By Hal McCoy
—UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, anxiously awaiting the re-start of baseball after wishing the season would never start after spring training because I was convinced the Cincinnati Reds would be dreadfully awful, if not worse.
—OLD MAN VOTTO: Old friend Barry Greenberg of M.L. Dunn Flooring asked me an astute question and the answer was more incredible than the question.
The question: “When Joey Votto is in the lineup, does he have more service time than the rest of the lineup combined.”
The answer, a total shock, is yes.
Votto has 15 years of MLB service. With this lineup that manager David Bell uses often, the combined service time of the other players is less than 13 years. The lineup: C-Luke Maile, 2B-Jonathan India, SS-Matt McLain, 3B-Elly De La Cruz, LF-Will Benson, CF-TJ Friedl, RF-Jake Fraley.
It is doubtful any other team can put one veteran in the lineup with more service time than the rest of the lineup combined Maybe never.
—QUOTE: From Joey Votto, whom we all know is, uh, different, a little bit off the wall: “I legitimately would like to drive a yellow bus when I’m older. I want to be either a crossing guard or drive a yellow bus. Drive the kids to school or let them cross to school and you know, that’s something I’m excited about. I’m serious about that.” (Does he know that the wheels on the bus go round and round?)
—BRAGG-ING RIGHTS: Former MLB players aren’t ones to make brash judgements on current players, especially one as talented as former Reds outfielder Glenn Braggs.
After watching Elly De La Cruz steal second, third and home on two pitches, Braggs posted on social media, “Wow, this kid is special.”
He is above and beyond special. He is not of the human race. He is his own species, an entity.
After Baltimore third baseman Brooks Robinson was a eureka player (like a Eureka Vacuum Sweeper in the 1970 World Series, Cincinnati’s Pete Rose said, “Brooks Robinson belongs in a higher league.”
So does De La Cruz, who is De La Cruise on the basepaths, De La Crush in the batter’s box and Elly Belly Cruz when he slides head first.
Other than the great catch Braggs made in the 1990 playofss, he is best known for swinging and miissing a pitch and his bat broke when it hit his biceps, which were the size of watermelons.
The catch? In Game 6 on the ’90 NLCS, Braggs vaulted above the right field wall to snag a drive hit by Pittsburgh’s Carmelo Martinez in the ninth inning that would have tied the game.
—QUOTE: From Glenn Braggs, as told to sports writer David Jablonski, about ‘The Catch:’ “My wrist was over the wall. I thought it was gone. I went back on the wall. It was right there. I jumped up and caught it. My instinct said get it in. Barry Bonds was on first base. I didn’t want him to advance. I think Carmelo was pretty shocked.” (So was the entire Pittsburgh team, especially when the Reds beat them and took four straight from the Oakland A’s in the World Series.)
—The HEAD-HUNTER: Pedro Martinez started the 1999 All-Star game and struck out five of the six hitters he faced — Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell.
Martinez was not averse to aiming fastballs at opposing batting helmets. There was a game in Riverfront Stadium when Martinez pitched for the Montreal Expos and he sent a couple of Cincinnati Reds to Mother Earth with way high and way inside fastballs.
Up in the radio booth, Marty Brennaman called Martinez a head-hunter (good call, Marty). Expos GM Kevin Malone either heard about it or was told. He stormed the both with an award-winning rant.
Brennaman threw him out of the booth and the next day a sign appeared on the booth’s door prohibiting anybody to enter without Marty’s approval.
There is nobody with a strong enough heart to challenge Marty Brennamn on anything, let alone walking uninvited into his booth.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame pitcher/baseball analyst Pedro Martinez: “I’m not in baseball just because I’m cute.” (I like his commentary on the MLB network, but cute he’s not.)
—CESSA AND DESIST: Luis Cessa wanted more than anything to emerge from the Cincinnati Reds bullpen and be dropped into the starting rotation.
So this spring the Reds relented and gave him the opportunity. He ran with it. . .backwards. In six starts, he was 1-and-4 with a 9.00 ERA. Instead of dropping him back into the bullpen, the Reds released him on May 14.
The Colorado Rockies signed him to a minor league contract on May 23 and assigned him to Triple-A. The pitch-thin Rockies never called him up and released him on June 20.
The last place Washington Nationals, also pitch-thin, signed him on July 7 to a minor league deal and he is working at Triple-A Rochester, trying to scramble back to the big leagues.One thing Cessa contributed to the Reds — he was the one who came up with the Vikings helmet idea.
Moral: Be careful what for what you beg?
—GUNNAR TURNS GUNNER: Baltimore’s Gunnar Henderson had four hits in four innings, including two home runs, against the New York Yankees.
The last time I saw something like that was when Punky Gebhart had four home runs in the first four innings against my Eldora Speedway slow-pitch softball team in the early 1970s
But we pulled out the victory, 22-21. We were good in one-run games.
—CARRY A BIG STICK: When Babe Ruth first started with the New York Yankees, he used a 54-ounce hickory bat. Fifty-four ounces? That’s not a bat. That’s a boomstick. Wonder if he trimmed off the branches before he used the trunk?
The average major-league bat these days in 34-inches, 33-ounces. By the time Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927, he was ‘down’ to 40 ounces.
My neighborhood buddy, high school and college teammate, Gene ‘Stick’ Michael, for some reason when he made the majors he used a 36-inch, 35-ounce bat. We didn’t call him Stick because of his bat. He was Stick because he was skinny as a stick.
He played 10 years in the majors, eight with the Yankees. The big sticks didn’t help him. He hit .229 and hit 15 homers. Then he became a baseball executive and helped put together the Yankees dynasty of the 1990’s.
And he surprised me by showing up in Cooperstown for my induction into the Hall of Fame and said, “I knew I wasn’t going to make the Hall of Fame, but I’m sure as hell shocked that you made it.”
Not as shocked as I was.
—CONFESSION: Old friend and tennis partner/opponent Harry Vearn asked me if I watched a Novak Djokovic Wimbledon match.
I love tennis. I played it every day. But then I lost most of my vision and couldn’t play. I mis it more than I miss driving a car.
So my answer to him was: “I haven’t watched tennis on TV since 2003 when I lost most of my eyesight and couldn’t play any more. Just can’t make myself do it.”
Odd reaction, isn’t it?