Ask Hal: Fundamentals are ‘out the window’ in MLB these days

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: How can it be that just a season ago the strength of the Cincinnati Reds was their pitching and today their pitching is dead last in the entire MLB? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Wrong. It only seems like they are the worst. As of mid-week, they were only second worst with a 4.95 earned run average. Arizona is the worst at 4.98, so it is close. Why? Subtract Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani for a start. Mix in the problems of Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and a mostly dismal bullpen and you have your answer.

Q: Do the Reds experience more baserunning mishaps than most teams and do they practice baserunning? — KEITH, Centerville.

A: You are referring to the team’s latest gaffe — Kyle Farmer getting pick off third base when Sonny Gray missed a bunt. That’s a minor one. I watch hours and hours of baseball and fundamentals are out the window. On one night, two different players lost home runs when they missed bases on their tour around the basepaths. How does that happen? Well, it happened to me once, but that was in Little League, where fundamentals are taught. And yes they do practice running the bases.

Q: Is Jonathan India being hit by so much with pitches because he is a rookie, because of his stance or because of his long hair? — JOHN, Oxford.

A: India has been hit eight times and while it is probably painful, he is not the leader in the clubhouse. Mark Canha of Oakland has been plunked 12 times and Nick Solak has been hit nine times. India hasn’t been hit because he is a rookie or because he has Samson hair. He has been hit because he fearlessly crowds the plate. Mostly he has been hit by breaking pitches. If a pitcher wants to hit you, he uses a fastball.

Q: How do teams measure players running speed and who is the fastest Reds player ever? — JEFF, Springboro.

A: Players are time in spring training by stopwatch in the 40-yard dash, home-to-first and a trip around the bases. I didn’t cover the 1869 Reds or the 1919 Reds or the 1940 Reds, so I don’t know about their speediest players. I find it difficult to believe there was ever a faster Reds player than Billy Hamilton. Who else could score from second on a sacrifice fly or score from second on a ground ball in the infield? Hamilton once told me the only person who ever beat him in a race was his sister. Wonder if she could get on base?

Q: What is the situation with Jesse Winker’s contract and what are the chances the Reds sign him to a long-term contract? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: Personally, I wish MLB would do away with long-term contracts, but is as likely to happen as them doing away with round baseballs. Winker is making $3.15 million this season and isn’t eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2022 season and can’t become a free agent until after 2024. So there is no hurry for the Reds to offer a long-term deal. Can you imagine what he might command right now on the free agent market? As a Buffalo native, he probably grew up as a Yankees or Mets fans. Are there pinstripes in his future?

Q: Am I the only person who finds it difficult to listen to Reds manager David Bell with his lack of charisma and emotion and his many “you knows” in his interviews? — PETER, Washington Twp.

A: If you want him fired, judging from my e-mails and Facebook comments, you are far from alone. Hey, not everybody can have Lou Piniella’s fiery spirit or Dusty Baker’s charisma. Bell just likes to remain on an even keel, win or lose. He is a quiet, polite man who refuses to throw his players under an 18-wheeler, and they love him for it. No, he’ll never get his own talk show, but managers are paid to lead and make decisions and they can utter as many “you knows” as they want.

Q: Trying to bunt a 98 miles an hour fastball can be scary, so is there a rule against a player wearing a special protective mask in obvious bunting situations? — TED, Middletown.

A: No, there is no rule against it. But if players do that, it would be a giveaway that they were going to bunt, and the third baseman and first baseman would stand close enough to them to shake hands. That would be like a quarterback going to the line of scrimmage and saying, “Pass to my wide receiver on the left.” And I know of no player afraid to bunt because he might get hit. It’s not in their genes.

Q: With Amir Garrett giving up a home run nearly every time he pitches, shouldn’t he be sent back to the minors until he learns how to pitch? —ED, Kettering.

A: I certainly wouldn’t want to be the guy who tells him, “You’re going to Louiisville?” He is a major league pitcher with a devastating slider if he keeps it down and out of the middle of the plate. All pitchers go through bad spells and he is in one. But he has shown he can be reliable. He has a long rope right now, but if it continues much longer, he might find himself traded or doing a refresher course in Louisville.

Q: Why does a relief pitcher get tagged with an extra-inning loss when he didn’t put that runner on in the first place and shouldn’t Rob Manfred get charged with the loss because he put the runner there? — LARRY, Melbourne, Fla.

A: If Manfred got the loss, his record this year would be about 0-100. If that runner scores, it is an unearned run and isn’t charged with an earned run. But if that’s the winning run, he does get charged with the loss. You are right. It is unfair to the Pitchers Union. As we all know that runner shouldn’t be placed on base in the first place.

Q: When a Reds player is sent down to the minors, is there anything built into his contract that dictates how far down he can be sent, from Triple-A to Single-A? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: If a team is really angry with his performance, a player can be sent all the way back to Single-A. But there is a caveat. If the player has 10 years in the majors, he has to give his consent to a demotion. If a team does try to send him down, he can refuse and become a free agent and sign with any other team. The way some Reds’ relief pitchers are performing, Class A Dayton would look good this time of year.

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