Questions for Hal McCoy in this edition from readers far and wide, on: Interleague play, Joey Votto, state of Reds catching, does anyone miss Aroldis Chapman now, and whatever happened to Elmer Dessens?
From Dave in M/C/B: Was that crime scene tape that I saw draped around the Reds bullpen at a recent home game?
DAVE: No, there was no crime scene tape around the bullpen. It was around the pitching mound but it wasn’t there very long. The case was solved and the case is closed. And there has been a trial and a verdict: “The bullpen is guilty of impersonating relief pitchers, throwing baseballs under false pretenses and stealing money from their employer.
From Justin in Westerville: Have just started reading Press Pros this spring and I’m delighted to have this opportunity. I bought your book and have thoroughly enjoyed it. My question is about why interleague play was adopted, given that from an economics standpoint it creates an additional financial hardship for all teams. For instance, if you let the Reds play Central Division teams each five more times during the season and eliminated teams from the American league it would improve the average major league bottom line by about 3%. That’s huge in terms of real dollars and organizational budget.
JUSTIN: Welcome aboard the PPM bandwagon. Glad to have you. Interleague play is former commissioner Bud Selig’s brainchild and I hate it. It was a financial decision with the thinking being that fans in National League cities hadn’t seen teams from the American League and would flock to the stadiums. It worked at first but now interleague is pretty passe and fans don’t even talk about it. I dislike it because it makes for unfair schedules. All National League teams don’t play the same American League teams, meaning some NL teams have to play tougher AL teams than some of the other NL teams might have to play. And wasn’t it great back in the day when the World Series came around and two teams met each other for the first time all year. Now, with interleague play, the two World Series team might have already played each other six times. I say do away with interleague play and take the DH, Replay-Review and the new block-the-plate and the slide-into-second rules with you.
From Greg Stichwey: Hal, what has happened this spring with the efforts to speed up the game by umpires insisting that the hitters get in the box and hit. Is it my imagination or is it business as usual?
GREG: Not your imagination at all. Have you watched Jay Bruce return to his strolls around the park after every pitch? It happens every year. They put in a new rule and it is enforced fore a while and then forgotten. They put in another new rule the next year and concentrate on that until another new rule comes along and the old one is ignored. They are just making too many rules change in baseball which make no sense. If they want to speed up the game — which I think is nonsense anyway — cut the games back to six innings. They may as well do that. They’ve changed about everything else.
From Joe B: Reading between the lines of Joey Votto’s comments following the Pittsburgh series, do you have any problem with me, or anyone, calling him a total nut job?
JOE: I’m not sure what comments to which you refer. Joey says and does a lot of off-the-beat stuff. I just shook my head when somebody asked him about his slow start this year and he said, “It takes longer to tune up a Ferrari.” At the time he was hitting like an Edsel. And his deal of not running out on the field during Opening Day introductions and saying, “Just doing something different, doing my no-show,” was a baffler, too. There is no doubt that Votto not only marches to the beat of a different drummer. He is the drummer and he is a bit off-the-beat.
From Bob in Westerville: Do you remember all that talk about Aroldis Chapman being overpaid to be the closer; and that anyone can close in the major leagues? That it’s not as tough as people think? J.J. Hoover?
BOB: I never heard anything about Chapman being overpaid. All I heard is that with the money he makes he should be a starter, which I never agreed with. No, not everybody can close in the majors. It takes special stuff and a special makeup. While J.J. Hoover has good stuff, it isn’t put-away closer stuff and his makeup doesn’t seem to suit a closer’s demeanor. But the main thing about a closer is that he needs to be on a team that wins a lot because a closer on a losing team is an expensive trinket, something that sits and rusts. If Chapman were still with the Reds they’d be scraping rust off his arm every week.
From Gerry: Does the fact of Devin Mesoraco being suspect again send a shiver through an organization that lacks catchers? And does it mean that last year’s first round choice (Tyler Stephenson) might be getting an accelerated trip through the minors?
GERRY: They like Tucker Barnhart a lot and rightly so. He probably is better defensively than Mesoraco and the pitchers love pitching to him. But hold your breath if Barnhart gets hurt. The catching cupboard is as bare as a Playboy Bunny. But don’t lo0k for a rush job for Tyler Stephenson. It takes years to develop a catcher, more than any position because a catcher has more responsibilities than any other position player. The worst thing they can do is rush Stephenson through the system and put him in the big leagues before his time and have him fail miserably and destroy his confidence.
From Chris in Columbus: The Reds are pulling out all the stops for pitching. But none of them are bigger long shots than my all-time underdog, Elmer Dessens. Do you have a good Elmer Dessens story? And where is he now?
CHRIS: Yes, the Reds are pulling out all the stops with their pitching. They have no stopper and no bullpen so a bunch of runs seep through in nearly every game. Sure, I remember Elmer Dessens. When he was with the Reds his best friend was Dennys “Big Sweat” Reyes, giving the Reds of that time a double dose of Mexican-born pitchers. Dessens was 11-5 in 2000 when manager Jack McKeon used him as a starter and out of the bullpen. The next year he went 10-14 as strictly a starter. Elmer didn’t speak much English, but he was always pleasant and smiling — win, lose or no-decision.
From Jim in Tipp City: Have you heard any talk in the clubhouse yet about off-season plans?
JIM: In the clubhouse? Sure. They won’t be in the playoffs, so they’ll get early starts on golf, hunting, fishing and vacations. If you mean plans for the future by the front office, well, expect more of the same — the trading of veterans for younger, less expensive players to continue the rebuild. There is no use even looking at the available free agent lists because the Reds won’t be signing any of them. To find future Reds scan the rosters of minor-league teams.