named National League Manager of the Year? While he is deserving of consideration and may get some votes, it will be difficult to beat out Philadelphia’s Gabe Kapler or Atlanta’s Snitker, guys who have taken so-called rebuilding teams right to the top quickly this year. Maybe the Reds will take the interim off Riggleman for next year and he can win it.
Q: When Matt Harvey is traded and Homerun Bailey is back in the rotation, do you think, ‘There goes the neighborhood?’ — BOB, Washington Twp.
A: You are assuming that Harvey will be traded and perhaps he will, but it hasn’t happened yet. If it does, the Reds need a starter to replace him and Bailey is the likely suspect. The Reds aren’t paying Bailey $21 million to pitch in the minors. Even if Harvey isn’t traded, Bailey will be plugged into the rotation. As far as the neighborhood, with Bailey’s character and intelligence, he can move next door to me any time.
Q: If the St. Louis Cardinals were to offer Jim Riggleman the manager’s job, do you agree that he would accept it and be gone immediately? — KEITH, Brookville.
A: That’s impossible. A team is not permitted to talk to another team’s manager while he is under contract. That’s called tampering and comes with a heavy fine. The Cardinals have to wait until after the season and that’s only if the Reds don’t name him manager before this season ends. However, the rumor that the Cardinals might be interested only enhances Riggleman’s bargaining power. Riggleman can wait until after this season and go wherever he wants and he does have a lengthy background with the Cardinals. The Reds better move fast.
Q: Whatever became of the pitches from back in the day that were called forkballs, palmballs, screwballs, sinkers and knuckleballs? — DUKE, Beavercreek.
A: In most cases, it is nomenclature. The same pitch has a different name. The forkball of yesteryear is now a split-finger. A palmball usually is a change-up. They still call the old drop ball a sinker. The screwball is seldom used as it was by Fred Norman and Tom Browning because it is really tough on the arm. The knuckleball is still around, there are knuckleball practitioners. Some recent users of the flutterball include Steven Wright, R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield and, uh, Alex Blandino, the Reds infielder who pitched an inning this year against the Cleveland Indians and struck out two with his knuckler.
Q: What players in your experience were the best poker players on road trips? — GREG, Beavercreek.
A: The obvious answer is Pete Rose, but I once heard him say he was not a card player. I don’t know who was good, but I do know who was the worst. Before all trips, players are handed envelopes stuffed with cash, their meal money. These days it is $125 a day. For a 10-day trip it would be $1,250. But in the days of The Big Red Machine is was more like $50 a day. Anyway, as soon as the team boarded a charter flight, several players gathered in the back of the plane for poker. They always made sure Pedro Borbon was in the game because he was terrible. He always left the plane with his envelope empty so he filled up on clubhouse snacks.
Q: So often the Home Run Derby is negative to the contestants, notably Todd Frazier and Adam Duval, and 10 years ago Bobby Abreu won but his career suffered permanently, so do any teams prohibit their players contractually from participating? — JACK, Vandalia.
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A: The list is lengthy of players who participated in the Home Run Derby and wore themselves out or altered their swings and saw their seasons tank. I am certain some teams discourage participation, but they can’t prohibit it. It is an MLB event and MLB wants and encourages The Big Boys to be part of it. If a player wants to do it, he can and his team holds its breath. The Reds had to be thrilled that Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett did not participate.
Q: I believe there were two All-Star games in each season in the1960’s, so is there any reason MLB stopped the playing of the second game? — RICK K. — Vandalia.
A: You believe correctly. From 1959 through 1962 there were two games played about a month apart at mid-season. Same managers, same players. Why? Why else? M-o-n-e-y. Some proceeds went to the players pension fund and they thought they could double up with two games. Two All-Star games was not popular with the fans. Overkill. It was like playing two World Series in the same year. So they scrapped it, but only after it was agreed that MLB would double the financial proceeds to the players pension fund.