Ask Hal: What’s my most memorable Reds walk-off win?

The Reds' Jay Bruce rounds the bases after a three-run home run in the first inning against the Brewers on Thursday, May 5, 2016, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Caption
The Reds' Jay Bruce rounds the bases after a three-run home run in the first inning against the Brewers on Thursday, May 5, 2016, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. 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 halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: What is your favorite Cincinnati Reds statue and favorite non-Reds statue? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: My favorite is the Statue of Liberty. Baseball? I love the sliding Pete Rose statue at Great American Ball Park, even though there is controversy for it being there. It is a three-way tie on the road — Stan Musial (St. Louis) in his batting stance, Willie Stargell (Pittsburgh) and Willie Mays (San Francisco) in his follow-through swing. Icons all.

Q: Joey Votto had a walk-off double this season so what is the best walk-off hit you’ve witnessed? — RON, Vandalia.

A: Several, actually. The most dramatic had to be Jay Bruce’s walk-off home in 2010 against Houston to clinch the National League Central championship. And Votto was involved in one. His three-run home walk-off grand slam home run beat the Washington Nationals, 9-6. It was his third home run of the day. Remember third-string catcher Hal King. Dodgers pitcher Don Sutton was one strike away from a win on July 1, 1973. King homered to give the Reds a 4-3 win. At the time the Reds were 12 games out of first place. After King’s homer, they went 60-26 the rest of the way to win the National League West.

Q: Why does Reds pitcher Pedro Strop wear his hat crooked? — ROGER, Springfield.

A: Most fans hate it. And some baseball people hated it. Stop said he was fined a few times when he pitched for the Texas Rangers. It has nothing to do with superstition. He wore his cap that way when he was a small child and never stopped. I often wonder what umpires would do if a player wore his hat backwards, the way Ken Griffey Jr. always did during batting practice.

Q: The Chicago Cubs display a lot of emotion while the Cincinnati Reds appear lackadaisical, so do you think the Reds play with any emotion? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: I’m not sure emotion determines wins or losses. It is easy to display hearty emotions like the Cubs when they are beating up on everybody. And it is tough to display much positive emotion when a team is underachieving the way the Reds have this season.

Q: The St. Louis Cardinals are missing a slew of games due to the pandemic, so what should be the minimum number of games played threshhold in order to be eligible for the postseason? — JOHN, Richmond Heights, Mo.

A: It will be difficult for all teams to play 60 games and these are times of adjustment. MLB’s plan is to use won-lost percentages to determine playoff teams. Fair? Not really. A team with more wins than a team with a higher winning percentage might miss the playoffs and the howling will begin. But what else is a league to do?

Q: With a 60-game season, will the Cincinnati Reds bullpen hold up or will they look for some help? — JAY, Englewood.

A: The bullpen has shown some improvement recently. Most of them have proven track records. If not, if the Reds played a bunch of seven-inning doubleheaders the bullpen will not be in play that much with the strong rotation going five, six and even complete-game seven innings.

Q: Why don’t umpires keep their hands and arms behind them to keep from getting hurt? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: They need to use those hands and arms to call balls and strikes quickly. I never understand why they went away from those big balloon chester protectors that more fully covered them. Probably too cumbersome. Umpires are tough hombres. Chris Conroy fractured a finger in Cincinnati when hit by a Shogo Akiyama foul tip. Two innings later he was umpiring third base. Some players leave the lineup with a hang-nail.

Q: Are the umpires being extra generous on the the strike zone this year? — BILL, Kenton.

A: The strike zone is finely defined but it seems to change year-by-year. Despite the definition, each umpire seems to have his own zone and it is up to the pitcher/hitter to adjust. I’ve seen it both ways this year, good for the hitter and good for the pitcher. TV shows that box, representing the strike zone, but strikes are called outside the zone and balls are called inside the zone. It is the human element. But let’s not even consider robot umpires.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Q: What happens if a team contracts the COVID-19 during the playoffs and can’t play? Will that team forfeit because those games can’t be made up? — MARK, Austin Landing.

A: Ah, a pessimist. But a legitimate question. MLB is considering a contingency plan. It would like to play in a playoff bubble if the Major League Players Association agrees. And why wouldn’t they. It would keep their players safe. Maybe they’ll play in Bubble Wrap.