Ask Hal: How much does unusual season have to do with Reds' struggles?

Credit: David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: 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

Q: With two outs and a 3-and-2 count, the batter heads to first base after a pitch right down the middle and the pitcher heads for the dugout, which player gets the evil eye from the umpire? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Because the pitch was right down the middle, the umpire obviously called a strike three (unless he is Angel Hernandez, then you never know). There would no reason for any evil eye, unless the batter turns on his heel and charges the umpire. The batter would be ejected and the only evil eye would be his toward the umpire because the batter would have his wallet lightened.

Q: How much of the Reds disappointing showing do you attribute to the stop of spring training and the restart along with the shortened season and schedule? — RON, Vandalia.

A: None. Zip. Nada. That’s just a lame excuse. Did it affect the Dodgers? The Padres? The Braves? The Rays? The Reds are where they are because of a leaky bullpen, ragged defense, tepid baserunning and the average and below-average production from their so-call big acquisitions — Shogo Akiyama, Mike Moustakas. Nick Castellanos and Wade Miley.

Q: Where does this season rank as your most frustrating or disappointment in a Redlegs squad? — RYAN, Dayton.

A: As a beat writer you are supposed to be objective, just write what you see and hear with no rooting interest. But you want the team you cover to be successful because that means more readership. My first year, 1973, was frustrating. I thought I’d get to cover the Reds in the World Series, but they lost in the playoffs to a much-inferior New York Mets team. The 1974 Big Red Machine won 98 games and didn’t make the playoffs. Frustrating? Just ask the team. This year? The season is so convoluted and full of hurdles, on and off he field. Thus I have no real disappointment. I just want it all to end and hope all returns to normalcy for baseball next season.

Q: What restrictions do Reds players have on the road? — JIM, Cincinnati.

A: They better take books, games and playing cards with them. When not at the ballpark they are quarantined in their rooms and can’t leave. Meals are provided by the team and served in the hotel. It is almost a monastic existence. And then they get to go play games in empty stadiums. No family, no friends. The only good thing? No obnoxious Bleacher Bums in Chicago questioning your manhood and upbringing.

Q: Tell me, candidly if you think the four-year $64 million contracts the Reds gave to Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos are worth the money? — BART, Springfield.

A: I’m always candid with my answers. Resorting to a cliche, time will tell. So far, not good. For the money, both have underperformed. Instead of lifting the Reds, they are matching what the team is doing and that’s below average. And Castellanos has an opt-out clause after this season and might exercise it and be gone. Huge contracts these days are baseball’s folly. They are a huge gamble and how often does gambling pay off?

Q: Is the fake crowd noise I hear on Reds broadcasts heard by players and is it in all ballparks? — JIM, Beavercreek Twp.

A: Fake noise, fake fans (cardboard cutouts) and in some ways fake baseball. Yes, some recorded crowd noise is piped out to he field to give players some semblance of normalcy. But when they look into the empty stands, reality hits. It is studio baseball. Way back in 1962, one of my Journalism professors, William Taylor, said one day TV would take over all sports and there would be no fans. The students laughed. It is no longer a laughing matter.

Q: Do you believe Thom Brennaman should be punished the way he is? — DON, Riverside.

A: What he said is reprehensible and unacceptable. And he knows that. Should he be punished? Yes. A suspension is necessary. Should he lose his entire career over it? No. Evan Milward, a gay Cincinnati newscaster, has met several times with Brennaman and believes he should be forgiven. Ryan Messer, a Cincinnati LGBTQ activist, has asked the Reds to re-instate him. I am on board with that. Brennaman has been devoutly sincere with apologies after learning a painful lesson. Time not to forget, but time to forgive.

Q: Are you still in touch with Sean Casey and what is he doing now? — CHARLES, Dayton.

A: Yes, absolutely. If you are a friend of Sean Casey’s, you are a friend forever. I spent some time with him in February when he spoke at the LaSalle Stag dinner in Cincinnati. If you want to see him, tune in the MLB network. He appears often and his bubbly personality permeates the shows on which he appears. And he’ll be seen often next year when his son, Andrew, plays for the University of Dayton baseball team. Like his dad, the kid can hit.


Q: Who pays for the bubblegum, sunflower seeds and Gatorade we see in the dugouts and do the players have a slush fund? —DICK, Centerville.

A: The clubhouse manager, Rick Stowe for the Reds, furnishes that stuff, along with post-game meals. The players pay dues, home and visitors. There is no set amount and as you might expect there are players who are very generous, like Ken Griffey Jr., and players who try to get by on the cheap and they shall remain anonymous. When I covered spring training for six weeks, I always handed Stowe a $100 bill because each morning I’d grab a couple of cups of coffee and a banana.

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