Ask Hal: Should Major League Baseball go to split-season format?

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: Any chance that Homer Bailey tells the Reds that they have been good to him, so take the money they owe him and go get some good pitching? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Any chance you donate your life savings, your pension and your Social Security to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals? I thought not. Neither you nor I nor Homer would walk away from $23 million guaranteed. His plan is to try to earn that stipend by showing up at spring training and winning a spot in the starting rotation. And that shouldn’t be hard, even with Bailey’s recent record.

Q: Why don’t they divide the Major League season into two 81-game segments and slice the season into halves, starting over after 81 games and having a one-game playoff after the second half if two different teams win the first half and second half? — RON, Springfield.

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A: That’s one rule change I’d support. Nearly all the minor leagues do it. It would hype interest in the second half and give teams like the Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins a second-life chance in the second half, instead of having nothing to play for by September. And it would give the Reds a chance to finish last twice in one season instead of just once.

Q: What did Reds owner Bob Castellini mean when he said, ‘We just aren’t going to lose any more?’ — TIMOTHY, Alpha.

A: That quote was an answer to my question after he fired general manager Wayne Krivsky. I asked, “When is this organization going to have some continuity?” He looked at me angrily and snarled, “We just aren’t going to lose any more.” He was sincere in what he said, but not only are they still losing, they are losing much more. And he is still angry with me for asking that question in April, 2008, just 21 games into the season. Krivsky’s firing beat that of manager Tony Perez, who was fired by GM Jim Bowden just 24 games into the season.

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Q: Was there ever a manager who wasn’t fired? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Connie Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics for the first 50 years of the team’s existence (1901-1950) and retired from managing when he was 87. He was never fired, despite some very bad seasons, for one special reason. He owned the team. Very few managers are never fired and the last one was Tommy Lasorda of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the inside story is that he was pushed into retirement. As former NFL coach Bum Phillips once said, “There are two types of coaches — ones that have been fired and ones that are going to be fired.”

Q: We all know pitchers are not good at the plate, so shouldn’t they take batting practice just like the position players so they can help the team at the plate? — DOUG, Brookville.

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A: Au contraire, Doug. They do take batting practice. They do it early in the afternoon with no fans in the stands. They even have hitting contests, relief pitchers vs. starting pitchers, with a coach judging what is a hit and what is an out. And don’t put the hopeless hat on Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who has four home runs this year. Yes, he is an exception and most pitchers barely know which end of the bat to hold and don’t know how to bunt, it isn’t because they don’t take batting practice. And the night’s starting pitcher usually takes batting practice with the regulars.

Q: Are the days of the Reds signing big name free agents over since they can’t even keep their rising talented players when they reach free agency? — TIM, Xenia.

A: What days are we talking about? When did the Reds sign big-name free agents? The last star free agent in my memory was 35 years ago when they signed hometown product Dave Parker after the 1983 season. Then four years later they traded him to Oakland for pitchers Tim “Big Bird” Birtsas and Jose Rijo. The last major big-name pitcher signed by the Reds was Eric Milton, a three-year $26.5 million deal in 2005 for which they received a 16-and-27 record and a pile of home runs given up.

Q: Last I checked, the Baltimore Orioles were 60 1/2 games out of first place, a staggering figure to me, so who holds the record for finishing the most games behind? — JEFF, Washington Twp.

A: The Orioles are safe. In 1899 a team called the Cleveland Spiders finished 20-134 and were 84 games behind the National League champion Brooklyn Superbas. Funny it would be Baltimore this year. In 1953 the St. Louis Browns finished 54-100 and were 46 1/2 games out of first place. The new year, 1954, the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles and were still inept. Once again they were 54-100 but the finished 57 games out of first place. Amazingly, they weren’t the worst that year. The Philadelphia Athletics were 51-103 and finished 60 games out. The 1962 expansion New Yorks Mets were 40-120 (a modern loss record) and finished 60 1/2 games out of first place. The current O’s definitely are in bad company.

Q: If you were general manager of the Reds would you consider pitcher Matt Harvey being worth a two-year deal at $20 million a year, which is large money, but short term? — NATHAN, Huber Heights.

A: You said it right. Big money. Way too much money. Why would you pay a below .500 pitcher coming off a couple of serious surgeries that kind of money for that short of a time? Harvey and his persnickety agent, Scott Boras, probably would jump head first into that kind of deal and smirk at the world. If I’m GM, and I’m not and never will be, I might give offer him $20 for four years ($5 million a year) and listen to Boras whine over the insult. It isn’t likely Harvey will be wearing a Reds uniform next year.


Q: Would you agree that yesteryear’s players trained less and were injured less than modern players who seem to overtrain and get injured all the time? — JOHN, Indianapolis.

A: Indeed, I do. When I first began covering baseball in the early 1970s players were discouraged from lifting weights. It was feared they would become muscle-bound. Most of the players stayed in shape mostly by running or riding a stationary bike. Maybe it is selective memory, but I don’t remember so many injuries and the long, long disabled list. And that seems curious because today’s players constantly work out to keep their bodies in shape and watch their diets religiously, something the players in the 1970s didn’t much care about.

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