Ask Hal: Cueto better than Rijo? Postseason will tell

Hall-of-fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about America’s pastime. If you’d like to tap into that knowledge, send a question to For more Ask Hal, log on to

Q: I can’t find the article you wrote during spring training saying you would shave your head if the Cincinnati Reds won the division. — Dave, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek

A: You can go back as far as the Dead Sea Scrolls or the day they printed the first Gutenberg Bible and you won’t find it. It was never written. Samson and I had a pact that we’d never cut our hair off. He reneged. I won’t. The world isn’t ready to see my bald head.

Q: As Reds Country gets geared up for the postseason, who is the better ace, Jose Rijo in 1990 or Johnny Cueto this year? — Pat, Troy

A: File this under “to be determined.” Rijo was 14-8 in 1990 and Cueto has already passed that. But Rijo had a 2.70 ERA, similar to Cueto’s. But the big measuring stick is that Rijo was 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA, winning two of the four games the Reds won in sweeping Oakland and the Bash Brothers (Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire) in the World Series. And he was World Series MVP. That’s an Oscar-winning performance for Cueto to match — if he gets to pitch in the World Series.

Q: Have the Reds had an Asian player and why have they eschewed pursing them? — M.A., Dayton

A: Outfielder Mike Lum (1976-79) was of Asian descent, but he was born in Honolulu. In 2004, the Reds traded pitcher Chris Reitsma to Atlanta for Korean relief pitcher Jung-Kuen Bong. He lasted three games (1-1, 4.70) and was released in May. He returned to Korea and was never heard from again. The Reds have had a scouting presence in the Pacific Rim but are still looking for their Ichiro or Dice-K.

Q: Many of Barry Bonds’ home runs were hit so far that the assumption has to be that they would have been out of any park, so shouldn’t he be a first-ballot Hall of Famer? — Gary, Bjerkvik, Norway

A: Mark McGwire hit them farther than Bonds and he can’t get 25 percent of the Hall of Fame votes. But was he a Hall of Famer even without the controversy? Only in home runs. Bonds was an all-around player, good enough to excel without the use of performance enhancers. But home run distances (enhanced or not) have nothing to do with Hall of Fame status. Maybe he can make the True Value Hardware Tape Measure Hall of Fame.

Q: There have been three perfect games this year, something that has never happened. Are pitchers more specialized, are batters less patient or are we fans just lucky? — Roger, Dayton

A: Pitchers are becoming much more sophisticated with their assortment of pitches and scouts tell me that the pitching prospects are far superior to the hitting prospects. Still, a pitcher has to have a lot of luck on defense and on where balls are hit to pitch a perfect game.

Q: Who was the last Rookie of the Year not to be on his team’s Opening Day roster? — Mark, Bloomington, Ind.

A: Are you asking because of Todd Frazier or Bryce Harper? Neither was on his team’s Opening Day roster. Neither was Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria in 2008. But just a few days into the season Willy Aybar went on the DL and Longoria was called up on April 12, even though he was not on the 40-man roster. Amazingly, six days later he was signed to a six-year, $17.5 million contract and went on to win AL Rookie of the Year. How’s that for instant success?

Q: What are your thoughts on keeping Ryan Ludwick for another year and how much would it take? — Mark, Columbus

A: All for it. After an awful April when fans wanted to chop off GM Walt Jocketty’s fingers for signing him, Ludwick has resurrected his career and helped carry the Reds. Yes, bring him back. He is fabulous with the media, too. And it won’t take much because he is grateful the Reds gave him this chance when many in baseball thought he was burnt rye. If the club wants to bring him back all it has to do is exercise a $5 million option on his contract. He’s worth it.

Q: If the Reds activate Joey Votto for the St. Louis series next weekend before the Sept. 1 call-ups, who is the odd man out to make room? — Dan, Corry, Pa.

A: The Reds are going to be more cautious with Votto this time, especially with the large lead they have and the way they’ve played without him. “Who needs him?” said Scott Rolen (he was kidding, smiling broadly). Most likely he’ll be activated Sept. 1 when rosters can be expanded and nobody will lose his job.

Q: Because Dusty Baker isn’t afraid to rest even his hottest hitters, the Reds have had few injuries, the players are rested and the extra players are sharp. Is this Dusty Baker’s genius or is this method spelled out in the Manager’s Manual? — Paul, Fairborn.

A: It is Dusty’s way and despite heavy criticism over his methods it certainly is working. Manager’s Manual? I’ve checked every library, including the one in Cooperstown, and there is no such volume. As do most successful managers, Baker does it by feel and rote.

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