Ask Hal: This Hamilton should be untouchable

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about America’s pastime. If you’d like to tap into that knowledge, send a question to

Q: I see where the Chicago Cubs second baseman has not made an error all year, so does that mean he wins the Gold Glove and not Brandon Phillips? — Dave, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek

A: If you are talking about Darwin Barney, he has made two errors this year. He did set a National League record with 114 straight errorless games. But not making errors isn’t the major criteria for a Gold Glove. How many times have you seen Barney on ESPN’s WebGems compared to Phillips, who should have his own show. While Barney is good, compared to Phillips right now he is Barney the Dinosaur.

Q: If you received an offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates to trade Homer Bailey, Chris Heisey and Billy Hamilton for Andrew McCutchen, would you do it? — Mark, Centerville

A: At this point, I wouldn’t trade Billy Hamilton for anybody and I wouldn’t trade him straight-up for McCutchen. While McCutchen is one of the best all-around players in the game right now, Hamilton has a chance to be another Rickey Henderson or Lou Brock. Would you want him playing for the Pirates so he could steal a championship away from the Reds? Haven’t the Reds traded away enough Hamiltons so far (Josh)?

Q: Homer Bailey says he has trouble pitching at GABP because of the mound and they won’t change it, so why isn’t the grounds crew working with a home pitcher? — Kevin, Dayton

A: Now that’s a slippery slope, and that’s what Bailey calls it — slippery when wet and too flat and low. The other slippery slope is messing with the mound to suit one pitcher. How about the other 11 guys? A mound is a difficult thing to build and changing it every day to suit the specifications of one pitcher just isn’t feasible.

Q: A few years ago when the Reds couldn’t find a shortstop, they said it was unthinkable to move Brandon Phillips there because he is so fantastic at second base. Why, with Aroldis Chapman so fantastic as a closer, are they thinking about changing that philosophy and to make Chapman a starter? — Joe, Columbus

A: I’m with you, pal. To me it is unthinkable to change Chapman now. Is there a better closer in the game? You don’t mess with success, do you? Here’s a clue for the Reds. When broadcaster John Smoltz was in town he said, “They should leave Chapman as the closer. He is perfectly suited.” Should Smoltz know? Oh, yeah. He was outstanding as both a starter and a closer during his pitching career.

Q: Rumor has it Dusty Baker invented the high five after hitting his 30th home run in 1977. Is that true? — Joshua, Miamisburg

A: This is true. Baker hit the home run and teammate Glenn Burke greeted him at home plate and enacted the first high five, knowing not what they had conceived. Did you know that the third Thursday in April is National High Five Day? Baker also invented managers wearing sweat bands and chewing toothpicks, but that one hasn’t caught on.

Q: When the Reds travel do they have a security detail and body guards? — Jeffrey, Springboro

A: Not normally, unless somebody receives a threat. The Reds do have a security director who makes some of the trips. Broadcaster Marty Brennaman received security protection a few years ago when he lambasted Cubs fans and received threats, but Cubs fans weren’t smart enough find him. If a player wants a body guard, he hires his own. Most body guards I’ve seen with players are go-fers, chauffeurs or personal trainers who happen to be really big guys.

Q: My favorite baseball book is Gaylord Perry’s “Me and the Spitter.” Can you recommend other great baseball reads? — Ben, Dayton

A: Come to my house and visit my office, where one wall is shelf after shelf of baseball books. I’m prejudiced, but my personal preferences are books by and about other baseball writers — Red Smith, Jim Murray, Roger Angell. I love John Grisham, but don’t waste your time on “Calico Joe,” which proved that Grisham should stick with lawyers and courtrooms and stay away from ballplayers and baseball fields.

Q: Which Reds team that you have covered most compares favorably with the current team as far as chemistry and personnel? — Scott, Petal, Mississippi

A: Stick a mirror in front of this year’s team and you see the 1999 team, the one that missed the postseason when it lost a one-game playoff to the New York Mets. That team had great personalities like Sean Casey, Aaron Boone, Dmitri Young and Eddie Taubensee, a solid 1-2 bullpen punch in Scott Sullivan and Danny Graves and an outstanding leader in Greg Vaughn. But it doesn’t look as if this year’s team will need to win a one-game playoff to make the postseason.

Q: Does the spitball still exist because I don’t hear it mentioned anymore? — Bill, Dayton

A: It is not supposed to exist because it is illegal. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It does. If you want to hear it talked about, sneak into a bullpen during a game and listen to pitchers whisper about it. Adam Dunn told me once that he swung at a pitch and fouled it off, then had to get a towel to wipe his face from the moisture that came off the ball.

Q: While watching the Reds on TV we look for a batter’s hitting statistics for that game and we’ve seen, “1 for 2, BB and walk.” What’s the difference between a BB and a walk? — Sharon, Middletown

A: Unless they have come up with a new statistics for BB, like broken bats or balls bunted, BB stands for walk, as in base on balls. Maybe they should say Joey Votto has 38 bases on balls and 37 walks when he really has 75 bases on balls/walks.

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