Ask Hal: Which rule changes for shortened MLB season are here to stay?

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: Which former Reds managers are tossing and turning in their sleep as a result of the shortened season and modified rules? DAVE, MIamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Any number of them. I’ll never forget the Irish temper of John McNamara in 1981 after the mid-season strike. We were in a motel in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Reds were training for the season’s resumption at the University of Michigan. When McNamara was told the season would be split into two segments, with the winner of each half meeting in the playoffs, he angrily turned the lobby into a junkyard. He destroyed a couple of potted plants. He tipped over a rack of brochures, scattering them all over the floor. He kicked over a bottled water cooler, turning the lobby into the Radisson Canal. And he was right. The Reds had baseball’s best overall record, but didn’t win either half of the National League West. The Dodgers won the first half and the Astros won the second half and they met in the playoffs. And it is for certain that Sparky Anderson, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella, Jack McKeon, Bob Boone and Dusty Baker would all wonder, “What in the hell is happening to our game.”

Q: Will the changes in effect for the shortened season be carried over to next season and what affect will it have on attendance? — NICK, Liberty Twp.

A: Unfortunately, yes. The designated hitter is a done deal. And I fear placing a runner on second base in extra-inning tie games is here to stay. It was experimental in the minors last year and commissioner Rob Manfred is adamant about slicing time off games. Bat boys and bat girls, high fives, low fives and spitting, though, will return. Atteandance. It depends upon one thing for most teams. The more they win the more they will come. The more they lose, the more they stay away.

Q: Could Reds manager David Bell used Michael Lorenzen as a DH and have him pitch only the fourth and ninth innings since he was never removed as a DH? — DAVE, Troy.

A: Not possible. Once Lorenzen takes the mound in the fourth inning, he becomes a position player and not the DH. And once a DH is removed for a position player, the team loses the DH for the rest of the game. That’s just another of those convoluted rules MLB is foisting on the fans.

Q: What do you think might be the best new rules for the short season to carry over to next season? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: I am as anti-DH as ‘anti’ can be. It just takes away too much strategy. And putting a runner on second for tied extra-inning games is so non-baseball it is absurd. What is wrong with the excitement on a 15th-inning game-winning home run or single? Isn’t it fun watching managers run out of pitchers and seeing a catcher on the mound. In short, I don’t like any of it, but we’ll have to live with the DH and the runner on second.

Q: All the years you’ve covered baseball, which were be best and worst press boxes in which you worked? — KOZ, Springfield.

A: The best was Dodger Stadium with its beautfiul view on gorgeous nights, its Dodger Dogs and celebrities sitting right below us. The worst was old Shea Stadium with its snail-paced elevator that constantly broke down, the tangle of wires and cables under our feet and the now-and-then visits under our feet from rats.

Q: When we listen to games this year on the radio will canned fan noise be provided in the background? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Haven’t heard that officially and I hope not. There is talk of piping crowd noise over the public address system and that probably can be heard on he radio. They do some of that in the Korean Baseball Organization and it sounds phony, which it is. They used to feed phony crowd noise over the radio when broadcasters didn’t travel and re-created games from a studio, following games on a Western Union ticker tape. Waite Hoyt was a master at filling time between pitches until the result of a pitch came over the wire. Are we back to that?

Q: With no minor leagues this year, how will players not on the big league team stay ready in case they are needed? — SCOTT, Miamisburg.

A: That’s the great mystery. Teams will have 40 players on their roster, but will have a 60-man ‘player pool’ from which they can select players. The teams will start with 30 players in the dugout. The rest will be at another site working out and probably playing intrasquad games to stay ready, if needed. And, believe me, they will be needed.

Q: If this season would not begin, would contracts just roll over to next season or would they just dissolve with the Reds losing Trevor Bauer? — BILL, Dayton.

A: Whether there is no season, or they start this season and it ends prematurely or if they play the entire 60 games, the union secured an agreement that all players will be given full service time for 2020. That means that Trevor Bauer can become a free agent after 2020 regardless of how games are played or not played. It is not a good look, but that’s the way it is.

Q: Looking back at some controversial Reds trades, who won and who lost? — JOHN, Dayton.

A: Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas and two trinkets: Reds lose, worst trade ever; Lee May, Tommy Helms, Jimmy Stewart for Joe Morgan, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke and Ed Armbrist: Reds win, best trade ever; Tony Perez for Woodie Fryman, Dale Murray: Reds lost, second worst trade ever; Paul O’Neill for Roberto Kelly, Reds lose; Wily Mo Pena for Bronson Arroyo, Reds win big-time.

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