A: Different times, different players. The last three last-place teams never lost more than 98 and this year’s team, anchored in last place, won’t lose 98. So I’d have to say the ’82 team is secure in its place as the worst all-time Reds team. That team had fairly good pitching, but stood in the batter’s box as if it were a dark room with no windows. This year’s team can hit, usually, but the pitchers act as if they are pitching in a dark room with no windows.
Q: Former Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is wearing No. 0 for the Boston Red Sox, so has any Cincinnati Reds player ever worn No. 0? JOHN, Oxford.
A: While a lot of players should have worn zero on their backs, based on their contributions, only two ever wore ‘0.’ The first was Ron Oester in 1997 and the ‘O’ was not a zero. It was an ‘oh,’ representing the first letter of his last name. The other was outfielder Dave Collins, who wore No. 0 in 1999. The highest numbered uniform was ’88,’ worn in 2014 by coach Freddie Benavides. But Benavides, now the first base coach, has moved up in the numerical world to 45.
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Q: What are the chances that Joey Votto again leads the league in walks and on-base percentage, that Scooter Gennett wins the batting title and that Eugenio Suarez leads the league in home runs and RBI? — MICHAEL, Arlington, Va.
A: It is unlikely that all three will come through, but all three are in good positions right now. As of this writing, Votto leads the National League with a .418 OBP, but far below the American League leader, Mike Trout of the Angels at .456. And he’ll have a tough time catching Washington’s Bryce Harper in walks because Harper has 104 and Votto has 95. Scooter Gennett is a good bet for the batting title, which would be the first by a Reds player since Pete Rose in 1973. Gennett leads Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich .322 to .315. It isn’t likely Suarez will win the home run title, but he is tied with Chicago’s Javier Baez for the RBI lead at 100. Based on who bats ahead of them in the order, I’m wagering on Baez. One thing, though. All those great offensive numbers by the Reds have meant nothing to them in the standings.
Q: Assuming Nick Senzel is healthy next year and ready for the big leagues, what will the Reds infield look like with Eugenio Suarez, Jose Peraza and Scooter Gennett on the roster? — GREG, Beavercreek.
A: First of all, Senzel will have to prove in spring training that he is healthy after missing the entire second half of this season. Second of all, he will have to show he is ready for The Show. He only played 44 games for Class AAA Louisville and hit .310 with six homers and 25 RBI. That’s a small sample and I will be stunned if he doesn’t start next season at Louisville. That means the Reds infield will be the same — Suarez at third, Peraza at shortstop, Gennett at second. If Senzel shows he is ready the first couple of months at Triple-A, then the Reds have a problem. But it’s a good problem. Better too much than too little, right?
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Q: You have often written about your favorite eating establishments on the road while a beat writer, so I wonder what are the favorite Cincinnati restaurants for visiting beat writers and players? — RON, Lebanon.
A: It starts and ends with the Montgomery Inn-Boathouse. I hear visiting writers and players talk with salivating mouths about the ribs. Also on their list is Jeff Ruby’s steakhouse and The Precinct steakhouse. And they like to sample the Cincinnati-style chili at Skyline. What they don’t like is the media dining room at Great American Ball Park, a place I’ve avoided for four years. On most nights after batting practice I walk down the street to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for their Happy Hour $9 meals of steak sandwiches or hamburgers or chicken sandwiches or spicy shrimp.
Q: No matter the situation, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell is shown in the dugout with a scowl on his face, so I wonder if that means his job is on the line? — TOM, Springfield.
A: As former NFL coach Bum Phillips once said, “There are two kinds of coaches – those who have been fired and those who are going to get fired.” That fits baseball managers, too. They all know it. So what do they have to worry about? With his recent success, Counsell seems safe. His scowl is part of his persona. He doesn’t smile until the last pitch and the smile only comes when they win. Check any manager in any dugout and count the smiles. Not many.
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Q: Can you think of a contract with a worse return than Homer Bailey? It has to be worse than Barry Zito’s because he at least helped in the postseason. MIKE, Fairborn.
A: Ah, Barry Zito. In 2007 the San Francisco Giants signed him to a seven-year $110 million deal, very similar to Homer Bailey’s deal. In those seven years he went 68-80. And he was 15-8 in his next-to-last season. That’s not great, but it’s not terrible. It probably wasn’t worth $119 million. But his return was much more than the Reds have received from the injury-plagued Bailey since he signed his six-year $105 million deal. For the first five years he is 18-32 and counting.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Q: What have you seen during the 2018 season that tells you the Reds might spend money in the offseason on free agents? — KEITH, Brookville.
A: Well, I haven’t seen anybody in the front office carrying large bags of money. Nor have I seen any blank checks. Signing free agents is not entirely up to the team. Free agents have to want to sign with the Reds and if I’m a good pitcher and I see all those baseballs flying out of Great American Small Park I would expect a dazzling offer than I can’t refuse. Can the Reds make that kind of offer to a top-shelf pitcher? Doubt it.