Ask Hal: What’s the worst Reds team you ever covered?

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: I had a flashback that certain Reds players put Davey Concepcion in a clothes dryer and turned it on and do you recall this happening? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Your flashback is partially correct. Players didn’t put him in the large industrial dryer in the Wrigley Field visitor’s clubhouse. Concepcion climbed in himself. Pitcher Pat Zachry walked by, slammed shut the glass door and turned it on. And there was Concepcion’s face tumbling past the window in circles. Concepcion was in a slump and wanted to dry it away. Instead, it burned all the hair off his body and that day he went 0 for 5.

Q: What’s the worst Reds team you ever covered? — DEL, Chicago.

A: Most people figure I’ll say this year’s edition and I’m tempted to say yes. But I don’t believe this year’s team is going to finish last. Some might think I’ll pick the 101-loss 1982 team that finished last, 28 games out of first place. No and No. My choice is the 2015 team that lost 98 and finished last, 36 games out of first place. That team had 27 pitchers lose at least one game. Its longest winning streak was four and it had a 13-game losing streak. It was shut out 13 times and it suffered 10 walk-off losses. Look up inept in the dictionary and you might find a team photo of the 2015 team.

Q: Is Hunter Greene the next Johnny Cueto or the next Bruce Berenyi/Jay Tibbs/Frank Pastore? — ARLEY, Middletown.

A: Berenyi, Tibbs and Pastore couldn’t throw 102 miles an hour. Nor could Cueto. Greene is still as green as the back of a $20 bill, still young, still learning. He needs to get consistent command of his slider and to develop a change-up. It is tough to be a two-pitch starter. If the slider isn’t working, hitters sit on the fastball and launch it into the great beyond.

Q: Are major league umpires getting worse or is it my imagination? — JOE, Englewood.

A: You must be watching too many games involving umpire Angel Hernandez. The worst thing to happen to umpires is that square “strike zone” box superimposed on TV screens. It is not accurate. The strike zone differs with each hitter, but the box stays the same. The other thing is the challenge. Some umpires rely on the replay umpires in New York to get it right and don’t appear to bear down on their calls. To their credit, though, they get it right the first time most of the time. Other than great pay, I don’t know why anybody would want to be an MLB umpire.

Q: With all the retired numbers in baseball, which team will be the first with three-digit numbers? — BILL, Villa Hills, Ky.

A: I’m already amazed how many 70s, 80s and 90s I see on uniforms, something you’d never see in the early 2000s. The first team to wear triple digits might be the New York Yankees. With 23 numbers retired, they have by far the most. Second most is the St. Louis Cardinals with 13 and three more probably will be retired soon — 4 (Yadier Molina), 5 (Albert Pujols) and 50 (Adam Wainwright). The Reds have retired 10 and the next one is likely to be Joey Votto’s 19.

Q: Who will be the first team to make the playoffs, the Reds or the Pirates? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: Can I say neither? Too harsh? Well, the Pirates haven’t made the playoffs since 2015 when they lost as a wild card. The Reds made the playoffs in 2020, the truncated shortened pandemic season, and lost as a wild card. They last made a full-season playoff in 2013 and lost as a wild card. The two teams are so similar it is scary. The Reds have good young starting pitching and the Pirates have good young position players. It is a coin flip and I’m calling tails.

Q: The Netflix documentary, Facing Nolan, is pretty great so do you have any Nolan stories? — KEVIN, Centerville.

A: Having not seen the documentary, I presume you don’t mean former Reds pitcher Gary Nolan or former Reds catcher Joe Nolan. It’s Nolan Ryan, right? I didn’t see it when Robin Ventura foolishly charged the mound and Ryan picked him up and dropped him on his head. I did witness a hilarious Ryan moment. The Reds had a pitcher named Brad ‘The Animal’ Lesley, who spread his arms wide and shouted when he struck out a hitter. The Astros were in Riverfront Stadium and when Ryan struck out one of the Reds he spread his arms and screamed so loud we could hear it behind the windows of the press box. They were even laughing in the Reds’ dugout.

Q: Everyone knows who would be your ‘A’ team, but if you had to field a Reds ‘B’ team since World War II, who would be at each position? — MICHAEL, Springfield.

A: I must pick my teams starting in 1973, when I started covering them. And I don’t think everyone knows my ‘A’ team. It would be C-Johnny Bench, 1B-Joey Votto, 2B-Joe Morgan, SS-Barry Larkin, 3B-Pete Rose, LF-George Foster, CF-Eric Davis, RF-Ken Griffey Sr. The ‘B’ team is C-Joe Oliver, 1B-Tony Perez, 2B-Brandon Phillips, SS-Dave Concepcion, 3B-Scott Rolen, LF-Greg Vaughn, CF-Cesar Geronimo, RF-Ken Griffey Jr. The only arguments might be first base, shortstop and center field. But they are my team and I’m sticking with them.

Q: Of all the spring training sites during your career, do you have a favorite? — BRIAN, Wheelersburg.

A: During my 49-year career, the Reds have trained in Tampa, Plant City, Sarasota and Goodyear, Ariz. My favorite, by far, was Sarasota, a great eclectic mid-sized city. I had a condo on Siesta Key with the Gulf of Mexico 50 yards from my door. Nadine loves the beach and spent time there, but she wouldn’t go to Goodyear, “Because it has no beach.” I told her, “Goodyear is all beach, just no water.” I did not like Plant City and stayed 20 miles away in Tampa. I couldn’t get over all the pick-up trucks with gun racks in the back windows in Plant City.

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