Ask Hal: Will former Met Matt Harvey be a positive or poison for Reds?

Q: If the Cincinnati Reds rebuild takes seven years and players are eligible for free agency after seven years then what is wrong with this picture? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Who said the rebuild was going to take seven years? At this rate, it might take longer and it might never happen. And I have said this all along about stockpiling prospects. If they do become good players, they leave as free agents. That’s not just a Cincinnati problem, it is a baseball-wide problem. Because of free agency, Kansas City went from a World Series team to bottom feeders in a very short period.

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Q: Matt Harvey has had three straight declining seasons and defied Mets management by refusing a minor league assignment, so will he be a positive or poison in he Reds clubhouse? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Everybody deserves a second chance and this is Harvey’s. Kevin Mitchell had an awful reputation when the Reds acquired him and he turned out to be a wonderful guy in the clubhouse. I’m perplexed why the Reds would want Harvey and take that chance, but we shall see if he is another Mitchell or a Mat Latos, a real clubhouse curmudgeon.

Q: The Dayton Dragons and Cedar Rapids played each other this week, featuring the 2017 No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis, who signed for $6.7 million and the No. 2 overall pick Hunter Greene, who signed for $7.23 million, so how did MLB get to the point where 18-year-old kids are paid that much? — MESA BILL, Tipp City.

A: When I was 18 I was making $1.25 an hour as a soda jerk, so I can’t even imagine having $7 million at that age. One thing is certain, no major league team can cry poverty or say it isn’t making money when they pay that kind of money for untried and unproven kids. But if you are the 18-year-old you smile and say, “If you have it and want to give it, I’ll take it. And maybe I might be good.”

Q: Has Billy Hamilton made an effort to work on improving his bunting or does he have the same enthusiasm for practice as basketball’s Alan Iverson and have the Reds provided him the opportunity to work on it in the winter? — DENNIS, Huber Heights.

A: They say practice makes perfect, but not in Hamilton’s bunting education. He has worked and worked and worked on it but just can’t do it. All he needs to do is look down his own bench and see Jose Peraza, who leads the league with six bunt base hits. And Hamilton has spent winter time with former Dayton Dragons manager Delino DeShields and his son, Delinio DeShields, Jr., who can bunt. That hasn’t taken, either. What a weapon it would be if Billy could lay down three bunts a week and beat them out.

Q: What is the all-time record for the least number of wins by a major league team and do you think the Reds will break it? — SCOTT, Cincinnati.

A: The all-time record is 20, a 20-134 record by the 1899 Cleveland Spiders — and, no, I didn’t cover them that year. The 1916 Philadelphia A’s won 36 and the 1935 Boston Braves won 38. Those three were accomplished during a 154-game schedule. The record for futility by a team playing the current 162-game schedule is 40 by the 1962 New York Mets in their first year of existence. And, no, the Reds will win more than 20, 38, 38 and 40.

Q: What would happen if MLB adopted the English Premier soccer and relegated the worst team in each league to the minor and promote winners in the lower leagues to the majors, making teams earn their way back to the majors? — DAVID, Beavercreek.

A: You would hear the loudest howling you ever heard from the players’ union and a massive strike would ensue. That certainly would prevent teams from tanking to get the top draft pick. And a major problem is that all minor league baseball teams are affiliated with major league teams and all the players on minor league teams belong to the major league team. What would the Reds do for a Triple-A team if the Louisville Bats won the AAA title and were promoted to the majors? The Bats couldn’t use the players owned by the Reds. Nice thought, though.

Q: Are you surprised that MLB permits Billy Hamilton to wear his ‘oven mitt’ glove when the runs the bases that is a couple of inches longer than his hand, giving him an advantage sliding head first into second base? — DENNIS, Springfield.

A: The subject has come up before but nothing is done about it. Apparently there are no rules against it, just as there are no rules against batters going up to the plate armored up like Sir Lancelot. Hey, maybe Billy just has very, very long fingers and that mitt fits like a glove. Maybe he should try carrying a broom when he is on first base and can reach out with it to touch second base when he slides. I don’t think there is a no-broom rule in the book.

Q: Do the Reds receive eye examinations during spring training? — RICK K., Vandalia.

A: Indeed, they do. There is one day early in spring training when the players are checked out, head-to-toe. There are about 18 different stations at which they stop. One of them is for eye exams and when the team trained in Sarasota the eye exams were conducted in the Hal McCoy Media Room. I was sitting at my work desk when they checked Ken Griffey Jr. He could read the bottom line on the chart without a mistake. I was sitting about two feet from the chart and couldn’t read it, and that was before my eyes went bad. After seeing Griffey’s performance, I believed the story I once heard that Ted Williams could read the league commissioner’s signature on a pitched ball.

Q: Knowing you have a soft spot in your heart for Aaron Boone, are you surprised with the way his New York Yankees are playing (best record in baseball)? — KOZ, Dayton.

A: As I wrote when he was named manager, Boone is a perfect fit for the Yankees with his family genes, his baseball acumen and his personality. I would have been shocked had he not done well. The personnel on that team certainly makes it easier, but it is also easy for a bad manager to mess up a good team.

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