Reds players huddle around Billy Hatcher before batting practice on Monday, May 7, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

Hal McCoy on baseball: Reds playing better, but ‘reality stinks’

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: If the Reds continue their winning ways will you own-up that you grossly underrated this team? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: So you call ‘winning ways’ one four-game series sweep over the injury-ravaged half-a-team Los Angeles Dodgers? I predicted the Reds to finish last with 74 victories. I may have overestimated them. They are 10 games behind the next-to-last place team. If they play .500 ball the rest of the season, a huge if, they’ll finish with 74 wins — my exact prediction. Reality stinks.

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Q: Instead of launching a mega-search for a new manager, why not remove the interim from Jim Riggleman’s title and give him a chance until he proves otherwise? — ROME, Cincinnati.

A: Jim Riggleman is my kind of manager — an old school baseball lifer, a no-nonsense honest and up front guy with more baseball knowledge than The Baseball Encyclopedia and the Official Rules of Baseball combined. Yes, he’d love to have the job and I’d love to see him get it. I also hoped the Reds would give Pete Mackanin a chance after the great job he did as interim manager in 2007. But they hired Dusty Baker. Maybe they’ll re-hire Baker? Nah.

Q: Years ago batters always checked their bats to make certain they didn’t hit the ball on the trademark and break their bats, but now they don’t do it so are bats made differently? — WORDMAN, Troy.

A: The first thing I learned before my first Little League game back in the Dark Ages was, “Don’t hit the ball on the trademark or the bat will break.” And I heard it right through college ball. Then, as a baseball writer, I asked a Louisville Slugger representative about it. He laughed. Turns out it is an old players’ myth. The trademark is applied randomly and no part of the bat barrel is stronger or weaker. Next they are going to tell me it is OK to step on the foul lines between innings and not have bad luck.

Q: All major league parks have different dimensions and configurations in the outfield and only the infield dimensions are the same, making baseball unique, so can you think of any other sport with unequal venues? — MESA BILL, Tipp City.

A: Football, same. Basketball, same. Hockey, same. Tennis, same. But, how about golf? No two courses are alike and not one that I ever conquered. Some boxing rings are sized differently, none big enough for me to ever hide in. And no two auto racing tracks are the same and none that I could ever drive.

Q: What kind of living accommodations do players have when they are optioned back and forth from the minors to the majors and back to the minors? — BRENT, Kettering.

A: Players are provided short term hotel accommodations and if they stick with the major league team for more than a couple of weeks they are required to pay for their own living quarters, be it hotel or apartment or condo. A lot of the younger players bunk together in apartments and share the expenses. When they establish themselves they’ll rent condos for the season, some as large as Carnegie Hall.

Q: The first place Atlanta Braves claimed pitcher Chad Bell off waivers from the Detroit Tigers and as strapped as the last place Reds are for pitching why wouldn’t they claim Bell? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: Is he a relative? Why would you get overwrought about the Reds not signing a pitcher with a career record over two years of 0-and-4 with an 8.59 earned run average? He was a 15th round draft pick by the Texas Rangers, so he never was a top prospect. He is a relief pitcher and there is nothing wrong with the current Reds bullpen, until it has to be overused. Why would the Braves sign him? Well, they immediately shipped him to the minors where they might have needed a body to fill out a roster spot. Chad Bell would not add anything to the Reds now or in the future. He is no Gary Bell and I know you are old enough to know who Gary Bell was.

Q: Wasn’t there a rule that players could not use tape or wraps on their bat grips because now I see tape and wraps on bats and I wonder if they changed the rule? — MIKE, Fairborn.

A: As a kid we used taped-up bats all the time because our bats were broken and rescued from local amateur teams and tape held them together. Most players use pine tar to make the handles sticky and easier to grip. More and more use tape and tennis-type grips. Ken Griffey Jr. used to spend hours taping and re-taping his bats in a precise manner. There never was a rule against it and it is all part of baseball evolution.

Q: Everyone is so excited about Matt Harvey joining the Reds, but do you have any stories about umpire Doug Harvey? — RON, Vandalia.

A: Doug Harvey, a Hall of Fame umpire, was nicknamed ‘God’ by the players because his decisions were always rendered as if they came from on-high, authoritative and non-negotiable. Harvey once was involved in a controversial decision at old Riverfront Stadium. The next day, there was a media horde and TV cameras waiting for him to arrive at the gate. I spotted him in the parking lot and told him what awaited him. I directed him to another entrance to avoid the media scrum. He thanked me profusely, never forgot it and became a friend. And because I escorted him to the alternate entrance, I got the story exclusively. Thanks, God. Matt and Doug are not related. Matt would never admit he is related to an umpire.

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