Hal McCoy: Reds owner learns hard truth about winning

Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, former Red Dave Concepcion, owner Bob Castellini, former Red Barry Larkin and second baseman Brandon Phillips are introduced before a game against the Cardinals on Opening Day at Great American Ball Park on Monday, March 31, 2014, in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, former Red Dave Concepcion, owner Bob Castellini, former Red Barry Larkin and second baseman Brandon Phillips are introduced before a game against the Cardinals on Opening Day at Great American Ball Park on Monday, March 31, 2014, in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

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 halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: You have written that over the years you voted for this player or that player for the Cy Young, the Hall of Fame or MVP. Does that kind of status warrant having a bodyguard? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: You forgot Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year. You suggest bribery might be involved? Or maybe a threat because I didn't vote for somebody? I have never felt coercion nor have I ever been offered a bribe. The only need I might have for a bodyguard is to protect my cigar collection.
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Q: I thought after the 2010 season the Reds were destined to be winners for the rest of the decade, but now it feels like 2001-07 all over again. How long will it take to contend, because when I hear the front office say rebuild I prepare myself for 10 more years of misery? — WILL, Williamston, W.Va.

A: When Bob Castellini took over 12 years ago he said he intended to make the Reds winners again. Unfortunately, he discovered it isn’t that easy. In his 12 years, the Reds have lost more games than they did in the 12 years before he took over. Nobody wants to win more than Castellini, but it is a difficult process that involves solid drafting, good trades, good free agent signings and a full pot of luck. They have had good drafts in recent years and made some solid trades. It all depends on some of those young arms becoming solid big league pitchers because baseball begins (and sometimes ends) with pitching. It might take two years, it might take 10 and it might not happen in our lifetime. The Reds have had five winning seasons in their last 21. Not good.

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Q: Is Joey Votto’s focus more impressive since it is happening without the Reds playing meaningful games or does the lack of pennant race pressure make it easier? — LARRY, Centerville.

A: Votto’s concentration is meditation-like. His ability to shut out external distractions is incredible. It takes somebody with total focus to draw eight walks in nine plate appearances. And for Votto it doesn’t matter if the Reds are first or last, in or out of contention. Remember he won MVP in 2010 when the Reds won the division. Joey Votto is a breed unto himself.

Q: Why aren’t Jay Bruce’s total 2017 statistics (particularly HRs and RBIs) included in American League statistics as a member of the Cleveland Indian? — THAN, Urbana.

A: Bruce went from the National League New York Mets to the American League Cleveland Indians. For some silly, inexplicable reason, even though there is at least one interleague game nearly every day, AL and NL statistics are compiled separately. If Bruce had been traded to an NL team, his statistics would have continued. But with an AL team, he starts over. I assume it is because MVP, Cy Young and all awards are given for each league. I see no plausible reason his NL stats shouldn’t carry over to the AL, especially because there is so much interleague play. As so often happens in baseball, some of the rules make no sense.

Q: Of all the Reds’ young starting pitchers, who would you guess will have the best career? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: You asked it correctly. It’s a guess. So much can happen with young pitchers. Remember how great Amir Garrett started? Now he has disappeared. Luis Castillo, right now, looks the best because of his stuff and his composure. But, like Garrett’s fast start, it is a minuscule sampling. Hitters have seen much of him and haven’t adjusted. Will they? Or is he that good? Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle are showing flashes. Can they sustain it? We’ll see how they adjust when hitters adjust to them. But a guess? Luis Castillo, but hold your breath.

Q: Is it time for Little League to move back the distances on the basepaths and the fences because kids have outgrown the dimensions? — LARRY, Piqua.

A: I have said that for years. With aluminum bats, better baseballs and kids getting bigger and stronger and faster, Williamsport seems like the Little League version of Great American Small Park. I wouldn’t say that when I was a kid. We used wood bats and soggy baseballs. The fence was 200 feet from home plate and in two years I hit one home run. But until high school I was a shrimp. But some of the home runs you see hit in Williamsport these days would leave Great American. Move ‘em back.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of catcher Devin Mesoraco? — MARK, Dayton.

A: His future always seems to be permanent residence in the training room. The poor guy can’t stay healthy. That makes it very difficult to trade him. Tucker Barnhart probably is a better defensive catcher, but lacks Mesoraco’s power — when he is healthy, like 2014 when he hit 25 home runs. He hasn’t played more than 56 games since. Fortunately, the Reds system is full of high-quality catchers. Mesoraco has been paid nearly $15 the last three years when he basically couldn’t pay. They will pay him $13 million next year, the last year of his contract. I suspect next year is he last chance to stay healthy.

Q: I believe it’s time for a change in manager just because of the body language of some of the players. Do you agree? — BUD, Naples, Fla.

A: No, Bud, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Sometimes change is made just for change, to make fans believe the front office is doing something and the manager always takes the fall. But Bryan Price can’t be blamed for the abysmal pitching. And I see no body language problems. In fact, the team plays hard for Price. You see it time and again how hard the team tries to come from behind in games that appear hopelessly lost. He hasn’t lost the players. Not at all. But, of course, you can’t fire an entire team.

Q: I heard they are thinking about shutting down Luis Castillo soon, but don’t you think they’d want to build up his arm strength? — JAY, Englewood.

A: They aren’t thinking about it, they are going to do it. And he won’t be the only one of the young pitchers they will shut down due to innings limits. I’m with you. Pitchers are babied way too much these days. Castillo is just getting his feet firmly planted on the mound and they are going to take it away from him. It’s what they do these days, but that doesn’t make it right. There is no statistical data that this method works. Let ‘em pitch.


Q: If the trade deadline is July 31, how could the Mets trade Jay Bruce to the Indians after the deadline? And is he eligible for the playoffs? — DEAN, Eaton.

A: That is confusing to most fans. The July 31 deadline is a non-waiver deadline. That means teams can trade any player without putting him on waivers. After July 31, before a player can be traded he must be placed on waivers. That means any team can claim him without making a trade. If that player clears waivers (no team claims him) then he can be traded. If another team claims the player, his team can pull him off waivers and keep him or let him go. Yes, you will see Jay Bruce in the playoffs. To be eligible, a player must be on a team’s roster before Sept. 1. And Bruce will make a difference for the Tribe. New York was not for him, but Cleveland is.