Ask Hal: Hitting coach not to blame for Reds’ struggles

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 halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: Basketball and football have prospered by changing some rules, like the 3-point line in basketball and passing rules in football, so what must baseball do to save the sport? — DAVE, MIAMISBURG/CENTERVILLE/BEAVERCREEK

A: Baseball is not in the same category as the whales and manatees. It doesn’t need saving. It is prospering like it never prospered before. And it has changed, more drastically than any sport, with the DH and interleague play. Personally, the game probably would be better off without the DH and interleague play, but Bud Selig didn’t ask me.

Q: Who as a hitter, young or old, has improved under hitting coach Brook Jacoby? — BRIAN, NORTHRIDGE

A: Jay Bruce has improved every year. Joey Votto never had the success in the minors he is having in the majors. But giving Jacoby credit for all of that is giving too much credit, just as blaming him for others’ lack of success is giving him too much blame. Professional players are supposed to know how to hit, how to approach an at-bat, when they make the majors. Jacoby watches video and batting practice and corrects flaws and hitches. It is up to the players to carry it out to the batter’s box. Jacoby isn’t allowed to hold their hands.

Q: It seems the farther west the Cincinnati Reds go the less success they have. Is that why they have never won a game in Honolulu? — DAVID, SPRINGFIELD

A: They lost one very big game in Honolulu in the winter of 1977 when the winter meetings were held in the Sheraton-Waikiki. They traded minor-league first baseman Dave Revering for All-Star pitcher Vida Blue and $1 million. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepped in and said, “No, no, no, not good for baseball,” and negated the deal. What most fans don’t remember, though, is that two months later the Reds still traded Revering to Oakland — for relief pitcher Doug Bair, who became an efficient closer.

Q: Can a trade be made to bring in somebody with Scott Rolen’s leadership and clubhouse credentials to reverse this trend of lackadaisical play? — DAVID, LEXINGTON, KY.

A: No, no, a thousand times no. You can’t bring in an outsider and say “lead us to the promised land.” Leadership and respect have to be earned over time in a clubhouse and a new face can’t do it. And a team only looks lackadaisical when it isn’t hitting and winning. You can’t look fired up when you are getting shut out.

Q: How long can the Reds continue to give manager Dusty Baker a pass in his handling of this team? — LARRY, DOUGLASVILLE, GA.

A: He doesn’t need a pass. All the security people recognize him and he walks right into the stadium. I’m not sure what it means for a manager to “handle” a team. He plays the players given to him, replaces injured players with the best alternatives, puts players in spots best suited to their situations and turns them loose. How they play is up to them. If fans want a handler, the Reds should hire a lion tamer.

Q: With the Reds’ record against winning teams under .400, don’t you think it is time for a change on the 25-man roster? — DAVE, DAYTON

A: Change for the sake of change seldom works. Isn’t it too early to start cleaning out the clubhouse? It’s not like the Reds are the Los Angeles Dodgers or Toronto Blue Jays, tremendously underachieving teams. And they aren’t the Cubs or the Brewers. They’ve held it together pretty well through some adversity that might have buried other teams. Patience, patience, patience.

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