McCoy: Pitchers love throwing to ‘down-and-dirty’ Barnhart

Reds starter Luis Castillo talks to catcher Tucker Barnhart during a game against the Brewers in June 2017 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Reds starter Luis Castillo talks to catcher Tucker Barnhart during a game against the Brewers in June 2017 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

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 halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: If you were playing Major League baseball right now, what would be your walk-up song? DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: My dad was mad at me when I accepted a partial baseball scholarship to Kent State because I turned down a tryout with the Philadelphia Phillies. He thought I could have made it, but I couldn’t run and couldn’t throw so I was 0-for-2 before I started. But if I had made it, my walk-up song would be ‘Wasted Time’ by The Eagles.

Q: Tucker Barnhart looks like the real deal defensively as a catcher and how do you rank him against the current catchers? — RON, Vandalia.

A: Barnhart has one Gold Glove on his mantel and should have more. He might be the best at blocking pitches. His arm is quick and lethally accurate. Pitchers love having him behind the plate because he has them in mind more than himself and will do anything to help them and bail them out. He gets down-and-dirty behind the plate and they should call him Barnyard Barnhart.

Q: Has any player in MLB history scored from second base on a sacrifice fly, because I’ve only seen it happen in beer-league softball? — JACK, Columbus.

A: It may not surprise you to learn that Billy Hamilton did it, but not with the Reds. It was last April when he played for Kansas City. Adalberto Mondesi hit a deep fly to center that Seattle’s Mallex Smith caught. Smith slipped slightly after the catch and that’s all Hamilton needed. He never slowed rounding third and slid head first across home plate. As far as I know, beer was not involved.

Q: When the designated hitter was only in the American League did starters last more innings than National League starters and did AL relief pitchers get less innings? — JERRY, Lebanon.

A: Yes and yes. With the DH, pitchers don’t bat. So in close games, AL managers don’t have to pinch-hit for their pitcher as often as in the NL. And that means less work for the bullpen. Speaking of the DH, when it was announced that the NL would use the DH in the truncated 60-game season, the Reds thought the roster was built for the DH. But in the first 11 games the DH was 7 for 44 (.159).

Q: Why didn’t the Reds make an effort to re-sign shortstop Jose Iglesias? — DENNIS, Huber Heights.

A: That is one for Sherlock Holmes to figure out. I can’t. Iglesias is as good defensively as any shortstop in the game and he was close to being the Reds best clutch hitter last season. Maybe they figured he would be too pricey as a free agent, but Baltimore signed him for $2.2 million. The Reds spent close to $170 million for free agents in the off-season so they certainly could afford Iglesias. Meanwhile, in his first six games with the Orioles Iglesias was hitting .526 (10 for 19) with five doubles and flagging down everything hit between the Inner Harbor and the B&O Railroad Museum.

Q: Heard the White Sox let go of veteran scouts last week (Dave Yoakum, Alan Regier, Twig Little), so is that a cost-cutting move or the latest team to swallow the analytical gig? — CHRIS, Jacksonville, Fla.

A: Can’t answer the motive for the moves, but it is industry-wide and sad. Ten or 12 scouts from different teams used to gather near my seat in the press box and it was so much fun listening to them and talking to them. Over the past couple of years, they have all but disappeared and sometimes there are none. I used to know them all and their baseball knowledge and stories were priceless. Computers have replaced them and computers can’t tell me fantastic stories and computers can’t watch games and get the inside information. Pretty soon all games will be played by computers, so not even will scouts no longer be needed, neither will players be needed.

Q: With the short season, why is Jesse Winker getting so many starts when the Reds have ample offense on the bench that is being wasted? — MIKE, Wapkoneta.

A: Good question. Fortunately for the Reds I don’t make out the lineup card. As of this writing Winker, who has done the majority of the designated hitting, is 3-for-25 (.120) and looks helpless at the plate.

Q: What do you think about no-hitters or perfect games in a seven-inning doubleheader game? — CHET, Dayton.

A: On this issue, I agree with MLB. Seven-inning perfect games and no-hitters will not go into the record book. A perfect game or no-hitter needs to be nine innings. As far as that goes, I don’t feel seven innings is a baseball game in the majors. It’s like stopping the Kentucky Derby at the top of the stretch and declaring the leader the winner or stopping a tennis match when a players leads 6-0, 2-0 and crediting them with a double bagel victory.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Q: Since you and Thurmon Munson are both northeastern Ohio guys, do you have any special memories of the Yankees catcher as we remember the anniversary of his tragic death? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: Munson and I were both born in Akron and both attended Kent State University, but the comparison ends there. Leader? He was the captain of his high school baseball, football and basketball teams and he made All-State in all three sports. His fatal plane crash at the Akron-Canton airport was within 10 miles of where I was born. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of interacting with him. Who will ever forget the 1976 World Series when both he and Cincinnati’s Johnny Bench were stars. After the Reds swept the Yankees, manager Sparky Anderson was asked to compare the two catchers and he said, “Don’t ever embarrass anybody by comparing them to Johnny Bench.” Munson was in the room and heard it and was not happy. Sparky was right, though. Munson was an extraordinary player, but he wasn’t Johnny Bench.

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