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Hal McCoy: Reds-Twins rebuild comparison doesn’t quite work

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

Q: With his team down eight runs in the ninth inning Adam Duvall hit a sacrifice fly to score Billy Hamilton from third base. Does Duvall deserve all those high fives in the dugout for making an out? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: With the year the Reds have had, any little success is appreciated by teammates and, after all, it was a run batted in. They even get high fives for hitting the ball to the right side for an out to advance a runner from second to third. Reds pitchers should get high fives every time they throw a strike or don’t give up a home run, and that would only slightly delay the game.

»RELATED: Gennett homecoming a bright spot for Reds

Q: I agree with your assessment of Reds manager Bryan Price, but what did the Minnesota Twins do that the Reds couldn’t, because if they can go from 103 losses to the playoffs in a year, why not the Reds? — SHANE, Bellbrook.

A: The Reds can’t go from 103 losses to the playoffs because they’ve never lost 103 games. But I nitpick. The Reds have lost 90-plus games and finished last three years in a row, but two years ago (2015) the Twins were 83-78 and finished second in the American League Central. They were expected to do well in 2016 (they weren’t rebuilding) but were beset by injuries and tough losses. But the pieces were there. The Reds haven’t had a winning season since 2013. Getting back on track takes longer than bouncing back from one bad season.

»RELATED: Relive Jay Bruce’s walk-off NL Central clinching HR

Q: What will be the Reds’ selling point to get fans to attend games in 2018? — TIM, Fairborn.

A: You can give away all the bobbleheads and do-dads you want, you can have all the Bark in the Park days you want, you can install as many self-serve concession stands as you want, you can roll out as many Redzillas as you want, but there is only one way to put fannies in the seats and that’s win, win, win. Win games and they will come.

Q: Billy Hamilton stole second but overslid the bag and was tagged out. Earlier a Reds player doubled and overslid the bag and was tagged out. Does Hamilton get credit for a stolen and does the other player get credit for a double? — RON, New Lebanon.

A: Actually, the Reds get credit for bad base-running, right? Rule 9:07 (e,f) says a runner who overslides the bag and is tagged out does not get credit for a stolen base and is charged with a caught stealing. It’s the same rule they used when Hamilton was caught in a rundown between first and second when he was trying to score and a throwing error permitted him to score all the way from first. Because there was an error on the play when he should have been out, he was not given a stolen base and was charged with a caught stealing. And it is the same with the guy who doubled and overslid and was tagged out. He did not hit a double. He is credited only with single because a runner must maintain contact with second base until the play is over to get credit for a double.

Q: Aside from Joe Morgan’s back-to-back MVP seasons, do you agree Scooter Gennett’s 2017 season is one of the best for a second baseman in Reds’ history? — MARK, Charleston, W.Va.

A: Offensively, yes, one of the best. Scooter, though, needs to be more of a motorcycle on defense, but is trying hard to get better. And how soon we forget. Remember Bret Boone? He hit 24 home runs and drove in 95 in 1998 and was a defensive dandy. Remember Brandon Phillips? He hit .288 with 30 homers, 94 RBI, 32 stolen bases and batters couldn’t shoot a ball past him with a bazooka.

Q: Almost every time a batter strikes out he walks away looking back toward the field. Is he staring at the pitcher or the scoreboard to see where the pitch was? — PHIL, Beavercreek.

A: It varies with the hitter, but most are staring at space to avoid looking at teammates in the dugout as they make the walk of shame. Some stare at the pitcher as if to say, “I can’t believe you struck me out…again.” Others do look at the scoreboard to see if it was the umpire’s fault or their own. When Joey Votto swings and misses, he stares out toward left field but doesn’t even know what he is looking at or that he is even doing it. When I struck out I just stared at my shoes and trudged back to the dugout and replaced the useless bat in the rack.

Q: We seldom hear comments about catchers calling a game. Do they still call pitches or do instructions come from the dugout when a catcher looks there between pitches? — JEFF, Fort Loramie.

A: You don’t hear about it because nearly every pitcher who does well credits the catcher and it is so clichéd that we seldom quote them on it. Reds pitchers love pitching to Tucker Barnhart. Yes, he calls the game. Catchers look into the dugout just in case the manager wants a certain pitch called (and he seldom does) or they look in with runners on base to see if the manager wants a pickoff throw from the pitcher. I’ll tell you for sure, though, Johnny Bench never looked into the dugout.

Q: I believe that it is unwritten rule that the media do not ask for autographs, but with all your years and your contacts you must have some great memorabilia. What is your favorite? — TOM, Greenville.

A: It is not an unwritten rule, it is law. It says on the back of our credentials that if we ask for an autograph our credentials can be ripped off our necks and we’ll be escorted from the premises. I have never asked for an autograph. And I’m not a collector. I give most of the stuff I get to my son, Brent. But I do have a baseball signed personally to me from Ken Griffey Jr. Unsolicited, he flipped me a ball in 2003 he hit for his 30th home run. He had a rough start that year and I supported him. So he signed it, “To Hal, thanks for your support and friendship, Ken Griffey Jr., home run No. 30, career home run No. 532.” I cherish it.

Q: Did you ever have the chance to sing ‘Take me Out to the Ballgame” at Wrigley Field during the seventh-inning stretch, and who were the best and the worst who have done it? — JACK, Vandalia.

A: I was asked in 2010 during my last trip to Chicago before I retired as a traveling beat writer. I thanked them and politely declined. I embarrass myself enough in front of a laptop without doing it in front of 30,000 fans and a vast TV audience. The worst I ever heard was former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, who not only didn’t know the words he didn’t know the tune. But as big and as mean as he is, nobody told him he stunk. The best? Probably Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam and an ardent Cubs fans. I’m surprised they didn’t ask Bronson Arroyo to do it.


Q: Five years from now, some combination of Luis Castillo, Sal Romano, Robert Stephenson, Tyler Mahle, Amir Garrett, Deck McGuire, etc. will be good. How do the Reds decide whom to place a bet on for the 2018 rotation? — JEREMY, Kettering.

A: A lot can happen in five years, especially to pitchers and their fragile physiques. You’ve listed six possibilities for 2018 without naming Homer Bailey, Rookie Davis, Cody Reed and Anthony DeSclafani, who didn’t pitch this year. So many arms, so few spots. Bailey is a for-sure. DeSclafani is a for-sure if healthy. That leaves three spots and I’d lay my cards down on Luis Castillo, Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson. But the final makeup will have to be determined during spring training, something manager Bryan Price didn’t want to do. Spring training can fool you. But so can September. One thing for certain — the Reds have a lot of surplus pitching they could use as trade chips, but they’d probably trade the wrong guy.

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