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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: As a child attending Cleveland Indians games, did you ever throw a home run ball hit by an opposing player back onto the field? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: I never caught nor retrieved a home run ball by anybody. I did once get a beat-up ball hit in batting practice by Indians back-up catcher Hal Naragon and the ball was put to use in our neighborhood empty lot games. In the 1996 World Series Derek Jeter fouled a ball near my seat in the press box, which I picked up and still have. I should have had him autograph it.
Q: Why do fans accept the premise that the Cincinnati Reds don’t have money to spend when Forbes Magazine reported they made almost $250 million plus $14 million in operating revenue last year? — JIM, Oakwood.
A: The only college class I flunked was Economics, so I’m probably the last guy to ask. I do know that the $264 million they made is near the bottom of the 30 teams. And Forbes says the Reds are worth $1.1 billion on the market, 28th of the 30 teams. The New York Yankees are No. 1 at $4 billion. You are talking about revenue, not profit. You skim $99 million off that, the player payroll, which is third lowest on the MLB list. I have no idea about other operating expenses and I’m not one to tell anybody how to spend their money. But it does appear there is some extra cash to spend without the front office threatening fans to show up before they invest in pitching in the offseason.
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Q: When will the ludicrous quality start be adjusted down to five innings and three earned runs or less because few starting pitchers go more than five innings? — STOCC, Miamisburg.
A: I know you are being facetious. Five innings and three earned runs is a 5.40 earned run average. That’s quality? The real quality start is six or more innings and three or less earned runs, a 4.50 earned run average. The ‘QS’ was developed in 1985 by a former friend of mine, baseball writer John Lowe. I wrote often that a 4.50 ERA is not quality and he hasn’t spoken to me since. I like what Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan calls a ‘High Quality’ start — seven innings and three or less runs, That’s a 3.86 ERA much closer to quality.
Q: Why hasn’t anybody taught Joey Votto not to stray so far from first base chasing ground balls that could be easily handled by the second baseman when it forces the pitcher to cover first base, a more difficult play? — TOM, The Villages, Fla.
A: I asked that question to Reds manager Jim Riggleman and he said, “Players are taught to try to get everything they think they can get.” The key part of that answer is, “Everything they THINK they can get.” Votto overthinks it and wanders too far away from the bag. Maybe they should put a 15-foot chain around his ankle and anchor it on first base.
Q: I watched an MLB special on Billy Martin and wonder if you believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame? — KOZ, Springfield.
A: As a player, absolutely not. In 11 major league seasons he hit .257 with an on-base average of .300, an OPS of .669 and more fights than stolen bases (34). As a manager? Maybe. He managed five teams (Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, Oakland, New York Yankees) and finished first at least once for all but Texas. He managed the Yankees five times because he was hired and fired by owner George Steinbrenner five times, usually for off-the-field shenanigans. If there were a Baseball Hall of Shame he and Pete Rose would be charter inductees.
Q: We see logos on shoes, batting and fielding gloves, sweat bands, elbow pads and bats, so when will baseball sell advertising on uniforms and look like NASCAR drivers? — GREG, Beavercreek.
A: There was some discussion about that possibility a few years ago, but thankfully it died. I’d hate to see Skyline Chili hot dog logos on the Reds uniforms. When I watch foreign soccer games I always wonder who is playing because the uniforms are so commercialized the name of the team is not on them. And I wonder about the advertising value on NASCAR drivers because there are so many you can’t read them all.
Q: I heard that umpires are evaluated after every game, so why not let fans, managers and coaches know which are the best and which are the worst? — TOM, Kettering.
A: They are deeply evaluated. Former umpire Randy Marsh is now Director of Umpiring for MLB. He often sits next to me in the press box and notes every call an umpire makes and visits them after games to discuss them. Each umpire is, indeed, graded and evaluated. They are not for prying eyes. But there is the eye test. Managers, coaches and players know which umpire is very good and which is very bad. Unfortunately, the World Umpires Association, the union, protects the bad as well as the good.
Q: General manager Dick Williams is on record as saying that Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler are the corner outfielders of the future, but has the recent play of Phillip Ervin changed that thinking? — JOHN, Oxford.
A: It should. As former manager Jerry Narron liked to say, “Nothing should be set in cement.” Schebler seems to be injury prone, so his future shouldn’t be solid. And what if the Reds can make a decent trade for him? Ervin, drafted No. 1 in 2013, seems to be finally displaying his talent. He can hit and has power but is shaky on defense and base running. He is low cost and fits the rebuilding program and seems to be a keeper.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Q: While the Reds are headed for a fourth straight last-place finish, the onrushing St. Louis Cardinals have finished last once in the last 100 years (1990), so what do they do differently? — DENNIS, Huber Heights.
A: The Cardinals develop players in the minor leagues, especially pitching. It is like every time they need a pitcher, they pull one up from a cornfield somewhere. When the Reds do develop one, they trade him like Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman, Trevor Hoffman, Brad Boxberger. And they keep the wrong ones.