Ask Hal: Will the Reds stay the course with rebuild?

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

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: Are MLB executives aware that Max Scherzer will make more money this season than the entire roster of the Baltimore Orioles? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Not quite. The New York Mets will pay Scherzer $43.3 million, and the Orioles’ projected payroll is $44.7 million. But what’s $1.4 million among baseball friends? Salaries and payrolls are the great inequities of baseball. And if MLB execs are not aware of it, they have their heads buried behind second base.

Q: How does Cincinnati Reds general manager Nick Krall’s rebuild differ from those of the past? — STOCC, Miamisburg.

A: This one hasn’t failed yet, as others have. This one, though, is in its infancy. This one involves not signing big ticket free agents. It is about acquiring young prospects/suspects and developing their own players. The key question is whether they will stay the course? And when the rebuild is complete, will they be able to keep those players or lose them to free agency? It is the vicious circle of baseball life.

Q: Of all the rules changes implemented in the last few years, do you like any? — ROBERT, Big Canoe, Ga.

A: I love the banishment of the shift so that the third baseman no longer can play short right field. That also means that teams no longer can employ the five-man infield by moving the center fielder into the infield. It surprised me last season that when one of the Reds’ awful relief pitchers came into the game, they didn’t put the catcher in the outfield. . .and play him deep. And I despise the ghost runner in extra-inning games, a guy placed on second base who didn’t earn it.

Q: Who do you think was the best owner and manager combination for the Reds? — THOMAS, Dayton.

A: That’s a slam dunk and the current ownership isn’t in the top 10. That would be the Bob Howsam-Sparky Anderson duo. Howsam constructed The Big Red Machine, putting it together to fit the AstroTurf fast track in Riverfront Stadium. Howsam provided the bodies and Anderson fit them together, put them on the field and let them play. And they did it all without a hint of analytics, a word nobody in baseball understood at the time.

Q: Which MLB team will surprise fans the most this year? — JOE, Kettering.

A: Way too early to surmise, but for sure it won’t be the Reds, unless they can finish .500. That would call for a party on Fountain Square. Mostly it will be the usual suspects — Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, Padres, Phillies. If I must pick a surprise team, I’ll take two from column B, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers.

Q: Will the Reds be able to keep three catchers busy? — DICK, Hendersonville, Tenn.

A: The plan is to protect No. 1 catcher Tyler Stephenson from injuries by using him a goodly number of games at first base and DH. Curt Casali, the veteran and former Red, will be the primary catcher behind Stephenson. Luke Maile is a band-aid ready to step in if/when the other two get hurt. Catchers always get hurt. It’s baseball’s version of the guys who walk the steel girders during construction of a 60-story building.

Q: Will the umpires stick to the rules or make up their own when it comes to the new pitch clock? — JASON, Dayton.

A: Umpires tend to be independent blokes and have a history of enforcing new rules during spring training and early in the season, then ignoring them. It won’t happen with the pitch clocks. Everybody is watching this one closely. And if it reduces length of games from 3:10 to 2:30, as it did last year in the minors, it will be enforced. Umpires like to get it over fast so they can spend their meal money.

Q: If the Reds were to copy another team’s rebuilding plan that succeeded, whose would it be? — LARRY, Washington, Twp.

A: While copying is rampant in baseball, one would hope the Reds have developed their own plan to fit their ways and means. Every franchise is an entity unto its own. However, a good blueprint for the Reds is just 250 miles northeast of Great American Ball Park. The Cleveland franchise is underfunded, short on fans and usually operates with a low payroll but is competitive nearly every season. Of course, manager Terry Francona plays a major part, too.

Q: What is your pre-keyboard routine before each paragraph, and will it be affected by the MLB pitch clock? — JON, Washington, Mo.

A: With newspaper deadlines, I always worked with a time clock as a beat writer. When Tom Browning pitched his perfect game in 1988, I had 15 minutes to write the story. Fortunately, I can type 120 words a minute. I don’t hesitate between paragraphs. I just hit the return key and keep my fingers flying and let the typos land where they may. And fortunately, the shift key on my laptop has not been banned.

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