Ask Hal: Better shortstop? Larkin or Concepcion?

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

Q: Do you have an issue with players making more money than the commissioner? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred makes $20 million a year, more than most players. And I do have an issue with that. The guy is being paid to mess up the game with silly rules. And I do have issues with the $30 million and $35 million a year some players are paid. Nobody playing a little boy’s game is worth that kind of cash. Is my jealousy showing?

Q: Who was the better shortstop in your time, Dave Concepcion or Barry Larkin? — JAY, Englewood.

A: Some would say that’s a puffball pitch because Larkin is in the Hall of Fame and Concepcion isn’t. But Concepcion should be in the Hall of Fame, so that’s a wash to me. I love them both. At the risk of being wishy-washy, Concepcion was better defensively and Larkin was better offensively. So I’ll say Davey Larkin. Or is it Barry Concepcion?

Credit: File photo

Credit: File photo

Q: Which Reds uniform do you like better, the 1999-2006 version or the 2007-to-present version? — TYLER, West Carrollton.

A: Neither one. You are too young to remember one the Reds wore in the 1960s. They were sleeveless, pin-striped and the player’s name was under the numbers on his back. They say clothes don’t make the man, or the baseball player, but those duds were classic.

Q: What is your favorite Opening Day memory? — JOHN, Fort Wayne, Ind.

A: It is not a favorite, but is memorable because it was a tragedy. It was the day umpire John McSherry died of a heart atttack while working home plate on Opening Day, 1996. I have one on the positive side. Third baseman Joe Randa (2005), playing his first game with the Reds, hit a game-winning walk-off home run in the ninth inning, just after Adam Dunn hit his second homer of the game to tie it, 6-6. Randa’s nickname was ‘The Joker’ due to his resemblance to the Batman character. Insert your own joker jokes about Randa.

Q: Who had more hustle, Pete Rose or Ryan Freel? — BILL, Ketttering.

A: Both were all-out at all times. And Rose’s nickname of Charlie Hustle said it all. Freel’s hero was Pete Rose and he tried to pattern his game after Pete’s. Both would run over their grandmothers at home plate to score a run and both would run through a steel curtain to catch a ball.

Q: In today’s game, which is more scarce, the sacrifice bunt by a position player or a 25-win pitcher in a season? — DAVE, Hattiesburg, Miss.

A: The duckbilled-platypus is nearly extinct, and so are sacrifice bunts by position players and 25-game winners. While we will occasionally see a No. 8 hitter drop a sacrifice bunt, it is extremely rare because when it is tried, it is usually fouled off because today’s hitters don’t know how to bunt. Twenty-five game winners? Gone the same way as a pterodactyl.

Q: Why do you dislike the designated hitter so much and will the National League ever add it permanently? — JOE, Kettering.

A: I dislike it because it takes away so much baseball strategy, takes decisions away from the manager. In today’s game, Soupy Sales could be a good manager. Wasn’t the game designed as a game of offense AND defense? A DH doesn’t even have to own a baseball glove. It is like having a designated free throw shooter in basketball. Unfortunately, yes, the National League eventually will have the DH.

Q: Refresh my memory, are the Reds in their seventh or eighth year of their five-year rebuilding plan? — TIM, Xenia.

A: I believe it is the eighth year, ever since they fired manager Dusty Baker after the 2013 season. Nobody has really said they went into a rebuilding mode, but it certainly resembles one with the club’s yearly instability. It appears they made a go-for-it before last season with the acquisition of Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama and a few others and it worked to a certain extent, thanks to the expanded playoffs. They did relatively nothing before this season so perhaps the ‘rebuild’ is over. Stay tuned.


Q: Are long-term contracts and years of player control becoming more important to the make-up of a roster than what a player does in spring training? — LARRY, Washington Twp.

A: Certainly players with long-term contracts and good players under contract control have a better chance of sticking. Too often, spring training phenoms can fool you because spring training is only 30-some games and players face a lot of minor-league players. Former Reds managers Davey Johnson and Dusty Baker, two of the best, always said, “Don’t let September (due to call-ups) and spring training fool you as to a player’s worth.”

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