ASK HAL: No, Jonathan India Is Not A Bust This Year

By Hal McCoy

Q: Do you concur that Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India has delivered average offensive statistics and a subpar defensive performance? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: Absolutely not. I don’t know what you’ve been watching to even have that enter your mind. Yes, he started slowly, but his offensive numbers right now are better than his Rookie of the Year season.
His recent hitting streak that included more doubles than one sees at a Senior Prom, speak for themselves. Defensively he has a bit of trouble going to his right, but he gobbles up everything to his left. And he appears to be a highly-respected team leader. Are you sure you don’t mean Will Benson?

Q: Who was your toughest player to interview? — GEORGE, Morton Grove, IL.
A: That would be a Reds pitcher I never interviewed, never questioned. Why? His name was John Denny and he was as intimidating as a runaway rhinoceros. He sat in front of his locker staring into the distance with steely gray eyes. He looked as if he might some day climb a tower with a rifle. And I was right. He punched Cincinnati Post baseball writer Bruce Schoenfeld just because he wandered into an area where Denny was plunging his pitching hand into a wash tub full of rice.

Q: Does the ghost runner in the 10th inning of a tie game count against the pitcher’s earned run average if that runner scores? — SHAUN, Vandalia.
A: No, it does not. Nor should it. The pitcher didn’t put that runner on second base, baseball commissioner Rob Manfred did. And his ERA is astronomical. If that runner scores, it goes on the team ERA, not the pitcher’s. But any subsequent runs, the runs scored by batters he puts on base, counts against his ERA. And I still believe the ghost runner is a mockery.

Q: In your years covering the Reds, who was a player with a can’t miss tag that ended up as a big disappointment. — MATT, Charlotte, NC.
A: There, of course, were several. Jack Armstrong, Robert Stephenson and Jeff Jones, to name a few. But the biggest, in my mind, was infielder Willie Greene. He was drafted No. 1 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but they traded him to Montreal before he reached the majors and the Expos did the same thing, trading him to Cincinnati. General manager Jim Bowden was ecstatic and said Greene had quicker hands than a New York pickpocket. But in six years with the Reds he hit .258 with 80 home runs and on defense those quick hands turned to stone.

Q: Is there any way the Reds can keep Elly De La Cruz when his rookie contract is up? — BOB, Dayton,
A: His rookie contract expired after last season and he is on a second-year contract. And, unless the Reds trade him (fat chance), he is under team control until 2030, the first time he can be a free agent and sign with the highest bidder. That’s a foregonner because he said just last week he wants to play for the New York Yankees. And he loves the Los Angeles Dodgers. Who has the most cash? New York and Los Angeles, of course.

Q: Who was the most musically talented player you ever covered? — KEVIN, Centerville.
A: I’ve seen you singing and plucking your guitar, so I know why you asked this. The answer is the best catcher of all time, Johnny Bench. And he might have been the best singing ballplayer. He appeared a couple of times on the old Midwestern Hayride TV show singing ‘Okie From Muskogee.’ And he was close friends with singer Bobby Goldsboro (‘Watching Scotty Grow,’ and ‘Honey’). Bench often sang with Goldsboro and, to me, he was just as good.

Q: How much longer do you think David Bell will be managing? — JIM, Kettering.
A: I assume you mean the Reds because he could also manage elsewhere if he is let go by Cincinnati. That’s something for which many, many fans are clamoring. He gets a pass from me this year because the Reds have had more injuries than happen to teen-agers on trampolines. Just check out the last place Chicago Cubs, who are paying Craig Counsell $8 million this year. A year ago, Bell signed a three-year contract extension that takes him through 2026. I don’t see the Reds dumping him.

Q: Do you see Joey Votto playing again in the big leagues? — MATT, BRADENTON, FL.
A: Not now, not ever. Fans neet to get over him. He had a great run, was a great player. But Father Time waits on nobody and his time has come. He is trying to hang on and is in the Toronto Blue Jays system. But he is playing at low Class A Dunedin and at last check was hitting .100. The Blue Jays are not keeping an open spot on their roster for him. Next stop? Perhaps the radio or TV booth. He can’t hit any more but he can still talk a good game.

Q: Is Jonathan India’s walk-up song ‘Who Wears Short Shorts?’ — BILL, Monterey, KY.
A: Last I checked, it was ‘Hustler Musik’ by Lil Wayne, but I see your point. You are referring to the 1957 song ‘Short Shorts’ by The Royal Teens. You ask because India’s baseball pants are above his knees, which I abhor. But judging on how India is hitting and the way his teammates aren’t hitting, maybe they all should wear their pants that way. It is not unprecedented. Maverick owner Bill Veeck had his 1976 Chicago White Sox wearing shorts and called them clam-diggers. It didn’t help them. They finished last, 64-97 and 26 1/2 games out of first place. And they led baseball in skinned knees.

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