Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge with an email to email@example.com.
Q: You have never liked the designated hitter and you oppose interleague play, the replay review and the no-pitch intentional walk. Have there been any changes to the game that float your boat? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: You forgot the no running over the catcher, the no sliding hard into infielders at second base to break up a double play, the long pants that cover the stirrup socks and the long scraggly beards sprouting up on players. Whatever happened to Gillette? There haven’t been many rules changes in the last 30 years to my liking. Yes, I could have been one of the Grumpy Old Men.
Q: Has Bryan Price lost the team? Because the players do not seem to be hustling like they were the first part of the season? — MICHELLE, Indianapolis.
A: When a team is losing, especially when it falls behind by four or five runs early in games, it is difficult to believe a team is hustling. But have you seen the diving defensive plays by Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton? Have you seen a guy like Scott Schebler, buried in a dismal slump, nearly beat out every ground ball he hits? As for Price, he is highly respected in the clubhouse for his communication with all the players, his baseball knowledge and his hard work. When a manager loses the clubhouse the players grumble and complain. Not one player has aimed criticism at the manager’s office. They lay the blame where it belongs — on themselves.
Q: At Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium, foul ground from home plate to the backstop seems short. Is there a rule about what the distance should be? — LARRY, Piqua.
A: There is a rule and it says 60 feet. But the rule is ignored, especially with all the newer stadiums. They are built in urban areas and real estate is limited. Great American Ball Park is stuffed into a piece of property call The Wedge. So teams fudge on the distance from home plate to the backstop. Space between the foul lines and the stands in some parks is snug, too. Catchers, though, love the 45 to 50 feet from home plate to the backstop. That’s less distance to chase wild pitches.
Q: Why are hitters who make outs on fly balls and ground balls given RBIs? — TONYA, Pensacola, Fla.
A: When I played I led the league in fly balls to the warning track and ground balls to second. Those were the only ways I could get an RBI. But I’ve often wondered why a hitter gets an RBI for a fly ball or a ground out. And why does a batter not get charged with an at-bat on a fly ball that scores a run, but a batter who grounds out and produces a run is charged with an at-bat. Baseball has many curious rules. But they can’t change those rules now or they’d have to go back and subtract RBIs from the careers of players who hit sacrifice flies and drove in runs with ground balls. That would make them very angry.
Q: Why are the Reds constantly talking about using spring training next year to figure out what their 2018 pitching rotation will be? — CHAD, Lima.
A: I have not heard any member of the Reds staff say that. In fact, manager Bryan Price constantly says they are using the rest of this season to make decisions on next year’s rotation. That’s why they’ve used eight rookie starters already, hoping one or two sticks to the wall and learns how to throw quality strikes. If they don’t find five good men, they’ll have to start all over next spring to find a rotation and that’s not a good thing.
Q: What makes fans believe Barry Larkin will make a better manager than Bryan Price? — STOCC, Miamisburg.
A: There is no doubt Barry Larkin some day will make a good manager. He has the patience and the wisdom to work with young players, as he shows during spring training and with the minor league players. Now, though, is not the time. He would do no better than Bryan Price with this team. Nor would Sparky Anderson. Price is the right guy for a rebuild. Maybe when the Reds are ready to compete — if and when — Larkin might have the right stuff.
Q: Do you see any similarities between Luis Castillo and Mario Soto? — JOHN, Oxford.
A: Yes, very much. At this early stage of his career, Castillo has the same stature and the same competitive fire and nature as Soto. Fastballs and changeups were Soto’s staples and the same with Castillo. Castillo throws harder, but with a changeup thrown with the same motion and mechanics as his fastball, hitters were helpless against Soto. Unfortunately, Soto pitched for some bad Reds teams and lost some close games. Castillo is pitching for a bad team, too, but hopefully things get better before he becomes eligible for free agency or hurts his arm.
Q: Do you think the Reds are close enough to contending in 2018 for management to sign a top free agent pitcher? — BRAD, Dayton.
A: No, absolutely not. Before that is even considered the Reds must figure out what they have and what they don’t have for a starting rotation. Let us consider the 2018 contenders: Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Scott Feldman, Luis Castillo, Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano, Rookie Davis, Amir Garrett, Jackson Stephens, Asher Wojciechowski, Tim Adleman. That’s 12 guys, if I didn’t miss anybody, for five spots. And if they can’t find the right mix from those guys, Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen would love to be in the rotation. The Reds certainly aren’t ready to toss big money at a free agent pitcher and I’m not certain any top-of-the-line pitcher wants to pitch in Great American Ball Park more than he would have to.
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