Ask Hal: Seems like one of those years for Reds

Q: Did the unexplained re-opening of the roof at Miller Park have any effect on Joey Votto’s ninth-inning, two-out, game- ending fly ball being caught by Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez? Conspiracy? — DAVE, MIAMISBURG/CENTERVILLE/BEAVERCREEK

A: You have more conspiracy theories than Jim Garrison. Did you know that with the roof open at Miller Park the baseball travels farther? And they opened the roof. They didn’t close it. So Votto’s ball probably traveled farther than it would have had they kept the roof open. However, nobody checked the ball. Maybe they slipped a dead ball into the game.

Q: Will the Reds remain a contender or are the wheels beginning to fall off the bus? — John, Vandalia

A: Don’t you mean the wheels on the ambulance? It seems somebody is hurt or injured and can’t play nearly every day and manager Dusty Baker shuffles his lineup cards like a Vegas dealer, but he can’t seem to deal himself a blackjack. If they can get healthy and stay healthy (a mighty big if) then, yes, they’ll stay in contention. But it seems like one of those years where the team trainers get more ink than the players.

Q: When an outfielder relays a throw and the relay man throws a runner out, he gets an assist. Does the outfielder get an assist, too? — MARK, DAYTON

A: Unlike hockey, where you get an assist if you saw the puck go into the net (I’d never get an assist because I’ve never seen a puck go into the net), baseball is a little tougher on assists. But not much. Yes, the outfielder gets an assist. And if a pitcher deflects a ball to the shortstop and the shortstop throws out the runner, the pitcher gets an assist, too. But if an outfielder yells to another outfielder to which base he should throw, the screamer does not get an assist.

Q: You’ve spent thousands of hours interviewing players and coaches. Do you find them invading your dreams and do you have any recurring dreams like forgetting to take your laptop to the ballpark? — DAVID, SPRINGFIELD

A: My recurring dream is that on graduation day from Kent State, 51 years ago, I was told I needed another class credit before I could graduate. That’s’ no dream, that’s a nightmare — and it keeps coming back. I don’t dream about ballplayers, though. I live it every day — and sometimes that’s a nightmare, too.

Q: How is it that the Reds pay a quarter of a billion dollars to Joey Votto to drive in runs and they put the second worst on-base percentage guy (Zack Cozart) in baseball in front of him? — Jerry, Cincinnati.

A: Hope springs eternal? Dusty Baker keeps hoping Cozart will come around, but his Coming Out Party just seems to never happen. Things got messed up when Ryan Ludwick got hurt and Baker had to drop Brandon Phillips from second to fourth to cover Ludwick. I’d certainly like to see somebody else given a try at No. 2 and they have my cellphone number but they just refuse to call me.

Q: Both Reds catchers are struggling with injuries and Ryan Hanigan can’t get off the interstate with his batting average, so is it time to look at the hot-hitting Ashley Nevin from Louisville? — CRAIG, FAIRBORN

A: Actually, his name is Nevin Ashley, but why quibble? He is not on the Reds’ 40-man roster and somebody would have to be lopped off to get him to the majors, where he has never been. He is a career-minor leaguer. The Tampa Bay Rays drafted him in the sixth round in 2006 and he spent seven years in their system without a call-up. He has never hit much, but in 2009 he was named the top defensive player (for all positions) in Tampa Bay’s system. Right now, in 44 games, he is hitting .290 at Louisville with four homers and 21 RBIs.

Q: When did baseball get so strict about taking balls out of play as soon as they hit the dirt and why? — GREG, DAYTON

A: In my 41 years it has always been that way. I can remember playing high school games with three baseballs and it didn’t bother us. Pitchers like scuffed and smudged balls — all the better to make them do tricks. But how would fans at major-league games like it if they had to return all foul balls hit into the stands? I guess umpires figure if they have to rub up 72 baseballs before every game to take off the gloss they darn well are going to use ‘em all.

Q: In regards to Homer Bailey not going on the air with WLW, what are the parameters for fair and unfair criticism by beat writers? — JAMES, DAYTON

A: Criticism is accepted by players (for the most part) if it is fair. I’ve found they accept it if you don’t get personal — no aspersions cast upon their physiques or lack thereof, their character, their intelligence. When I am going to comment on a player’s mess-ups, I also try to talk to them to get their side of what happened. That way you don’t get punched in the ear.

Q: How much credit does a catcher deserve when a pitcher throws a no-hitter and who has the final say on what pitch is thrown? — MICHAEL, BEAVERCREEK

A: Well, somebody has to catch all those pitches, right? While a catcher flashes all the signals, a pitcher never has to throw what the catcher calls. The pitchers make the final decision. But as Homer Bailey said on the night of his second no-hitter, “I already had in mind what I wanted to throw and nearly every time Ryan Hanigan put down the exact sign that I wanted.” So, yes, give Hanigan a large assist.

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