McCoy: My all-time Reds starting lineup

Johnny Bench hugs Tony Perez before the Cincinnati Reds Legends Game at Great American Ball Park on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, at Great American Ball Park. David Jablonski/Staff

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Johnny Bench hugs Tony Perez before the Cincinnati Reds Legends Game at Great American Ball Park on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, at Great American Ball Park. David Jablonski/Staff

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 all the recent changes in MLB, can you envision some of the great players spinning in their graves? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Talk about spin rate in baseball. I can see Bob Gibson and Tom Seaver spinning like airplane propellers over last season’s ghost runner in extra innings. I can see Tony Gwynn and Ty Cobb rotating like a chicken on the barby over hitters not adjusting to the shift. Ernie Banks is still alive, but he’d be spinning like a buzzer top when they played seven-inning doubleheaders because he always said, “It’s a great day, let’s play two.” And he meant nine innings.

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Q: What is your all-time Reds starting lineup? — ROB, North Star.

A: I have to start at my first year, 1973, and I’m tempted to list the 1976 Big Red Machine and be done with it. But that’s hedging. So, here goes:

C-Johnny Bench, 1B Tony Perez, 2B-Joe Morgan, SS-Barry Larkin/Dave Concepcion, 3B-Pete Rose, LF-George Foster, CF-Eric Davis, Cesar Geronimo, Ken Griffey Jr., RF-Dave Parker, LHP-Don Gullett, RHP-Jose Rijo, Tom Seaver, Closer LHP-John Franco, Randy Myers, Closer RHP-Jeff Brantley, Danny Graves, Rob Dibble. Yes, I fudged on a few, but it is my team.

Q: Of all the moves the Reds have made so far, which one is the best? MARK, Dover, Tenn.

A: Some say their best move might be to move the franchise to Nashville, but that’s too drastic. I’m not overly thrilled with any of their moves. Giving away a Jeff Brantley bobblehead is a good move. Maybe the best move was trading Eugenio Suarez after two awful seasons but including Jesse Winker erased the positives of that deal, along with accepting injured pitcher Justin Dunn in the deal. Signing Tommy Pham might work out, but he hasn’t been as good as Winker.

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Q: The adage is that every team wins 60 games and loses 60 games and I would put the over/under for the Cincinnati Rebuilders this year at 59, so what are your expectations? — DENNIS, Huber Heights.

A: I agree that the Reds will win 60 and lose 60. Originally, after all the salary-dumping, my win total was 71. Las Vegas has them at 74.5 (where will that half win come from?) and those guys build magnificent edifices with money from losing bettors. And because the NL Central is a 98-pound weakling this year, I’ll go with 75.

Q: During your long-time coverage of the Reds, what are your favorite Spring Training memories? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: With more than 40 years of spring training coverage, that’s a tall ask. I’ll never forget the great ushers and security people at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. They treated me like royalty. And I always loved interacting with the fans because you could get up close and personal with them at the small parks. Playing tennis in 85 degrees in February was a treat. Oh, yeah. There was some meaningless baseball to cover, too, but they were fun because the players were happy because their strikeouts by hitters and home runs given up by pitchers didn’t besmirch their records.

Q: Who was the best hitter you ever saw, Reds player and any other player? — CLINT, Cincinnati.

A: For the Reds, it had to be Pete Rose. I witnessed his 44-game hitting streak and most of his 4,256 hits. He also had 86 post-season hits and seven All-Star game hits that aren’t counted as part of his career totals. Who knows how many spring training hits he had? But the best pure hitter I covered was San Diego’s Tony Gwynn, who could thread a baseball through the eye of a needle and would laugh out loud at today’s shifts.

Q: How much is Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell being paid and how does it compare to other managers? — GREG, Miamisburg.

A: Manager salaries are not readily available and hard to find. As hard as I searched, I couldn’t find Bell’s. From a frantic search, I did find that Boston’s Alex Cora is probably the highest paid at $8 million a year. Dave Roberts of the Dodgers made $6.5 million last year and the Angels Joe Maddon was paid $6 million. Buck Showalter signed a three-year $11.25 million deal with the Mets. Terry Francona of Cleveland make $4.2 million. Believe it not, Aaron Boone of the Yankees made only $1 million last year and Brian Snitker led Atlanta to a World Series win on an $800,000 salary and Tampa Bay paid Kevin Cash $700,000. And for all the years they have managed, Milwaukee only paid $1.5 million to Craig Counsell and Houston only paid Dusty Baker $2 million. Suffice to say that Bell is somewhere between $700,000 and $8 million … closer to the bottom than the top.

Q: I’ve heard fans say they are done with baseball, but by staying away from games are they only depriving themselves of enjoyment, so what can an average fan do to make a meaningful impact? — LARRY, Washington Twp.

A: I’ve heard the same thing from legions of fans, first due to the 99-day lockout and then more when the Reds played Let’s Make a Deal with fabulous door prize giveaways. Most are just knee-jerk reactions and by the end of spring training they are back. The most meaningful thing fans can do is to support the local team. Show up and support, during the good and the bad, even if the bad rules these days. Baseball does make it tough with labor disputes, silly rules, and gouging prices, but we who love the game endure.

Q: Which MLB ballpark has the best press box food? — BRIAN, Wheelersburg.

A: Ah, a culinary question. I’m partial to the foot-long Dodger Dogs in Dodger Stadium, of which I partook of too many and ended up with an upset stomach. As for real food, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia served scrumptious pre-game meals for $10, which included ice cream with a myriad flavors. The food in Wrigley Field was so bad some of us left the stadium and walked two blocks to a Mexican takeout joint that served burritos the size of an official NFL football.

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