Ask Hal: Who was the face of The Big Red Machine?

Credit: David Jablonski/Staff

Credit: David Jablonski/Staff

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: Can you explain how third baseman Eugenio Suarez is a converted shortstop and center fielder Nick Senzel is also a converted shortstop, yet the Reds Opening Day shortstop is Kyle Farmer, a converted catcher/utility player? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: First baseman Joey Votto is a converted catcher, second baseman Mike Moustakas is a converted third baseman, pitcher Mike Lorenzen is a converted center fielder. Maybe they should change their name to the Cincinnati Catalytic Converters. The Reds constantly search for versatile players and I am never surprised about who plays where.

Q: Who was the face of The Big Red Machine, Pete Rose or Johnny Bench? — MARK, Kettering

A: Neither. To put a face on the Big Red Machine, go to Mount Rushmore and take down the visages of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and replace them with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez. All four were the faces of the BRM. It’s a family portrait.

Q: Why have the Cincinnati Reds not been good since The Big Red Machine? — Thomas, Allentown, Pa.

A: The 1990 Reds are on line one and would like a word with you. Other than that team, the Reds haven’t had Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, George Foster, Ken Griffey, Dave Concepcion or Cesar Geronimo. And there will never be another team like it. The problem seems to be drafting. In the last decade (2011-20), according to Fangraphs, the Reds’ picks are last (30th) in MLB in WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Who is first? No shock. It’s the St. Louis Cardinals.

Q: What are your thoughts on Joey Votto this year? JUDY, Centerville.

A: Votto vows to be more dangerous this year, more aggressive. That should mean less walks and more balls in play. But, of course, he has to hit ‘em where they ain’t. And to accomplish that, Votto hopes to plug in the power and hit for distance. And he is coming out of his deep crouch into a more upright position. The Reds hope he hits better than an airplane tray in its upright position.

Q: What do you think about Sinclair Broadcasting’s inability to work out a deal that leaves Reds fan unable to see several home games on Fox Sports Ohio. — MARK, Beavercreek.

A: I like it about as much as I like the fact that broadcasters Jeff Peicoro, Doug Flynn and Danny Graves were let go. I don’t like it. I was told when Sinclair took over that some major cuts and changes would come. But these financial squabbles usually work themselves out and Sinclair has to realize the popularity of the Reds on TV. Well, they should.

Q: I still hold a grudge against former commissioner Bowie Kuhn for stopping the trade of Vida Blue to the Reds, so what did you think about it at the time and now? — JENNIFER, Springfield.

A: You hold a grudge and Bowie Kuhn holds a grudge. He and Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley were always at odds, mainly because Finley was a maverick and Kuhn was stodgy. When Finley traded pitcher Vida Blue to the Reds for a $1 million and first baseman Dave Revering, Kuhn stepped in and stopped it. He said it was not good for competitive balance, whatever that meant. He really just wanted to put it to Finley. At the time I thought it was a peculiar decision. I don’t think a commissioner could get away with that today and I’ve often wondered why the Reds didn’t fight Kuhn on his silly decision.

Q: What Reds’ player will have a breakout season? TOM, Sarasota, Fla.

A: That’s always difficult to predict. The Reds would like to believe it will be all of them. And the Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers (the Pirates are non-entities this year) hope it is none. My eye-test guess would be Nick Senzel, if he can break out of the infirmary.

Q: Johnny Bench and Pete Rose have very legible signatures, so among your plethora of autographs, what player’s autograph is least legible? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: My autograph collection is non-existent. I have zero. If a member of the media is caught asking a player for his autograph he can have his credentials revoked. I do have a vast collection of baseball books signed by the author. You are correct about the perfect penmanship of Bench and Rose. Marty Brennaman also has a perfect signature. Some players make so many lines, loops and squiggles that the name is not discernible. I have seen baseballs signed by The Big Red Machine and half the names are unreadable.


Q: Have the Reds ever made a better trade than the one for George Foster? — TOM, Dayton.

A: That trade definitely was first-degree larceny. The Reds gave up two guys named Frank Duffy and Vern Geishet to get Foster from the Giants. I like two deals former GM Wayne Krivsky made a week apart during spring trainining. They were Wily Mo Pena to Boston for Bronson Arroyo and a player named later (Jeff Stevens) to Cleveland for Brandon Phillips. And just a few days later, Krivsky trade minor league pitcher Bobby Basham to San Diego for catcher David Ross. Thats’ three lopsided trades in Cincinnati’s favor in the span of a few days.

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