By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, ready to make a bold statement. Borrowing the words from The Monkees, “I’m a Believer.” Yes, Reds fans, I believe the Reds are going to win the National League Central. Nick Castellanos will win the MVP, Jonathan India will be Rookie of the Year and David Bell will be Manager of the Year. And then Nadine woke me up from my afternoon nap.
—Seriously, though, all those who want David Bell tossed out of the manager’s chair, to all those Bell-bangers. . .you can stop reading right now.
Why? Because if the vote was taken right now for Manager of the Year, David Bell would be at the top of the ballot.
And here is why?
He has had to improvise all year due to injuries to Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, Nick Senzel, Sonny Gray, Wade Miley, Jeff Hoffman and Alex Blandino.
An awful bullpen to begin with has been without Michael Lorenzen all season and Bell lost his two best relief pitchers, Tejay Antone and Lucas Sims. But the team still won nine of its last 11.
He has no real shortstop, but found a functional replacement in Kyle Farmer. Eugenio Suarez, despite a few timely home runs, has been a bust.
Bell had the nerve to stick rookie Jonathan India at leadoff and the nerve to use rookie Tyler Stephenson in crucial pinch-hitting situations and platooned him with Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart.
And he stuck with pitcher Luis Castillo when the guy couldn’t retire my Aunt Opal the first two months of the season.
So now we’re at the All-Star break and the Reds are 48-42 and only four games out of first place.
If that isn’t Manager of the Year stuff, then Yogi Berra never had anything funny to say.
Former Milwaukee pitcher Dan Plesac agrees. The MLB-TV analyst said this week, “The Cincinnati Reds are going to win the division.” Then he said, “Now I’m going to duck under the desk because Milwaukee fans are going to throw beer cans at me. And I’ll never get free tickets in Milwaukee again.” Then he ducked under the desk.
—QUOTE: From noted philosopher Yogi Berra: “You can observe a lot by watching.” (And fans can observe a lot by watching David Bell.)
—Whomever designed the uniforms for this year’s All-Star game must have been told the game would be played under a circus tent, so make the players look like clowns.
It took me three innings to decipher the hieroglyphics on the jerseys and the dark-colored American League uniforms looked like something that spilled out of an ink pen.
And for the eighth straight time and the 21st time in the last 24 games, the American League won. Maybe next year they have th4 AL play the Japanese All-Stars or the Korean All-Stars or the Little League champions. Save the NL further embarrassment.
The game certainly had an international flavor. Japan’s Shohei Ohtani was the winning pitcher, Australia’s Liam Hendriks got the save and the MVP, Vlad Guerrero Jr., plays for Toronto.
—QUOTE: From former Cardinals/Royals manager Whitey Herzog: “The only bad thing about winning the pennant is that you have to manage the All-Star team. I’d rather spend the three days fishing.” (So would the entire National League.)
—Remember the song, ‘Blinded by the Light?’ It was sung by Manfred Mann and probably dedicated to baseball commissar Rob Manfred, because he certainly is blinded by something.
If you watched this year’s baseball draft, it was as clear as a Franklin D. Roosevelt speech how fans feel about Manfred. Every time he walked to the podium he was booed vociferously. I almost felt sorry for him. . .almost.
—QUOTE: From former manager Jimmy Dykes, on Ernie Banks winning the National League MVP in 1957 and 1958, despite his Chicago Cubs finishing deep in the standings: “Without Ernie Banks, the Cubs would finish in Albuquerque.”
—Love stories from the days of the Negro Leagues. There was a player, now in the Baseball Hall of Fame, named Double Duty Radcliffe. His name came from the fact he both pitched and caught while playing for a rumored more than 30 different Negro League teams. When he caught, he scribbled on the front of his chest protector, “Thou shalt not steal.”
He lived to be 103. Two weeks before he died, at 103, he threw out the first pitch at a game in Birmingham’s Rickwood Field, the oldest surviving baseball park in America.
—QUOTE: From legendary outfielder Willie Mays, talking to inner-city kids in Birmingham, Ala. “Don’t steal apples, steal second base.” (Sounds like good ‘core’ value advice.)
—Negro League legend Cool Papa Bell supposedly was the fastest man ever to play the game. He routinely tagged up at second base on fly balls and scored.
The most famous line about his speed was, “He could turn out the lights on a switch by door and get into bed before the room got dark.”
Pitcher Satchell Paige had another one. Said Paige, “Cool Papa once hit a line drive through the box against me and the ball hit him in the ass when he was sliding into second base.”
While blacks were not permitted to play Major League Baseball until 1947, before then Negro League teams often played barnstorming exhibition games against MLB All-Star teams. And they often beat them. Supposedly, Cool Papa hit .392 in those games against guys like Dizzy Dean and Bob Feller.
Bell was born too soon to play in the majors and once said, “They used to say, ‘If we find a good black player, we’ll sign him.’ They was lying.”
—QUOTE: From former Dodgers outfielder and current broadcaster Rick Monday on the frustration of trying to hit Phil Niekro’s knuckleball: “It actually giggles at you as it goes by.” (And trying to hit it was no laughing matter.)