Ask Hal: Votto living up to lofty expectations

Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto hits a fielders choice off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester to first to drive in Jose Peraza in the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto hits a fielders choice off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester to first to drive in Jose Peraza in the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Q: What do the Reds do now with Brandon Phillips after he has turned in a solid season? — JAY, Wilder, Ky.

A: The first thing they try is another trade, try to find a team that will extend his contract. That’s a tall order for a player who will be 36 next season. They have to find a spot for Jose Peraza, either second base or shortstop. If they can’t trade Phillips, the next option is shortstop Zack Cozart, who is 31 and probably not part of the rebuild. Trading him, too, will be difficult because he missed so much time the last two years and finished the season on the disabled list. It is, indeed, an enigma wrapped around a riddle surrounded by a mystery.

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Q: My fortune teller did not smile when she said my favorite sports team would prosper again in the future, so what is your take on this? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Did you tell her which team is your favorite? The Chicago Cubs? The Denver Broncos? The Cleveland Cavaliers? FC Barcelona? Based on your previous questions I’m assuming it isn’t the Cincinnati Reds. She didn’t smile because you asked if you could pay by check. And if she was referring to the Reds, I noticed she didn’t tell you how soon that success might happen.

Q: Will Reds fans ever get to the point where their expectations are too high for Joey Votto? — JERRY, Dayton.

A: Nobody has higher expectations for Joey Votto than Joey Votto. It was eating him up when he was hitting .213 at the end of May. Now look at him: .328 batting average, 28 home runs, 92 RBIs and 108 walks as of Thursday. Expectations should be .300, 25 homers, 75 RBIs (they won’t pitch to him much with runners in scoring position), 150 walks, a .450 on-base average. Those are pretty lofty. Votto reaches them nearly every year. Maybe fans might expect him to do it for a full season. If he does, his numbers will be astronomical.

Q: What will you miss most about Vin Scully? — TOM, Miamisburg.

A: Everything there is good about broadcasting and baseball. Most of all, I’ll miss the man himself. Never once have I heard him say anything bad about anybody, not even Yasiel Puig. From the first day I met him he treated me as an equal, and I was never even close. And he is the only living broadcaster of whom I can say, “I listened to you as a kid.”

Q: What percentage of the gate do visiting major-league teams receive? – CRAIG, Cincinnati.

A: Visiting teams once received a percentage, but when MLB went to revenue-sharing in 1997 it was eliminated. They divide it all up at the end of the season. Teams visiting Cincinnati are happy about that this year. The Reds have the second-worst attendance in the National League, ahead of only Miami. The Reds are 25th of the 30 teams. Amazingly, the AL Central-champion Cleveland Indians are 28th. Even the fans don’t believe their success this year.

Q: When interleague play began I thought it was fun, but now isn’t it too common and don’t you think it takes away excitement from the World Series? — PAULINE, Yellow Springs.

A: That was my exact thought when interleague was implemented. But baseball needed an attendance injection and thought it would help. It did, at first. Now it is an everyday thing and the novelty is gone. Yes, I believe it takes away some of the World Series mystique because the two teams probably met during the season.

Q: Endless reviews on nit-picking plays, catchers can’t block the plate, runners can’t take out the middle infielders, pitchers who go six innings believe they have done their jobs — is baseball losing a lot or am I just getting old? — STOCC, Miamisburg.

A: We’re all getting old, some of us older than others. Reviews drive me to distraction. I played when catchers blocked the plate and baserunners took out middle infielders and pitchers wanted to go nine. Yes, the game is changing and not for the best. Some of it is for safety to protect multi-millionaires. I can see that. They’re doing it in the NFL, too. Pretty soon they’ll be playing slow-pitch softball and flag football.

Q: How much were you surprised when Adam Duvall hit more than 30 home runs and drove in more than 100 runs? — TOM, Kettering.

A: Surprised? Shocked. He had little major-league experience and he began the season in a platoon situation in left field. He had done it with a relatively low batting average? Why? Because he bats right behind Joey Votto so he nearly always has somebody on base to drive home. The home runs? Not too surprising. He is extremely strong and owns a quick, compact swing.

Q: Where did the cheer “Who Dey” come from with the Cincinnati Bengals? — JOHN, Maineville.

A: Ah, so we know baseball season is nearly over when I get a Bengals question. OK, I’ll try to punt this one. The full cheer is “Who dey, who dey, who dey think gonna beat dem Bengals? Nobody.” My research says: A 1980 commercial for Red Frazier Ford of Cincinnati, which used this tagline: “Who’s going to give you a better deal than Red Frazier? Nobody.” Cincinnati fans who had seen the commercial many times may have just copied it when cheering. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.