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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: How can you say Billy Hamilton covers more ground than any center fielder when he plays in smallish GABP where there is very little ground to cover? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: Obviously you don’t watch games. Have you seen him cover ground in San Francisco’s AT&T Park, which has an outfield as spacious as Montana? How about PNC Park in Pittsburgh or Citi Field in New York. All that stops Hamilton from catching every deep ball is an outfield wall and sometimes he tries to run through those.
Q: Will the Reds sign Dan Straily for next year? — ARLEY, Hamilton.
A: He might be the first guy they sign, as in, “Here, quick, sign on the dotted line.” Straily is not eligible for arbitration or free agency, so it is a no-brainer. He is 6-0 since the All-Star break. For the Reds he is found money. They signed him three days before opening day for $512,500 (the major-league minimum) after San Diego released him. Straily is 10-7 and no San Diego pitcher has won more than five games.
Q: Billy Hamilton says he will work with a track sprint coach in the off-season, but his sprinting speed is OK. Shouldn’t he be concentrating 100 percent on his hitting? — KEITH, Brookville.
A: Why can’t he do both? Speed is his game and if he can improve by even one step they’ll never throw him out. And if you check, you will see that since the All-Star break, in 35 games he is hitting .313 with 31 stolen bases. I’d say he is hitting AND running. Defense? He robs more batters of hits than John Dillinger robbed banks. His game is becoming more complete day-by-day.
Q: Since Commissioner Rob Manfred likes changing rules, why not change the rule that stops a runner on first from scoring on a ground-rule double when it is obvious he would score? — SHIZ, Altamonte, Fla.
A: That would be another judgment call for the umpires, whether a guy on first would have scored had the ball not bounced over the fence. Umpires have enough judgment calls and that one would just lead to another bunch of replay/reviews and there are already too many. They already changed one rule involving balls bouncing over the fence. Back in the dark ages those used to be home runs. The rule was changed in 1931 and some of Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs did bounce over the wall. But since they were counted as home runs, nobody knows how many bounced over the fences.
Q: Has any player been called out on appeal for missing a base while running out a home run? — JEFF, Springboro.
A: Yes, me. While playing for the Hoskins Olds Giants in the Akron National Little League in 1952, I hit a home run to left field and while watching its majestic flight I missed first base and was called out. Oh, you mean the majors. Well, in 2015 Milwaukee’s Khris Davis was called out for missing home plate on a home run. But a replay/review reversed the call. In 1983, Seattle’s Al Cowens hit an inside-the-park home run but was called out for missing second base. In 1971 Carlos May of the White Sox hit one over the fence against Oakland’s Rollie Fingers but missed home plate and was called out. Talk about embarrassing — and believe me, I know.
Q: How can Joey Votto be one of the best hitters I have ever seen but one of the worst baserunners? — CHRIS, Sidney.
A: Votto does have his misadventures on the basepaths. Hitting and base-running are two different animals. While Votto is a tiger in the batter’s box, he can be a sheep on the basepaths. So much of baseball is instinct and Votto is impeccable at the plate, but he seems hesitant and uncertain on base. The thing is, he is on base so much he is bound to make mistakes.
Q: Tom Seaver threw his only no-hitter while pitching for the Reds in 1978 and Don Werner was his catcher instead of Johnny Bench. Why was that? — MARK, Staten Island, NY.
A: Seaver loved pitching to Johnny Bench and they remain best friends and hang out together during Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown. Werner was catching the day Seaver threw his no-hitter because Bench was in the throes of an injury that caused him to miss 20 games. It was fortunate for Werner, the backup catcher, because he is now forever remember for catching Seaver’s only no-hitter.
Q: Whatever happened to Alfredo Simon, and do you think he’ll be like Charlie on the MTA and never return? — WORDMAN, Troy.
A: You are dating yourself (and me, because I knew this without looking it up) with your reference to the Kingston Trio’s song, “The Man Who Never Returned.” Well, for sure, Simon is not beneath the streets of Boston. He is pitching on rehab in Louisville and on Wednesday he pitched five innings of one-run, five-hit baseball. In fairness to Simon, he was sitting in a La-Z-Boy at home in the Dominican when the Reds signed him late in spring training for emergency pitching help. He was rushed into the fray with little preparation and his 2-7 record with a 9.45 ERA was pretty much $2 million wasted. I’d say Simon is pretty much on the baseball MTA, never to return.