Hal McCoy: Reds four-man outfield rotation could bruise some egos

The Reds’ Jesse Winker singles against the Padres on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

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The Reds’ Jesse Winker singles against the Padres on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

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: Without asking Siri, how many captains of major league baseball teams can you name? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

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A: I never ask Siri anything. I ask Google. I can name one, because there is only one. He is David Wright of the New York Mets and I know this because it was in this newspaper about a week ago. For the Cincinnati Reds, Pete Rose was a captain, Barry Larkin was a captain and Dave Concepcion was the last. Holding the title until he retired. A better question might be what a baseball team captain does. I don’t know and neither Siri nor Google knows.

Q: When I played softball we always had four outfielders, so how can the Reds get Jesse Winker, Billy Hamilton, Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler in the outfield at the same time? — RON, Vandalia.

A — My softball teams also had four outfielders, but we had 10 men on the field, which was legal. Unless the National League suddenly adopts the designated hitter, there is no way manager Bryan Price can get all four on the field at once, unless he takes an infielder out of the lineup. Wouldn’t that be special? Alternating the four guys among three positions is going to be a dicey prospect for Price without bruising some egos.

Q: In your 45-year career of covering baseball, who is the player who surprised you most with their success? — STOCC, Miamisburg.

A: There are many suspects in this category, but pitcher John Franco comes to mind quickly. He was a fifth-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers and they traded him to the Reds for infielder Rafael Landestoy, a first-degree felony perpetrated by the Reds. In six years Franco recorded 148 saves for the Reds. Then they traded the diminutive left-hander to the New York Mets for Randy Myers. That seemed a fair trade as Myers was part of The Nasty Boys bullpen in Cincinnati. But he pitched only two years for the Reds while Franco pitched 14 more years for the Mets and added 276 more saves. The feisty Franco said everybody told him he was too small and would never last. He only lasted 20 years in the majors.

Q: If you were the manager, would you prefer to carry two or three catchers? — MARK, Kettering.

A: If I managed, I’d prefer three players at every position, just in case. But a 25-man roster prohibits that. In the case of the Reds, I’d prefer three. They are only carrying two and Tucker Barnhart is No. 1. That leaves No. 2 catcher Devin Mesoraco on the bench as one of the best pinch-hitters. But Price doesn’t dare use him early in games. If he does and Barnhart gets hurt later in the game Price has no catcher. It’s a dilemma most teams have, but most back-up catchers are not the pinch-hitting threat that Mesoraco will be (if he stays away from the scalpel).

Q: What happened to MLB having no smokeless tobacco for players during the game? — RUTH, Cincinnati.

A: MLB bans the distribution of smokeless tobacco by clubhouse personnel, just as beer and liquor are not supplied by the team. If players want to use smokeless tobacco, it’s BYOST (bring your own smokeless tobacco). What MLB does is clubhouse seminars about the dangers. Tony Gwynn, one of baseball’s all-time best hitters, was a daily smokeless tobacco user and died of cancer of the mouth. That alone should care most players away from it, but it doesn’t.

Q: What are the top five changes in the game since you graduated from Kent State? – RICHARD, Tipp City.

A: I graduated from KSU in 1962, so the first big change was when the lowered the mound from 15 inches high to 10 inches high for the 1969 season. Pitchers were dominating so that there was no hitting and little scoring. By lowering the mound they ‘leveled’ the playing field. Then there was free agency in 1976, making players multi-millionaires and causing fans to wonder who would and who would not be on their favorite team next year. Then there was the designated hitter, loved by American League fans and hated by National League fans. Why are the two leagues playing by different rules? Then there was interleague play, which was good at first but has outlived its usefulness and dilutes the playoffs and World Series. Then came replay/review, the most boring part of a baseball game and after all the reviewing they still get it wrong at times.

Q: How does the Reds scouting department rank with the other clubs? JAY, Englewood.

A: That’s difficult to answer because I’m not privy to the inner workings of a team’s scouting department, not even the Reds. It is very easy to identify the top talent each year, guys like Hunter Greene and Nick Senzel. The tough part is finding the middle-of-the-pack draftees who might succeed. I’d say the Reds are in the middle of the pack. St. Louis has to be near the top because the Cardinals are so adept at filling holes with talent from their minor league system.

Q: Do you feel Bryan Price mismanages the pitching staff, considering the fact he was a pitching coach? — CHUCK, West Carrollton.

A: No, I don’t. He does the best with what he has. In fact, he probably protects those young arms better than most managers would. It is not his fault that pitchers can’t go more than five or six innings, night after night. Yes, he wore out the bullpen last year, but what option did he have? He can permit the starters to go deeper into games and get their brains beat in or he can go to the bullpen and try to rescue a game. He is doomed if he does and doomed if he doesn’t.


Q: There have been a number of great small in stature hitters like Wee Willie Keeler, Pee Wee Reese and Phil Rizzuto, but do you think (Houston’s) Jose Altuve may surpass them all in the record books? BILL, Mesa, Ariz.

A: Keeler was only 5-foot-4, but played in the 1890s and early 1900s when most players were under 6-feet tall. He had more than 2,900 hits and a .341 career batting average, but the game was much different in that era. Reese and Rizzuto are both in the Hall of Fame, but they weren’t known as offensive players. Altuve is listed as 5-foot-6, but I saw a 5-foot-4 batboy standing next to him and they were equal in height. No matter. Altuve is truly The Little Big Man. The guy’s is an incredible hitter, including power. I’d say he will far bypass what Reese and Rizzuto ever dreamed of doing.

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