From Dave at the Golden Corral, in Beavercreek: “You wrote that it is difficult to read the players names on the Reds’ camouflage uniforms, however I count four teams with nameless jerseys so what’s the fuss about?”
DAVE: The only fuss I ever hear is when you are going through the Golden Corral buffet and they are out of blue pudding. My comment about the numbers was an afterthought and my real complaint was overuse of the camouflage uniforms, ostensibly to honor our troops when the real deal is to sell more merchandise. Nobody is more appreciative of what it means for our men and women to serve our country, but I fear baseball is taking advantage of it. You don’t see the U.S. Marines wearing baseball uniforms on Sunday, do you? To me singing ‘God Bless America’ is enough, unless you’re the guy singing it with a mouthful of ballpark hot dogs.
From Terry: “First time reader of your column in Press Pros. Nice! Wondered your opinion on the best and the worst Reds GMs since Marge Schott owned the team. With the present ownership, is Jocketty the answer?”
TERRY: Welcome, aboard, and you like to come out swinging, don’t you? Under Marge Schott it was difficult to be a good GM because she squeezed pennies until Abraham Lincoln cried. But Jim Bowden is the winner with no challengers in sight. He was the worst not only in the Schott Era but in my 42 years of chasing the Reds. Remember what second baseman Pokey Reese said? “You know Jim Bowden is lying when his lips are moving.” And he infuriated broadcaster Marty Brennaman so much that Brennaman refuses to call him by name, referring to him as ‘Old Leatherpants.” Bowden once wore leather pants at the winter meetings in Boston. As for current ownership there have been only three GMs, Dan O’Brien, Wayne Krivsky and Walt Jocketty. Krivsky is not given enough credit for the good trades he made and his draft picks. Jocketty is still at it and made a great trade in acquiring Mat Latos and a great signing when he acquired Shin-Soo Choo, so the jury is still locked in a room deliberating on him.
From Randy: I seem to remember asking you about the Reds’ bench before (that may not be), but hasn’t the absence of Votto exposed the lack of talent in the organization outside the starting eight?
RANDY: What’s wrong with Brayan Pena and Skip Schumaker and Ramon Santiago, all guys signed as bench players who have had to be pressed into service as starters due to injuries. You want bench players to be experienced major-leaguers because role playing and pinch-hitting is difficult, not a job usually performed well by young players who should be playing in the minors and gaining knowledge and experience. Had the Reds not been mauled by injuries the bench this year would have been very good. But most of them are playing regularly now.
From Joe B: “The Yankees announced this week that they’re increasing ticket prices by as much as 300% for Derek Jeter appreciation day on September 7. My question, Hal, is this…would you pay $1,200 to see Derek Jeter, or any major league player, receive a Corvette and a Bulova watch prior to the game?”
JOE B. — I wouldn’t pay $1,200 to watch Eva Longoria bat naked (that’s Evan Longoria, not Evan Longoria). I wouldn’t pay $1,200 to watch Derek Jeter hit four grand slam home runs. I WOULD pay $1,200 to watch Me get a Corvette and a Rolex (what’s this cheap-o Bulova stuff?). I guess the Yankees figure they have to charge those ticket prices to pay for the gifts they are giving Jeter. Wouldn’t surprise me that if after they get those people in the seats they pass a hat in the stands to get more cash.
From Glen: “Hal, I wonder why the Reds don’t do the suicide squeeze more often? Given their issues with hitting with runners in scoring position I’d think they’d pull out all the stops. I know my son’s high school team scored ten times this past spring on that play, and it’s just as hard to defend in the big leagues as it is in high school.”
Glen: The Reds did pull it off once this year, by Skip Schumaker. It isn’t as easy as one might think. First of all, nearly all relief pitchers pitch out of the stretch and some starters pitch out of the stretch with a runner on third base. And high school third basemen aren’t as adept at defense as major-leauge third basemen, not even close. And once a team does it a two or three times the other teams are more aware of the possibility. Finally, have you seen some of the Reds try to bunt? Not pretty.
From John in Point Pleasant: “A long-time reader from West Virginia, and happy to find you on Press Pros Magazine. I’m interested in your opinion on managers, and if managers make the team or teams make the managers. I don’t see much that Bryan Price misses, but it seems his teams miss a lot of things.”
JOHN: And it’s great to see YOU on PPM. That’s a great question that most people don’t understand. The first person they blame for a bad team is the manager. A manager is only as good as his team. He can do everything right strategically but if his hitters don’t hit and his pitchers don’t pitch he can’t do it for them. Everybody knows Sparky Anderson was a great manager, right? He won and won and won with The Big Red Machine and he won a World Series in Detroit, too. But he also lost 103 games one year with the Tigers. Was he an awful manager for one year? By the same measure, what is happening to the Reds right now isn’t Bryan Price’s fault. It is difficult to win when your regular players are earning squatter’s rights in the medical room.
From Dave: “Hal, whatever happened to former Reds catcher Don Werner. If I remember correctly he caught Tom Seaver’s no-hitter. Does he still work in the Reds organization?”
DAVE: You are correct about the no-hitter. Tom Seaver and Johnny Bench were great friends, and remain very close to this day. But Bench was injured, missing 20 straight games, so Werner was catching the day Seaver threw his no-hitter for the Reds, the only no-hitter of Seaver’s career. Werner finished his career with the Texas Rangers and only played seven years in the majors. When he retired he became a minor-league coach and manager and remains a minor-league catching instructor for the Baltimore Orioles. Werner may have been the most shy and quiet catcher I ever covered. When he said, “Hello,’ it was considered a major speech.
From Tim in Troy: “Hal, do you ever tire of hearing the same old lament from the Reds that they’re a “small market” team, and how teams with their resources can’t compete with the big boys? Doesn’t jive with what Oakland’s done, does it?”
TIM: I don’t tire of it because I don’t hear it that much. The Reds are actually about in the middle of the pack as far as their salary structure right now. Oakland? I do get tired of hearing about them. When was their last World Series victory? It was 1989 and even the Reds have won one since then. It was 1990 for the Reds and, uh, they beat Oakland in four straight. So I wouldn’t measure the Reds against Oakland. The A’s haven’t been in the World Series since the Bash Brothers (Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco) were embarrassed by the Reds in 1990. I just don’t buy into The Billy Beane myth, even with their asteounding success this year. Let’s see how far they go in the playoffs.
From Tom in Versailles: “Who was the last Reds player to hit for the cycle? And has any Reds player ever hit four home runs in one game?”
TOM: The last Reds player to hit for the cycle (single, double, triple home run in one game) was my all-time favorite player, Eric Davis in 1989. Before that it was 1959 and done by Frank Robinson Only five Reds have done it (Mike Michell in 1911, Heinie Groh in 1915, Harry Craft in 1940, Robinson and Davis). No Cincinnati batter has ever hit four home runs in a game and three home runs in one game has been done 32 times, the last by Chris Heisey in 2011 against the New York Yankees.