Ask Hal: First base or DH for Joey Votto?

Q: If the Cincinnati Reds are truly rebuilding, don’t the fans have a right to see a plan including when the team will again make the playoffs? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: They are truly rebuilding. Now whether they build a brick house or a straw house remains to be seen. No team’s plan can guarantee the fans a playoff appearance or even a .500 season. There are no money-back guarantees in baseball. And even life has an expiration date.

Q: Will Joey Votto play first base or be the designated hitter? — LOWELL, Hamilton.

A: A little of this and a little of that. Most likely, Votto will do what Votto wants to do. If his surgically repaired shoulder and biceps heal comfortably, he’ll play a lot of first base. But some DH-ing is in his immediate future so catcher Tyler Stephenson gets some relief at first base. And on days Votto doesn’t play, you might find him wandering the stands shaking hands with fans or sitting in the radio booth or TV booth. He just began playing spring training games last week so we’ll see how that goes.

Q: With all the young infield prospects and the Reds years from being competitive, how long will second baseman Jonathan India be with the Reds? — ARLEY, Middletown.

A: A friend of a friend of a friend of India’s told me, “He can’t wait to try free agency.” But that’s far down the road to 2027. After winning Rookie of the Year in 2021, India felt what the sophomore jinx is like last season. He’ll need better numbers in the next few seasons to be a top-tier free agent. Of course, the trade-happy Reds could deal him at any day, any hour, any minute.

Q: With third base closer to home plate by three inches, will fans see more attempts to steal home? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: I’ve tried stealing home, but Nadine always catches me. For certain there will be more thefts of second and third. Home? Not so much. How far home plate is from third base is meaningless. It is how big of a lead a runner can get and whether the pitcher pays attention. Ty Cobb and Jackie Robinson are no longer with us, so I’d say you’re wasting time waiting for a steal of home.

Q: Managers are getting away from wearing numbered jerseys in favor of pull-over logo tops, so why don’t they wear their numbered jerseys? —TIM, Xenia.

A: Once upon a time, Philadelphia A’s manager Connie Mack wore a three-piece suit, a straw hat and always had a rolled-up program in his hands. Some out-of-shape managers should go back to that. Some wear those pullovers to hide girth. Remember Tommy Lasorda in a Dodgers jersey? Not pretty. For now, pull-overs are the fashion statement. All managers have jerseys and numbers. Occasionally Dusty Baker’s No. 12 is visible. Reds manager David Bell owns uniform No. 25, as did his grandfather, Gus, and his father, Buddy. But I’ve never seen it because David is with the pull-over aficionados.

Q: Give me one reason to go to Great American Ball Park and I don’t need my 567th bobblehead? — NICK, Dayton.

A: There’s a chance you might catch a glimpse of the Riverboat Grand Majestic on the Ohio River. Maybe you’ll see Reds fan Charlie Sheen, although he hasn’t been around for a few years. Basically, if you are a real fan, it’s baseball, even if it isn’t your daddy’s baseball. The best reason is the chance to see the stars on other teams and perhaps, just maybe, a future star playing for the Reds.

Q: Are you surprised pitcher Trevor Bauer didn’t get signed by an MLB team and will play in Japan? — JOE, Kettering.

A: I would have been stunned if an MLB team did sign him. He is one strange dude and carries more baggage than a Pullman car. He is the only pitcher in history to win the Cy Young award with five wins. That was the truncated 60-game COVID-19 season of 2020. His 1.73 earned run average over 73 innings got him the award. His record was 5-4, good enough to become the first Reds pitcher to win the Cy Young. His off-the-field behavior is his albatross and hopefully he won’t create a national faux pas in Japan.

Q: What Reds’ player got the angriest with you over something you wrote? — KEVIN, Centerville.

A: That’s a slam dunk. It was Joe Morgan. I wrote a column that I thought was harmless about Little Joe leaving the Reds through free agency after the 1979 season. The next day, he pointed a finger at me and said, “Don’t ever try to talk to me again.” I took him at his word, childishly. We didn’t speak for 31 years, even though we were on elevators together, stood next to each other at bathroom urinals and played doubles tennis against each other. We made up — he made the first move — in 2010 and I’m so glad we did before he passed. Even though we didn’t speak for 31 years, I deeply respected him as a player and a man and always believed he was the best all-around second baseman I ever covered.

Q: What’s your favorite off the field spring training memory? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: After about 40 spring training assignments, that’s a difficult one. One of my favorites occurred in Al Lopez Field in Tampa. I was sitting shirtless, sunning myself in the left field bleachers. The bullpen bench was in front of me. A pitcher flipped me a baseball between innings to toss to left fielder George Foster so he could warm up his arm. I signed the ball and threw it to Foster. He looked at it, saw my signature, turned and threw it over the left field wall. Amazingly, it went through the windshield of a car. . .belonging to my boss, sports editor Si Burick.

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