Ask Hal: What do you call a robot that calls balls and strikes?

Credit: Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Credit: Julio Cortez/Associated Press

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 ideas on what Major League Baseball will name the robot that probably starts calling balls and strikes next season? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: For certain, managers and players will have a lot of unprintable names for it. If they want to keep it light, they can call it Robot Ron, after former umpire Ron Lucianao. He wrote a hilarious book and perhaps MLB can stick some recordings of Luciano quotes in the thing. For example: “Any umpire who tells you he never missed a call is. . .well, an umpire.” Or, “One reason I never called a balk is that I never understood the rule.” Or, “Throwing people out of games is like riding a bicycle. Once you get the hang of it, it can be a lot of fun.”

Q: The San Diego Padres have the third highest payroll in MLB this season, so is that the only way small/medium market teams can compete and is that model sustainable? — MARK, Centerville.

A: Money talks and it talks big in MLB. But it guarantees nothing. They always talk about small and medium markets, but it isn’t necessarily the market. It is the owner and how much money he/she spends. How long will the owner’s bank account in San Diego survive those gigantic salaries? It seems the guy with the most disposable income is New York Mets owner Steve Cohen. Let’s see how his investment pays off this season. My guess is the Mets won’t even win the National League East.

Q: Have the Cincinnati Reds ever acquired a player-to-be-named later in a trade that made good? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Every player ever traded already has a name, so that phrase always perplexed me. It should be a player to be acquired later. Anyway, after an exhaustive search of a few minutes, I couldn’t find any. I did find seven players to be ‘named’ later in a trade that became All-Stars: David Ortiz, Moises Alou, Marco Scutaro, Gio Gonzalez, Jason Schmidt and Trea Turner.

Q: So pitchers have to hurry up and follow the clock to shorten the game, so how about commercials and MLB promos between innings, or am I being naive? GREG, Albuquerque.

A: That is the height of naivete. The engine runs on m-o-n-e-y, so the time between innings to stuff in as many commercials as possible won’t change, not one second. And you can expect a lot of close-ups of those Kroger patches on the Reds players’ sleeves.

Q: How many home runs would Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. have hit if they used steroids? — ELVIS, Englewood.

A: Don’t Be Cruel and don’t get All Shook Up. It would be too many to count and we’ll never know. Just look what Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire did. I remember asking George Foster how many home runs he would hit in a year in the Great American Small Park. He said, “Sixty.” I asked if that was all and he said, “Well, I’m 70 years old.”

Q: What is your prediction for the winner of the 2023 World Series? — ERIN, Centerville.

A: Wow, that’s nine months away. I can’t even predict what I’ll wear tomorrow. And my crystal ball shattered the day I fell on my driveway and broke my hip. I make my humble predictions (guesses) in a column at the end of spring training. Right now, as I sit in pain after getting a tooth pulled, I will say Houston will repeat … because I want Dusty Baker to get two in a row.

Q: Are the enlarged bases to enhance base-stealing or two cut down on injuries? – BILL, Washington Twp.

A: It is a little bit of this and a little bit of that. All the attention is aimed at the possibility of more stolen bases because the distance between first and second is a smidge shorter. But injuries play into it, too. First basemen get their foot stepped on and runners hit the bag awkwardly and injure ankles. Now first basemen and baserunners both have a larger margin for error.

Q: With all the rule changes, expansion, and different eras, why not set up the Hall of Fame to elect players according to decades or eras so it would eliminate discussions about who deserves to be in? — LARRY, Dallas, Tex.

A: That makes too much sense. Players should be evaluated for their own era against players of their time and how the game was played. But how about the 269 players already in the Hall of Fame, judged by different criteria? Judging by decades certainly would pave the way for notable guys left out so far like Dave Concepcion, Dave Parker, Al Oliver, and Dale Murphy, all dominate guys in their eras.

Q: If you were in Goodyear, Ariz. for spring training, which restaurant would you have dinner tonight? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: So many, so many. My favorite, Donovan’s Steakhouse in Phoenix, didn’t survive the pandemic, so that one is out. Always ate at Raul & Theresa’s authentic Mexican cantina at least once a week. My Italian fix was Bella Luna and the Black Bear Diner was a must. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m hungry.

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