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Ask Hal: Dusty donning Dodger blue? Not likely

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

Q: Is Zack Cozart using one of those ash bats infested with the emerald borer disease that is infecting ash trees and bat supplies? — DAVE, MIAMISBURG/CENTERVILLE/BEAVERCREEK

A: If he is, he should pass them around to some teammates. If you noticed, Cozart had four hits Wednesday. And maybe you should notice that as of the end of the last road trip he was 9 for 30 (.300) and had hit safely in five of the last six games. Earlier in the season it looked as if he was swinging one of Dusty Baker’s toothpicks, but he is swinging whatever he is swinging pretty solidly.

Q: A USA Today story noted that Dusty Baker might be interested in returning to the Los Angeles Dodgers as manager following the Don Mattingly debacle. Is there any truth to it, as I am sure the DBers (Dusty Bashers) would help him pack? — CRAIG, FAIRBORN

A: Nowhere in the story does it quote Baker as saying that. The writer speculated. Baker has a contract with the Reds through 2014 and he isn’t going anywhere. Most likely Mattingly will be long gone by then and a suitable replacement will be in place. The DBers would not only help him pack, they’d pay his air fare (first class). They’d be wasting their money because he isn’t going anywhere.

Q: The Reds have two upcoming series against the Cleveland Indians, two at home and then two on the road in Cleveland. Why don’t they just play four in one venue? — KYLE R., DAYTON

A: In 41 years of covering baseball I have never seen back-to-back home-and-away series against the same team. It is the product of the messed-up interleague schedule with 15 teams in each league. It has cost the Reds and Indians one game at home each because they used to play three in Cincinnati and three in Cleveland, but never back-to-back. Playing all four at one park would give the home team an unfair advantage in the battle for the not-so-coveted Ohio Cup. And those are the only four games the two Ohio clubs play against each other — at least until the World Series.

Q: Mike Leake struck out in a game last week with the bases loaded and the catcher missed the ball, so Leake ran for first. Isn’t the rule that if first base is occupied and the batter strikes out he cannot run to first base? — GARY, ST. AUGUSTINE, FLA.

A: Yes, that is the rule — with no outs or one out. The Catch-22 is that if there are two outs and a batter strikes out and the catcher misses the ball, then the batter can flee to first base, even if it’s occupied, and must be thrown out. In Leake’s case, the catcher picked up the ball and tagged home plate for a force out because the bases were loaded. With the bases loaded, if the catcher misses strike three, he can throw to any base for a force. But if I’m a player these days, I test every rule because with some of the recent faux pas by umpires who knows how they might rule it.

Q: Has Dusty Baker told Marvin Lewis to quit calling outfielder Donald Lutz to offer him a contract as a Cincinnati Bengals linebacker? – CRAIG, MIAMISBURG

A: Because Lutz grew up playing hockey in Germany, it is more likely Pittsburgh Penguins coach Don Bylsma might be calling, looking for an enforcer to help him in the NHL playoffs. Can’t you see the 6-3, 240-pound Lutz boarding some unsuspecting left wing? I’m waiting for him to run straight through some outfield wall any day now.

Q: Recognizing that no catcher in Reds history was as great in all aspects of the game as Johnny Bench, who was the best defensively, the best at calling games and the best at throwing out runners? — STAN, SPRINGBORO

A: Still Bench, Bench and Bench. He was the best at all three. Nobody comes close offensively, but Ryan Hanigan wins the other categories — throwing out runners and calling a game. As for who was the most fun in the clubhouse, that honor goes to Joe Oliver, one of the funniest guys ever. And one of the nicest guys ever to catch for the Reds was Ed Taubensee. Taubensee once wore a wrist band that had WWJD on it and I asked, “What radio station is that?” And he said, “It stands for What Would Jesus Do?” Blush.

Q: As a Hall of Fame baseball writer with the utmost integrity and objectivity, are you also able to identify yourself as a Reds fan? — JEFF, SPRINGBORO

A: Thanks for the kind words (and, no, he isn’t a relative or close friend). I am a baseball fan — love the game, love to see it played well and played right. I have teams I love and teams I don’t love. Most folks know I love the Cleveland Indians because I grew up a fan in Akron. As for the Reds, I live with those guys every day and, of course, I like to see them play well. And I like to see them win because the better they are the more fans want to read about them. And the check is in the mail.

Q: Can the Reds offer Shin-Soo Choo a one-year qualifying offer of $13 million and be happy if he accepts or can they take the first-round pick if he goes elsewhere? — KYLE D, DAYTON

A: They can offer him a buck-and-a-half or the dark side of the moon, but it won’t make a difference. A one-year offer will draw nothing from Choo’s agent, Scott Boras, except a raucous guffaw and an “are you nuts?” response. If the Reds want to keep Choo, it will take a multi-year deal with Scrooge McDuck-type money.

Q: Whatever happened to a couple of left-handed pitchers the Reds had who they thought had futures — Matt Maloney and Jeremy Affeldt? — KEITH, BROOKVILLE

A: Maloney is alive, but barely kicking, hanging on with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. He was obtained by the Reds from Philadelphia for Kyle Lohse. The Reds tried him in several roles, including a starter, but nothing worked. In three years he was 4-9 with a 5.40 ERA in 22 appearances, 11 starts and 11 relief appearances. The Reds discovered he was no Jim Maloney and let him go on waivers in 2011 to the Twins. Affeldt was signed as a free agent for the 2008 season and made 74 relief appearances and was 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA. The Reds wanted to re-sign him, but he took free agency and the San Francisco Giants signed him. And that’s where he remains, a valuable bullpen guy who is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 16 appearances this year. He is to the Giants what Sean Marshall is to the Reds.

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