By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — One thing nobody can say about the Cincinnati Reds is they are not colorful. Well, at least their hair.
As the season has progressed, Eugenio Suarez, Jose Peraza and Yasiel Puig have shown up with their dark hair bleached yellow on top.
On Tuesday, because he lost a bet, Jose Iglesias showed up with purple streaks in his hair. It was a bet he wouldn’t mind losing every day and he would gladly turn his head into a rainbow.
The wager was that if he hit a home run Monday, he would color his hair. He hit a grand slam against the Pittsburgh Pirates and was enjoying the magic euphoria of the event.
When he rounded third base, he saw Puig and Suarez in the dugout pointing to the tops of their heads, “And then I remembered. I have to color my hair.”
Why purple? “I wanted to be different,” he said. “And what I have is too dark. I have to go back to my barber and lighten it up.”
Those are three adjustments Reds players have made this season. Hairy ones. Colorful ones.
There have been a couple of more recent practical adjustments that have physical results. Both Tucker Barnhart and Joey Votto have altered their stances, both coming out of deep crouches to a more upright position in the batter’s box. Although Pete Rose and his peek-a-boo squatty stance would not agree, both Barnhart and Votto believe the straightened-up stance is beneficial.
And is it a coincidence that both have emerged from the doldrums to become offensive contributors to the Reds offense? Probably not.
After a mostly non-productive first half, Votto abandoned his deep crouch and his choking up on the bat. He is driving the ball harder than at any time this season. He has at least one RBI in each of his last five games, seven overall.
Since coming off the injured list, Barnhart is 6 for 10 in three games with a double and a triple.
Barnhart was scuffling like he’d never scuffled before when he went on the injured list. It enabled him to watch closely, observe closely.
He picked the best to watch when the Reds played their teams — Mike Trout, Christian Yelich. And he watched guys on his own team like Votto and Suarez and Winker and Puig.
“When you don’t get a chance to play, you get a chance to watch,” said Barnhart. “You watch the best hitters in the world constantly get better. Each of them are themselves, there are only one of them, but there is a common theme with them.
“If you can find something they do that is beneficial to your game and put into your game, why wouldn’t you do it?” he asked.
Without getting ultra-technical and not revealing from whom he stole while observing, Barnhart said, “It has helped me see the ball longer. The common thing I did see with good hitters is they don’t chase bad pitches.”
And before his recent reconfiguration, Barnhart was chasing balls outside the strike zone that he couldn’t reach with an extension ladder.
“You just have to find a way to get yourself in the best position to get good pitches to hit,” he added. “That’s a cliche, a simplified answer, but it is so true. Standing up straighter has put me in good position so far and I just hope I can keep going.”
One of baseball’s long-time and fully accepted cliches is that it is a game of adjustments. The pitcher adjusts to you and you better quickly re-adjust to him.
Reds manager David Bell has noticed the adjustments his hitters are making, and not just Barnhart and Votto.
“I’ve said it, and I do believe it, that big things are going to happen with our offense,” said Bell. “I really like the adjustments our guys are making. Votto, Tucker, Jesse Winker, Josh VanMeter, a bunch of them.
“They have a willingness to continue to find ways to get better and adjust, at this level in the middle of the season,” he said. “That’s not easy to do, but our guys are doing it. That gives me confidence that we are going to finish strong.”
Bell said a lot of the adjustments are visible, as with Votto and Barnhart, “But a lot of it is also mechanical. That’s not a comfortable thing to do during the season, but our guys are constantly making little changes.
“All that can lead to seeing the ball better, waiting on it longer, driving it hard, drawing walks,” Bell added. “I am consistently seeing better at bats.”
Whether it is tinkering, adjusting or magic dust, since the All-Star break the Reds lead the majors in hitting (.299) and lead the National League in slugging percentage (.502) and on-base percentage (.360) and have averaged just under six runs a game.
Those are pretty colorful numbers.