Ask Hal: Votto’s competitive fire a positive for Reds

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: Is Joey Votto’s behavior that indicates he should get a hit every at-bat a positive or a negative? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Definitely a positive. Do you think a guy should be happy making an out? Remember Paul O’Neill? He thought he should get a hit every time up and set a record for destroying batting helmets, bats and Gatorade coolers after making outs. I like seeing players show emotion instead of guys who think, “Hey, I’m making $15 million a year so why should I care if I hit into a game-ending double play?”

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Q: Billy Hamilton challenged Bengals draftee John Ross to a charity race. Who would win? — JOHN, Oxford.

A: The Bengals and Ross declined the challenge and that’s good. That’s a pulled ligament waiting to happen. Ross set a record at the NFL scouting combine with a 4.22-second clocking in the 40-yard dash. Hamilton has been timed at 3.3 seconds (a record, they believe) running to first base (30 yards). Have you seen Hamilton run out a triple? I’ve seen it over and over, so I’m prejudiced and my money would be on Billyblur.

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Q: Why aren’t most catchers good hitters, because they must know the movement of most pitches more than any other position player? — JOE, Kettering.

A: Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Pudge Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, Ernie Lombardi, Jorge Posada, Javy Lopez, Mike Napoli and I could go on. Better question would be why aren’t pitchers better hitters because they know the movement of pitches better than anybody.

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Q: Has Joey Votto ever hit a home run while choking up on the bat? — JEFFREY, Springboro

A: Let’s see, Votto has 10 home runs, so it has happened 10 times this year. He chokes up on his bat on every at-bat these days. And when he has two strikes he chokes up even more. He hit a 450-foot home run this year with two strikes. It is a misnomer that one sacrifices power by choking up. It is timing, bat speed and solid contact on the barrel that provides distance and Votto is one of the best at all of that.

Q: Is Billy Hamilton the best one-tool player you ever saw? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: One-tool? Yes, his best tool is his legs. But he also has a glove on his hand that is a great tool for him. And that right arm dangling from his shoulder? It is an above average throwing arm. Calling Billy Hamilton a one-tool player is like calling a Swiss Army Knife a one-tool utensil.

Q: Many players are opting for the traditional hiked up baseball pants these days. Is this because of the strike zone to give umpires a batter look at the knees? — JIM, Kettering.

A: I asked that question to Joey Votto, who is wearing his pants high these days. He said it has nothing to do with the strike zone “because umpires are very good and that would make no difference.” More likely it is a style statement. Players are copiers and if stars are doing it then there will be imitators. I think Votto and the Reds like to show off those new socks with the wishbone-C on them.

Q: Which Reds player who you covered was the best at keeping his teammates loose? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: That is an easy one. Pitcher Pete Harnisch, one of the funniest guys I ever encountered, off and on the field. I can’t relate in a family newspaper some of the gags he pulled in the clubhouse. You can read those in my book, “The Real McCoy.” One day he walked out of the shower dangling a towel in front of him and said loudly, “OK, whose turn is it to dry me off?” Another time on the day he was scheduled to pitch he looked at the lineup card and saw a bunch of bench players in the lineup and shouted, “Hey, Skipper, are we trying today?”

Q: Didn’t MLB mandate that all teams put up more netting to protect fans from foul balls and flying bats, because I’ve seen fans still being hit? — RICK, Vandalia.

A: There was no mandate, just a recommendation that all clubs have netting that extends at least to the edge of the dugouts. Nineteen teams did it, but 11 didn’t. Those 11, including the Cincinnati Reds, already had netting that extended to the dugouts. But fans sitting behind the dugouts and beyond remain unprotected. In other words, put down the cell phones and pay attention.


Q: Why are there no catchers who throw left-handed? — MARK, Dayton.

A: Being left-handed myself I’ve wondered the same thing. Perhaps it is because we lefties are too smart to take that beating behind the plate. The old excuse was that most batters are right-handed and that interfered with a left-hander’s throws. But nowadays there as many left-handed hitters as right-handers, so that argument is not viable. Minnesota’s Joe Mauer was asked why and said, “I have no idea.” Nobody does. In the last 100 years, Dale Long caught two innings for the Cubs in 1958 and Mike Squires caught two innings for the 1980 White Sox. Since August 18, 1989, when lefty Benny Distefano caught for the Pirates, no left-hander has caught a single inning.

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