Ask HAL: How Helpful to Bell Are the Reds’ Coaches?

By Hal McCoy
Contributing Writer

Q: Does Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell’s coaching staff have that much significance in the team’s success or failure? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: There are 13 coaches on Bell’s staff. To me, it’s a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. How would you like 13 people shooting ideas your way all the time? Isn’t a bench coach, a hitting coach, a pitching coach and two base coaches enough? In the end, though, the whole shebang is on the shoulders of the manager, so his decisions determine his job security and that of all those coaches. If I’m a manager, I just want those five guys (bench coach, hitting coach, pitching coach and two base coaches) in my ear. And speak softly.

Q: Of all the amazing voices of the game you have heard, who stands out as one you will never forget? — JASON, Dayton.
A: From my youth, it was Cleveland’s Jimmy Dudley, who did the Cleveland Indians. After I became a baseball writer I met and admired many — Ernie Harwell, Harry Caray, Bob Prince, Jack Buck, Bob Uecker, Harry Kalas. And some current guys like Pat Hughes, Jon Sciambi, Charlie Steiner and one of my all-time favorites, Cleveland’s Tom Hamilton. But one man towers above. Vin Scully. On my first trip to Los Angeles, I ran into Scully in the media dining room. I had not met the man and introduced myselfl. He said, “I knw who you are. I read and enjoy your stuff and have used some of it on the air.” I flew out of Los Angeles without an airplane.

Q; With the success Cincinnati’s TJ Friedl had bunting for base hits, do you see more teams using the bunt? — COMPUTER SUTER, Miamisburg.
A: Of Friedl’s 136 hits last season, he had 18 homers, including one inside the park, 18 doubles, eight triples and 15 bunt hits. It was the most bunt hits by a Reds player since Norris Hoppert’s 17l in 2007. Friedl is an anomaly, a rarity in his bunting ability, a lost art. Players just can’t bunt and analytics say bunting is a bad move. Unless team concentrate more on bunting in spring training, it won’t catch on. Friedl was undrafted out of the University of Nevada, but the Reds signed him to s $732,500 signing bonus, the highest ever paid to a non-drafted player. It was the best $732,500 the Reds ever spent.

Q: Who would you rather have at bat in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, the score tied and a runner on third, Nellie Fox or Kyle Schwarber? — JIM, Cincinnati.
A: Depends a little bit on the pitcher. Fox struck out only 216 times in his 19-year career while Schwarber struck out 215 times this season. I’d want Fox’s contact. If the team was down two runs, I’d want Schwarber with a chance to hit a home run. But I’d really like to see Ted Williams up there, but they’d probably walk him.

Q: Have there been successfu major league managers who never played major league ball? — GREG, Beavercreek.
A: Amazingly, it is not that rare. There have been 104 managers who did not play in the majors. Three are in the Hall of Fame — Earl Weaver, Joe McCarthy and Frank Selee. Former Reds managers Jack McKeon, Dave Miley and Bryan Price never made it. Nor did Buck Showalter or Joe Maddon. Current managers with no MLB playing days are Brandon Hyde (Orioles), Oliver Marmol (Cardinals), Brian Snitker (Braves), Derek Shelton (Pirates) And we all know that Sparky Anderson’s MLB playing career was all of 152 games for the 1959 Phillies. You don’t have to have played the game at is highest level to know the game.

Q: With all three 100-win teams eliminated during the playoffs so early, is it tim3 for a new playoff format? — MARK, Centerville.
A: It seems they change the format every other year. It is noteworthy that two wild card teams are in the World Series. Being old-school, I’d like to see the three division winners and one wild card team (the team with the best record that did not win a division) make the post-season. The current format keeps the interest of more fans alive and satisfies the TV folks for their investment. But, c’mon, if Arizona wins the World Series, is a team that finished the season 84-72 really the best team? I think not. They just got hot at the apropos time.

Q: What was the most memorable World Series that you covered? — ALAN, Sugercreek Twp.
A: I was blessed and fortunate to cover 37 World Series and loved every moment. But that’s a slam dunk question for me. It was the 1975 World Series between the Reds and Red Sox. And I’m not saying it because I covered the Reds. Many baseball lifers consider it the best of all time. Game 6, when Carlton Fisk hit the 12th-inning walk-off home run, is thought to be one of the all-time best games. Many folks believes Fisk’s homer won the World 
Series. Nope. The Reds won it in Game 7 and I got to see it all and choronicle it all.

Q: What’s your opinion on Dusty Baker only winning one World Series as an MLB manager? — RICHARD, Tipp City.
A: Baker takes a lot of criticism and grief for winning only one World Series, 2022 with the Houston Astros. His only other managerial trip to the World Series was with the San Francisco Giants in 2002, a seven game loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Baker, though, has managed 108 post-season games, fourth most in history. It takes good managing to constantly take teams to the playoffs. So much can happen in a short series. They can be determined by a couple of bounces for you or against you. No matter what his critics say, to me Dusty Baker is a great manager and a greater man.

Q: Who is your favorite opposing manager and why? — RYAN/ELVIS, Englewood.
A: That would be Atlanta manager Bobby Cox. He despised umpires but he liked me and always invited me into his office for cigars. And it was the same with Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez, who continued the tradition. And I liked former Colorado/Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle, always a great quote. Tommy Lasorda was a favorite, too, even though he never knew my name and called me Buck.

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