Ask Hal: Phillips snub payback for ’57?

Question of the week

Q: Wasn’t Sparky Anderson successful in batting three right-handed batters in a row in Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Lee May? Why can’t Dusty Baker bat left-handers Joey Votto and Jay Bruce back-to-back because Bruce seems to be the team’s only good option at clean-up? — Bob, Belmont

A: With the lineup Sparky had during The Big Red Machine era, he could have dropped the names in a hat and drawn a lineup at random. Bench, Perez and May all are Reds Hall of Famers, with Bench and Perez in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. And Sparky didn’t have May very long. He was traded to Houston for a guy named Joe Morgan (among others), making Sparky’s lineup cards even easier to fill out.

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Q: With all his losses and blown saves recently, how do we take back all the acclaim that was directed at Aroldis Chapman? — Dave, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek

A: The same way we take back his speeding tickets and his other off-the-field issues. We roll with the punches — or somersault them away. As for the acclaim, you can take away zero earned runs over 30 straight innings, so you don’t have to take anything back.

Q: Who would be some of the most obvious players who were slighted by All-Star voters, the way Brandon Phillips is being slighted this year? — Craig, Fort Loramie

A: Maybe Phillips not being voted as a starter is payback to Cincinnati. In 1957, Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot box and elected seven of the eight Reds position players to start the game. How must first baseman George Crowe have felt. He was hitting .305 and was the only Reds player not elected. Stan Musial beat him out. Who was slighted? A couple of guys named Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. But Commissioner Ford C. Frick was infuriated by the ballot-stuffing and replaced Cincinnati’s Wally Post and Gus Bell with Aaron and Mays. And not a hanging chad was involved.

Q: With Drew Stubbs on third, Joey Votto on second and Brandon Phillips on first, what is the possibility of a triple steal? — Gary, Jacksonville, Fla.

A: That’s a good one, one I’d never thought about. They say you see something you never saw in baseball game almost every day, but in 40 years of baseball coverage I’ve never once seen a triple steal — a theft of home, third base and second on a single pitch. A triple steal is so rare that it was huge news in May when Vanderbilt did it against Florida in a college game. It has only been done once since 1987 and that was in 2008 when the Cleveland Indians, who seldom do much right except sweep the Reds, pulled it off against the Chicago White Sox.

Q: Is there a distinction between a spitball and a sweatball and does a pitcher who perspires profusely have a advantage? — Don, Centerville

A: It’s called loading up or wetting one up, so it doesn’t matter what foreign substance is used. But to make the pitch dance, dip and dart, the stuff has to be put on the tips of the fingers and even a heavy perspirer doesn’t sweat enough on the fingertips to become a cheater. I’ve tried using Vaseline on my keyboard but my words still don’t dance.

Q: Can a substitute be put into a designated hitter’s position in the batting order the same way a regular player can be substituted for? — Amy, Xenia

A: Absolutely. A manager may pinch-hit for his DH and that pinch-hitter becomes the DH. But if a manager switches his DH’s position, like moving him to left field, then his team loses the DH and the pitcher must bat, the way Abner Doubleday, Alexander Cartwright and Tony La Russa intended it.

Q: How can you be against Roger Clemens making the Hall of Fame since he has not been found guilty of substance abuse? — Tom, Enon

A: I’m not against anybody making the Hall of Fame, if they deserve it. Clemens deserves it with his numbers, but he was acquitted of perjury, not of using illegal substance. And somehow a guy who throws a lethal weapon — a jagged-edged broken bat — at another player, as Clemens did to Mike Piazza — doesn’t seem like a Hall of Famer to me.

Q: Isn’t it time the Reds forget about some of these injury-prone players like Bill Bray, Nick Masset, Ryan Madson and Scott Rolen and move on with younger players? — Nikolai, Dayton

A: So what do you do with those guys, toss them and the millions they are owed and push them out the back door? Injuries are a big, big part of baseball and they hit every team. Ask the St. Louis Cardinals. Ask the Philadelphia Phillies. Ask the Los Angeles Dodgers. Usually experienced veterans at 90 percent are better than rookies and young players who are 100 percent.

Q: Who calls Homer Bailey’s pitches, the bench or catcher Devin Mesoraco? I ask after seeing Bailey throw a 0-and-2 fastball right down the middle that was hit for a home run? — John, Indianapolis

A: Doesn’t matter who calls the pitch, it is the guy who throws it who has the final responsibility. Mesoraco calls it, but only after all the pitchers and catchers have a pre-series meeting to discuss scouting reports. But these guys are human, not automatons. Bailey certainly didn’t intend to throw a fastball over the heart of the plate on 0-and-2 and Mesoraco certainly didn’t call for the pitch to be there or he’d be catching in Pensacola tomorrow.

Q: What would your punishment have been for that somersault stunt Aroldis Chapman pulled? — Rich, Kettering

A: First, I would have made him practice, practice, practice because those were the worst somersaults I ever saw. Even the Cuban judge would have given him a 0.1. No punishment is needed and manager Dusty Baker handled it right by telling him, “No mas.” If Hizzoner Barry Larkin still conducted his Kangaroo Court, though, Chapman might be washing players cars in the parking lot.

Q: When Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman are interviewed on TV they always have a translator, but when Dusty Baker goes to the mound there is no translator. Is their English better than they let on or is Baker’s Spanish that good? — Bob, Springboro

A: Baker speaks fluent Spanish and his sister teaches Spanish. Cueto does understand English, but doesn’t like to try to speak it, so Baker could use either English or Spanish on him. Chapman neither speaks nor understands English but probably is getting the gist of the English message: “Throw more sliders, throw more strikes.”