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: Is there a better poker face in all of baseball than the Reds’ David Bell staring at the field from behind the dugout rail? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: When they have the kind of season the Reds are having there certainly isn’t much to crack even the slightest smile about. He can’t cry because there is no crying in baseball. So he maintains his non-committal stare, trying his darndest not to empty the bat rack onto the field or pour the Gatorade dispenser over the head of the guy who commits a baserunning faux pas.
Q: Any chance the Reds might contemplate moving Raisel Iglesias into the starting rotation and search for a more traditional closer? — BRIAN, Bellbrook.
A: Early in his career Iglesias was in the rotation and even started on Opening Day 2016. Since they’ve made him a closer that’s what he prefers. Don’t know what a traditional closer is, but if you mean one like Aroldis Chapman, they cost two arms, a leg and three ribs. The Reds have rotation pieces and need bullpen help beyond Iglesias. Historically, closers are off-and-on from year-to-year. Maybe 2020 will be the year it all clears up for Iglesias.
Q: After losses, there is never a discouraging word from manager David Bell or the broadcasters, only excuses and cover-ups on mistakes, which are not believable to those who follow the club, so why do they do it? — NANCY, Asheville, N.C.
A: Couldn’t agree with you more and it drives me up the left field wall. Everybody tries to paint a smiley face after an ugly on-the-field performance. The broadcasters do it because they are paid to be positive (Marty Brennaman is the refreshing exception). And Bell is soothing egos as a first-year manager and doesn’t want to rock the sinking Good Ship Cincinnati. But we know, don’t we?
Q: When was the last time the hidden ball trick was used successfully in a major league game? — GORDIE, Piqua.
A: Oh, the painful memories. When I played American Legion ball, I doubled and was standing on the base. The shortstop came over and said, “Nice hit.” I said, “Thanks,” and took my lead. That’s when I was tagged out. My research reveals the hidden ball trick has been used successfully 273 times in MLB history, but only eight times since 2000. One of the lastest was our old friend Todd Frazier. While playing for the 2017 New York Yankees, like me, he was on second base. Like me, he stepped off the base and, like me, he was tagged out by the shortstop (Toronto’s Ryan Goins). The walk to the dugout is like Dead Man Walking.
Q: Some players wear their back pockets dangling outside their uniforms, so do they hope that flappy fabric gets hit by a pitch? — NEB, Pasadena, Calif.
A: I haven’t noticed it so much when a player is at bat. I notice it when a player gets on base. He pulls his kitchen-mitt sliding gloves out of the back pockets and the pockets turn inside out and dangle. The first base coach should be the fashion police and tell him, but they usually don’t. Maybe it is a baseball fashion statement. If it is it is a bad one.
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Q: During a game in St. Louis with the score tied, the Cardinals had runners on third and second with no outs. Reds manager David Bell brought in an outfielder to play a five-man infield and with first base open he pitched to Harrison Bader, who blooped a game winning hit, so what would you have done? — MESA BILL, West Milton.
A: Being old school, as are you, I walk the batter to set up a force at any base and maybe get a home-to-first double play. But the next time the manager calls the press box and asks, “What should I do?,” will be the first time. Of course, Bader lobbed a game-winning hit, so Bell’s strategy was after-the-fact awful. Who is to say if he walked Bader the next guy doesn’t get a hit or drive in the run in some no-outs manner. But because of the way it turned out we can be smug about it.
Q: Are Michael Lorenzen’s biceps as large as Ted Kluszewski’s and what is the tattoo on Lorenzen’s forearm? — BILL, St. Leonard.
A: Lorenzen’s biceps are amazing for a guy his size. Kluszewski was a big, big man and his biceps resembled 100-year-old giant oaks. They were so big he couldn’t get his arms into a regular uniform and had to cut off the sleeves, which led to the Reds coming up with the sleeveless jerseys. Lorenzen is deeply religious and the tattoo on his arm is a biblical message which has nothing to do with the Navy, ‘mom,’ or baseball.
Q: A runner is on first with one out and steals second while the batter strikes out. Since first base is no longer occupied, can the batter run to first when the catcher misses strike three? — LARRY, Springfield.
A: He can run to first base, but the umpire is going to tell him, “You’re out, pal, head for the dugout.” The runner who stole second remains on second, but the batter can’t take first with no outs or one out. Now if there were two outs and the catcher missed strike three with a runner on, the batter can take first. And you wonder why folks from Estonia and Latvia don’t understand baseball?