Ask Hal: Most underrated Red? Don’t sell Davy short

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion chases a ground ball during a 1983 game. FILE PHOTO
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Cincinnati Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion chases a ground ball during a 1983 game. FILE PHOTO

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: With the way the game has changed, might Rickey Henderson’s stolen base record last longer than Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A They both are about as safe as your $100 in a safe deposit box. Henderson stole 1,406 bases. Seattle’s Mailex Smith led baseball with 40 thefts in 2019, the last full season. And that’s about the average number these days for stolen base leaders. At that rate, it would take Smith 35 years to catch Rickey. The long ball, not batting average, is the objective for hitters these days. They pile up strikeouts, not hitting streaks. The Man of Steal and The Yankee Clipper are safe.

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Q: Who is the most underrated Reds player you ever covered? — MAC, Forth Worth, Tex.

A: In 48 years, literally hundreds of Reds played have passed before my eyes. But this is an easy one. Dave Concepcion. Not only was he the best shortstop in the 1970s, he collected 2,321 hits, drove in 950 runs and scored 993 times. He was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glover. Yet, when the Reds’ Great Eight poses for a picture, he is always in the back row on the end.

David Concepcion
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David Concepcion

Q: How many times can a player be sent to the minors before he is out of options? — TYLER, West Carrollton.

A: It used to be that a player could only be optioned three times during his career. They changed it a few years ago. Now it goes by years. A player can be optioned as many times as a team desires in a season and that’s one option. And the second year they can option him as many times as a team sees fit. That’s two options. Same thing for the third year. After three years, a player is out of options. The really good players, like Ken Griffey Jr., play their entire careers without ever being optioned and retire with three options remaining. If newspapers had options, I might have spent some time with the Podunk Press-Gazette.

Q: How likely are we to see Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo at the major league level this season? — JIM, Leitchfield, Ky.

A: Both are tearing it up at Double-A Chattanooga and the next logical step right now is promotion to Triple-A Louisville. It is like Paul Masson said, “No wine before its time.” The Reds rushed Homer Bailey and while he had his moments, like two no-hitters, it didn’t work out in the long run. Greene and Lodolo are possible September call-ups, unless the Reds fall by the wayside in mid-season. Then it might be an earlier arrival for one or both.

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Q: Why does Tyler Stephenson kiss his right pinkie finger and then tap his left shoulder with that pinkie during at bats? — MIKE, Bloomington, Ill.

A: Pure superstition. Baseball players might be the most superstitious human beings on the planet. If they happen to tug their left ear and scratch their nose and then hit a grand slam, they’ll tug their left ear and scratch their nose forever after. Stephenson said he has done the pinkie thing since high school, “It’s a habit, no story behind it. I wish there were because people keep asking me about it. But why change if it’s working.”

Q: Why are we seeing so many no-hitters? — KEVIN, Jacksonville. Fla.

A: The shifts certainly helps pitchers. And hitters don’t care if they strike out, preferring to swing out of their shoes, even with two strikes. Pitchers routinely throw 98 miles an hour. Mostly, though, players don’t care about putting the ball in play or trying to hit it the other way against shifts. Maybe they should lower the mound again, as they did in 1968. If they do, pretty soon pitchers will be throwing off flat ground, the way softball pitchers do.

Q: What’s the most impressive athletic feat you have seen on a baseball field? — KEVIN, Centerville.

A: Watching Deion Sanders run out a triple was impressive. Watching Mark McGwire hit baseballs into outer space was impressive, even though they were chemically enhanced, but watching Pete Rose accumulate 4,256 hits was, by far, the most impressive. The guy was driven and it was awesome to see what he put into slapping all those hits.

Q: When I walked into a University of Dayton baseball game a few years ago, I was delighted to see you there on a Reds day off, so do you get a chance to attend any Dayton Dragons play? — DENNIS,Huber Heights.

A: If there is a baseball game somewhere, you might see me there. It could be high school, college, minor league or major league. I’m a baseball junkie with a 24/7 habit. I love the state high school tournament. I love dropping in on UD and Wright State and the Dragons. And when time permits, I especially love watching my grandson, Beckett, play for a Lebanon youth team. If somebody yells, “Play ball,” I’m there.

Q: Do you think Reds manager David Bell should quit moving players around to different positions? — JIM, Kettering.

A: His lineups are the result of injuries. When Joey Votto and Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel are on the injured list, their positions have to be covered. Bell is fortunate to have versatile multi-position players he can move like a chess master. I only question first base and the constant parade of different guys there. That just tells me the organization has no first baseman in the system ready for The Show. With Votto’s long-term deal, it looks as if they felt they didn’t need first basemen.