Ask Hal: Can small ball make a comeback?

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 I can watch any Major League Baseball game from my phone, tablet, laptop or TV from any location then why would I attend a game in person? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: I don’t know, why would you? Where you gonna go? Judging from plummeting attendance figures, except in places like New York and Los Angeles, fans are asking the same question, especially in Cincinnati. Many who attend Reds gamed in person tell me they got free tickets from corporations, advertisers and friends. So, yes, why would you, except for the atmosphere, the smell of hot dogs, peanuts and beer, all designed to empty wallets and purses.

Q: Do you think small ball can make a comeback? — JOE, Englewood.

A: Other than being a Cleveland fan all my life, I was pulling for the Guardians to go all the way because they play old-style small ball — base hits instead of all homers, hit-and-run, stolen bases, defense and pitching. The hope was that with Cleveland’s success, other teams would pick up on it because baseball teams are great copiers of success. But the Yankees overpowered the Guardians and I fear the three true outcomes will prevail — homers, walks, strikeouts.

Q: Do you find the OPS stat valuable? — LARRY, Piqua.

A: It is not valuable to me because it doesn’t help me with my syntax or metaphors. For baseball? To figure OPS, you add a player’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage together. It measures a player’s ability to both get on base and hit for power. An OPS of .800 or higher is considered good. It is the stuff the analytics people drool over. To me it is just another of the many baseball statistical abbreviations that boggle the mind. I’ll be honest. I’ve covered baseball for 49 years and I don’t know what three-fourths of the abbreviations stand for or what they mean. Nor do I care.

Q: Since the phrase, “See the ball, hit the ball,” doesn’t exist in major-league baseball anymore, what sabermetrics statistics do you think have real value and which are just job security for the computer geeks? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Here are some of the abbreviations you can find under a batter’s hitting statistics: RAA, WAA, Rrep, RAR, WAR, waaW%, oWAR and dWAR, among others. Are you kidding me? That stuff is for and from the computer geeks, most of whom never played the game. Those abbreviations are as foreign to me as algebra, geometry and trigonometry. See the ball, hit the ball is fine with me. As the old scouts always said, “He passes the eye test … he can run, he can hit, he can throw and he can play defense. Sign him.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the Yankees being the only top seed alive in the postseason? — BEN, Florence, Ala.

A: When the playoffs began, there were only two top seeds, the Yankees in the American League and the Dodgers in the National League. The Dodgers are gone, thanks to the Padres. The other major upset was the Phillies over the defending champion Braves. Unless you live in LA or Atlanta, it is great for baseball, although I’m not sure how good it is to have two wild-card teams (Phillies-Padres) vying to represent the NL in the World Series.

Q: The fire sale the Reds did was supposed to help acquire talent for the minor league system, so where do they rank as far as minor league systems? — MATT, Charlotte, N.C.

A: Nearly all the players the Reds acquired were placed at Single-A or Double-A, meaning they won’t be helping the Reds for three or four years if they are capable of helping. Rankings really don’t mean much because who really knows if those guys are prospects or suspects? ranked the Reds as having the No. 5 most improved system, up from No. 20. Names to watch: SS Matt McLain, INF Elly De La Cruz, OF Austin Hendrick, OF Jay Allen, 3B Rece Hinds and C Matheu Nelson.

Q: If you could, would you do it all over? — MICHAEL, Cincinnati.

A: Would I marry Nadine again. Absolutely. A no-brainer. Oh, you mean my career. I would do it all over and not change a thing. I have covered baseball and the Reds for 49 years, started at age 33. I wish I could have started younger, but I still got to cover The Big Red Machine, Pete Rose’s exploits (good and bad), Tom Browning’s perfect game, Homer Bailey’s two no-hitters, 37 World Series, 37 spring trainers. That’s a lot of press box hot dogs. I always told Nadine that someday I would have to get a real job, but I never did.

Q: What was your favorite away city restaurant and your favorite dish? — DAVE, Hattiesburg, Miss.

A: I love Italian food (who doesn’t?) and other than Mamma DiSalvo’s here in Dayton, my favorite Italian restaurant was Charlie Gitto’s in St. Louis. It was a block from the stadium and a block from the team hotel. Former Reds broadcaster George Grande and I were there for lunch every day we were in town. We would walk in the first day of the trip and Charlie Gitto would be sitting at the bar. When he saw us, he always said, “Oh, yeah. The Reds are in town.” And I ordered the famous fried ravioli and rigatoni with sausage … every … single … time.


Q: What’s your worst travel nightmare? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.

A: Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer Chris Haft and I were booked on the same flight from St. Louis to San Diego on the day of a game and it was canceled. There were no other flights to San Diego to get us to the game on time. So, we hopped a flight to Los Angeles. I rented a car to drive from LA to San Diego. We got within a mile of San Diego-Jack Murphy Stadium when a tire blew out. We abandoned the rental car and while carrying our luggage and shoulder bags, trudged to the stadium, and made it just before the first pitch, gasping and out of breath. But I had time to devour one of the famous fish tacos they sold at the stadium. Yummy.

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