Ask Hal: There Are Current Iconic Players Like Ohtani, Trout

By Hal McCoy

Q: Following the recent passing of Willie Mays, news outlets have drawn comparison between his greatness and that of the iconic players of his era, so does this raise questions about today’s player being less talented? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: No, it doesn’t. He was just being compared to his contemporaries and even that was hard to do once you mention Henry Aaron, Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio and maybe Ted Williams. The brilliance right now of Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr., Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman shines brightly among current stars. And rip me all you want for this, but 22-year-old shortstop Elly De La Cruz with his speed, arm, power, defense and hitting ability is a Willie Mays in an embryonic stage. And he belongs in center field.

Q: Why have batting averages gone down so much, even after the elimination of the shift? — BEN, Red Bay, AL.
A: That’s the ol’ mystery wrapped around an enigma. The average major league batting average this year is .240. Not so long ago that would be a one-way ticket to the minors. I, too, thought averages would soar with the shift banned. Most players still want to hit home runs and swing from the heels instead of just trying to put the ball in play with two strikes like Steven Kwan and Luis Arraez. And pitchers have so many pitches — Four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider, curveball, cutter, sinker, sweeper, knuckleball, spitball (oh, yeah, they still throw ‘em), change-up, slurve. . .so many, it just doesn’t seem fair.

Q: A relief pitcher enters a game with a runner on and if he scores the earned run is charged to the previous pitcher who put him on base and why is that? — MIKE, Middletown.
A: That one baffles me, too, and it is why I never trust a relief pitcher’s earned run average. A relief pitcher could peremit 20 inherited runs to score, but none of the runners he put on base and his ERA would be 0.00. Makes no sense. What they should do is charge the pitcher who put the runner on base half an earned run and the relief pitcher who permitted him to score the other half of the earned run. What’s fair is fair, especially when a ball hits the foul pole.

Q: Does the catcher relay a message or signs to the pitcher and the infielders for a pick-off play at second base? — CHUCK, Dayton.
A: Yes, indeed. Most shortstops and second basemen wear the PitchCom paraphernalia and are in on all the signals the catcher sends to the pitcher. And the catcher has a button that sends a message to all three to try the pick-off play. The center fielder is not in on the communications so must be on his toes for an overthrow. Of course, all players at all times should be on their toes, but too many spend too much time on their heels.

Q: What’s the difference between low-A, high-A, AA and AAA? — BARRY, Kettering.
A: It is all about skill level and advancement. A player drafted out of high school generally starts his career at the lowet level, which is low-A. A player drafted out of college usually is more advanced and starts at high-A. If they show to be good players, they are promoted to the next highest level, which is AA. More players than not never advance above A and are released. Players showing major league ability graduate from AA to AAA, one step below the majors. Nearly every player on an AAA roster is considered possible major league material. It’s baseball’s alphabet soup and AAA is the gazpacho of minor-league baseball.

Q: When the Boston Red Sox scored the winning run on a foul ball sacrifice fly to Cincinnati left fielder Stuart Fairchild, wouldn’t if have been better if he had let the ball drop? — BOB, Vandalia.
A: I thought the same thing and all Reds fans feel that way after seeing the result. But it was very shallow and most players would not run on that ball. But budding superstar Jarren Duran did. Fairchild had to make a long run before he caugh it. He didn’t set his feet and made a plug ugly throw. In hindsight, which is always a perfect 100 per cent, yes, he should have let it fall. But who knew?

Q: Should the batter be denied first base if a pitch hits something that is not part of his playing uniform his dangling jewelry, long hair, beards, sliding gloves hanging from his back pocket? — GREG, Beavercreek.
A: I agree with the dangling jewelry, although I’ve seen a player get hit in a diamond necklace. Long hair and beards are part of a player’s body, so that’s a legit hit by pitch. Sliding gloves hanging from the pockets? Make them stuff them all the way into their so they don’t show. But let’s not take away too much. Getting hit by pitches has been one of the Reds best offensive weapons this season.

Q: With the popularity of the fast-paced Savannah Bananas style, which of their rules do you see MLB adopting? — ANDREW, Columbus.
A: The Bananas are ap-peel-ing because they are a touring comedy act, like basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters. If a player hits a foul ball into the stands and a fan catches it, the batter is out. No way that makes it to MLB. But I do like the rule that a manager, coach or catcher can never visit the mound. And I like the rule that a batter can take off for first base on any wild pitch or passed ball, regardless of the count. I like it, but I don’t want to see it in MLB. I’m pretty sure commissioner Rob Manfred is checking out Banana Ball, though.

Q: I saw a minor-league game at Rickwood Field, so now that they’ve played a major league game there, can I count it on my list of major league parks in which I’ve seen games? — JACK, Fairborn.
A:You are pushing the envelope on this one. No, it doesn’t count. You didn’t see a major league game there. And even though one MLB game was played there, it is not considered a major-league park. I have covered games in 52 major league parks, many of which no longer exist. I covered games in three different parks in Cincinnati, St. Louis and Houston. I missed the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field, dang it. But I hit some short-lived ones like Colt Stadium (Houston), Exhibition Stadium (Toronfo), Jarry Park (Montreal) Stade Olympique (Montreal) and the Astrodome (Houston). My bucket list now contains the new Yankee Stadium, Minnesota’s Target Field and whatever they are calling the park in Miami these days.

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