Our final column of the 2016 baseball season for readers’ questions for Hal McCoy…with respect to the past, the present, and the future of the Reds’ hopes.
From ‘selfie’ Dave in B/C/M: At one of your recent book signings did you notice me taking out my hearing aids when you got up to speak?
DAVE: Yes, I certainly did. It was right at the time when I was quoting the price of the book and you stuffed your hearing aids into your pocket so you couldn’t get to your wallet. Of course, that wallet has more cobwebs than a closet that hasn’t been opened since the Eisenhower Administration. Actually, Dave, I kid — as always. Thanks so much for the generous donation on GoFundMe for Ray’s gas to get me to Reds games this year. We appreciate it. And next year? Dig deeper.
From Jonathan: Hal, there is some discussion among friends that the Reds future in Cincinnati might not be long if they don’t win and win soon. Part of this comes from the frustration of trading talent like Cueto and Frazier that people are willing to pay to see. Your thoughts, please. Are the Reds in danger?
JONATHAN: Don’t worry about the Reds re-locating. That won’t happen. It is the first professional franchise and MLB wouldn’t dare let the uproot. And where would they go, Red Lion or Blue Ball or Cucamonga? The Reds felt they couldn’t afford Johnny Cueto and Todd Frazier. And while Cueto did well this year, other than home runs Frazier was not worth the money he’ll make. Yes, he was extremely popular in Cincinnati and rightfully so because he is so fan-friendly with his effervescent personality. But let’s wait a couple of years to see how the young talent turns out before we call in United Van Lines to ship the Reds elsewhere. However, they might be able to use that truck to get rid of most members of the Reds pigpen, which is supposed to be known as a bullpen.
From Neal in Columbus: I come from a market where never is heard a discouraging word from local media about any Ohio sports team. So I come to you. Why hasn’t Cincy media held Reds management more accountable for the decline in talent and decision making?
NEAL: You obviously aren’t paying close attention. A couple of years ago Reds owner Bob Castellini tried to have me removed from FoxSportsOhio.com because I was too negative. I criticize them often. Mr. Castellini also wasn’t happy when I ripped the team for firing GM Wayne Krivsky and for firing manager Dusty Baker. And while the team the last couple of years has been awful, the front office is trying to reload and reconstruct and rebuild. That takes time and I’m giving them a two-year moratorium. If this doesn’t work, then I’ll come out again with guns blazing. I’m giving them a chance to do this right. Let’s see if it works.
From Gerry: The broadcasters must be out of breath talking about Adam Duval’s 31 homers and 90 rbis. But he’s only hitting .240 and all the home runs came before the all-star game. This is not a long-term solution, nor is it adequate compensation for Johnny Cueto. Why can’t anyone come out and say that?
GERRY: I agree on Adam Duvall. I’d like to see that average about 40 or more points higher. And his second half has been less than splendid, just the way it was last year when Eugenio Suarez when he started fast and faded in the second half. Johnny Cueto is gone. Forget him. He can’t help any more. Ancient history. And you can’t yet say Duvall isn’t the answer. The home runs and RBI do show that he has an upside. Let’s wait at least another year before we tar and feather him and ship him to Walla Walla. The Reds couldn’t afford Cueto and they did the best they could. How good will it be? The jury is still out and let’s hope it isn’t a hung jury.
From Joe in Portsmouth: Met you at the murals banquet and have your book. Thanks for signing it. Straily has had a pretty good year but wondered what grade you would give him on a scale of 1 to 10 as a big league starter for the future, with the Reds or someone else?
JOE: Thanks, my friend, and I hope you enjoyed the book. It is in its Third Printing in about a year-and-a-half, so we’re very happy with it success. And isn’t the Portsmouth dinner a great affair. It’s legendary Reds scout Gene Bennett’s baby — and why didn’ the Reds listen to him and sign Derek Jeter? At least they listened about Barry Larkin. As for Straily, he has won 13 games and the Reds only paid him $510,500. What a bargain. And they have him under control for several more years, so he isn’t going anywhere. What I like about him is his personality, his bulldog demeanor on the mound and his willingness to help the young pitchers on the staff. As for a grade from 1 to 10? I’d give him an 8 1/2 and I wouldn’t give any other starter on that staff more than a 5, even Anthony DeSclafani because he started fast but has faded lately. Straily has been top shelf from start to finish.
From Jack Bond: Hal, if you had to pick one of the new Reds faces from this year that stood out as a prospect for the future, who would it be?
Dear JAMES BOND, er, JACK, that’s easy. Jose Peraza. Unfortunately Brandon Phillips is still hanging around and blocking where Peraza should be and that’s second base. Unfortunately, he is NOT an outfielder. He played some center field and last Sunday against Pittsburgh he missed three balls that Billy Hamilton would have caught with a thimble. Peraza can hit. And if he plays the infield he’ll be a star. I fear the Reds might trade Zack Cozart, a player I really like, to make room for Peraza at shortstop because Phillips has another year on his contract and refuses all trades. So he’ll be back next year and I don’t think the Reds have the guts to bench him, even though he is in no way any part of the team’s future.
From Dave Waller: I have a question for you Hal about the simplest issue in running a successful business. You have to be nice to your customers. But over the years I’ve met Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, and Joe Morgan and every one of them was a grumpy old fart, refusing to sign autographs or pause for a cell phone picture. Joey Votto appears to be on the same path. Do baseball players know anything about business, or are they just too rich to care?
DAVE: Couldn’t agree with you more, even though I’ve been called a grumpy old fart at times, mostly by my wife, Nadine. But I do sign all autographs and talk to fans. What does it take to be nice? Nothing. It takes more effort to be a jerk. Yes, players do know a lot about business. Just check their contracts. Unfortunately, many of them give lip service to the importance of fans, but they don’t play the game. But if you have an extra 50 bucks in your pocket they’ll quickly scribble their names on a cocktail napkin and smile for a selfie —if you make it real quick and only take one.
From Joe B: Hal, it seems like you write less for Press Pros than before, and if that’s because the Reds are terrible I understand. But I wondered what your plans are for the future, and please tell me you’ll continue to do the UD Flyers games this winter on Press Pros.
JOE: I still have a contract to write blogs for every home game for the Dayton Daily News. Nadine and I have to eat. Sonny Fulks has been very generous in permitting me to write for Press Pros Magazine and I love doing it. I plan to do a lot more for PPM, Sonny permitting. But I can’t come close to making ends meet by just writing for PPM. I even had to start my own web-site, halmccoy.com, to make a few more bucks. So I am stretched pretty thin. I can’t wait for this moribund Reds season to conclude. And, yes, I plan to cover most UD basketball home games for PPM. It is one of the most fun times of the year for me. The UD folks love the attention. The Reds sometimes act as if they don’t care if they get coverage or not. And based on what has happened there the last few years, I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want attention paid, either, if the product was as poor as it has been.
From Jeff Horforth: Does anyone covering the Reds ever remind Bob Castellini about his statement in 2008, “We’ve just come to a point where we’re not going to lose anymore.” Seems like now would be a good time.
JEFF: Mr. Castellini made that comment to me when he fired Wayne Krivsky and I asked, “When with this organization come up with some stability?” He hasn’t been very friendly with me ever since. The first couple of years when he owned the team he was extremely visible and accessible to the media, appearing often in the clubhouse. He doesn’t do that any more. I think he realizes it just isn’t that easy and it takes good, solid people and some stability. I knew he was in trouble when he bought the team and said he wanted to return to the days of The Big Red Machine. That’s a good thought but not realistic. That will never happen in these days of free agency and high salaries. He still doesn’t want to lose any more, but it isn’t easy to avoid it.
From Kal, in Columbus: Billy Hamilton has actually had a good year by past standards and is a lot of fun to watch in center field. But is he secure with the Reds, or would they trade him, too?
KAL: Rest easy. Billyball isn’t going anywhere. He is still relatively cheap and the Reds have control of him for a few more years. He is getting better and better. He is worth is weight — as little as that is — with his defense. And he puts entire teams into panic mode when he gets on base. He has been getting better, too, at getting on base. He will only get better and is an important piece for the team to keep. His problem now is staying on the field. He is so skinny that he reminds of the time when a very skinny (at the time) Davey Concepcion thought he pulled a muscle and Pete Rose said, “Davey, you are so skinny you can’t pull a muscle. You’d have to pull a bone.”
From Randy in Troy: Bryan Price, here or somewhere else in 2017?
RANDY: As I’ve said often, you can’t blame Price for this mess. He had to use 31 different pitchers (so-called pitchers) this year. He had to use 11 different players making their Major League debuts. He has dealt with debilitating injuries to Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Raisel Iglesias, Devin Mesoraco, Zack Cozart, Billy Hamilton and Brandon Phillips. They traded his second best offensive player, Jay Bruce, to the Mets this year and they traded Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Todd Frazier last year. What’s a guy to do? But somebody has to be The Fall Guy. They might offer Price a one-year extension and see if he’ll take it. I think he would. And I believe he deserves to manage with a full deck, just once. And it all goes back to having some stability in the organization. Let’s see if the Price is right with a good team.