Ask Hal: Big Dog one of many leaders on Big Red Machine

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: Left-handed pitchers have an easier pick-off move to first base and left-handed hitters have a shorter distance from home to first base, so why is this never a topic of conversation? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: You just made it a topic. But real baseball fans don’t talk about it because it is so obvious. As far as left-handed batters being closer to first base, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean some of us got there quicker. Some right handers got to first base faster than lefties like Sean Casey and me. You still must run fast. A coach once said to me, “We know you run to first base like you have a piano on your back, but do you have to stop and play it?”

Q: Is it true that Tony Perez was the true leader in the Big Red Machine clubhouse because everybody respected him? — ANTHONY, Dayton.

ExploreMcCoy: Reds slug their way past Pirates

A: Yes, The Big Dog was a leader among leaders. Joe Morgan was a leader. Pete Rose was a leader. Johnny Bench was a leader. Perez, though, had a knack for putting all the big egos in the room in their place when it was needed. He did it with sharp humor and they all respected him so much that they listened to him. And to a man they had deep respect for him.

Q: How many games will the Cincinnati Reds win this year? — JOHN, Tipp City.

A: I could be a smart aleck and say, “All the games in which they score more runs than the other guys.” But I won’t. I see many optimistic fans on social media saying they’ll win 75 to 80. Those folks are called cockeyed optimists. The over/under out of Las Vegas for the Reds is 65 1/2 wins, two fewer than Pittsburgh’s projected 67 1/2. I’m still waiting for a team to win or lose half of a game. I lean heavily westward toward Las Vegas and say they’ll outscore the other team 68 times. That, of course, is a purely uneducated stab in the dark.

Q: Will the larger bases lead to more stolen bases this season? — BOB, Dayton.

A: Indeed, size does matter. The bases have grown from 15 inches to 18 inches and several players during spring training opined that 2023 will be ‘The Year of the Stolen Base.’ And it isn’t just the new giant pillows. The rule limiting pickoff throws to first base helps, too. If spring training is any indication, we’ll see a lot of slides into second and third base this season. This spring there were 2.3 theft attempts per game with an 80.8% success rate. During spring training in 2022 with the smaller bags there were 1.53 attempts per game with a 75.2% success rate. Runners on base this season are going to give catchers Excedrin Headache No. 23.

Q: Relief pitchers these days come to a stop, move their foot, stop, move their foot and repeat multiple times, so with the new rules will umpires call a balk on these guys? — GREGG, Beavercreek.

A: You’ve been watching Johnny Cueto too much. With the pitch clock, pitchers will barely have time to scratch their ears between pitches. They won’t have time to do their voodoo dances. Yes, umpires will call something, but it will be, “Ball one,” if the clock expires before the first pitch while the pitcher is fidgeting his time away.

Q: Is there any reason for hope of a playoff game this year? — FLASH, Hamilton.

A: There is always hope because, as they say, hope springs eternal. It just depends upon where eternal is. And rest assured, there will be playoff games all over the country — New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Cleveland, Seattle. Cincinnati? Uh, no.

Q: Has the art of bunting totally gone away and do any teams practice bunting? — JACK, Miamisburg.

A: It’s not an art, it’s a pre-historic artifact. Hey, if they didn’t bunt against the shift (and mostly they didn’t), they aren’t going to bunt with the shift outlawed. Yes, they do practice bunting. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. But they don’t do much teaching on the correct way to bunt. I fear nobody really knows how.

Q: Ken Griffey Jr. was the hitting coach for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, so will we see him coaching in MLB one day? — JEFF, Troy.

A: He was a great coach when they scored 14 runs against Cuba, but not so great when they scored two against Japan. With all the side stuff he does now for MLB and the Hall of Fame, I don’t see him becoming an MLB coach. He certainly doesn’t need cash. He made more than $150 million during his illustrious career. He hasn’t played in 13 years, but the Reds are still paying him $3.7 million a year in deferred money. Would he become the Reds’ hitting coach to earn that money? Uh, nope.

Q: How many old-style non-electric typewriters did you go through, and which was your favorite? — KOZ, Springfield.

A: I began my career with a hefty Royal portable with a suitcase-style case that was so heavy it hurt my shoulder. I began using an Olivetti Lettera 22, which is what most sports writers used. Small, compact and light. I went through at least three. Recently my friend Jason Hyman found one somewhere and gave it to me. It rests on display on a shelf in my home office. My grandson saw it and said, “Hey, grandpa, what’s that?” I told him that’s what I used to write my stories after the hammer and chisel.

About the Author