In this edition of questions for Hal McCoy: Does watching a losing team depress baseball writers…was the Cueto trade worse than Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas…and who pays for all those plane tickets when the Reds go on the road?
From Dave in Beavercreek, Miamisburg, Centerville, : Have you seen the new kids game, ‘pin the blame on the donkey?’ It has a picture of each Reds starter just below the donkey’s tail.
DAVE: My suspicion is that you made this up. I asked at Toys R’ Us and they escorted me out the door and reported me to MLB. I know of only two real jackasses involved so far in major league baseball. The first is the donkey Joey Votto is going to buy for teammate Zack Cozart for making the All-Star team. The second is Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero, who criticized teammate Jake Arrieta for not holding runners on base. It is protocol that you never throw a teammate under a Greyhound, even if you are right, which Montero was. But for his efforts he was immediately released by the Cubs and is ESPN’s top favorite for the Jackass of the Year award.
From Bill Delawder: Hal, first time writer to the website and wondered, in simple terms, if it depresses you to watch (and write about) the Reds as much as it does me?
BILL: Welcome to the web-site and don’t go away. You talk as if you might go away from the Reds, as many fans have. It doesn’t depress me at all. I am not a ‘rooting fan.’ I cover the games and write what I see and hear. And I get to see Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett and that’s fun. I also get to see tons of talent from other teams come to town. I’m not a Reds fan, I’m a baseball fan, so depression never set in, until we sit in traffic on I75 on Fridays trying to get to Great American Ball Park.
From Matt in Vandalia: Hal, I’ve always been a Cueto fan, as you can tell, and I’m willing to say now that the trade to Kansas City for Lamb, Finnegan, and Reed ranks right up there with Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas. Do you agree?
MATT: No, I don’t. While it wasn’t a productive trade, so far, it is far down the list of bad trades made by the Reds. Robinson for some rusted trinkets is at the top. Close, though, was Paul O’Neill to the New York Yankees for Roberto Kelly. You never know about trades when they are made. Johnny Cueto was not going to sign with the Reds anyway. Folks wonder why they didn’t give Cueto $105 million instead of Homer Bailey. That’s simple. Cueto would not have taken $105 million. The Reds received what everybody thought was three strong pitchers, all left-handers. Well, John Lamb is already gone. Brandon Finnegan can’t find his way out of the training room and Cody Reed can’t find home plate or his way out of Louisville.
From Gerry in Chesapeake, Oh: Hal, I recently heard that Tom Browning was the last Reds pitcher drafted and developed to win 20 games. I don’t know if that’s true, but wondered who the last Reds pitcher was to have multiple 20-win seasons for them? Can you tell me?
GERRY: How many 20-game winners are there these days on any team? Hardly any. They don’t pitch complete games any more and a lot of times wins depend on help from the bullpen. And starters pitch every fifth day instead of every fourth day like in the old days. Browning did win 20 for the Reds, but he isn’t the last one to do it developed by the Reds. Remember Johnny Cueto? He was signed and developed by the Reds and was 20-9 in 2014. He also won 19 in 2012. To find a Reds pitcher with back-to-back 20-win seasons you have to go back to Joey Jay, who won 21 games in 1961 and 1962. Before that there was Bucky Walters with 27 wins in 1939 and 22 in 1940. Before that you’d need to back before the World War I and right after the 1898 Spanish-American War to when Noodles Hahn did in three years in a row (22 in 1901, 23 in 1902, 22 in 1903). Noodles? They don’t have nicknames like that any more.
From Jason Collins: In your opinion is the Reds failure to pitch a matter of poor scouting or player development? I see plenty of guys throwing 90 miles per hour, so I lean toward blaming their ability to develop talent.
JASON: Throwing 90 miles an hour these days is nothing. If you don’t throw 95 or higher they don’t even look at you. Pitching is a fragile profession and very unpredictable. How many teams do you see these days that develop all their own pitchers and fill out their entire rotation with five guys they developed? None. Doesn’t happen. Teams trade for pitchers and sign free agents. If a team develops one or two solid pitchers that make the majors they are fortunate. It isn’t just the Reds. It is everybody. Check what has happened to the New York Mets highly-touted rotation. And throwing 95 to 100 isn’t the be-all, end-all, or most pitchers would be unhittable. It is command and control of those pitches that count. All the development people can do is teach mechanics and then silently pray that those guys can take it to the mound. Too many can’t.
From Joe B: Hal, who pays for all those airline tickets when the Reds have to travel? And in theory, if a team runs out of money, who would pay then in order to fulfill their schedule obligations? Either way, I have to believe that MLB is involved.
JOE: You are a bit naive, my friend. Even the smallest market and worst teams in baseball are wallowing in money, thanks to TV contracts and revenue-sharing. Teams don’t buy airline tickets. All teams travel by charter. The Reds use Delta Airlines and they have the entire plane to themselves. No team is going to run out of money these days. How do you think they pay all those $100 million an $200 million contracts? Because of TV, if a team didn’t draw any fans, played to an empty stadium, they’d make money. One of my college professors once told me that MLB would one day become Studio Baseball. No fans.
From Mason: How did the Reds miss out on signing a hometown kid like Adam Benintendi, from Mariemont High School?
MASON: How did they miss out on Kyle Schwarber? How did they miss out on Josh Harrison? How did they miss out on Ian Happ (University of Cincinnati)? It is called the draft. Sometimes a team might want a local player but another team drafts that player ahead of them. And sometimes they believe the player they drafted is better than the hometown hero. In the case of Benintendi, he was drafted in No. 1 by the Boston Red Sox (No. 7 overall) in 2015 and he is playing for the Red Sox. In 2015, the Reds drafted catcher Tyler Stephenson in the first round as the 11th pick and he is still playing at low Class A Dayton. But the Reds had no shot at Benintendi. The Red Sox drafted ahead of the Reds and picked him. Can’t blame this one on the Reds.
From Michael in Sidney: Hal, do you think the Bellinger kid in LA would have 24 home runs as a rookie if he was playing in the 70s against Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Gaylord Perry?
MICHAEL: I hope you mean the 60’s for Sandy Koufax. And Bob Gibson’s best days were in the 1960s, although he pitched through 1976. Koufax was done, prematurely, in 1966 with a bad elbow before Tommy John surgery was discovered. I believe there would be very few current day players with more than 20 home runs at the All-Star break in the 1970s. The main reason is that I suspect the baseball is juiced this year. How else can a little fella like Scooter Gennett hit four home runs in a game and 13 while playing part-time. Also, the pitching in the 70’s was, indeed, better, because there were fewers teams and the pitching wasn’t watered down. And if you want to go back to the days of Koufax and Gibson, the mound was higher and has since been lowered to put some restriction on the pitcher’s advantage. This is all pure speculation and we’ll never know. But home runs these days are a penny a dozen.
From Rob in Greenville: Hal, why did Mike Stanton change his name to Giancarlo Stanton?
ROB: A name is a name and what’s in a name? Stanton’s mother calls him Cruz. His teammates call him Bigfoot. Opposing pitchers call him Sir. Stanton’s father always called him Mike when he was a kid and relatives called him Mikey. When he made the majors he went by Mike. But, his real name is Giancarlo. That’s why was on his paycheck and that’s what was on his locker nameplate. So, in spring training of 2012 he told everybody that while he likes all his names, he prefers to be known as Giancarlo. OK, here is his full name that is on his birth certificate: Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton.