Ask Hal: Will 2023 be Joey Votto’s final season?

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 halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: How would Pete Rose have handled the shift if he was still playing today? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: If he was playing today, he’d be 81 years old and most likely could still hit if they had a courtesy runner for him. Teams would be foolish to shift on him because he hit from foul line-to-foul line, spraying the ball to all corners of the field, batting both left and right. If they did shift, he’d probably hit .350.

Q: If Joey Votto has an outstanding season next year, will it still be his last season? -- JOE, Kettering

A: Originally, I thought so. But after listening to his lengthy comments during his appearances on the Bally Sports Ohio broadcasts, I’m not so sure. He talks as if he’d like to continue playing into his 40′s. He’ll make $25 million next year, but it won’t be his choice for 2024. That is in the hands of the team, which holds a $20 million option. That means Pal Joey would take a $5 million pay cut to play in 2024, but money doesn’t appear to be an obsession with Votto. If the team wants him to go away after 2023, they can buy him out for $7 million.

Q: Were there any non-regulars from The Big Red Machine who would be superstars on the current Reds? — LARRY, Washingtoin Twp.

A: Ah, the forgotten men of the BRM. Hey, there were extra players on the 1982 101-loss team that might be stars on this year’s team that has used 65 different players. From the 1975 team, though, there were some players who wouldn’t be superstars, but they would be good players — outfielders Joel Youngblood, Ed Armbrister and Mike Lum, infielder Doug “Magic Glove” Flynn and maybe catcher Bill Plummer. But who knows on Plummer? He was Johnny Bench’s back-up and seldom got to play.

Q: Of all the Reds players you’ve covered, who were the best five-tool players? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: For the uninitiated, the five tools of baseball are speed, defense, arm, hitting for average and hitting with power. As good as major league players are it is rare for one to have all five tools. In my 49 years covering baseball I can think of only three Reds — Joe Morgan, Eric Davis, Ken Griffey Jr., although due to injuries Reds fan seldom got to see all five tools owned by Griffey when he played in Seattle. When I played briefly at Kent State, the coaches kept looking for one tool from me but never found it.

Q: Baseball is the only sport which has no definite field size, so why is this and is there any thoughts about standardizing the size of the field. — MICHAEL, Maricopa, Ariz.

A: Of course, the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate and the distance between bases is the same in all baseball parks. The difference is in the distances to home run fences. That’s because most ball parks are built inside large cities and must fit into the property available because it is surrounded by city streets. Stadiums must be built to fit the real estate and prime examples are Wrigley Field and Fenway Park with the 37-foot Green Monster in front of Massachusetts. Great American Small Park is small because it wedged into a small wedge of property stuffed between a four-lane highway and the Ohio River. There is no move afoot to standardize outfield fences but stay tuned to commissioner Rob Manfred because you never know.

Q: Did you see the TV interview with former Reds pitcher Danny Herrera, who is now an artist? — MARY, Crestwood, Ky.

A: I did not. I do know that in my time there were a couple of accomplished artists who played for the Reds and sold their art. Gene Locklear, a Native American from Lumberton, N.C., painted portraits. Pitcher Rawly Eastwick’s mentor was noted artist Andrew Wyeth. All I know about Herrera is that he was extremely small in stature. The team was in Philadelphia the week they ran the Preakness in Baltimore when Herrera was called up. When he walked into the clubhouse for the first time, carrying a bag as big as him, Ken Griffey Jr. said to him, “Hey, didn’t I see you riding in the Preakness yesterday?”

Q: Is it still fun to write during this miserable part of the season or are you counting the days until it’s over? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: For me it is always fun to write. . .about anything. Yes, it would be more fun if the Reds were competitive, only because readership is higher. Who wants to read about consistent losers? But there is always something to write about, good or bad. For instance, this weekend the Reds played the St. Louis Cardinals and there was Albert Pujols and his pursuit of 700 home runs. But, yes, I DO get tired of writing about how pathetic the Reds’ bullpen is.

Q: How is it more profitable for the Reds to field a 100-loss team which no one wants to follow than it is to field a competitive team that might fill the stadium? — VICKY, Dayton.

A: Firstly, as bad as this team is, it won’t lose 100. As of this writing, they were 56-86 and would have to go 6-14 the rest of the way to lose 100. Uh, well, maybe they can. These days, TV money is where the profits are for major league teams. Attendance doesn’t mean much, and the Reds sure prove it with their red sea of empty seats. But as far as the fan base, of course they thirst for a winner. Right now, it doesn’t appear the front office knows how to exactly build one during their years and years in rebuilding mode.

Q: Do you watch MLB not involving the Reds and what players on other teams make you perk up in the man cave? — MATT, Englewood.

A: As a baseball junkie, I sure do. I watch the New York Yankees to see if Aaron Judge can hit 62 home runs. I watch the St. Louis Cardinals to follow Albert Pujols and his pursuit of 700 homers, plus I love watching Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. I even stay up until the wee hours to watch Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. Right now, though, I never miss Ohio State football and Cleveland Browns football (yes, I’m a masochist).

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