Ask Hal: No Franchise Needs A New Park (Not Boston, Not Chicago)

By Hal McCoy

Q: With the continuing construction of new stadiums, which franchise is in dire need of a new stadium? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: Not what you might think. Some believe Boston and Chicago need new parks so those franchises can add the upscale suites and other amenities. Not me. I love Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Most franchises have excellent modern venues — San Diego, San Francisco, Houston, Miami, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, both New Yorks, Atlanta, Minnesota and even Cincinnati. Two of the oldest parks, other than Fenway and Wrigley, are Dodger Stadium and Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, and both are wondrous. Really, no franchise really needs a new facility.

Q: Who would you replace injured T.J. Friedl with in center field to start the season? — KEITH, Brookville.
A: I have no problem with manager David Bell moving Will Benson to center. Benson and Jake Fraley originally were to share right field, even though both bat lefthanded. I’m still tub-thumping and screaming through a loudspeaker for them to move Elly De La Cruz out there from shortstop to more utilize his world class speed and whiplash arm. It is not unprecedented. The Reds moved both Eric Davis and Billy Hamilton from shortstop to center field. I seem to remember that panned out.

Q: Who was a player who had a short major league career but had success in other endeavors? — GREG, Beavercreek.
A: That’s a tough one, because most players with short careers leave the game and their absence is not missed because their presence was never noticed. One case comes to mind because I lived part of it. Lefty O’Doul appeared in 970 games in the 1920s, first as a pitcher before hurting his arm, then briefly as an outfielder. Now comes my part. When he left baseball, he opened a highly successful bar/restaurant on Union Square in San Francisco, a hangout for visiting baseball teams. And, yes, I hung out.

Q: Have you heard anything about how Alex Blandino is doing with his knuckleball this spring? — KEVIN, Springboro.
A: Blandino was a versatile utility infielder in 2020/2021 for the Reds. In 2021, he made four appearances on the mound in blowout games and featured a knuckler. He pitched 3 2/3 inning and gave up four runs and four hits, a 9.82 earned run averaage. Not so hot. But he worked on his knuckler in winter ball and asked the Reds to take a look. They put him on their Class AA Chattanooga roster. No report yet on if the knuckler is dancing and fluttering better than it was.

Q: Are umpires in spring training games competing to make the majors? — MARILYNNE, Sugarcreek Twp.
A: No, they aren’t, but they should be. The umpires union is extremely strong and one of the reasons Angel Hernandez is still calling them as he sometimes sees them. Major league umpires are under contract and usually hang around until retirement. Minor league umpires are under minor leaague contracts and some do work major league spring exhibition games and are graded, as they are during their minor league seasons. MLB hires the best to fill in for the retirees.

Q: If the Reds perform haka before each game, would that improve their winning percentage? — PHIL, Centerville.
A: First I had to look up haka and discovered it is a ceremonial performance dance. The Reds need less ceremony and more performance. I know the Japanese do heavy exercises before games in their league. In MLB, you might, if you look fast, see an MLB player or two do a few pre-game wind sprints and get themselves stretched. Haka? Too strenuous.

Q: Baseball is always referred to reverently as the national pastime. but as the talent pool becomess postnationalistic shouldn’t it now be the international pastime? — JACK, Vandalia.
A: The international pastime is spoken for. Everywhere but in our nation it is soccer, or futball. But, you are certainly right. With the influx, for a long time now, of Latins, Japanese, Koreans and Canadians, maybe it’s wrong. But it’s the game, our game invented in our country, that makes it the national pastime. Of course, football fans vociferously argue that baseball no longer is our national pastime. Actually, it probably is video games.

Q: In all your years, can you pinpoint one moment that meant the most to you as a writer covering baseball?— JAY, Englewood.
A: As a lifetime lover of baseball, every pitch of every game is meaningful. And in more than 50 years covering the game, picking one moment is difficult. For one moment, it is difficult not to pick the moment Pete Rose deposited his 4,192nd hit into left field. And there is the moment Tom Browning threw the last pitch of his perfecr game to strike out LA’s Tracy Woodson. And there was the moment Ken Griffey Jr. swung and launched his 500th home run against the Cardinals Matt Morris. Those three moments stand out vividly.

Q: What is the major reason that great players like Blake Snell wait so long into spring training to sign a contract? — CHRIS, Waynesville.
A: It isn’t a major reason, it is the only reason. It is for long-term, high-priced contracts. Most of the players who do it are represented by super agent Scott Boras, who tries to squeeze teams out of their bottom dollar. He wants long-term deal for his clients and it didn’t work this team. Snell had to settle for a mere two years from the San Francisco Giants, but it is likely he’ll survive on the $62 million. Cody Bellinger, another Boras client, settlled for three years and $80 million to re-up with the Cubs, but he wanted more years and more cash. Both players have opt-out clauses and can become free agents after this season so they can do it all over again.

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