On continual vigil to defy the gloom of the unanswered baseball question, Hal McCoy weighs in on the latest from Press Pros readers everywhere – on day dreams, dirty baseballs, Hunter Greene, and do baseball players make their own bats.
From Dave in Beaver’weak’: What happens when the batter crosses himself as he steps into the batter’s box and then the pitcher crosses himself as he steps onto the rubber?
DAVE: Well, that’s obvious. It’s a double cross. I get players crossing themselves. No problem there. What I don’t get is players constantly pointing to the sky after they beat out an infield hit or reach base on an error. What are they doing, thanking The Almighty. Does The Almighty hate the pitcher or hate the shortstop who made the error? It will definitely go beyond reason when a player who is a non-believer points to the ground to thank The Dark Prince or the guy with the pitchfork.
From Jeff in Urbana: First time to write to you and to Press Pros. It’s an honor. I read with interest your answer in a recent column where you stated that because the Reds get all that television money and revenue sharing they’ll never be in danger of running out of money. Doesn’t that contradict that small-market crap they’re always whining about?
JEFF: Welcome aboard and glad to have you. All teams get TV money and some get more than others and some a lot more than others. But they all get enough to live comfortably. That’s where big market and small market comes into play. The New York Yankees TV deal is much, much bigger than the Reds TV deal. The New York TV market is huge, the Cincinnati TV market is much smaller. The Chicago market is much, much bigger than the Tampa-St. Petersburg market. The Los Angeles Dodgers have a deal worth $200 million. The Yankees are at more than $100 million. The Reds are approximately 23rd out of 30 in the $20 million range. Now you know why the Dodgers can spend more than $200 million on salaries while Joey Votto pretty much eats up all the Reds local TV money.
From Joe B: When you watch them play the way the Reds played last weekend against Washington do you find yourself day-dreaming and counting the days until you can write UD basketball on Press Pros?
JOE: When I watched the Nationals-Reds series I enjoyed watching Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. If you are a baseball fan, even if you are a Reds fan, you have to appreciate that talent level. The only daydreaming I might do is to picture those guys in Reds uniforms and then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. And I love covering the University of Dayton basketball team — the crowds, the enthusiasm, the coaching of Archie Miller (well, that’s gone now), the purity of college basketball (for the most part). And we get free pizza before games.
From Jasper in Youngstown: Watching a recent Reds telecast, Brennaman and Welsh were going on and on about what great guys all of the Reds players were, blah, blah, blah. But in your time covering the Reds can you think of one particular player that stood out as being a real horse’s a–?
JASPER: I’ve been fortunate over the 44 years I’ve covered the Reds. The number of truly nice guys is at about 99.9 per cent. But take that with several doses of salt. Players realize that writers and broadcasters have the last word and reach most of the fans. So players normally are on their best behavior around the media. No player on the Reds was a total horse’s patootie. Some had their moments. The worst, for me, was a player the fans loved, Mr. Phony himself, Brandon Phillips. He put on the big smile for the fans and was active on social media and fan-friendly. Behind closed doors, though, he was a self-serving, me-first kind of guy. He was great with me until I wrote one story he didn’t like and then he cursed me out and refused to talk to me for the last two years with the Reds. As my old mentor, Earl Lawson of the Cincinnati Post, once told me, “They’ll turn on you at the drop of an adjective.”
From Bill in Circleville: Exactly what do the Reds do with their first round picks like Hunter Greene, who’s that young and has that little playing experience? Do they throw him out there and see if he can swim, or what?
BILL: What choice do they have? They have to play him. They can’t sit him in a corner and admire his abs. They have to see what he can do. They start him at Billings, Montana in the half-season rookie league, just like every player they draft in June. Then he begins to climb the ladder of the minor league system based on what he does. Some draft choices never make it out of Billings. But when you are a No. 1 pick with $7 million of the team’s money in your pocket you get every chance in the world to make it. Succeed or fail, you’ll be reading a lot about Hunter Greene over the next three years. But it isn’t all about draft positions. Ken Griffey Sr. was a 29th-round pick. Mike Piazza, a Hall of Fame catcher, was picked in the 61st round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. They don’t go that many rounds any more and Piazza was picked only as a favor to Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda because Piazza was related. Piazza and Griffey, though, had to work a lot harder to be noticed than Greene will.
From Gerry: In your last column about 20-game winners for the Reds you failed to mention Danny Jackson. How long did he play for the Reds after his one good year, and where is he now?
GERRY: I didn’t mention Danny Jackson because he wasn’t drafted or developed by the Reds. The question was about pitchers the Reds drafted and developed. Jackson was obtained in a trade with the Kansas City Royals after he went 9-and-18 in 1987. Then he went 23-and-8 for the Reds in 1988 and was second in the Cy Young voting to LA’s Orel Hershiser. He pitched only three years for the Reds and was traded to the Chicago Cubs. He pitched 15 years in the majors and was 112-131. Other than his 23-win season with the Reds, he never won more than 14 games (twice) during his career. My fondest memory of the volatile Jackson was after a game he lost when outfielder Kal Daniels misplayed a fly ball. He took a bat to his wooden locker and reduced it to splinters. When a writer asked him if he thought Daniels cost him the game, Jackson said, “Right now, I just want to unscrew your head and defecate down your neck.” Oh-kay.
From Bob in Dayton: I see that you write some UD baseball on Press Pros in the spring and wondered how you compare that experience to watching and writing about the Reds? And, do you think a coaching change will help the Flyers?
BOB: I love it. It is played for nothing by kids who love the game. I even made a couple of bus trips to North Carolina with the UD team and loved that, too. It gives you perspective after traveling first class and staying in Five-Star hotels. And I loved, and still love, former coach Tony Vittorio, who practically built the program from scratch. He may have been one of the most enthusiastic coaches I’ve ever been around. It is very difficult to recruit baseball players to a school like UD. They only get 11 scholarships and most players don’t get more than half of a scholarship. It costs $50,000 a year to attend UD so most recruiting has to be done with upper middle class kids and higher. Still, even at UD’s level, a coach must produce and Vittorio’s teams fell upon hard times the last three or four years, so after 17 years Vittorio was let go. The new coach has a West Point connection and it doesn’t get much harder than recruiting for the U.S. Military Academy.
From Stan Marko: First time to write to you and wanted to know why umpires throw out every pitch that bounces in the dirt…while they ignore balls hit to the infielders on the ground and allow them to be thrown to the next batter?
STAN: That’s one that perplexes everybody, including former National League umpire Randy Marsh, now the lead supervisor for Major League umpires. “I get that all the time,” he said with a shake of his head. Marsh said throwing out balls all the time began in Dodger Stadium because of the red brick clay around home plate that smudges baseballs. And he said it used to be in the American League that umpires nearly refused to throw out baseballs and kept them in play until they were hit for home runs or fouled out of play. He says balls are thrown out of play at home plate usually because when balls hit the dirt the batter asks for the umpire to throw them out. That’s because pitchers love scuffed baseballs. They can do nasty tricks with them. Heck, when I played pickup games on a neighborhood sandlot we used a ball until the cover came off, then we wrapped it in electrician’s tape and used it until somebody knocked it down the sewer.
From Eric: Hal, who pays for all the baseballs used by major league teams for a season?
ERIC: Ask Cincinnati Reds equipment manager Rick Stowe that question and his face turns as red as those weekend jerseys the team wears. “Major League Baseball doesn’t give us anything,” he said. “The team pays for the baseball and it costs us a bundle. We could buy another player with the money we spend on baseballs.” The team even takes its own batting practice balls on the road and Rick shudders every time a ball flies out of the park. It was very clear back in the 1980s when Dick Wagner was general manager who paid for the baseballs. He fined players for throwing baseballs to fans in the stands.
From Jason Keller: Hal, in a recent article you talked about baseball bats used by former players like Eddie Matthews. Are players allowed to make their own bats as long as they’re made from wood? I think I read something about Devin Mesoraco doing that. Am I correct?
JASON: As long as the bats meet specifications and get approval from MLB, your Aunt Matilda can make your bats or you can carve one out of a piano leg with your pocket knife. As for Mesoraco, he never made a bat himself. But he did cut down some trees in his yard in Punxsutawney, Pa. and sent them to the Marucci factory to make him some bats. He never used them in a game, but he kept them and said, “It’s pretty neat to have bats made out of trees from your own yard. A lot of the wood for bats come from the area where I live.”