Ask Hal: Should Reds keep Stephenson at catcher?

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 halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: Is there a solution to the many teams being eliminated from the playoffs so early on and playing in front of skimpy crowds? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: They could include all 30 teams in the playoffs. They already include 12, 40 percent of the franchises. The real solution for most teams, though, is draft better, trade better, sign better free agents and most of all, play better. Build it and they will come means more than a slogan from Field of Dreams.

Q: Do you think the Reds still will have Tyler Stephenson catching next year after the concussion he has taken? — JIM, Kettering.

A: It isn’t only concussions, he has broken bones, cuts and bruises, and has taken a real beating. It’s not my call, because the Reds love him behind the plate. It isn’t my call, but I’d move him to first base and make Joey Votto a permanent designated hitter, even if he doesn’t like it.

Q: Do the rookie players of today still undergo initiation pranks? — KEN, Miamisburg.

A: They certainly do, Ollie. With the Reds, late in the season on a road trip, the rookies are forced to wear outlandish costumes like Cinderella, Tinkerbell, ballet dancers, pole dancers and wild attire of that nature. They are usually dropped off the team bus several blocks from the hotel and made to walk. I witnessed it once in Chicago and they walked down extremely crowded Michigan Avenue to the hoots and catcalls of pedestrians. There are so many rookies on this year’s Reds team that costumes could get expensive.

Q: Any prediction on how much money Aaron Judge will sign for and with what team? — STEVE, Brookville.

A: How does a billion dollars sound? Sound far-fetched? Not the way salaries keep escalating. If the New York Yankees don’t sign him, fans probably would tear up Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. I can see the Los Angeles Dodgers in the bidding and the suddenly ultra-rich New York Mets would love to embarrass the Yankees by signing him. He probably wouldn’t sign with the Reds if they offered him the Carew Tower, all of Fountain Square and the University of Cincinnati campus.

Q: Why do the Reds always have the lights on during day games with the sun shining brightly and not a cloud in the sky? — RICK, Miamisburg.

A: One would think with all the empty seats, the Reds would try to save money by keeping the lights off. The Reds, though, aren’t the only team to do it. All teams do it. If lights are suddenly needed, it takes time for them to heat up to full power. And by rule, the lights need to be on at the start of the top of an inning. So, with the lights already on, it is no problem. I’m waiting to hear an outfielder say he lost the ball in the lights during a day game.

Q: If you chose your favorite seat in the house at Great American Ball Park, where would it be and why? — AMANDA, Dayton.

A: That’s an easy one. Row one of the press box, where I sat for 48 years. Best seat in the house and it’s free, but there is some work required. If I’m not working, it would be the Diamond Seats behind home plate. You get a meal, you get drinks, you get popcorn and peanuts … all for a pretty price. So, I’d prefer to be somebody’s guest.

Q: With this ownership group, do you think you’ll ever cover a playoff game involving the Reds before you retire? — LEE, West Carrollton.

A: I am ‘semi-retired’ now, but Nadine says I write more now than when I worked full-time. I tell everybody I won’t fully retire until my head hits the laptop. At soon-to-be 82, I don’t believe I have enough time left to outlast the Reds’ long-range rebuilding process. But I’ll say it the way former Cincinnati/Houston pitcher Joaquin Andujar once said it, “I’ll say it in one word, youneverknow.”

Q: What ballpark has the best hot dogs? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: No vote here for Marge Schott’s $1 hot dogs. And those who think the choice is Dodger Dogs, well, good but not the best. In Milwaukee, they serve hot dogs, brats and metts the entire game. On the last day of the 1999 season, the Reds were in Milwaukee and rain forced two long delays and we were at the ball park for seven hours. I ate several of all three, probably nine in all. Amazingly, no Bromo-Seltzer was needed the next day. (Bromo-Seltzer? Ask your grandparents.)

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Q: Which Reds player of the past do you miss the most? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: I miss the entire Big Red Machine. I miss the Nasty Boys (Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, Randy Meyers), I miss Tom Seaver, Tim Belcher and Jerry Reuss. I miss Doug Bair, John Franco, Danny Graves and Jeff Shaw (I’m partial to closers). I miss Sean Casey, Bronson Arroyo, Bret Boone, Dave Collins, Joe Oliver, Eddie Taubensee, Scott Rolen, Ted Power, Mario Soto, Dave Burba, Don Gullett and Gary Nolan. Most of all, I miss Eric Davis and Jose Rijo, although Rijo shows up at my front door occasionally. Yep, I miss a lot.

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