Ask Hal: Who is the best third baseman in Cincinnati Reds history?

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: Would you prefer to throw out the first pitch at Great American Ball Park or sing God Bless America in the seventh inning? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: I’ve thrown out the first pitch twice at GABP, once at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field and once at Tropicana Park in St. Petersburg. They were all thrown from the top of the mound, they were all cutters and they were all strikes. That’s my story and there is no evidence to disprove it. As for singing, no God Bless America. I would have liked to have sung Take Me Out to the Ball Game at Wrigley Field, but they would hate me when I sang, “Root, root, root for the Redlegs.”

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Q: Who in your opinion is the all-time best Reds’ third baseman? — CHRIS, Olde West Chester.

A: My all-time favorite is Aaron Boone, but that’s because of what he did to convince me to continue working after I lost most of my eyesight. The Reds have had some extremely good third basemen — Gene Freese, Chris Sabo (Rookie of the Year), Tony Perez (he started his career at third base), Scott Rolen, Ray Knight, Todd Frazier. To me, the best of this bunch for all-around play was Scott Rolen. But the current third baseman, Eugenio Suarez, may turn out to be the best of all time. The worst? Edwin Encarnacion, who made so many throwing errors the Red Cross recommended that fans behind first base wear catcher’s masks.

Q: To discourage senseless fighting on the field, why doesn’t Major League Baseball fine the teams involved, in addition to the players? — BILL, Hamilton.

A: The ultra-rich Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs would laugh at that and tell their players, “We have our checkbooks ready, go get ‘em.” My solution would be to do what the NHL and NBA does. They eject, fine and suspend any players that leave the bench to fight. That would eliminate dugouts and bullpens from emptying for on-the-field skirmishes. Like hockey, let the two combatants duke it out until they are arm weary.

Q: Why did the Toronto Blue Jays release Freddy Galvis, what did he do? — KEITH, Brookville.

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A: He did nothing but play hard and with results. His sin? Nothing. The Blue Jays want to play rookie Bo Bichette, son of former major league power-hitter Dante Bichette. They put Galvis on waivers and the Reds grabbed him. That tells me one thing. The Reds do not plan to re-sign Jose Iglesias, a free agent after the season. That’s a shame. There isn’t a better defensive shortstop in the game and a darn good two-strike clutch hitter. They have a club option on Galvis for the 2020 season at $5.5 million. Let’s hope the Reds aren’t overthinking this.

Q: Managing is not rocket science, so why isn’t Phillip Ervin starting every day? — RICK, Vandalia.

A: Ervin, a right handed hitter, only starts against left handed pitchers because Ervin is deadly to southpaws as TV animal star Steve Irvin was to crocodiles. Against lefties, Ervin is hitting .477 with two homers, three triples, four doubles and nine RBI. Against righties, he is hitting .271 with no homers, two triples, two doubles and four RBI. And Ervin is a nice pinch-hitting weapon when the opposition brings in a left handed relief pitcher. Ask Washington’s Sean Doolittle. One pitch, one home run.

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Q: Can you recall any Reds players taking as many called third strikes as Joey Votto? — ARCH, Beavercreek.

A: It does seem as if Votto disputes every called third strike. Guess what? He is correct on many. There is a stat out there that counts the number of times a player has been called out on dubious pitches. Since 2015, Votto has been called out on marginal pitches 40 times, fifth most in the majors, one behind Mike Trout. Last weekend umpire Angel Hernandez called Votto out three times on pitches that didn’t seem to be strikes. But as my old Little League coach, Dinky Barnes, always told us. With two strikes, don’t take anything close.

Q: Do you agree, looking at stolen base numbers and home run numbers that Reds manager David Bell should always bat Nick Senzel leadoff and Jesse Winker down in the order? — DENNIS, Huber Heights.

A: It’s the new-fangled analytics, the numbers game that is turning off so many fans. Bell bats Winker leadoff against right handed pitchers and Senzel bats leadoff against left handed pitchers. Under analytics, stolen bases are not important. So it doesn’t matter if an on-base guy with speed bats leadoff. It is all about exit speed and launch angle which leads to home runs. If it doesn’t spit positive out of a computer it isn’t important. Former Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky, who has been looking for a scouting job for two years, likes to call the guys working analytics out of computer Propeller Heads.

Q: Can the opponents challenge force plays at second base when the middle infielder appears to skim over the bag or cross it without the ball? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Absolutely. It used to be a middle infielder could get the out calls at second base if he was in the same zip code of second base while turning the double play. Now, with replay/review cameras watching, umpires try to make sure the fielder tags the bag with the ball in his possession. And his judgment can be challenged. Reds manager David Bell made that challenge once this year and was denied a reversal. But then not much has gone right for Bell this season.


Q: The Reds starting pitching has gone from a weakness to a strength, so who gets the credit, GM Nick Krall or pitching coach Derek Johnson? — JOHN, Oxford.

A: Why does there have to be credit? Krall deserves positive vibes (along with President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams) for making the deals that brought Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray and Alex Wood into the clubhouse. Those three already knew how to pitch so Derek Johnson can’t get much credit. I’ll aim it his way when he fixes what ails Anthony DeSclafani and some of the bullpen stragglers.

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