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Ask Hal: Frazier shows Sabo-like scrappiness

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: The Reds have no 20-game winners, no Cy Young winners, no Gold Gloves, no 40 home run guys, no base-stealing leaders, so why all the excitement about 2013? — Dave, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek

A: This isn’t tennis or golf. It is a team sport. Individual statistics are nice, but the teams that win employ the team concept. And don’t bet that the Reds won’t have a 20-game winner (Johnny Cueto, Matt Latos) or a Cy Young (same guys) or a slew of Gold Gloves (Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Bronson Arroyo). Hey, if they don’t, that doesn’t disqualify them for the playoffs.

Q: Third base has been a revolving door for the Reds, so will Todd Frazier match the last anchor at third base for the Reds, Chris Sabo? — Mike, Beavercreek

A: If you look at the roster, every position was a full set of revolving doors from 2000 to 2010, the Decade of Doom for the Reds. Aaron Boone and Scott Rolen had nice runs at third base. And I like the comparison between Sabo and Frazier. Both are down-and-dirty scrappy players. Sabo, though, barely uttered a paragraph a day, but Frazier will talk to a Coke machine if a human being isn’t around.

Q: What are the best pieces of baseball memorabilia you own? — Alan, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: I’m not a collector and it is a good thing because over 41 years I could have filled a warehouse with stuff. My son, Brent, has a large finished basement and he has a lot of stuff I gave him. I do have two mint-condition programs from the 1939 World Series between the Reds and Yankees. No, I didn’t cover it. It was the year before I was born.

Q: Why do the Reds normally have a day off after Opening Day? — Sharon, Dayton

A: In days of yore, before ESPN took over baseball, the Reds always had the honor of playing the first game of the season because they are baseball’s oldest franchise and no other game was played. But now ESPN wants to televise an opening-night game in a large market (New York or Boston, of course). The Reds always had the second day off so all the other teams could play on that day and catch up. They still do it. Why? Who knows? You can’t say it’s tradition because tradition was tossed in the trash when they took the first game away from the Reds.

Q: Ryan Hanigan will be the No. 1 catcher, but who do you see as the backup? — Keith, Brookville

A: That question was asked of manager Dusty Baker a few days ago and he said succinctly, “I don’t know. We’ll see.” I thought sure they’d bring back Devin Mesoraco to continue his progress, but they signed veteran Miguel Olivo, just as last year they signed veteran Dioner Navarro. So, stay tuned. That’s what spring training is for.

Q: What is the most interesting spring training game you ever saw? — Mike, Arlington, Va.

A: Spring training games are pretty blasé, sprinkled with players you never heard of and may never hear of again. There was a game in Winter Haven, Fla,. in the 1990s when Reds first baseman Hal Morris didn’t like a high-and-tight pitch from Cleveland pitcher Jose Mesa. Morris dropped to the ground and injured his shoulder. It was near the end of spring training and Morris missed some time during the season.

Q: Who do you think will be the Reds’ MVP this year. I’m picking Jay Bruce? — Brad, Huber Heights

A: I’ll give you my pick in mid-September. Picking an MVP early in spring training is like going to Las Vegas with $10 and believing you’ll turn it into $10,000. Bruce is as good of a choice as any, if he can avoid those periods when he can’t find the exit ramp off the Slump Freeway.

Q: I read that Joey Votto is going to slide on his other side to protect his injured knee, but based on my experience as a high school hack, sliding is pretty much an instinctive thing so how is he going to do that? — Court, Dayton

A: We all know by now that what Joey Votto decides to do, Joey Votto does. He’s a determined guy who knows exactly what he needs to do and when he needs to do it. Maybe he should decide not to slide into third base at all.

Q: What are the chances the Reds plant a pitch in the middle of San Francisco’s Angel Pagan because he kept stepping out of the box, which resulted in Johnny Cueto getting hurt when he started his windup in the NLDS? — Scott, Sidney

A: Slim and none, unless maybe a pitch slips — nod, nod, wink, wink. Nobody talked much about what Pagan did, but baseball players are like elephants. They have long memories (but they don’t work for peanuts).

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