Ask Hal: Will the Cincinnati Reds spend more on free agents this offseason?

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 can we see all baseball players as the same regardless of nationality when the media promote Eugenio Suarez as having the most home runs in a season by a Venezuelan-born player? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A; Baseball players are not all the same. Nobody in any profession is the same as another person in the same profession. And that’s another thing that makes baseball so great, the diversity. You have players from the U.S., the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Japan, Korea, Canada, Curacao, Colombia, Panama. It is a baseball United Nations. And national pride is huge in baseball, so there is nothing wrong with saying a player is the best from his country. Like crying, there is no xenophobia in baseball.

»MCCOY: This one belongs to Marty Brennaman

»RELATED: Marty thanks Reds fans

Q: The Reds did escape last place this year but they still smell just as bad as the previous four last-place teams, so do you see Bob Castellini finally spending money he doesn’t have to make the team better? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: Thank the baseball gods for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who made it possible for the Reds to climb out of the cellar. It remains to be seen if the Reds continue to go dumpster-diving (with some success) or to spend money, which they have been reluctant to do. And don’t fool yourself, the team does have some money to spend, if they spend it wisely. How many people do you know who always spend their money wisely? They spent well on Sonny Gray (trade, then long-term contract). They need to do more of it.

Q: After Marty Brennaman’s retirement, do the Reds have any plans to make the radio and TV announcers consistent each game because this year when you turned on a game you were never sure who you would hear or see? — KYLE, Dayton.

A: The Reds have made no announcement about future broadcasting plans. I feel your pain. The Reds lead baseball in mascots, bobbleheads and broadcasters. Fans like consistency from the booth, but the Reds roster of broadcasters on radio and TV is lengthy. Sometimes when you turn on a game it takes a while to identify the voice(s) you hear. The days of Marty & Joe and nobody else are gone and that’s a shame.

Q: Joey Votto has a no-trade clause but I wonder if he would consider a trade to a contender in the waning years of his contract? — TOM, Dayton.

A: Why do so many people want to see Joey Votto gone? He has had a down year, for him, but has picked it up since he came out of his peek-a-boo stance and become a stand-up guy. Yes, he has a no-trade clause and he plans to keep using it. He continues to say he wants to stay in Cincinnati until the end and he firmly believes the Reds will become a contender before the end of his contract. He has more faith than I do.

Q: Marty Brennaman said it best when he opined that the Reds have played with no heart since the All-Star break, so what makes manager David Bell believe he can reverse the losing mentality? — DALE, Carlisle.

A: Don’t put it all on a rookie manager’s shoulders. Aim the venom at the front office, the people who put the players in Reds’ uniforms. When a team loses it always looks as if it is playing with no heart. I beg to differ. This year’s team constantly shows heart by never quitting and battling to the final out. Because of a lack of talent they fall short more often than not. But they do have heart. It takes more than heart to win baseball games.

Q: Projecting Joey Votto’s career statistics, do you believe that Joey Votto is a candidate for The Very Good Hall of Fame or the real Hall of Fame? — BOB, Washington Twp.

A: It is impossible to project what Votto will do in the remaining years of his contract. Right now he has been, indeed, a very good player, sometimes great. There is no Very Good Hall of Fame and right now I would say he is above very good, but borderline Hall of Fame. If I voted right now, I’d say yes. But I have to let his career play out. Let’s hope he doesn’t stick around too long.

Q: Why do they refer to a catcher’s gear as “the tools of ignorance” when I always thought a catcher had to be fairly intelligent? — KEITH, Butler Twp.

A: There is a reason that so many major league managers are former catchers. They run the game and a great case in point is Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals. He is a manager on the field. And most catchers are. The “tools of ignorance” comes from the fact that it takes a brave man to be a catcher and some believe a guy has to be stupid to strap on the gear. Why? Because, despite all the protective gear, the catcher takes a beating from foul tips. And he catches every pitch that isn’t hit, even on hot July days. No catcher escapes his career without broken and gnarled fingers. Johnny Bench says he had seven protective cups shattered by foul tips during his career. And if you see him now, he can hardly walk.

Q: Are umpires paid by the game and do they get extra compensation if a game goes extra innings? — MIKE, Englewood.

A: You must be a high school or sandlot umpire who gets paid $50 or $75 a game to take abuse from parents. Not in the majors. Umpires are paid salaries and the longer you umpire the more money you make. None make as much as the lowest paid major league player, which is $540,000. But it is still a lucrative career. Rookie umpires make $150,000 a year and the top umps make as much as $450,000. They also get $500 a day for expenses and the league pays their travel and hotel bills. And they don’t take as much abuse as sandlot arbiters.

Q: What do you think about the possibility of a kickball team in Great American Ball Park, a game we all player in grade school with the same rules as baseball? — DAVE, Kettering.

A: I always thought kickball was soccer. But now that you mention it, I remember playing kickball, played with a soccer ball, in grade school. I loved the rule that you could throw the ball at a baserunner and if you hit them they were out. You can’t do that in baseball or rosters would be depleted from injuries by the All-Star break. Kickball was fun, but I don’t see it on ESPN and if it’s not on ESPN it isn’t legitimate, right?

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