Ask Hal: Reds still sporting too many Achilles’ heels

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: If you had a time machine and could do it all over, what would you do differently? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: While I loved the first decade of my career covering high school sports, Ohio State, golf, auto racing, the Cleveland Browns, UD basketball and other things, I didn’t start covering baseball until I was 33. If I could go back, I would have tried to become a baseball writer sooner. I love baseball, love to travel and love to write. As a baseball writer, I got to do all three and got paid for it. I always told Nadine that some day I would get a real job, but I never did.

Q: What is the Achilles heel on this year’s Reds that could cause a collapse? — SEAN, Fort Thomas, Ky.

A: Is there such thing as an Achilles arm? With the loss of Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani, the notable rotation is now not notable. There is Castillo and Sonny Gray, although his return is delayed at least a week. Then there is, uh, uh, uh ... well, who? There are a bunch of candidates who haven’t stepped forward. And it’s the same with the bullpen — who, who and who and where, where and where. And then there was last season’s .212 team batting average. It is more like an Achilles team.

Q: Will the Reds wear a number 8 patch on their uniforms this year to honor Joe Morgan? — JEFF, Kettering.

A: How disrespectful would that be if they didn’t honor a key operative of The Big Red Machine? The Reds have not forgotten him. They will wear a black circle with a white ‘8’ in the center on the left sleeve of their uniforms. That’s apropos. Little Joe used to flap his left arm before every pitch.

Q: Who was the best hitting pitcher you ever saw? — DAVE G., Beavercreek.

A: Tony Cloninger pitched late in his career with the Reds, but it was with the Atlanta Braves when he hit two grand slams on one game. That’s pretty good. I didn’t get to cover him, but Joe Nuxhall knew which end of the bat to hold. I’d vote for Don Gullett, a legendary all-around athlete. At McKell High School in South Shore, Ky., he pitched a seven-inning perfect game and struck out 20 of the 21 hitters. The last guy bunted for an out. He once score 72 points in one football game (11 touchdowns, six extra points) and scored 50 points in a basketball game.

Q: Why would the Cincinnati Reds claim a pitcher off waivers from the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates like Carson Fulmer? — KEITH, Brookville.

A: Fulmer and Reds pitch coach Derek Johnson have a history. Fulmer was highly successful at Vanderbilt when Johnson was the pitching coach. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox, but has had no major league success with Boston, the Chicago White Sox, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Johnson, of course, figures he can fix what ails Fulmer and he has been impressive for the Reds in intrasquad games. Will me make the team? Probably not.

Q: What are your favorite baseball books? — JIM, West Chester.

A: I have one wall of my home office filled with baseball book, most of which I have read. I should say my favorite is ‘The Real McCoy, My Half-Century Covering the Cincinnati Reds.’ But I haven’t read it since I wrote it. I love any books written by Roger Angell and Roger Kahn. Roger that.

Q: Will the reduction of minor league teams improve the overall quality of players? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: MLB eliminated 40 teams, which means there are about 800 fewer minor league players. To me, it means less quality. There has to be some excellent players among those 800 left out. Teams make mistakes on draft picks, both in those they select and those they don’t. In baseball, it’s the more the merrier.

Q: What moment in your career do you cherish most? — JAY, Englewood.

A: To keep the franchise happy, I have to say the day I met Nadine. Professionally, it has to be the day my peers voted me into the Hall of Fame. But cherished memories? So many. Pete Rose’s 4,192nd hit. Tom Browning’s perfect game. Game 7 of the 1975 World Series, plus Games 4 of the 1976 and 1990 World Series. Most of all I cherish the opportunity to have covered nearly 7,500 major league baseball games. . .and still counting.

Q: When and why did they stop the post-game ‘Star of the Game Show’ after Reds’ games? — BILL, Kettering.

A: Late in Joe Nuxhall’s radio career, players consistently failed to show up after games, leaving poor ol’ Joe sitting in a chair holding a microphone by himself. Before salaries became obscene, players could use the $100 gift certificates they were given for showing up. Then $100 became nothing to ultra-rich players so they would stiff Joe. Finally, totally exasperated, Joe quit doing the show and it died.


Q: Of all the players you have covered that played for the Reds, who was the best clubhouse leader? — MARK, Austin Landing.

A: To use the vernacular of the week, that one is a slam dunk. He was with the Reds only briefly, but Greg Vaughn was the best I saw. He was the leader of the 1999 team that fell one game short of making the playoffs. Not only was he a stud on the field, the clubhouse was his. He could send shivers through a person’s body without speaking. His stare and glare was enough to make players straighten up and play right.

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