Ask Hal: What does future hold for Nick Senzel?

Q: A pitcher delivers a two-out, two-strike pitch and walks toward the dugout, anticipating a called strike three, so might this be showing up the umpire if the pitcher doesn’t get the call? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Have you seen some of the recent blatantly missed calls? If I’m a pitcher I’d never do that because who knows what the umpire is going to call. And if a pitcher does that, his next few pitches better be center cut. I’m not saying umpires are vindictive, but they are human, and most humans have thin skin. Umpires, by necessity, are type-A personalities and are emphatic about everything they do.

Q: What does the rest of the season and next year look like for Nick Senzel? —MARK, Senzel.

A: We’ve probably seen Senzel in Great American Ball Park for the last time unless he returns in an opposing uniform. He was demoted to Class AAA Louisville a couple of weeks ago and is likely to stay there. Most likely he’ll be traded in the offseason. Due to many injuries and not much production when he played, Senzel was and is expendable. His demotion was pushed forward when his agent asked the Reds about his playing time and Senzel was not happy, which is understandable. Everybody wants to play regularly, but with the youth movement there is no room at the inn for him.

Q: They use different baseballs in Class AA than they use in Class AAA and MLB, so why don’t they use the same balls at all levels? — DAVE, Celina.

A: It is another of those experimental things. Baseball uses the low minors as laboratories to test things out before implementing them in the majors. They did it with bigger bases and are doing it with robot umpires. In the Japanese league, they use a baseball with a tackier surface and no gloss for a better grip. MLB is trying them out in the minors where they don’t have to be rubbed up with Delaware River mud to remove the gloss and the slickness. Look for them to arrive shortly in the majors. And they will sail out of Great American Ball Park with the same rapid frequency.

Q: Back in my day, and yours, home teams always used the third base dugout, but not now and what happened? — SCOTT, Springfield.

A: Not always. There is no rule saying which dugout a team uses. It is the home team’s choice. It usually depends on the ball park’s construction and design. The home team always has a much larger and more luxurious clubhouse, and the dugout is adjacent. As for the dugouts, they are always the same for both teams, so it doesn’t much matter. At the end of games, both look like the remnants of a fraternity party.

Q: Is the Kangaroo Court gone? — DAN, Englewood.

A: Several teams still do it, but I’m not sure the young Reds use it. It’s a fun clubhouse thing where a veteran player serves as judge and players must appear in front of him for things such as missing signs, getting picked off, dressing poorly, having a dirty Mercedes, pilfering another player’s bats … and number of trumped-up charges. Barry Larkin used to serve as judge when he played, and he wore a mop for a wig. And the decisions and fines were final, no appeals.

Q: I wonder if some umpires have succumbed to the lure of big money in Las Vegas to cheat in favor of one team over the other? — LuANN, North College Hill.

A: That’s nearly impossible. Replay/review reverses most missed calls. Umpires are watched and graded closely. An umpire supervisor sits in press boxes for all games and makes notations on every call, including balls and strikes. If an umpire makes too many bad calls, he can expect a summons to New York for a consultation and straighten up admonishment. There is no crying in baseball and there is no cheating by umpires in baseball … I think.

Q: The movie Trouble with the Curve was a great movie starring Clint Eastwood and shouldn’t they make a sequel starring Elly De La Cruz? — RITCHIE, West Alexandria.

A: Now that’s harsh. Yes, De La Cruz strikes out close to 40 percent of the time and never saw a ball in the dirt he didn’t like but he’s 21 and still learning. His power, his speed and his arm make up for some of it and warrants his playing time. He will soon master the strike zone. If he doesn’t, he’ll need to take a shovel or a rake to the batter’s box to hit those balls in the dirt or around his ankles.

Q: With the balanced schedule and teams playing every team, it seems rivalries like the Reds-Dodgers of the 1970s are gone, so who do you see as the Reds’ main rival today? — TIM, Xenia.

A: The Reds-Dodgers rivalry in the ‘70s was because they always were the two best teams in the old National League West. Then it became the Reds and Cardinals because St. Louis was always so good. In recent seasons, the Reds were so bad they had no legitimate rivalry. I see a big rivalry developing between the Reds and the Chicago Cubs because both are getting better, they are in the same division and the two cities are close. But maybe not. The Cubs and Brewers, only 90 miles apart, already are arch enemies.

Q: Who were the best prankster you covered on the Reds? — JACK, Miamisburg.

A: The Nasty Boys — Norm Charlton, Randy Myers and Rob Dibble. They weren’t just nasty on the mound; they were nasty in the clubhouse pulling pranks. Former pitcher Scott Scudder filled Charlton’s cowboy boots with water and then stuck them in the freezer. So, the Nasty Boys went to the parking lot and took all four wheels off Scudder’s jeep and put them on the roof. Myers once killed six water moccasins in a retaining pond behind Plant City Stadium during spring training, put them on the end of a shovel and took them into the clubhouse as big, strong, macho players screamed and ran.

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