ASK HAL: What Are David Bell’s Strengths And Weaknesses?

(Ask Hal)

By Hal McCoy

Q: Do many players engage frequently in reading books? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: I never took a poll to ask if players were bookworms because I only saw them on the field or in the clubhouse, not places to extensively read. I do know Pete Rose said, “I wrote a book before I ever read one.” And pitcher Chris Hammond sat at his locker reading the Bible every day. Fellow pitcher Kent Mercker stopped at Hammond’s locker one day while he was reading his Bible and asked, “Haven’t you finished that book yet?”

Q: What is your take on the sliding mittens players wear on the basepaths? — BRAD, Kansas City.
A: They are great on Nadine when she pulls pies out of the oven, but they don’t belong on the hands of base stealers and should be outlawed. Let them use regular batting gloves to protect their hands and fingers while sliding. But those extended mittens make them look like Edward Scissorshands and give an unfair advantage. Aren’t the bigger bases enough of an advantage?

Q: In addition to fastballs, curveballs, change-ups and sinkers from the past, we now hear about sliders, splitters, sweepers, four-seamers and two-seamers, so how do the broadcasters know what each pitch is? — SCOTT, Springfield.
A: I played baseball for 25 years and covered baseball for 51 years and I never could tell the differences between some pitches, even before my eyes went into early retirement. How do broadcasters know? They are tuned in to GameDay on MLB’s web-site and it instantaneously reveals what each pitch is. It’s their cheat sheet and sometiimes they even get it right.

Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of Cincinnaati Reds manager David Bell? — KEITH, Brookville.
A: His strengths are his pedigree, the grandson of Gus Belll and son of Buddy Bell, plus his own major-league playing exerience. And he is even keel, win or lose, keeps the team relaxed — perhaps too relaxed at times. He does show moxie when he argues with umpires, protecting his players. I fear, though, he might rely too much on analytics. Some of his many different lineups make no sense and probably are analytics driven. He doesn’t rely on his personal eye test. Players are not mathematical robots. They have hearts and souls that can’t be found on a computer. He should manage like Sparky Anderson, not Steve Jobs

Q: This might be the most stupid question you ever received, but why are the Kroger patches white on the Reds home white uniforms, white on the road gray uniforms, but black on the City Connect uniforms? — BILL, Rabbit Hash, KY.
A: Any question to which you don’t know the answer is not stupid. The City Connect costumes are black-and-red and the Nike designers didn’ want to despoil that theme with a splash of white. They remind me of Black Friday, not good for a baseball team, and the Kroger marketing department should be outraged because their patch is barely visible on those black pajamas.

Q: Why are the Reds playing all those American League teams? — ART, West Chester.
A: It’s called interleague play and it has been in existence since 1997. Before then, National League team never played American League team until the World Series. Interleague games give fans a chance to see all the teams and all the players in person. Back in the day, Reds fans never got to see in person American League stars like Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Al Kaline, Bob Feller and many others. Personally, I liked the old mystique. Now when teams reach the World Series, they’ve already met during the season. But then I liked the Edsel, phonograh players and Stetson hats.

Q: You mentioned Al Rosen in a recent column and do you remember his nickname and how he got it? — WALTER, Regina, Saskatchewan.
A: Rosen had two nicknames, most commonly referred to as ‘Flip,’ because he had a limp-wristed style of throwing, flipping the ball. He also was called the Hebrew Hammer, a reference to his Jewish heritage. He endured many slurs and was quick to challenge the slur-tossers to fights. Rosn was the MVP in 1953 by unanimous vote, ironically the first unanimous choice since Hank Greenberg in 1940. Greenberg also was Jewish.

Q: Why, for safety’s sake, did they not stop the Reds-Giants game when the pelican landed on the field? — CHARLIE, South Vienna.
A: I’m surprised the bird wasn’t a buzzard circling the Reds for their early-season performance. Birds invading ball parks in San Francisco are commonplace. Flocks of sea gulls often land in the outfield and the games go on. A minor league baseball team in New Orleans once was nicknamed the Pelicans so perhaps they thought a pelican was OK on the field. Or maybe in the interest of speeding up the game, commissioner Rob Manfred issued a special Bird Rule that says play on. At least it entertained the fans and drew attention from the cameras.

Q: Why don’t they put in a rule that a batter is automatically out if he swings and lets go of his bat because it is dangerous and it seem to happen all the time? — PENNIE, Springfield.
A: That’s a bit harsh because no player does it on purpose. It isn’t like when Bert Campaneris threw his bat at pitcher Lerrin LaGrow or when Roger Clemens threw a broken bat at Mike Piazza in a World Series game. Those guys deserved ejections, fines and suspensions. But when a bat slips, that’s an accident and I see now reason for the guy to be penalized. Just advise him, “Please, sir, put more pine tar on your bat handled and your gloves,” because that’s when the game needs a stick situation.

McCoy; Buehler Doesn’t The Day Off, Dodgers Blank Reds, 4-0

By Hal McCoy

The negative numbers continue to pile up on the Cincinnati Reds with more frustration Saturday night, a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That’s 14 defeats in their last 17 games and they’ve crash-landed into last place in the National League Central.

While getting shut out for the fourth time this season, they produced three lonely hits.

They struck out 11 times while drawing no walks.

They thought they might see a weak Walker Buehler. After nearly two years away because of two Tommy John surgeries, Buehler was 0-1 with a 7.56 earned run average in his two starts this season.

But on Saturday he pitched like a Cy Young candidate — six innings, no runs, three hits, no walks and seven strikeouts.

Then three Dodger relievers each pitched one perfect innings as the last 11 Reds went down with little more than a whimper.

Cincinnati starter Graham Ashcraft matched Buehler zero for zero through three innings.

After three innings, Graham had given up no runs, no hits and just one walk.

But the Dodgers wore him out and he ended up throwing 102 pitches over six innings, 44 in the first two innings during which LA fouled off 16 pitches. They ended up fouling off 24 Ashcraft pitches.

Ashcraft, though, walked two in the fourth inning and both scored. He walked Freddy Freeman to open the inning and walked Teoscar Hernandez with one out.
Andy Pages singled home Freeman as Hernandez took third, enabling him to score on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead.

The Dodgers made it 3-0 in the fifth on a one-out double by number nine hitter Miguel Rojas and a two-out run-scoring single by Freeman.

Rookie Carson Speiers, called up three days ago when Nick Lodolo went on the injured list, pitched the last two innings. He gave up a run in the eighth on Freeman’s leadoff double and Teoscar Hernandez’s single.

Mookie Betts, the usual LA leadoff hitter, took the night off and Shohei Ohtani batted leadoff for the first time and went 0 for 4.

But Freeman produced two hits, a walk, scored two runs and drove in one.

Cincinnati’s first hit came with two outs in the third inning, a single by rookie Jacob Hurtubise. It was his first major-league hit and it was apropos in that it came on Armed Forces Day for the West Point graduate.

The Reds’ only real opportunity arrived in the fifth. Jake Fraley shot a line drive to left center. Left fielder Miguel Vargas and center fielder Andy Pages trippoed over each other and the ball ticked off Pages’s glove and Fraley ran out a triple.

But he remained anchored when Jeimer Candelario popped out and Jonathan India grounded to second.

From the sixth through the ninth, the Reds’ only baserunner was Will Benson, a one-out single in the sixth. But Elly De La Cruz and Mike Ford both struck out.

The negatives were rampant on this chilly evening in Chavez Ravine in front of 49, 239.

De La Cruz was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and is 0 for 8 with four strikeouts in the last two losses to the Dodgers.

Spencer Steer was 0 for 4 and is on a 0 for 18 skid. Candelario was 0 for 3, ending his seven game hitting streak. Tyler Stephenson had 10 hits in his previous six games but was 0 for 3.

The Reds are 4-10 against the National League West and their next seven game are against the NL West — four against the Dodgers and three against the San Diego Padres.

 

 

 

 

McCoy: Reds’ Bullpen Fails In 7-3 Loss To LA

By Hal McCoy

For the Cincinnati Reds, it was the bullpen giveth and the bullpen taketh away.

After the relief pitching staff, seven of them, baffled the Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday night, the relief pitchers were plug ugly Friday night in a 7-3 loss.

Too often this season, when it is closing time, the Reds bullpen keep the doors unlocked and wide open.

The Reds spotted the Dodgers a 3-0 early lead but fought back to a 3-3 tie after six innings.

The once unhittable but now much-troubled Fernando Cruz gave up two runs in the seventh and Alexis Diaz gave up a two-run home run in the eighth.

The trouble began in the top of the seventh when it was still 3-3 and Mike Ford opened the inning for the Reds with a single.

Rookie Jacob Hurtubise pinch-ran and was picked off first base, snuffing a potential go—ahead rally.

The next inning would make the Keystone cops proud.

Cruz took over in the bottom of the seventh and after starting 0-and-2 against number nine hitter Kike Herandez, he gave up a full-count single.

He struck out Mookie Betts and induced a possible double play ground ball to second from Shohei Ohtani.

They got the force at second, but shortstop Elly De La Cruz air mailed the relay throw past first base and Ohtani ended up on second.

With two outs, manager David Bell decided and intentionally walk to Freddie Freeman was in order. Catcher Will Smith took offense at the manuever and singled to center on Cruz’s first pitch, scoring Ohtani for a 4-3 LA lead.

Freeman took third on the hit and scored when Cruz threw a wild pitch that nearly reached Pismo Beach and it was 5-3.

Diaz pitched the eighth and gave up a single to Andy Pages and a home run to Jason Heyward.

On Thursday, Will Benson led the first inning for the Reds with a home run that launched the Reds toward a 7-2 win.

On Friday, Mookie Betts led the Dodgers first with a home run.

It was Shohei Ohtani Day in the City of Los Angeles and he rewarded them with a two-out, two-run home run off Reds starter Frankie Montas in the second.

That gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead, but Montas shut them down from there and the Reds chipped away until it waas 3-3.

Jonathan India, back in the lineup after missing two games with migraine headaches, led the fourth with a single off LA starter James Paxton, who began the game 5-and-0.

India took second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a ground ball by De La Cruz and scored on an error by shortstop Betts.

Stuart Fairchild led the fifth with a home run and scorching hot Tyler Stephenson homered with two outs and a full count in the sixth to tie it.

Then it all came apart for the Reds like a cheap toy on Christmas Day.

On Thursday, the Reds kept LA’s top three hitters — Betts, Ohtani and Freeman — to 0 for 8. On Friday, that trio provided two home runs and scored the first five runs.

Meanwhile, the Reds top three hitters — india, De La Cruz and Spencer Steer — were 1 for 12 and De La Cruz was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

The Reds had early action in the second and third innings. Stephenson, who had two hits and was on base four times, led the second with a single. But Mike Ford hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Santiago Espinal poked a one-out single in the third, but Will Benson rolled into a double play.

Montas pitched five innings and gave up three runs and four hits and retired the Dodgers 1-2-3 in the fifth.

After the fifth, he pleaded with Bell to stay in the game, but he had 98 pitches and Bell thought that was enough.

The Reds collected three runs and seven hits over six innings against Paxton, but added only one more hit over the final three innings against the LA bullpen.

Stephenson reached first with one out in the ninth on an error, but fittingly Jeimer Candelario lined into a game-ending double play, the third DP of the night.

Candelario did single in the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to seven games.

But it all added up to Cincinnati’s 13th loss in 16 games.

OBSERVATIONS: From Finding Ways To Win To Finding Ways To Lose

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from ‘The Village Sea House’ in St. Simons Island, GA., where our theme song the last three days has been Brook Benton’s ‘Rainy Night In Georgia.’

—IT’S ABOUT FINDING WAYS: There is a plain and simple explanation about the current plight of the Cincinnati Reds in comparing last year’s team to this year’s team.

My great friend and vacation compadre Mike Snider said it succinctly: “Last year the Reds always found a way to win. This year’s team always finds a way to lose.”

And one way they find ways to lose is using Alexis Diaz as the closer, a guy who lately can’t even close a door.

Since last September, Diaz owns a 9.68 earned run averages. In 21 appearances, he has given up 19 earned runs, 20 hits, 18 walks and four hit batsmen over just 17 2/3 innings.

Once again, I propose Hunter Greene as the closer. . .and Elly De La Cruz for center field.

—ELLY IS CRUZ-IN: As most Reds fans are saying these days, “This team is difficult to watch.”

Yes, it certainly is and a huge turnaround when bother the season everybody was saying, “This team is so much fun to watch.”

There remains, right now at least, still a reason to watch and be entertained by Elly De La Cruz. One never knows what they might see from EDLC.

For example, he stole 25 bases in the Reds’ first 38 games. Only eight players in the modern era have swiped 25 or more bases in the first 38 games.

The names are the usual suspects: Kenny Lofton (the last before Elly to do it in 1998), Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman, Lou Brock, Alan Wiggins, Tim Raines.

None of those, though, could hit 430-foot home runs or throw a ball 106.9 miles an hour, the hardest throw by a fielder in MLB history. . .even if it did go over the first baseman’s head.

—THEY ARE A-PEEL-ING: What professional baseball team has the most followers on social media?

The New York Yankees? No. The Los Angeles Dodgerss? No. The Chicago Cubs? No.

It’s the Savannah Bananas, the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball. The Bananas are so a-peel-ing because they have a pitcher and batter who plays on stilts, a player who hits with his bat on fire, a player who pitches between his legs and behind his back and after doing a somersault and a player who bats blindfolded.

—ROSE, THE ALL-STAR: Another little-known fact about the many baseball facets involving Pete Rose:

Not only did he play in 16 All-Star games, the National League won 15 of those games, including the 1970 game in Riverfront Stadium.

That was the game Rose scored the winning run in the 12th inning by knocking American League catcher Ray Fosse nearly into the Twilight Zone.

The loss was in Detroit’s Tiger Stadium in 1971, a 6-4 American League win. But don’t blame Pete. He didn’t bat in that game.

During one of those All-Star games, Rose said, “I don’t have the average thirty-eight year-old’s body. I know my face looks old, but if you slid head first for sixteen years you’d be ugly too.”

—SPIT AND SHINE: Another baseball book on my must-read lis that is longer than Nadine’s to-do list for me when I want to read:

‘Big Ed Walsh,’ who was 40-15 with a 1.43 earned run average in 1908. Of course that was during the dead ball era and batter’s who made contact also got a shower because Big Ed was a spitball pitcher when spitters were legal.

Walsh is the last 40-game winner in the modern era (he did it twice). He is also the last to pitch 400 innings in one season. He still owns the lowest career earned run average at 1.82.

He pitched for the Chicago White Sox in the 2006 World Series and struck out 12 Chicago Cubs in one game, striking out at least one batter in every inning. Only one other pitcher has struck out at least one batter in every inning in a World Series — Bob Gibson in 1968.

Now you don’t even have to read the book. . .but there is much more fascinating stuff.

No pitcher ever again will win 40 games (maybe not even 20) and no pitcher will come close to 400 innings. A pitcher these days who pitches 200 innings is lauded as an iron man.

—WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS: Congratulations are in order to the University of Dayton baseball team.

The Flyers — they prefer Flyboys — won the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season championship, the first in UD history.

—BASEBALL MUSIC: Asking for a stand-up friend:

“Why do they play ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ in the seventh inning when we’re already there?”

Don’t know that one, but I had a Latino friend who was impressed after attending his first baseball game and told me, “It was so great. Before the game, everybody stood up and sang to me, ‘Jose can you see?’”

—QUOTABLES: From some famous baseball people:

—From former Kansas City Royals star Geroge Brett when asked about his ailment: “My hemhoroids are all behind me.”

—From Bob Uecker, baseball’s best humorist: “I knew when my baseball career was over when my baseball card came out with no picture.”

—From former .400 hitter Rogers Hornsby: “I don’t want to play golf. When I hit a ball, I want somebody else to chase it.”

—From legendary broadcaster Harry Caray: “What does a momma bear on the pill have in common with the World Series? No Cubs.”

—From former zany pitcher Dizzy Dean after getting hit in the head by a line drive: “They X—Rayed my head and found nothing.”
—PLAYLIST NO. 52: Some songs I heard on Saint Simons Island:

We Can Work It Out (The Beatles), To All The Girls I’ve Left Behind (Willie Nelson), Up On The Roof (The Drifters), You’re No Good (Linda Ronstandt), Just One Look (Doris Troy), I’m Not In Love (10CC), On The Dock Of The Bay (Otis Redding), Sister Golden Hair (America).

The Wonder Of You (Elvis Presley), You May Be Right (Billy Joel), Fire Island (Bob Seger), Happy Together (The Turtles), You’re The One That I Want (John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John), We Don’t Talk Any More (Cliff Richard), Torn Between Two Lovers (Mary MacGregor).

Ask Hal: Which Reds Managers Best Handled Pitchers?

By Hal McCoy

Q: With the underwhelming performance of the Cincinnati Reds’ starting pitchers, might the team prematurely elevate Rhett Lowder from Class A Dayton to the majors? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: The answer is in your question. Premature. The Reds already had Lowder skip low-A by starting their No. 1 draft pick last June out of Wake Forest at high-A Dayton. And he is so smooth, poised and accomplished he is ready for Double-A and that probably will happen soon. But the majors? No way. That would lead to possible ruination. He probablyo is two years away from standing on the Great American Ball Park mound. Meanwhile, the Reds’ rotation hasn’t been superlative, but it hasn’t been awful. It would be much easier if the offense scored more than two or three runs a game.

Q: Which Reds manager was the best handler of pitchers during your half century of covering the team? — GEORGE, Morton Grove, IL.
A: It depended upon how good the pitchers were and how much handling they needed. As a pitching coach, Bryan Price was magnificent and when he was in Seattle manager Lou Piniella called him the best pitching coach he ever had. When Price managed the Reds, his assets were limited, but he knew how to handle each one. And I liked the way Jack McKeon worked his pitchers — no babying and let them do their thing and he permitted his pitching coach, Don Gullett, to take care of his pitchers.

Q: Who determines when the Reds wear the all-red jersey tops? — SCOTT, Columbus.
A: Well, they wear the all black City Connect costumes for Friday night home games. The starting pitchers get to choose the whether to wear white or red at home or gray or red on the road. Being a diehard traditionalist, my wish is that they would burn the City Connects and bury the red tops. Just wear white at home and gray on the road. But nobody ever accused me of being Beau Brummell or Pierre Cardin.

Q: Do you think changing the lineup every day hurts the team? — KEVIN, Union, KY.
A: No, I don’t. There are times when certain regulars have difficulty facing a certain pitcher and a manager tries somebody else in the lineup. And sometimes a slumping regular needs a rest. No team uses the same lineup every day. The utility players need some starts to stay sharp. The biggest falacy you hear is that manager Sparky Anderson started The Great Eight of the Big Red Machine every day. Not true. The reality is that in 1976 The Great Eight started only 63 games together. In today’s social media atmosphere, Sparky would have been crucified and vilified.

Q: Are there Reds players you covered who could have played professionally at another sport? — CHRIS, Vandalia.
A: Does bowling count as a professional sport? Brandon Phillips was proficient at bowling and had something like 12 300 games. Seriously, though, there have been so many great athletes. Eric Davis was a great high school basketballl player and most likely could have been an NBA guard and probably a great NFL wide receiver. And the Larkin family was super athletic — Barry at baseball, his brother Mike in football and his brother Byron at basketball. I’m certain Barry could have done any of the three. And don’t forget Deion Sanders. He actually played baseball and pro football.

Q: Where did the baseball term, ‘Can of corn,’ come from when a player hits an easy, short and lazy fly ball to the outfield? — CHUCK, Kettering.
A: A long time ago, when mom and pop grocery stores stilll existed, due to cramped space some shelves were so high they couldn’t be reached. Canned cans would be displayed on top shelves. The grocer always wore an apron and carried a long stick with a hook on the end. He would reach to the top shelf and snag a can and as it gently fell he caught it in his apron, a can of corn. And that’s the derivation, although I wonder why it was never called a can of peas or a can of peaches.

Q: How many umpires are employed by MLB? — MIKE, Beavercreek.
A: There are 76 full-time umpires and several part-timers that bounce back-and-forth from Triple-A as fill-in arbiters when a full-timer goes on vacation. Even though they get all winter off, MLB umpires can take 20 days off during the season. That’s only fair in that while the players play half their games at home and half on the road, the umpires are always on the road. Pay? The minimum for rookies is $100,000, but the average MLB umpire is paid $300,000 plus all his travel expenses (air fares, hotels, meals incidentals). That’s pretty good money to listen to people yell, “Kill the umpire,” and “The umpire is as blind as a bat.”

Q: Former Reds No. 1 draft pick Taylor Trammell was a promising star at Class A Dayton, but has been released by the Los Angelews Dodgers and and New York Yankees in the last five weeks, so what haappened?— JOHN, Fairfield.

A: What happened was .160, .196, .130 and .143. The first three batting averages are how he hit in the three years after the Reds traded him to San Diego and received Trevor Bauer from Cleveland, with Trammell eventually landing in Seattle and posting those three below the Mendoza Line averages. He was twice selected off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees and hit a combined .143 in limited chances with those teams. If you are going to stick on the loaded rosters of the Dodgers and Yankees, you can’t hit.143 because that gets you released.
Q: Has baseball card colllecting disappeared and did you collect cards as a kid? — TIM, Xenia.
A: It is not as prevalent as it once was when cards came with bubblegum. But rare cards are still sold at eye-popping prices at memorabilia shows. Yes, I had hundreds. I was a big Al Rosen fan and collected Bowman cards. I desperately wanted a Rosen card and kept buying and buying and buying. No Al Rosen. The 1953 Al Rosen card now sells for $400. It cost me a lot of allowance money and school lunch money, but I never obtained the Rosen card. Doesn’t matter. When I went off to Kent State University, Momma McCoy disposed of all my ‘useless’ cards that took up too much space in the closet.

OBSERVATIONS: Bad Moon Rising Is Over For the Cincinnati Reds

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from the St. Simons Island beach house, far away from the travails of the Cincinnati Reds. . .and did they really lose two straight games by one run to the Arizona Diamondbacks?

—TEMPORARY RESTRAING ORDER?: The mammoth silverback gorilla is off their backs and back in its cage. . .and not the batting cage. The black cat walked behind them instead of in front of them. They ran the bases instead of walking under a ladder.

Yes, the Cincinnati Reds won a baseball, their first of the month on the tenth of the month, a 4-2 win in San Francisco while most of us were sleeping.

The eight-game losing streak is over, but it has been bad. How bad has it been for the Reds while losing eight straight after a 0-6 homestand against Baltimore and Arizona?

Bad, bad, bad and more bad.

The Athletic web-site counted many of the ways and they are uglier than a gorilla’s face.

During an 0-6 homestand, the Reds scored 11 runs, the same total that Baltimore scored against them in one game.

They batted .172 and mustered 32 hits — six a game for the mathematically challenged.

They batted .225 with runner in scoring position and the main problem was even getting runners to second and third base.

For the six games, they led in a game only once, and briefly. During the last game of the homestand they led 1-0 in the second inning and Arizona tied it in the next half inning.

They scored only three runs against the six opposing starting pitchers.

And perhaps worst of all, they wasted their own good starts by their pitchers, a 3.19 earned run average.

And what’s next? Probably the same as what Clubber Lang said in a Rocky movie when asked what fans could expect for his fight against Rocky Balboa: “Pain.”

The Reds are on a 10-day west coast trip, three in San Francisco, three in Arizona and four in Los Angeles against the Dodgers (ouch!).

Maybe the Reds should have watched the movie ‘Major Leaguer’ on the flight west and listened to manager Lou Brown’s speech:

“OK, if we win a game tomorrow and win a game the next day, that’s two in a row. And if we win again it’s callled a winning streak. It has happened before.”

OK, they’ve won that first game so they are only two more wins against the 17-23 Giatns in Oracle Park they have themsleves a Lou Brown winning streak.

—ONLY PETE: When Pete Rose signed his first professional contract and played in Geneva, N.Y., it won’t surprise you to learn that he set a record.

The record, though, is more than surprising. In 77 games, he made 36 errors.

As we all know, he more than overcame that inauspicious start and once said about the Niekro pitching brothers.

“I got 77 hits off Phil Niekro and 34 hits off JOe Niekro. That’s 111 hits off one family, 1/40th of my career t0tal (4,256). Can you imagine how many hits I could’ve gotten if Mrs. Niekro had five sons?”

—IS WINNING IMPORTANT?: One of the most famous sentences ever written by a sports writer was when Grantland Rice penned, “. . .It’s not that you won or lost but how you played the game.”

But I subscribe to what former University of Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp said in rebuttal, “If it’s not important who won or lost, why do we have scoreboards?”

—HOOPS AND PUCKS: It will be an extra-special Mother’s Day for Houston’s Tonja Stelly. Will she be in Indianpolis for the New York Knicks NBA playoff game at the Indiana Pacers? Or will she be in Edmonton
for the Vancouver Canucks NHL playoff game?

She travels all over North America to watch the Knicks and Canucks. Why? She is the only mother to have sons playing both in the NBA and NHL. Her sons (with different fathers) are Quentin Grimes of the Knicks and Tyler Myers of the Canucks.

—A FEATHERY FEAST: Our group vacatlioning on St. Simons Island dined this week at Delaney’s and I partook of something I never dreamed I would eat.

The waiter promised it tasted better than filet mignon and if it didn’t he would pay for it. He was right. It was ostrich steak. It was great. . .until I got the bill. Then I had this strange feeling that I should go stick my head in the sand.

—QUOTES AND BILLY GOATS: Baseball quotes from all over the place:

From movie star Humphrey Bogart: “A hot dog at a baseball game beats roast beef at the Ritz.” (And even better than a steak at the Oakland Club.)

From writer George Will: “Baseball, it is said, in only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.” (And the Pacific Ocean is only a puddle.)

From former maverick baseball owner Bill Veeck: “There are only two seasons, winter and baseball.” (C’mon, Bill. There is winter baseball, too.)

From Hall of Fame slugger Mickey Mante: “Somebody once asked me if I ever went up to the plate trying to hit a home run and I said, ‘Sure, every time.’” (And it worked 536 times for The Mick. . .and that’s not counting 18 home runs in World Series games.)

From St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado: “You always feel more comfortable when you score runs early.” (Hey, Nolie, can you e-mail that message ℅ the Cincinnati Reds? Thank you.)

—PLAYLIST NUMBER 51: Still fining great songs:

Reflections Of My Life (Marmalade), Heat Of The Moment (Asia), Play That Song (Train), Fight Song (Rachel Platten), Still Loving You (Scorpions), Still The Same (Bob Seger), Midnight Special (Credence Clearwater Revival).

Almost Over You (Sheena Easton), Just My Imagination (The Temptations), Maggie Mae (Rod Stewart), Ramblin’ Man (The Allman Brothers), Rocky Mountain High (John Denver), Say You, Say Me (Lionel Richie), It Never Rains In Southern California (Albert Hammond), Sugar, Sugar (The Archies).

OBSERVATIONS: Why Isn’t Sweet Lou Piniella In The Hall of Fame?

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave before leaving this morning for a week’s vacation on St. Simons Island, wondering if the Cincinnati Reds will win a game before I return?

—WHY NOT LOU?: Why isn’t Lou Piniella in the Hall of Fame as a manager. I don’t think he ever kicked dirt on the shoes of any of the committee voters.

Only two managers ever won 90 or more games for four different teams, Dick Williams and Sweet Lou. Piniella did it with the New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs.

He won 1,835 games, more than Jim Leyland (1,769), Tommy Lasorda (1,599), Dick Williams (1571 Earl Weaver (1,480) and Whitey Herzog (1,281). Leyland, Lasorda, Williams, Weaver and Herzog are in the Hall of Fame.

In additiion, only 13 managers won more games than Piniella and 12 are in the Hall of Fame.

And here’s one not generally known. Piniella accepted the Cubs job in 2007 but hadn’t signed a contract yet when he received a phone call from Cincinnati Reds CEO Bob Castellini.

“C’mon, Lou, you can’t take a managing job in our own division,” said Castellini. “Come back to Cincinnati.”

Piniella said he would have loved to return to the Reds, but honored his commitment to the Cubs. Ironically, Lou replaced Dusty Baker in Chicago. When Piniella said no to Castellini, he hired Baker to manage the Reds.

Piniella, of course, never met an umpire he couldn’t rile. But Cowboy Joe West got the better of him one day when Lou came charging out of the dugout.

Before Lou could throw his cap on the ground and get in the umpire’s face, West held up his hand like school crossing guard and said:

“Don’t come any farther, It’s 100 degrees and if I have to be out here all day, so do you, I’m not throwing you out of his game because you’re having a lousy day of managing. You should have taken your starting pitcher out two innings ago.”

Piniella slinked back to the dugout without a word.

—THAT’S A ’30’: Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jose Rijo made up his own word when the team went on a losing streak or played a bad game.

Said Rijo, rubbing snake oil on his talented right biceps, “This is the height of embarrassivity,”

And that should be the case for the Reds’ so-called offense. When they began play Tuesday night against Arizona, the Reds’ team batting average was .210, worst in MLB, 30th of 30 teams.

That’s embarrassing, but the embarrassivity part is the fact that the 8-27 Chicago White Sox were hitting .001 better at .211.

—TARIK WHO?: Aaron Judge hit a home run and a double off this 23-year-old lefthander and then said, “He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. A guy like that that’s got plus velocity, plus-plus stuff, plus feel for all his stuff and can throw any pitch at any time.”

What lefty was The Judge talking about: Clayton Kershaw? Blake Snell? Jordan Montgomery? Chris Sale? John Means?

No, Judge was talking about a guy working in near obscurity in the concrete monsrosity called Comerica Park in Detroit.

His name is Tarik Skubal and he is 4-0 in seven starts with a 1.90 earned run average. And on the day Judge is talking about, the New York Yankees beat the Tigers, 5-2.

But Skubal pitched six innings and gave up two runs, six hits, walked none and struck out 12 and was not involved in the decision. And his last strikeout was Judge.

Skubal uses an old-school high leg kick during his delivery and his catcher says of the 6-3, 245-pounder, “He comes at you with all ass and elbow.”

Tarik Skubal? Turkey? Czech Republic? Sweden? Nah, the guy is from California, a ninth-round pick by the Tigers in 2018 out of Seattle University.

—WHAT A MESS: The NIL rule has changed the college football and basketball landscape into a patch of overgrown weeds, with players laying in those weeds waiting for the best offer.

Does NIL stand for Name, Image and Likeness or Now It’s Legal? One college coach said when he drives into a parking lot used by his players, he has the cheapest car in the lot.

Ohio State’s backers staged an auction and three-fourths of the way through it the bids had reached $875,000 and an observer said, “That $875,000 will buy us half a quarterback.”

And somebody wondered, “When did you last hear that a college player was academically ineligible?”

Speaking of the transfer portal, new University of Dayton center Zed Key, a 6-8, 250-pound transfer from Ohio State, has a pet snake and likes to work on cars.

No report yet on if he has a hook shot.

—IS IT JEALOUSY?: Clearly, Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve isn’t familiar with the adage of knowing which side of her bread has the butter. When she drops her bread, the butter is going to get dirty.

The WNBA hasn’t even started yet and Reeve is complaining about the attention and marketing rookie Caitlin Clark is receiving.

“There is more than one player in the WNBA,” said Reeve. Oh, yeah. Ask the average basketball fan to name one. Isn’t it best to stay quiet and enjoy the extra attendance and attention C.C. is bringing to the WNBA?

—COLOR BLIND: Asking for a former friend: Why don’t the Chicago White Sox wear white socks?
—QUOTABLE QUIPS: Baseball people say the darndest things:

From old-time sports writer Arthur Baer: “Cincinnati is nuts with baseball and they should call the town Cincinnutty.” (Well, Art, the whole town is batty about Cincinnati.)

From former Pittsburgh outfielder R.J. Reynolds: “I never read the newspapers. It isn’t healthy for professional athletes.” (You aren’t supposed to eat the sports page, R.J., and your tobacco wasn’t so hot for athletes.)

From former first baseman Johnny Mize: “The only spirit you see in baseball these days is the kind you drink.” (Were most of them drinking Smoky Goat scotch?)

From former umpire Tom Gorman: “Any time I got those bang-bang plays at first base, I always called ‘em out. It made the game shorter.” (If they had replay/review in your time, Tom-Tom, you would have made the game longer.)
—PLAYLIST NO. 50: We’ve reached the half century mark of our list and we’re still going:

Stop In The Name Of Love (The Supremes), To Love Somebody (BeeGees), Where That Came From (Randy Travis), Long Tall Sally (Little Richard), I Have A Dream (Abba), Please Mr. Postman (The Marvelettes), Crazy (Patsy Cline).

Fast As You Can (Dwight Yoakam), In The Ghetto (Elvis Presley), In The Stilll Of The Night (The Four Satins), I Walk The Line (Johnny Cash), You’ve Got A Friend (James Taylor), Knock Three Times (Tony Orlando & Dawn), Isn’t She Lovely (Stevie Wonder).

 

OBSERVATIONS: Elly Continues To Elevate His Game

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after watching my Kentucky Derby pick, Forever Young, imitate a hand grenade at the wire. . .so close, but the jockey couldn’t pull the pin.

—ELLY’S EAGLE EYE: There is no doubt in anybody’s mind, especially frustrated opposing catchers, that Elly De La Cruz will go on a long base-stealing streak without getting caught.

The record for most uncaught thefts is 50 straight by Vince Coleman in 1987. Right now, Milwaukee’s Brice Turang is 31 for 31 (14 for 14 this season).

While De La Cruz leads baseball so far this season with 19, he has been caught three times.

Speaaking of De La Cruz, BallySports statistician Joel Luckhaupt comes up with some gems and feeds them to broadcaster John Sadak.

And here’s one that displays the disciplined De La Cruz has become at home plate in a game against the Los Angeles Angels.

In the first inning he worked a 3-and-0 count and walked. In the fourth inning he worked a 3-and-0 count and walked. In the fifth inning he worked a 3-and-0 count and walked. In the seventh inning he worked a 3-and-0 count and walked.

What is more astonishing is that he was on base four times and didn’t steal a base.

Then there is taking that discipline too far. On Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles he came to bat in the ninth inning. . .Reds down, 2-0, runners on second and first with no outs. With the crowd chanting, “Elly, Elly, Elly,” he took a called strike three.

Hey, it was Star Wars Night in Great American Ball Park and don’t blame Elly for the loss, Even Luke Skywalker had problems.

—FORD DRIVEN AWAY: The Cincinnati Reds ran out a lineup Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles with these batting averages as the bottom five of the order: .190, .188, .183, .204 and .185.

Meanwhile, down on the farm at Class AAA Louisville, veteran outfield Mike Ford was hitting 297 with six homers and 15 RBI with a .381 on-base average over 91 at-bats.

Call him up to bolster a feeble offense, right? Nope, wrong. Release him. That’s what the Reds did.

—THE STARK TRUTH: Hall of Fame baseball writer Jayson Stark deals in the game’s bizarre and unusual happenings for The Athletic web-site.

An example: In back-to-back games against Milwaukee the New Yorkk Yankees scored 15 and 15 runs. On the third day they scored 0.

And here is one that never before happend in MLB. Never.

The Miami Marlins scored six runs in the first inning against Colorado and lost. The next day, the Marliins gave up five runs to Colorado in the first inning and won.

It is the only time that in back-to-back games that a team scored that many runs in the first and lost, then the next day gave up that many runs in the first and won.

Who keeps tabs on that kind of stuff?

—AN AB TO REMEMBER: It’s a game Dayton native and Alter HIgh School graduate Jeff Reboulet shall never forget — Game 4 of the American League Division Series between the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles.

And here is how Seattle manager Lou Piniella told it to me:

“I underestimated Baltimore manager Davey Johnson when I saw his lineup, which had .237 hitter Jeff Reboulet at second base and hitting second instead of future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, who hit .333 during the season.”

And what happened?

“Reboulet shocked us by hitting a home run off Randy ‘The Big Unit’ Johnson in the first inning,” said Sweet Lou. “And the Orioles never trailed again in the game.”

—OUTFITS OR COSTUMES?: This is the ‘Get off my lawn’ segment of today’s Observations.

It’s about all these City Connect outfits, or costumes. They certainly aren’t baseball uniforms.

I still can’t read the r numbers and names on the Cincinnati Reds black City Connects, but maybe it’s my faiing eye-sight.

The worst ones yet were unveiled this week by the Tampa Bay Rays and they are true monstrosities. It is said that they glow in the dark. And the way the Rays have started the season, perhaps they should play in the dark.

—MILEAGE FROM MILEY: A reminder of a hilarious quote from fellow journalist/great friend Brian Giffin from one of my favorite places, Charleston, S.C., where starting in June he will host an ESPN/Charleston radio talk show.

In addition, Giffin is th sports radio voice of The Citadel, making him a hearty soul to endure endless defeats.

Anyway, here is the quote and it’s from former Cincinnati Reds manager Dave Miley during an 89-loss season. Near the end of the year, after the Reds were swept in a road series, Miley said, “I thought they were gonna stop us at the state line and make us play ‘em again.”

—YEAR OF THE CAIT: Was there any doubt that Caitlin Clark’s college game would transfer smoothly to the WNBA? Not here.

In her first game for the Indiana Fever, an exhibition game against the Dallas Wings, Clark was the game’s leading scorer with 21 points in 28 minutes in front of a packed College Park Center in Arlington TX.

She mixed in three rebounds, two assists and two steals in a 79-76 defeat. There is no doubt she will dominate the league and as Pete Rose once said about Brooks Robinson, “He (she) belongs in a higher league.”

During the 1970 World Series, Baltimore third baseman Brooks Robinson made some incredible plays, each one more incredible than the one before against the Cincinnati Reds. That prompted Pete Rose to say, “He can throw his glove down at thrird base and it’ll start ten double plays by itself.”

—NO STORAGE SPACE: Wise words from deadpan comedian Steven Wright: “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” He’s ‘Wright,’ you know.

—PLAYLIST NUMBER 49: And the beat goes on. . .and on and on with a short liist this time:

I Go Crazy (Paul Davis), Desperado (The Eagles), One Is The Loneliest Number (Three Dog Night), With Or Without You (U2), I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston), I’ve Had The Time Of My Life (Bill Medley & Jennifer Warren).

 

OBSERVATIONS: For What It’s ‘Werth’ In The Kentucky Derby

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, knowing that this week, Kentucky Derby Week, everybody becomes a horse expert, even if they don’t know a bridle from a bridal or reins from reigns and rains.

—IS IT ‘WERTH’ IT?: It is Kentucky Derby week, so let’s mix in some baseball with horse racing.

Jayson Werth played major league baseball for 15 years, following the spike prints of his great grandfather, grandfather, stepfather and uncle, all of whom made it to the big leagues.

While playing for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009, Werth hit nine post-season home runs, something not even Hall of Fame Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt ever did.

Now Werth is an organic farmer in Illinois and is horsing around. He is part-owner of Dornoch, a colt that will break out of the No. 1 post in Saturday’s Run For The Roses at 20-to-1.
Even though Dornoch has won three of his six starts and won the Fountain of Youth Stakes, a Grade II race at Gulfstream Park, most pro handicappers don’t even list him in their expected top ten finishers.

The horse’s name is pronounced door knock and Werth hopes Dornoch will be knocking at the door of the wire before the other 19 steeds.

Since he is now a big-time horse owner, we’ll call him by his full name, Jayson Richard Gowan Werth.

—MORE ROSE PETALS: Speaking of baseball and horses, Pete Rose’s two favorite things, contributor Jeff Singleton found another one for me. And, by the way, the Kentucky Derby’s Run For The Roses has nothing to do with Pete.

Rose is the only player in MLB history to play more than 500 games at five different positions. They are: First base (939), second base (628), third base (634), left field (671), right field (595).

And the total games are about the same amount of horses he bet on at old River Downs and Turfway Park. . .which, of course, was perfectly legal.

—WHO KNEW, NOT ME?: In my 51 years of scribbling about baseball, I thought I knew all the rules and nuances. Wrong.

I saw something this week I never saw before during a Padres-Reds game. . .a manager took a run off the scoreboard that his team scored.

It is a rule they should call ‘Manager’s Choice.’

The Padres led, 1-0, with runners on third and first. Jake Cronenworth grounded out to second base as the runner on third scored. But catcher’s interference was called on Luke Maile.

By rule, San Diego manager Mike Schildt had a choice: (1) Ignore the interference and take the run and the out at first base. (2) Take the interference, but the runner that scored would have to go back to third base, no run, but Cronenworth would get first base.

Schildt chose to give up the run in favor of having the bases loaded with one out by accepting the catcher’s interference.

It was a wise and sage choice. With the bases loaded for Manny Machdo, he emptied them with a three-run double, the deciding runs in San Diego’s 6-4 win.

Said Schildt about taking off the run, “I’ll bet on Machado every time.” Wonder who Schildt is taking in the Kentucky Derby.

—WHO’S ROCKN’: Which MLB team is the worst right now? I call it a three-way tie between the Chicago White Sox (6-25), the Colorado Rockies (7-24) and the Miami Marlins (9-24).

The Rockies, though, go to the bottom of the list because at some point in each of their 31 games they’ve been behind.

—DANDY SANDY: There is no question that Sandy Koufax was one of the best pitcher’s ever to put a toe plate on his spikes (Do they still do that?)

But when Koufax walked to the mound in Dodger Stadium, it usually was game over. . .quickly. In 88 starts, counting playoff games, only four times did Koufax give up three or more runs in Chavez Ravine.

—ELLY DE LA CARDIN: Not only is Elly De La Cruz wowing them on the field, when he isn’t getting thrown out at third base, he also is impressing folks off the field, too.

MLB-TV’s show, ‘Off Base,’ gave De La Cruz its monthly ‘Show Sauce’ award as MLB’s flashiest dresser.

—BOWL ME OVER: It is doubtful that professional Hall of Fame bowlers Don Carter or Dick Weber ever uttered these words, but they could have: “You know how they throw the ball into the crowd after winning a game? That’s not allowed in bowling. I know that now.”

—A FOOD ‘GAG’: The Houston Inn near Lebanon reportedly has been purchased by the owners of Walt’s Hitching Post in Northern Kentucky, a favorite night spot for major league umpires.

The Houston always was famous for its salad bar and frog’s legs. A friend of mine once pigged out there on frog’s legs and later passed away. It was determined that he croaked.

—HANGING IN THERE: I’m 83 and I’ve adopted comedian Steven Wright’s philosophy: “My goal is to live forever. So far, so good.”

And this one: Where do people in hell tell people to go?

—PLAYLIST No. 48: So you thought my iPod has to be empty? Not quite. I found these:

Time Capsules (Al Stewart), Money For Nothing (Dire Straits), You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand), Let Your Love Flow (Bellamy Brothers), Memphis, Tennessee (Johnny Rivers), Dead Man’s Curve (Jan & Dean), Okie From Muskogee (Merle Haggard).

When A Man Loves A Woman (Percy Sledge), Down On The Corner (Credence Clearwater Revival), Hold Me (Fleetwood Mac), Open Arms (Journey), Forever My Darling (Elvis Presley), She’s About A Mover (Sir Douglas Quintet), Into The Night (Benny Mardones).