Braun MVP vote made sense at the time

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: Thom Brennaman keeps feeding us Mike Leake’s impressive numbers against the NL Central, so can I interpret that as meaning Leake doesn’t try as hard against opponents outside the division? — DAVE, MIAMISBURG/CENTERVILLE/BEAVERCREEK

A: You can read into numbers anything you want and, as usual, your interpretation is warped. The Reds face the NL Central more than the other two divisions and Leake is 6-1. He is 4-3 out of the division. Winning games within the division is ultra important, so that’s a plus. As for Leake not trying, there isn’t a more fierce competitor on the team and don’t let the boyish look and small stature fool you. He stands as tall as anybody in the league.

Q: Did you vote for Ryan Braun when he won the MVP (in 2011)? If so, do you regret it after his recent agreement to accept a suspension for the rest of his season for using performance-enhancing drugs? — JAMES, OAKWOOD

A: Yes, I did (blush, blush). But I believed him when he denied, denied, denied to the fans, his teammates and players on other teams. Most of us believed him. I don’t regret the vote because his numbers showed he deserved it, and I had no other information. But his actions showed his MVP award should have been for Most Vile Person.

Q: Is there something wrong with Joey Votto or is it just a rough patch where pitchers are less willing to pitch to him because he doesn’t seem to be the same hitter he was before last year’s knee injury? — JOHN, SPRINGBORO

A: Let’s see — he is hitting .321, he leads the league in on-base percentage at .434, he leads the league with 76 walks, he has 16 home runs, 19 doubles and 47 RBIs. As President Abraham Lincoln said when a congressman complained about Gen. U.S. Grant’s drinking, “Find out what he drinks and give it to the rest of the generals.” Yes, his RBI total is down because in crucial situations pitchers won’t give in to him and walk him. Remember, he had two knee surgeries late last season and I suspect he isn’t fully recovered and it still affects his ability to drive the ball. Votto is the least of the Reds’ worries.

Q: If the Reds had a one-game playoff game tomorrow, I’d hand the ball to Bronson Arroyo. How about you? — BARRY, CINCINNATI

A: I wouldn’t be afraid to hand it to any one of the starting rotation. If I’m the manager (thank goodness I’m not) it would depend on the opponent and how certain pitchers fare against that team. If it’s the Pittsburgh Pirates I choose Homer Bailey — and that one-game playoff could happen against the Pirates, the one-game wild-card game.

Q: Doesn’t the trade of Sean Casey to Pittsburgh for pitcher David Williams rank as one of the worst for the Reds? — MIKE, BEAVERCREEK

A: All teams have long lists of trades they wish they’d never made. Casey for Williams is near the top of Cincinnati’s list. The man who made the trade, GM Dan O’Brien, said St. Louis manager Tony La Russa told him Williams was one of the best left-handers in the league. Ol’ Tony pulled a fast one on the Reds with that little white lie.

Q: When will Mr. Choo get more than one RBI with a home run, July, August, September or never? — WILLIAM, RABBIT HASH, KY.

A: Choo leads all leadoff hitters with 14 home runs and, amazingly, all 14 have come with the bases empty. Mr. Choo is Mr. Solo Shot. Of course, batting leadoff he comes up after the bottom of the order and a lot of the time he bats with nobody on base. He misses facing Bronson Arroyo. When Mr. Choo played for the Indians he hit four off Arroyo, all in 2010. What he needs to do is tell the guys in the bottom of the order, “Hey, I’m going to hit a home run next time up, so somebody get on base.”

Q: I propose a lifetime ban for any player who uses steroids/HGH/PEDs, no second chances. Why can’t Commissioner Bud Selig just change the rules with the owners’ permission and just do it? — KEITH, BROOKVILLE

A: Man, I hope you are not a judge and I never appear in front of your bench. While I don’t disagree with lifetime bans, the commissioner cannot unilaterally change the rules. That has to be negotiated with the players union, the strongest union this side of the Teamsters. And the players union won’t ever agree to a one-and-out banishment.

Q: Don’t you think Reds owner Bob Castellini should find some money to re-sign pitcher Bronson Arroyo? — MARK, BLOOMINGTON, IND.

A: Who are we to tell Big Bob how to spend his hard-earned money? Yes, Arroyo is a keeper and he is talking about three years and $40 million. Is he worth it? Probably. Can the Reds afford it? If Castellini and GM Walt Jocketty believe that, too, it’ll probably get done. A lot of it probably depends on how much it will take to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo. Probably too much. And that should leave some cash for Arroyo, a guy who has never missed a start in his career, has never had a sore arm, has never been on the disabled list and probably can pitch effectively until he is 48.

Q: Have the Cincinnati Reds had a game this season where they scored at least one run in every inning? — Bill, Villa Hills, Ky.

A: That came to mind for you when the Reds scored runs in the first seven innings against the Giants last week, right.? Well, a Reds team has never scored runs in every inning, not even The Big Red Machine. Not even the ’27 Yankees. It has been done three times in modern baseball history and twice it was done against the Chicago Cubs, so those shouldn’t count.

Q: When Ryan Ludwick returns, who will be sent down — Derrick Robinson (Dusty Baker’s 2013 version of favorite son Corey Patterson), Chris Heisey or Xavier Paul? — JACK, CENTERVILLE

A: First, the Patterson reference is bogus. Baker has to play the roster given to him. And what’s wrong with playing Robinson, a switch-hitter with terrific speed, great bunting ability and outstanding defensive skills. Paul is a valuable left-hander off the bench and Heisey has his place, too. That’s a tough decision, one that you and I don’t have to make. Watch for a trade.

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