Q: When is Scoop Oliver going to get into baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown? JOE, Oxford.
A: Al Oliver already is in my personal Hall of Fame as one of the nicest and most genuine man I’ve ever met. But my ‘Hall’ means nothing. Oliver’s numbers are Hall of Fame worthy, better than a lot of inductees. I just hope the Pittsburgh cocaine fiasco is holding him back the way it is for Dave Parker. Al Oliver was never part of that.
Q: Do you believe that St. Louis is the best baseball town in American and if not, what is? — TIM, Xenia.
A: Boston is my kind of baseball town, even if I’m not enamored with the team. But I have to agree that St. Louis is the best. Win or lose, rain or shine, day game or night game, Busch Stadium III is rocking with huge crowds. And what I also like is the fans there are appreciative of good baseball, even if performed by the opposition, unless it was Brandon Phillips.
Q: How are the Tampa Bay Rays able to compete year in and year out with one of the lowest payrolls every year and playing in old Tropicana Field? — JOHN, Dayton.
A: It is called good scouting, good drafting, good trading, which all traces back to an enlightened and intelligent front office. While it pays off on the field, it doesn’t pay off at the box office. Fans shy away from the Tropicana dump as if it is condemned. And it probably should be. The team will plays many of its home games next year in Montreal and that means they may soon play there permanently as the Montreal Rays (or the new Montreal Expos). Why? They can’t get voters to approve a new stadium in Tampa.
Q: To help prevent injuries from collisions at first base like the one that put the Dodgers’ Max Muncy on the IR, why not have an extension of first base into foul territory for the runner like the ones used in rec softball? — GREG, Beavercreek.
A: They experimented with just those pizza box sized bases at Triple-A, including Louisville. Look for their arrival in MLB next season. While they may help, they won’t stop the top of injury sustained by Muncy. That injury happened because Muncy had to reach inside to catch a wild throw and the baserunner ran into his arm. A wider base doesn’t stop that type of injury. If those bigger bases show up, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Donato’s, Papa John’s, Domino’s or Pizza Hut advertising on top of the bag.
Q: What is your opinion on wild card teams playing only one game? — PACEY, Middletown.
A: Absurd. Baseball isn’t football. In baseball, the worst team can beat the best team on any given day. I don’t even think best-of-three is fair. Best-of-five is best, one time through each team’s pitching rotation is fairest. But there is no fairness in baseball.
Q: How does Tyler Mahle mow ‘em down for four innings then can’t get anybody out in the fifth? — JERRY, Lebanon.
A: Actually, he doesn’t mow ‘em down in the first inning. He nearly always struggles and averaged nearly 20 pitches in the first inning, tops in the National League. Then he settles in for three or four innings. But he is also near the league-lead in 3-and-2 counts, which mounts his pitch count and probably leads to fatigue. If he could become more pitch-efficient, especially in the first inning, he could be a top of the rotation guy.
Q: With almost no chance the Reds sign Nick Castellanos, doesn’t this guarantee a losing record next year? — JOHN, Fairfield.
A: First of all, the Reds don’t have to sign him. He is already signed. But he has an opt-out clause in his contract enabling him to leave. It is 85-15 that he leaves. But he had the same opt-out clause last year and shortly after the season ended he said he was staying. Not a peep so far. And in baseball one man doesn’t guarantee wins or losses. There is pitching to consider, there is defense to consider, there are possible additions and subtractions to the roster. There are no guarantees in baseball.
Q: How close are you to finishing your next book? — JOEL, Kettering.
A: I get that a lot. My last book, ‘The Real McCoy, My Half-Century Covering the Cincinnati Reds,’ is out of print after four printings. Nadine keeps pushing me and so far, well, I’m on Page One. I pretty much let it all out in my last effort, but I am taking notes. Unfortunately, there are not enough notes for a book. Yet.