Hall-of-fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about America’s pastime. If you’d like to tap into that knowledge, send a question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Has Dusty Baker entertained the idea of placing runners in scoring position during batting practice? — DAVE, MIAMISBURG/CENTERVILLE/BEAVERCREEK
A: I suspect if he did that then batting practice would be wasted because the hitters would hit weak grounders or meek pop-ups. It amazes me that the Cincinnati Reds are second in the National League when they have stranded enough runners to populate Lima, Peru.
Q: Shin-Soo Choo’s agent is the very demanding Scott Boras. Have you ever heard of a player going against his agent’s advice to sign with a team for less money because he likes where he is? — DON, AVERY COUNTY, W.VA.
A: Sure. But not often. Agents are paid well, and in Boras’ case handsomely, to do what is in the best interests of their clients, although Boras sometimes goes over the top. And with Choo being from Korea and not totally familiar with our culture, I’m sure he listens to everything Boras says. It would be in the best interests of the Reds to re-sign Choo, but that decision will be his, er, that decision with be made by Boras.
Q: I was told that foreign-speaking players signing with the Reds were to speak English within two years of signing, but Johnny Cueto still uses a translator. Am I misinformed? — JANET, CENTERVILLE
A: That’s a new one on me. The Reds offer English instruction to their minor-league players, but there is nothing mandatory about it. Hey, some of the American-born players could use English lessons. And I’d hate to cover the Dominican League and be told I had to speak Spanish within two years. After I’ve said, “Buenos dias, muy bien,” I’m done. And I had two years of Spanish in high school.
Q: Everybody loves Corky Miller, so what has kept him out of the big leagues? — BRAD, GREENVILLE
A: As I wrote recently, if you don’t like Corky Miller, you don’t like ice cream, puppies and morning sunshine. Buzz, as the players call him, is extremely popular because of his personality and work ethic. Unfortunately, he has never been able to hit (.188 lifetime average) and he can’t control the running game. That’s why he has been in the minors for 15 years and just recently played his 200th major-league game, barely more than one full season. His value is in his knowledge of the game, his leadership and his handling of pitchers. You will see him coaching or managing in the majors.
Q: Nick Masset was recently transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. What has happened to set him back even farther? — KEITH, BROOKVILLE
A: It is out of sight, out of mind. Masset had shoulder surgery early last September to repair a torn anterior capsule. It’s the same injury that ended Johan Santana’s career, so cross your fingers for Masset. It is a relatively new diagnosis for baseball players, so it remains unclear how serious it is over the long haul, but Masset is having difficulty coming back.
Q: Do any of the Dusty Baker Bashers have major-league managerial backgrounds or even Little League experience? — JOE, PHILLIPSBURG
A: Most of their experience comes from sitting in a La-Z-Boy watching television and second-guessing Baker after the fact. Anybody can do that. If you’ll notice, they never give him credit for the many, many correct buttons he pushes. I like what former manager Jack McKeon once said: “Why don’t those know-it-alls give me a call in the dugout BEFORE I make a decision and tell me what to do, and we’ll see how good they really are?”
Q: Is it too early to worry about the lack of production in left field with the Reds? — RUSS, CINCINNATI
A: Too many fans worry about things they can’t control when all they should do is sit back and enjoy the game. Yes, Chris Heisey is struggling. Yes, they dearly miss Ryan Ludwick. The hope is that Heisey can pick it up or maybe Xavier Paul or Derrick Robinson can fill the hole until Ludwick returns in July. Until then, worry about the economy or North Korea or global warming — something to really worry about.
Q: What is your opinion on the now-popular WAR statistic being talked about so much in baseball? — GERRY, CINCINNATI
A: I think WAR should be left to its original meaning — a conflict between nations. In short, WAR is wins above replacement, so even the term is nebulous. It is another of those way-out-there statistics created by somebody with too much time on his hands. It is supposed to determine the value of a player’s total contribution to his team based on base-running, batting, fielding and pitching to show the additional number of wins a player contributes to compared to a replacement player coming up from the minors or off the bench. Now how esoteric is that?
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Q: Brandon Phillips reportedly had a bad attitude when he played in Cleveland, but he has given no indication of that in Cincinnati. What was the situation in Cleveland? — SCOTT, MIAMISBURG
A: Phillips is Mr. Wonderful 99 percent of the time, but he has his moments, to which I can attest. He got mad at me the first year he was with the Reds for something I wrote and gave me what-for. But we patched it up and he has been A-No. 1 in our dealings since. There was only one incident in Cleveland and that was because he and manager Eric Wedge didn’t hit it off and Phillips rebelled at being sent back to Triple-A. Watching Phillips play these days I can’t imagine him ever being sent to the minors once anybody saw him play.