A: Oh, the old Houston Lastros? They had a three-year span in which they lost 106, 107 and 111 games. I’d like to say they are better now because they switched from the National League to the American League, but that’s not true. They lost 111 games their first year in the AL (2013). Now, indeed, they are the talk of baseball. And the Reds are trying to follow the Astros game plan by rebuilding from scratch. The Astros made some brilliant high draft picks and that’s what the Reds are trying to do, along with trading high-priced veterans for prospects. The Astros became competitive in 2015 with 86 wins. That’s three years removed from the 111 losses. So, if all goes as planned, the Reds should “arrive” in 2020.
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Q: My brother wonders if pitchers have a higher earned-run average when Devin Mesoraco is catching. Can you find that data? — JEFF, Springboro.
A: Did your brother forget to pay his WiFi bill? With Devin Mesoraco on the disabled list, does it really matter? Tucker Barnhart is doing most of the catching. To me, a catcher’s ERA is another of those many ridiculous statistics baseball tracks. The catcher catches the ball (as his position name indicates) and the pitcher pitches the ball (as his position name indicates). A ball belongs to a pitcher, not a catcher. Anyway, neither Reds catcher owns a good ERA. Barnhart’s is 4.53, 21st in MLB. Mesoraco hasn’t caught enough games to be rated in the top 30, but his ERA for 10 starts is 6.05.
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Q: Why did Billy Hatcher move from first base coach to third and was it his choice, because that is a tougher job with more scrutiny? — BECKY, Trenton.
A: Your assessment is right on. In 44 years of covering baseball I have never asked a first base coach a question about his performance (or what it is he actually does other than collect batting gloves), but third base coaches are often asked, usually after a runner is thrown out, “Why did you send the guy home?” Hatcher, a guy with a brilliant baseball mind, moved from first to third (his choice) when long-time third base coach Mark Berry was battling cancer. Hatcher, by the way, has been excellent.
Q: Are you in favor of MLB retiring Roberto Clemente’s No. 21 like they did No. 42 for Jackie Robinson? — MARK, Dayton.
A: Roberto Clemente may be the best all-around player I ever saw, even though I only saw him briefly. And we all know what a great humanitarian he was. He died in a plane crash — a plane loaded with provisions he paid for that was headed for Nicaraguan earthquake victims. But if they start retiring numbers indiscriminately, where will it end? So many players would deserve it that they’d run out of numbers. To me, Jackie Robinson is enough. What he did and what he went through is worthy. Let’s stop it at “42.”
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Q: What do you think about expansion? — RON, Cincinnati.
A: I just came back from vacation and the expansion of my waistline concerns me greatly. Oh, baseball expansion? I am in favor of expanding to two cities and for one reason only. That would give MLB 32 teams, 16 in each league. Right now there are 30 teams, 15 in each league. That means there has to be an interleague series going on at all times. Maybe if they expand to 16 teams in each league they can do away with interleague play, which has long outlived its novelty. The so-called Ohio Cup between the Reds and Indians actually draws snickers from those involved. Nobody really cares. How about returning to Montreal and putting a team in Las Vegas?
The Reds’ Eugenio Suarez, right, slaps hands with third-base coach Billy Hatcher after a home run against the Brewers on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Q: Why does it seem to me that Eugenio Suarez is just going through the motions at bat? — AL, Troy.
A: I can’t answer that because I don’t really know what going through the motions means. I have never seen a major leaguer not try to get a hit. When a player struggles, as Suarez has lately, he is frustrated and swings at bad pitches, takes good pitches and looks lost. No player wants to look bad, so they’d never go through the motions. And Suarez’s time with the Reds is probably on a short rope because Nick Senzel, last year’s No. 1 draft pick, is on a quick ascent.
Q: I was in Columbus watching a minor league game and saw a timer near the dugout that started at 20 seconds before each pitch was thrown, but even if it got to zero before the pitch was thrown nothing happened. What was it for? — KARL, Jamestown.
A: What you saw was the dreaded pitch clock and it soon will be coming to your nearest major league park. It is only used in the minors right now on an experimental basis. But it appears it will make its major league debut next year. A pitcher is given 20 seconds from the time he gets the baseball to make a pitch. If he doesn’t beat the clock, a ball is called. If the umpires didn’t call a ball when the Columbus clock reached :00, they were sleeping on the job. Maybe they need to put an alarm on the clock when it hits :00 to keep the umpires awake. And I fear baseball, with a time clock, is turning itself into the NBA.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Q: After watching the Reds for years, I’m convinced they are at the bottom of the league in successful bunts, so when we yell at the TV, should we blame the coaches for not insisting the pitchers and position players practice bunting during the season? — DENNY, Beavercreek.
A: It is more evident to you because you watch the Reds. It is prevalent throughout baseball. Bunting is no longer an art, it is a disgrace. And don’t blame the coaches. Teams work on bunting every day during batting practice, especially the pitchers. But bunting a 96-mph fastball with movement isn’t easy. And bunting a diving split-fingered pitch is even more difficult. Pitchers don’t just lay in an easy pitch to bunt. They try to defend it, just as they try to defend home runs. Unfortunately for them, they are more successful defending bunts than they are home runs these days.