By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave on Labor Day with no labor to do because the Cincinnati Reds are off. And when has that ever happened? But they certainly need a breather to catch the breath the Pirates knocked out of them.
—With absolutely no apologies necessary to Paul Simon, the 2020 baseball season is Slip Slidin’ Away for the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds are 18-and-23 with 19 games remaining in this twisted season.
And losing two of four to the pathetic Pittsburgh Pirates is unacceptable, especially the last game, a 3-2 defeat that the Reds led, 2-1, heading into the bottom of the ninth.
As Ricky Ricardo always said to Lucy Ricardo on the iconic ‘I Love Lucy,’ TV Series, “Lucy, you have some ‘splainin’ to do.”
So does Reds manager David Bell. And when asked those questions after the game, he dodged them like a professional dodgeball player.
It is so easy to second guess in baseball. If the Reds had held on to win, 2-1, well, no questions asked. But they didn’t. They blew it. So, ask away.
ONE: Why did he not remove Raisel Iglesias when he gave up a leadoff single? If not then, why not when he gave up another single to the second hitter? His history in these situations is usually gloom and doom.
Why not Archie Bradley, an accomplished closer? Why did the Reds acquire him if not to use in these exact situations?
BELL: “Yeah, absolutely. Having Archie right there we were perfectly set-up. In the end, we felt like Iggy was throwing strikes and was our best opportunity to get a strikeout, which is a big way to get an out in that situation. If we would have got out of it there, Archie was going to pitch the 10th.”
OK, they never got to the 10th and Bradley might have squirmed out of the problem. We’ll never know.
Now. . .moving on.
TWO: With runners on third and second with one out and the scored tied, 2-2, why not intentionally walk Erik Gonzalez to set up a possible inning-ending double play?
Instead, Bell chose to use a prevent defense, bring in an outfielder to play a five-man infield. That defense works about as well as a prevent defense in the NFL.
Gonzalez hit a sacrifice fly. Game over.
BELL: “We wanted to face the three hitters before they got to Bryan Reynolds. That was the main factor in the decision, who we want to face and who we have the best chance to get an out there. You’re up against the wall anyway and we’re playing in all the way. You do get a force out at the plate and that’s the one advantage of walking him there. For me, the factor of the matchups, giving us the best chance to potentially get a strikeout. That’s the most important thing.”
Got that? OK, then. . .
—Baseball lost another icon this week when Lou Brock passed away. Brock, of course, was a master thief, stealing 118 bases in one season.
And speaking of base larceny, I looked this up and it is true. Like Brock, Vince Coleman was a threat to steal every time he reached base.
When current Reds TV broadcaster Chris Welsh pitched for the Reds, Coleman led off with a single in June of 1986. Welsh then threw over to first base 21 straight times before throwing a pitch.
And what happened when Welsh finally delivered a pitch? Coleman stole second.
—QUOTE: From Lou Brock on being aggressive: “You can’t be afraid to make errors. You can’t be afraid to be naked before the crowd, because no one can ever master the game of baseball, or conquer it. You can only challenge it.” (Brock never played naked, but he sure de-pants a lot of catchers.)
—From Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty’s book collaboration with Johnny Bench, ‘Catch Every Ball:’
“On one of Tom Seaver’s first starts after he came over to Cincinnati from the Mets, he started a game and allowed two runs on four consecutive hits,” said Bench.
“I went to the mound and asked him, ‘Are you trying?’ He growled at me and said, ‘Score three runs and we’ll win. Now get back behind the plate.’ We won, 3-2.”
Bench much rather would catch Seaver than hit against him. For his career against Tom Terrific, Bench batted .179 with 27 strikeouts in 96 plate appearances.
How did other members of The Big Red Machine fare against Seaver?
Tony Perez struggled, too, a .216 average. Ken Griffey Sr. compiled a .250 average. Other Machinists did well — Pete Rose hit .281, Joe Morgan hit .304, George Foster hit .308 and get this one. . .Dave Concepcion hit .391.
—QUOTE: From Tom Seaver, the erudite pitcher: “I would like to be a great artist. I would quit pitching if I could paint like Monet or Rousseau. But I can’t. What I can do is pitch, and I can do that very well.” (Who said he couldn’t paint. He could paint the corners better than Monet or Rousseau on their best days.)
—Former Pittsburgh Pirates star and Portsmouth icon Al Oliver has a new book with a stylish title: ‘Life is a Hit, Don’t Strike Out.’ And Oliver didn’t strike out with his message. Oliver is a masterful inspirational speaker. He speaks with the authority he used while swinging a bat.
—Scott Russell is the author of ‘The Spaceman Chronicles,’ a biography of former major league pitcher Bill Lee, the leader in the clubhouse of goofiness.
Russell reported this week that Lee awoke with his left eye swollen shut and the vision in his right eye non-existent.
“I look like Carmen Basilio after he went went fifteen rounds against Sugar Ray Robinson,” Lee told Russell. “I was bitten by a hornet. I really can’t blame the hornet, he was just protecting his hive. Since I can’t see, I might as well drink, since that normally makes me blind anyhow.”
—QUOTE: One of the many utterings from Bill Lee that put him on an even level with Daffy Duck: “I told reporters that I sprinkled marijuana on my organic buckwheat pancakes, and then when I ran my five miles to the ballpark, it made me impervious to the bus fumes.” (Lee threw the infamous blooper pitch in the 1975 World Series that Tony Perez whacked over the wall.)
—This gem comes from ESPN’s Tim Kirkjian: Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn pitched 84 complete games. . .after he was 40 years old.
—QUOTE: From Warren Spahn when he returned from World War II service: “I felt like, wow, what a great way to make a living. If I mess up, there is going to be a relief pitcher coming in there. And nobody is going to shoot me.” (Spahn didn’t often see a relief pitcher, not with 383 complete games.)