From far and wide, your questions for Hal McCoy on this and that, here and there, then and now related to baseball. A little bit of everything in his most recent ‘Q’ and ‘A’ Press Pros feature.
From Dave in Centerville, Beavercreek, and any restaurant that allows ‘selfies’: Are you mentally prepared for the day in the very near future when you head out to GABP in a self driving car and cover a robot-umpired Reds game?
DAVE: I already have a self-driven car, one steered by my friend Ray Snedegar, who has driven the route so often he can do it blind-folded. And sometimes I think he does just that for a little variety and spice to a very boring trip. And I am not worried about robot umpires. I just wonder if Joey Votto will argue with Robbie Robot on a called strike three. I will only begin to worry when writers are replaced by robots. Come to think of it, some of the baseball writers I’ve read recently just might be robots.
From Joel West: First time on Press Pros and liked your former posts. As bad as he’s going now, does Votto get a lot of coaching, and is he a willing listener?
JOEL: Welcome aboard, but your timing is not impeccable. As this is being written, Votto has 10 hits in his last six games but is sitting out his third straight game with a tight hamstring. Votto is taking scorching heat from fans for his woeful start, but it is Vintage Votto. Nearly every season he starts so slow one has to read the stats sheet from the bottom to find him. But he nearly always recovers and puts up fat numbers. His slow start was longer this year than normal and because he is 35 many fans opined that he is done, finished, kaput. As usual, though, Votto says, “Not so fast, bunky.” Ten hits in four games doesn’t turn him into Ted Williams, but it is a start. Votto does listen to advice and coaching. But he is like Ted Williams was. He knows more about his swing and approach than anybody else and knows what he needs to do to fix his flaws.
From Gerry: Has a major league team ever had four left-handed starters (or five) in their rotation?
GERRY: Are you left handed? Why else would that cross your mind? I’m left handed, but I’ve never thought about that. It is rare and unusual, but it happens occasionally. You only have to go back to 2015 when the Chicago White Sox had four lefties in the rotation — Jose Quintana, Chlris Sale, John Danks and Carlos Rondon. And in 2016 the Los Angeles Dodgers began the season with five lefthanders in their rotation — Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brett Anderson and Scott Kazmir. But they signed right hander Kenta Maeda and the rotation was reduced to four lefties. The 1983 New York Yankees had lefthanders start 127 of their 162 games, which is the all-time record for most starts by left handers in a season for one team. I started one game in my baseball career – one game, one inning, one run, one hit, one walk, one strikeout, one hit batsman. Oh, yeah. I also wore uniform No. 1. My coaches told me to go back to first base and stay there. I obeyed.
From James Donnelly: Hal, what’s the story on why home plate and the pitching rubber are exactly 60 feet, 6 inches apart? That seems to be a strange coincidence.
JAMES: What’s the coincidence? I don’t get it. Do you mean why is the distance between home plate and the pitching rubber and the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate the same? Is that a joke, a riddle? If it is, well, ha, ha — I think. If you are asking why the distance is 60 feet, 6 inches and why not just 60 feet or just 61 feet, well, up until 1893 the rubber was 50 fee from home plate. Try hitting Aroldis Chapman from 50 feet. Anyway, try this one. The rubber slab is six inches deep and the front of it is actually exactly 60 feet from home plate and the back of the rubber is 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate. And, of course, pitchers stand to the front of the rubber, 60 feet from home plate. And that’s no joke and no coincidence.
From Richard, in Sidney: Hal, you often hear people say that a team is just a player away from being a contender. Realistically, how many players are the Reds away from reaching that point?
RICHARD: Believe it or not, after a horrendous 1-and-8 start, the Reds have a better record in the National League Central than every team but the Chicago Cubs. And the Reds are 4-and-2 against the Cubs. As the games go by, the Reds are getting better and better. They were receiving great pitching early in the season, but no hitting. Now they are hitting and winning. Any team can use an extra good player, that one player to make a difference. But it isn’t always necessary. In fact, when Scooter Gennett comes off the injured list, the Reds have a major problem. Jose Iglesias is their best shortstop, by far, and their leading hitter as far as average. And Derek Dietrich is their leading power hitter and as good as Eugenio Suarez at producing runs. That leaves Jose Peraza homeless. But they still have to find room for Dietrich. That’s a great problem to have, better than having nobody good to fill spots.
From Jasper in Y’town: Hal, given that so much attention is given to Jackie Robinson for breaking the color line in the major leagues, why do you think no one mentions Larry Doby for being the first black player in the American League, just weeks after Jackie Robinson. And didn’t Doby have a longer career?
JASPER: You are preaching to the choirboy on that one. I grew up in Cleveland and was/is a huge Indians fan. I was eight years old when Doby joined the Indians and I was a Doby fan. And he was a fantastic player. Unfortunately, his timing was a bit off. Bill Veeck, the great innovator, ran the Indians and I’m shocked he didn’t beat Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey to the punch and call up Doby before Rickey called up Jackie Robinson. The first is always THE FIRST and the second is just the second. So Doby is pretty much an afterthought, a footnote to Robinson. And, yes, Doby played a little longer and he even managed in the big leagues. And he remains one of my all-time heroes.
From Bob in Wheelersburg: From you experience around the Reds would you say there are more ‘good’ guys or ‘not so good’ in the major leagues?
BOB: In my 46 years of covering major league baseball I have encountered very few bad apples. I probably could count the bad ones on one hand without us.using my thumb. And the Reds, including right now, always seem to have a troupe of extremely personable, kind, cooperative and humorous players. This may surprise some people because he was always so good with the fans and wore a perma-press smile, but one of the few ‘bad’ guys on my list was Brandon Phillips. He was a me-me-me guy and jumped on writers at the drop of an adjective, including me. He was friendly to me until I wrote something he didn’t like. He called me at home to express his opinion of my opinion, which didn’t coincide. Then in his last two years with the Reds he refused to talk to me, which was no great loss because I really didn’t want to talk to him. In addition, he was not liked by his teammates. So there.
From Jackson in Chillicothe: I recently went to a Reds AA game in Chattanooga and had a great time. Wondered if you ever go to minor league games and how you compare the experience? By the way, they still mention Pete Rose, Jr. a lot at Lookout games.
JACKSON: I love minor league games. I go to Dayton Dragons games as often as I can when the Reds are out of town. Back in 1994, when baseball playersf went on strike, I spent a week in Chattanooga doing stories on the Lookouts at old Historic Engel Field. I took folding chair up on the roof and picked up foul balls. Pete Rose Jr., was more of a legend in Chattanooga than his father, who never played there. Pete Jr. had some great seasons there. What I like about the minors is the relaxed atmosphere where it is more about entertaining the fans than winning baseball games. And the prices are more affordable.
From Dickie in Frankfort, Ky: Do major league team ever travel by bus? For instance, do the Reds bus to Cleveland for a trip that short?
DICKIE: Absolutely. The Reds travel from San Diego to Los Angeles (and vice verssa) by bus. They travel from Milwaukee to Chicago (and vice versa) by bus. They travel from Philadelphia to New York (and vice versa) by bus. I used to do the Philadelphia-New York trek by Amtrak because I love trains. I also traveled LA to San Diego by Amtrak down the west coast shore with the Pacific on my right. Last year the Reds used Amtrak from Washington to New York and the players loved it. Me? I’m not a big fan of the hassle of air travel. Give me a train ride every time.