Ask Hal: Price should be back, but Piniella lurks

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

Q: With all the bobblehead nights, the Bark in the Parks, the pink bats and throwback uniforms, are the Reds doing too much marketing rather than just playing baseball? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: You forgot Friday Fireworks, hat and tee-shirt giveaways and Fathead stick-ons. Hey, when the team is bad you do everything you can to take attention away from the field. The marketing department has nothing to do with the players the front office puts on the field. They have everything to do with putting posteriors in the seats. After all, they need patrons to help pay for what’s on the field, even if it isn’t very good.

Q: I’ve heard you say you do not think Bryan Price will be back as manager next year, so who will manage the Reds? — MARK, Centerville.

A: You’ve never heard me give a definitive answer because I don’t know. There has been no announcement about extending his contract or letting him go. His contract expires after the season. I have said he deserves at least one more year because what has transpired is not his fault. Will he accept a one-year deal? Probably. What else could he do? If he is let go, look for owner Bob Castellini to get down on his knees and beg Lou Piniella to come out of managerial retirement. And experienced bench coach Jim Riggleman is an option. I recently saw Piniella and Riggleman huddled together in a clubhouse conference room. They probably weren’t discussing Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Q: Who do you think will make the playoffs? — JESSICA, Anderson, Ind.

A: It won’t be the Cleveland Browns. Ohio State looks awfully good. Oh, you mean baseball, don’t you? Let’s handle the National League. Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles are shoo-in division winners. That leaves two wild card spots with three legitimate contenders — St. Louis, New York, San Francisco. The Cardinals are playing good baseball and they have four games at home this week with the Reds. The Cardinals make it. Same with the Mets. They finish the season with three games against the Phillies. The Giants can’t get out of their own way and finish the season with one of baseball’s all-time biggest collapses. They had the best record in baseball, better than the Cubs, at the All-Star break.

Q: When the Reds put Billy Hamilton and Cody Reed on the disabled list in September they said it was procedural, but do you think it has something to do with the almighty dollar and service time? — MICHAEL, Pflugerville, TX.

A: Pflugerville? Seriously? I looked it up and sure enough it is a suburb of Austin and has 46,000 people. Putting Hamilton and Reed on the DL still perplexes me. It has nothing to do with dollars or service time. Both still get paid and their service time counts while they are on the DL. Manager Bryan Price said it is merely paperwork, but nobody says what’s on the paper and why it is there.

Q: What would be one thing you would put in baseball’s next collective bargaining agreement? — DAVE, Northridge.

A: That’s a slam dunk. I’d insist on a salary cap for all teams to put some control on the outrageous spending. The owners keep trying to get it implemented but the Players Association says, “No, not now, not ever.” The problem is that if the owners insisted and wouldn’t sign an agreement without a salary cap, we’d have another work stoppage. The players would go on strike, something they haven’t done since 1994.

Q: What are your predictions for the Reds in 2017 and the outlook for 2018? — DAVE, Landen, OH.

A: I made an error with my crystal ball by dropping it and breaking it two decades ago. Predicting is something I don’t do well. Who does? But with a wild guess, I’d say 2017 in another year of experiment and rebuilding, but not as extensive as this year. Rebuilding the bullpen is top priority and that’s the toughest part of a team to construct. And if all goes right (when does everything go right?) the team should be competitive in 2018. How competitive? Just remember they are in the same division as Chicago, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Winning the division, or even grabbing a wild card, probably isn’t on the board for 2018.

Q: If Brandon Phillips refuses another trade this offseason, could the Reds release him outright because Jose Peraza needs to play every day? — JEFF, Troy.

A: Yes and yes. Yes, they can release Phillips and, yes, Peraza needs to play every day. The Reds could release Phillips but it would cost them $14 million, the amount they owe on his 2017 contract. Will they do that? No way. Peraza should be playing second base every day this year but Phillips refused two trades. Phillips is having a solid season but will be 37 next year and certainly not a brick in the rebuild. Peraza looks as if he could be a foundation block. And do the Reds have the intestinal fortitude to make Phillips a bench player next year and play Peraza at second. They should. But they won’t.

Q: Is Walt Jocketty really stepping down after this season? — WORDMAN, Troy.

A: He already stepped down as general manager and turned it over to GM-in-training Dick Williams. But Jocketty still seems to be the spokesman for all things personnel. No announcement has been made, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he retires or becomes a special advisor after the season. Until Jocketty disappears completely it will be difficult for the media to ignore him as the “GM spokesman.”

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