Ask Hal: When Marte, McLain return, should Elly stay in infield?

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: How frequently do shouting matches or physical altercations occur among teammates within the dugout or clubhouse? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: A baseball team is like a family and players spend more time with teammates in the summer than with their families. So, like a family, there are disputes, arguments, shoving and wrestling matches. Most happen in the privacy of the clubhouse. Occasionally a camera catches a dugout skirmish like the one between Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds. But they are rare, and most players just get along. Of course, there was the infamous Lou Piniella-Rob Dibble clubhouse squabble, which I inadvertently started.

Q: When Matt McLain and Noelvi Marte return, why not move Elly De La Cruz to the outfield where he can run down long fly balls, leap over the fence to make great catches and gun down base runners instead of making so many errors at shortstop? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: You are preaching to the press box. I have advocated that since spring training, and it makes so much sense. McLain is a natural shortstop and would be much better defensively than De La Cruz, who leads the league’s shortstop in errors. Many natural shortstops have moved from shortstop to the outfield — Eric Davis, Mickey Mantle (started his career as a shortstop), Robin Yount, Fernando Tatis Jr., Ian Desmond. Shortstops invariably are the best athletes, and the switch usually is smooth.

Q: During your career, who was the best baseball commissioner? — GEORGE, Morton Grove, IL.

A: There have been five— Bowie Kuhn, Peter Ueberroth, Bart Giamatti, Fay Vincent, Bud Selig and Rob Manfred. Kuhn negated the Cincinnati Reds trade of Dave Revering and $1 million for pitcher Vida Blue, saying it was not in the best interest of baseball. Ueberroth was in the front door and out the back before we knew him. Giammati and Vincent botched the Pete Rose situation. For some of the silly rules Manfred imposed he should be made to sit in traffic on Broadway. Selig hid his head in the sand during the steroid era, but he won me over when I announced my retirement, and he invited me into his office to congratulate and thank me for my service to baseball. Winner: Selig.

Q: If you as a relief pitcher come into the game in the sixth inning with two outs and retire the batter, then go back out for the next inning and give up a home run to the first hitter, can the manager take you out or does the three-batter minimum still apply? — BILL, Monterey, KY.

A: No, it doesn’t apply. A relief pitcher only must face three batters in the same inning. There is no carryover. The pitcher could be removed after the home run if it came in the next inning. It is one of Manfred’s Mad Moves. And if I were the pitcher, that home run would have come to the first batter I faced, not the next one.

Q: They always say the strike zone box on TV is not accurate and why is it not when we put a man on the moon over 50 years ago? SCOTT, Springfield.

A: That box is, indeed, inaccurate or the home plate umpire misses way too many calls. I say the box is inaccurate. It is one size fits all and baseball players come in all shapes and sizes. Forget technology. There is too much of it in the game already. Just get rid of it. To me, it is just distracting and causes too many fans to swear at the umpires.

Q: What’s with the sliding mittens and I can’t imagine Pete Rose flying headfirst into a base wearing snow mittens? — RORY, Dayton.

A: Just another baseball gimmick somebody fostered. The mittens extend several inches beyond the fingers, giving the sliding base-runner extra reach. Sounds to me as if it is an unfair advantage and should be outlawed. The last time I saw mittens like that Nadine was pulling a pot roast out of the oven.

Q: When the book, Charlie Hustle, talks about Pete Rose and his attorney meeting investigator John Dowd at a Catholic high school in Dayton, which one was it? — BILL, Bethel.

A: A source close to Rose told me the meeting was at Chaminade-Julienne. Was that fair to Rose? He isn’t Catholic. But religion was not on the agenda. It was all about his baseball gambling and, of course, despite Dowd’s evidence, Rose continued to deny, deny, deny at the meeting.

Q: What’s the deal with the trend of a starting pitcher going only two or three outs in the first inning and then getting pulled? — RICHARD, San Diego.

A: On those days, that isn’t a starter. It’s a relief pitcher and they call it a Bullpen Day. Teams do it on days when their regular five starters aren’t available. Most relief pitchers these days only pitch one inning so on Bullpen Days you see enough relief pitchers to wear a path from the bullpen to the mound. Pretty boring, isn’t it?

Q: Have you ever thrown out a first pitch before a Reds game and was it a strike at 90 to 100 miles an hour? — TIM, Xenia.

A: Upon my ‘retirement’ as a traveling beat writer in 2010, I threw a first pitch to Barry Larkin. He accused me of throwing a cutter. It was not a strike, and it was timed with an hourglass. I also threw out a first pitch at a Dayton Dragons game and one at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field when Lou Piniella was the manager. Amazingly, no scouts offered me a contract.

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