Ask Hal: How do we put the shame back into strikeouts?

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 do we put the shame back into strikeouts? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: The only way to do that is to quit glamorizing home runs. To do that, they’d have to de-juice the baseballs, make them as mushy as my Aunt Opal’s meatballs. If players couldn’t hit them over the fence, they’d have to cut down on their swings to put the ball into play, the way Tony Gwynn and Pete Rose and Ichiro did it. That is as likely to happen as the Reds winning the pennant this year. Eugenio Suarez leads the National League in strikeouts and isn’t the least bit embarrassed.

Q: Do you see hitters of today ever abandoning the new launch angle approach to go back to the see-the-ball, hit-the-ball approach? — JAY, Englewood.

A: No, I don’t. Analytics are here to stay because of the avalanche of information available through computers. Maybe pitchers will figure out a way to counter-act the launch angle approach, but I don’t know what it would be. When Tony Perez was Cincinnati’s batting coach, I used to love standing behind the cage during batting practice and listen to Perez’s advice to all the hitters: “See the ball, hit the ball,” he would tell them.

Q: Do you think Aristides Aquino should be under consideration for National League Rookie of the Year? — MICHAEL, Dayton.

A: They can probably send the trophy right now to New York’s Pete Alonso. He is a threat to low-flying aircraft on the LaGuardia airport flight path over Citi Field with his monster home runs. While voters will take a look at Aquino’s amazing numbers, through no fault of his own it is too small of a sample. The 28 home runs he hit in 78 games for Triple-A Louisville are wasted, they don’t count. Voters are asked to pick three candidates, in order, with their No. 1 pick getting more points than No. 2 and No 3. Aquino might get a few third-place votes, which would be amazing in itself for the short span he has been in the Reds’ lineup.

Aquino did spent so much time at Class AAA Louisville that he was named Rookie of the Year in the International League.

Q: Why does a pitcher long toss 25 times before his start, then warm up in the bullpen? — TOM, Columbus.

A: Most pitchers start their routines in the outfield grass by playing catch at a short distance, increasing the distance with each throw. The long toss, sometimes from foul pole to foul pole, is to stretch out the muscles and ligaments in his arm. Then he throws in the bullpen from the regulation 60 feet, six inches to get command of all his pitches. I have even seen pitchers throwing footballs in the outfield. Some of them would make better quarterbacks than pitchers.

Q: When a manager starts the game with his best nine, why would he constantly double switch when he removes a pitcher? — STEVE, Clayton.

A: A lot of factors go into double switches. The ‘best nine’ is constructed to face a certain opposing pitcher. If he is left handed and he is removed for a right hander, the ‘best nine’ manager might want to get a left handed bat into his lineup so he double switches to get that batter into the game. The other factor is that when he brings in a relief pitcher he might want to use him for more than one inning and that pitcher’s spot in the batting order comes up the next inning. He double switches to get a hitter into the pitcher’s spot in the batting order for the next inning. That way he doesn’t have to pinch-hit for the pitcher. The prospective pinch-hitter is already in the game. I assume you are in the large crowd that abhors manager David Bell’s affinity for double switches. He isn’t the Lone Ranger. Nearly all major league managers are proponents.

Q: What is in the large duffel bag with a team’s logo on it that you see on the ground in the bullpen? — SEAN, Kettering.

A: That’s the ball bag and it is full of brand new baseballs that are used for relief pitchers to warm up. They are standard baseballs, not ‘curveballs.’ Some batboys are initiated into their jobs. Players will tell them to go to a sporting goods store and pick up a dozen curveballs. Or they are sent to the equipment manager to ask for a key to the batter’s box. Ah, those ballplayers can be funny guys.

Q: Why was the No. 45 on all the Reds jerseys Sunday when I thought they were wearing No. 20 in honor of Frank Robinson? — DAVE, Cincinnati.

A: If you noticed, the Pittsburgh Pirates also wore No. 45. In fact, every team in baseball wore a ’45’ on those gosh-awful white or black uniforms. It was Players Weekend and every team wore ’45’ in honor of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died suddenly just before the All-Star break at age 27. Speaking of the uniforms, it was apropos that the Reds wore those all white duds that looked like pajamas because they certainly snoozed through the Pittsburgh series.

Q: I just read MoneyBall, the story about the success of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics and I assume you have read it? What is your opinion on what they did and would it work for the Reds? — JERRY, Lebanon.

A: As I do with most books on baseball, I read it as soon as it came out. While it is very interesting, I question the Oakland success. I am still waiting for Beane’s A’s to win their first World Series, or even get to the World Series. Beane’s approach was the beginning of The Analytics Era, which nearly all teams embrace these days, including the Reds. Has it worked for the Reds? Not yet.


Q: How many former Reds minor league affilliates are now major league cities? — SEAN, West Chester.

A: Amazingly, there are four. It began in 1934 and for three years the Reds had a Double-A team in Toronto, now the Blue Jays. From 1958 through 1960 the team’s Triple-A affiliate was a combination of Seattle (now the Mariners) and Havana (they split the season’s home games). From 1962 through 1965 their Triple-A affifliare was San Diego and the nickname was the Padres, same as the major league team. In 1985 and 1986 the Triple-A affiiate was the Denver Zephyrs, now the home of the Colorado Rockies. Other than Toronto, the other three former affiliates now reside in the west divisions of the majors.

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