Ask Hal: Smile works just fine for Phillips

Ask Hal: Smile works just fine for Phillips

Hall-of-fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about America’s pastime. If you’d like to tap into that knowledge, send a question to

Q: If Brandon Phillips put on a game face rather than that traditional smile wouldn’t his offensive numbers improve to the next level? — DAVE, MIAMISBURG/CENTERVILLE/BEAVERCREEK.

A: What is a game face? Never understood that one. Does a scowl help you see a changeup better? A smile relaxes your body more than a tense, scrunched up face. And as the National League RBI leader, what would be the next level for Phillips, a higher league. There isn’t one.

Q: If the Reds offer Shin-Soo Choo a contract, but he signs with another team, do the Reds get the No. 1 draft pick from the team with which he signs? — JOHN, DAYTON.

A: The Reds wouldn’t have to offer him a contract, they would have to offer him arbitration. But, yes, since Choo definitely is a Type A player the Reds would receive the signing team’s No. 1 draft pick in 2014. It is called a sandwich pick, which is apropos. Nobody knows how a draft pick will turn out, so the Reds might be getting a sandwich in exchange for filet mignon (Choo).

Q: What is your biggest fan pet peeve? — ANTHONY, FULLERTON, CALIF.

A: Probably their short vision (and I know about short vision). They fail to see the big picture and fail to realize it is a long, long season. But fan is short for fanatic and fanatics want to win every game and pick apart every decision and every missed opportunity. It peeves me, but it’s OK. That’s what fans are for — second-guessing in baseball is a national spectator sport.

Q: With Sean Marshall’s continued shoulder problems, do you think the Reds will pursue a top-notch left handed relief pitcher or wait to see if Manny Parra comes around? — JEREMY, CYNTHIANA, KY.

A: With the cash Marshall is making ($16.5 million over the next three years), the Reds are not about to hand him a mop. They’ll wait out the shoulder problems and pray they get resolved. In the meantime, they’ll send Parra out there and hold their breath, hope his early season health issues were the reason is ERA was higher than the Dow.

Q: With Shin-Soo Choo possessing so much power, would it make sense to move the pitcher to the No. 8 spot and a position player to No. 9, giving Choo and Joey Votto more chances to bat with men on base? — JEFF, MASON.

A: Jeff? Is this really Tony LaRussa. When LaRussa managed the Cardinals, he tried this off-and-on, especially when he had Mark McGwire and it was for that reason — give him more RBI opportunities. As much as I hate to agree with TL, in this case, with Choo leading the team in home runs, that’s not a bad idea. But I’ll let you suggest it to Dusty Baker, not me, because TL and Dusty were not on best of terms and anything Tony did Dusty is not going to do.

Q: If a runner attempts to steal a base and the pitcher throws a wild pitch or the catcher is charged with a passed ball, is it still considered a stolen base? — MICHAEL, CENTERVILLE.

A: Nope. If the catcher doesn’t have the opportunity to throw him out, it is not a stolen base — which is why it is called a wild pitch or a passed ball. Now if the catcher catches the ball cleanly and doesn’t make a throw, then it is a stolen base. In the case of Billy Hamilton, when he steals second a catcher is better off to just throw the ball to third base and hold Hamilton to one base and avoid the embarrassment of Hamilton beating the throw by about two seconds.

Q: Could we propose to Dusty Baker that he remove any starting pitcher who gives up two consecutive hits in the late innings like Captain Hook (Sparky Anderson) used to do? — MIKE, ARLINGTON, VA.

A: You can propose it, but it won’t happen. It is Baker’s style. He walks to the mound and looks a pitcher directly in the eyes and reads what he sees. Unfortunately, eyes never reveal that the next pitch will rocket out of the stadium or the next three pitches will be strikes. Anderson, of course, didn’t have the starting pitchers the Reds have now and usually he hooked the starter if he gave up a hit in the sixth inning of a close game.

Q: With four consecutive sellouts last weekend is it safe to say that the plan of Walt Jocketty and Bob Castellini of build it and they will come is working? — CRAIG, FORT LORAMIE.

A: There were a lot of factors involved. It was a holiday weekend and thousands of folks were in town for the Taste of Cincinnati. The sellouts, of course, were great and attendance is creeping upward. Fans are fickle. Build a WINNER and they will come, but it takes time, a period of years before fans have faith that when they pay their money they are likely to see their team win.

Q: Ryan Hanigan has one of the best arms in baseball, is an above average hitter, calls a terrific game and is tough as nails, so why doesn’t he get more attention as one of the better catches in the National League? — MIKE, ENGLWOOD.

A: National League? How about in all the majors? I was aghast last winter when the MLB Network listed its top five catchers in baseball and Hanigan didn’t even get a sniff. Absurd. He might not be a Johnny Bench, or even a Yadier Molina, but as an all-around player he is top caliber. And he gets all the respect he needs from the important places — his manager and his pitchers.

Q: Is Billy Hamilton going to be ready next year to move into center field if needed? — JOHN, SPRINGFIELD.

A: There is much room for much needed improvement. He is hitting .248 (not good), his on-base average is .317 (not good), he has 37 strikeouts in 48 games (not good) and 21 walks (not good). The guess here is that he won’t be ready, but he still has 100 more AAA games to let his talent ferment.

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