Ask Hal: Should Elly De La Cruz Player Center Field?

By Hal McCoy
Contributing Writer

Q: Have either Matt McLain or Elly De La Cruz entered their names in the transfer portal? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centervillle/Beavercreek.
A: If there was a transfer portal in MLB, and there isn’t, the feeling here is that neither would use it. Both feel as if they are large parts of bringing the Reds out of the darkness and into the light of competitiveness. And if there was a transfer portal, there are several players on the Reds who can see the future and know they aren’t a part of it and they would enter the portal quickly, as in today. Jose Barrero probably would be first in line, with Kevin Newman, Nick Senzel and Wil Myers standing right behind him.

Q: Teams sometimes leave infield grass long to slow down ground balls to help speedy runners beat out infield hIts, so are there any MLB standards for how tall the infield grass must be? — GREG, Beavercreek.
A: Teams also use high-grassed infields to slow down hard-hit ground balls to prevent them from zooming through the infield. The grass in Chicago’s Wrigley Field and LA’s Dodger stadium are notoriously high. To slow down some of Elly De La Cruz’s 110 miles an hour ground balls, teams might have to grow the grass as high as an elephant’s eye. As far as I know, grass length is not in the rulebook.

Q: How much has attendance increased in Cincinnati with all the young talent? — BEN, Red Bay, Ala.
A: Not much. Yet. The Reds drew 1,395,770 last year, an average of 17,447, 24th in MLB. And it seemed many of those fans came disguised as empty seats. Attendance this year is slightly up, an average of 19,279. That’s still 24th. But with Elly De La Crus, Matt McLain and Andrew Abbott arriving, with more to come, and if the team continues to play exciting baseball, I expect more fans to drop in on Great American Ball Park, for the games, not the $14.25 beers.

Q: Isn’t Elly De La Cruz’s speed being wasted in the infield when he could cover more ground in the outfield? — RYAN-ELVIS, Englewood.
A: With his speed, De La Cruz could cover Rhode Island and maybe Massachusetts, too. He loves playing shortstop and says, “I’m a shortstop.” But the Reds system is overpopulated with infielders and not so much outfielders. What a center fielder he would make. He would cover more grass than the morning dew.

Q: Is the current team the most exciting Reds team you’ve seen? — STOCC, Miamisburg.
A: This is the 50th Reds team I’ve seen and it is exciting with a capital ‘E.’ But it is hard to beat the excitement provided by the 1975-76 Big Red Machine and the 1990 Wire-to-Wire team. What I like about this team is its never-quit mentality and the diverse ways it uses to win games. It seems when it is down two or three runs in the seventh inning, it has the other team exactly where it wants it. They truly are The Relentless Reds, which is the title of (shameless plug) a coffee table book I wrote about the 1975 Reds.

Q: When is management going to realize that Tyler Stephenson is too tall to sit behind home plate, although I have no issues with his bat? — RICHARD, Sacramento, Calif.
A: I haven’t seen any height requirements, tall or short, for a catcher. Stephenson is 6-foot-4 and gives a large target to pitchers. The Reds have contrasting catchers, a defensive dandy in Curt Casali and an offensive catcher in Stephenson. That’s one reason Stephenson often is used as a designiated hitter. Pitchers thrive with Casali behind the plate, but they like having Stephenson in the batting order.

Q: What do you think the Reds should do with Joey Votto? — JACK, Siesta Key, Fla.
A: That is the $25 million question. When he comes back, should he automatically be put back in the lineup? He isn’t tearing it up on his rehab assignment in Louisville. At last check, his slash line was .167/.292/.300 with two homers, seven RBI, 11 walks and 27 strikeouts in 72 plate appearances. Pretty dismal. Why disrupt what is going on with the team? Maybe give him a chance at designated hitter? I’m just glad I’m not GM Nick Krall or manager David Bell, who have to make this controversial decision.

Q: With so many teams making the playoffs, do you miss the chase for the pennant and does winning the pennant mean as much as it used to mean? — TIM, Xenia.
A: As an old-school buzzard, I do miss the old format of one team from the National League and one team from the
American League going straight to the World Series — the teams with the best records in each league meeting in the World Series. But the expanded playoffs keeps interest alive until the end of the season. No, winning the pennant often is meaningless. Seven wild card teams have won the World Series: the Marlins in 1997 and 2003, the Angels in 2002, the Red Sox in 2004. the Cardinals in 2011, the Giants in 2014 and the Nationals in 2019. So not winning the pennant is not a ‘wild’ goose chase.

Q: Who was the most highly touted Reds player from The Crown Jewels of the mid-1980s? — WILL, Edgewood, Ky.
A: When Bill Bergesch was general manager, he had three young players he said he would not trade because they were the team’s crown jewels — outfielders Paul Householder and Duane Walker, plus infielder Kurt Stillwell. All three mostly turned out to be zircons and all three were traded. Householder was traded to St. Louis in 1984 for pitcher John Stuper, Walker was traded in 1985, along with pitcher Jeff Russell, to Texas for third baseman Buddy Bell and Stillwell was trade in 1987, along with pitcher Ted Power, to Kansas City for pitcher Danny Jackson and infielder Angel Salazar.

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