Ask Hal: What’s In The Future For Joey Votto?

By Hal McCoy
Contributing Writer

Q: Should commissioner Rob Manfred be more concerned about having three teams winning more than 100 games than with having three teams losing more than 100? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: I have not heard him express any concern about 100 wins/losses either way. Sure, he would like competitive balance, but with a 162-game schedule there are going to be 100-game winners and 100-game losers. Just hope your teams (Atlanta, Los Angeles, Baltimore) are the winners and hope your teams (Oakland, Kansas City, Colorado) are not the losers.

Q: Is part of Elly De La Cruz’s fielding problems compounded by that overly large glove he uses? — TRogers, Dayton.
A: He is a big man with big hands and needs a big-boy glove. Joe Morgan used a glove barely bigger than a mitten, but Little Joe had little hands. De La Cruz seems to have a lot of balls tip off the end of the glove, so in this case size doesn’t matter. Being an amateur pyschologist, I believe he is taking his offensive problems out to the field on defense.

Q: Is there something in the water in Cincinnati that causes Reds players to spit excessively because I don’t remember The Big Red Machine players doing it? — VAUGHN, Beavercreek.
A: I think it is in the rulebook, 6.05(e), that an MLB player must salivate at least twice a game. At least it seems that way. It probably all started when the spitball was legal. Now that it is illegal, players still spit in their hands. The Big Red Machine? Oh, yeah, they were The Great Expectorators.

Q: Joey Votto hit a single in what may be his last at bat in Great American Ball Park, so have you heard of a pitcher grooving one in that situation out of respect? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.
A: In Votto’s case, the game was still on the line, so probaby not there. But late in the 1968 season, Mickey Mantle said it was his last year. He had 534 home runs, tied with Jimmy Foxx for third on the all-time list. Denny McLain, on his way to his 31st win, had a 6-1 lead. He and catcher Jim Price decided to groove one for The Mick. Price asked Mantle what kind of pitch he wanted and he said, “High and inside cheese (fastball).” McLain delivered and Mantle hit home run No. 535.

Q: How long can the Reds afford to keep this young team together? — WALT, Beavercreek.
A: That is going to be a major issue from the front office. With all the young players arriving at the same time, they are going to become arbitration-eligible and possible free agents at the same time. There is no way the team can afford to keep all of them. They are going to have to pick and chose judiciously as to who to keep, who to trade and who to let go via free agency? It is better than not having enough good players, but it will be Excedrin Headache No. 9 for the Reds.

Q: How surprised were you to see Elly De La Cruz dropped to ninth in the batting order? — RICHARD, Tipp City.
A: Stunned, at first. It made sense to drop him in the order because he had become an automatic out, almost an automatic strikeout. But ninth? Then, it hit me. Where else? I do believe that his problems began when they started batting him leadoff. For some reason, his descent began right then and has not ended.

Q: With Joey Votto’s batting average in the low .200s, what is your opinion about next year for him? — DAVE, Springfield.
A: First of all, in today’s game a high batting average is no longer a priority. It is all about launch angle, velocity, home runs and strikeouts. I know Pete Rose is shaking his head. As for Votto, the Reds have a public relations nightmare. His legion of fans want him back. But he is 40 and on the down-swing. And how would they get him playing time? Would they take it away from first baseman Chrisitan Encarnacion-Strand. Do they buy Votto out for $7 mllion and add $3 million to bring him back as a part-time DH? It’s a head-scratcher and I’m glad I don’t have to mske that decision.

Q: What’s your opinion of both the New York Yankees and New York Mets missisng the playoffs? — JOE, Kettering.
A: I’m sure there is a lot of knuckle-gnashing in the television offices because TV prefers the big-market teams. As for me, hoo-ray, hoo-ray, hoo-ray, with apologies to Yankees and Mets fans and to my great friend, Yankees manager Aaron Boone. But I love it when teams try to purchase their way into the playoffs and it flops, especially the Mets, who invested more than the gross national product of Ecuador and are on the outside peering in.

Q: It appears that soon MLB will expand to 32 teams, so what cities do you think will be added? — ROBERT, Big Canoe, Ga.
A: It makes sense to add a team in each league so there will be 16 instead of the uneven 15. My guess is uneducated (as are all of them). I’d say a return to Montreal is imminent, if they build a new stadium and don’t plan to return to Olympic Stadium, man ’s monument to concrete. Las Vegas has added the NHL and NFL and baseball can’t be far behind. And Nashville is a possiblity. I haven’t heard anything, though, about Big Canoe.


OBSERVATIONS: A Reds Eulogy. . .Or, ‘Wait ‘Til Next Year

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from our own little slice of paradise, St. Simons Island, where I ate enough seafood to qualify as a crustacean.

—A EULOGY: Call this an obituary, if you must, but I’m calling it a positive eulogy.

When this baseball season began, every baseball pundit between Boston and Seattle predicted the Cincinnati Reds once again would finish last and lose 100 games.

Instead, for 161 games the Reds were not only relevant, they came within one loss of qualifying for the playoffs. If that isn’t a major accomplishment, then there isn’t a bseball in an umpire’s pouch.

This team was greener than the felt on a pool table. At times there were as many as seven rookies in the lineup.

Due to a plethora of injuries, the team used 65 players, 40 pitchers. Along the way, they lost starting pitchers Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, Hunter Greene and enough reliief pitchers to fill a small Vietnam village.

They lost Matt McLain ands Jonathan India for long periods. Manager David Bell, taking more criticism than a crooke politician, played mix and match as if it were a board game.

And still, they were right there. When a team loses 79 games, each loss is important. But the Reds-killer was the 13-12 loss down the stretch to the Pittsburgh Pirates when they led, 9-0, in the third inning and 9-1 heading into the sixth.

It happens. And it did. But the team won 83, 20 more than anybody expected. One more win and we’re talking about the first team to lose 100 and finish last to qualify for the playoffs.

This team was like Paul Masson saying, “No wine before it’s time.” The 2023 Reds arrived before their time and darn near pulled off a baseball miracle.

Nothing in baseball (or life) is guaranteed, but Reds fans can safely say, “Wait ’til next year.”

—REAL FIELD OF DREAMS: If you are in Asheville, N.C., a required stop for baseball fans is McCormick Field, cut out of the side of a mountain and built in 1924, the nation’s oldest minor league ballpark and the prototype for quaintness.

The right field wall is 300 feet from home plate and 36 feet high. It’s the maximum height MLB allows because no wall can be higher in pro ball than the 37-foot tall Green Monster in Boston’s Fenway Park.

It is home to the Class A Asheville Tourists and owned by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s family. Governor DeWine’s son, Brian, is the team’s president.

To walk on the field is to walk on dirt on which Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and a litany of major leaguers once played.

The New York Yankees stopped at McCormick on a barn-storming tour in 1931. His first time up, Gehrig hit a ball over the center field wall. His first time up, Ruth lofted a majestic sky-scraper over that 36-foot high wall in right field.

It is a real-life Field of Dreams and if you listen closely when the park is empty, you can hear the whispers of Ruth, Gehrig and Cobb.

—QUOTE: From Babe Ruth when he saw McCormick Field for the first time: “My, my, what a beautiful place to play. Delightful. Damned delightful place.” (It was also reported that Ruth played that game with a belly ache from eating too many hot dogs. Wonder how Ruth would have done in a hot dog eating contest with Joey Chestnutt.)


—JOE VERSUS TED: Every baseball fan worth a stadium hot dog knows about Joe DiMaggion’s 56-game hitting streak.

It began on May 15, 1941. What fans don’t know is that on that same date, May 15, 1941, Boston’s Ted Williams started his own hitting streak. Day-by-day, Teddy Ballgame matched Joltin’ Joe hit for hit. His and DiMaggio’s streaks reached 23 straight games before Williams went hitless in game 24.

But like the Energizer Bunny, DiMaggio kept going and going and going.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio: “I can remember when I was a rookie and a reporter asked me for a quote and I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it was some kid of soft drink.” (Yeah, Joe. It’s called Yankee Cola or Coca Clipper.)

—A TRICK QUESTION: Bob Feller always asked a trivia question and only Bob Feller would think of it.

“Was there ever a game in which every hitter finished a game with the same batting average with which he started the game?”

The answer? Yes. On Opening Day of 1940, Bob Feller pitched a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox, so every batter started the game hitting .000 and finished the game hitting .000.
One of my favorite lines written about Bob Feller was typed by baseball writer Jim Schlemmer of the Akron Beacon Journal.

Feller was hit by a line drive in the groin area and Schlemmer wrpte: “Feller was hit where only a feller could be hit.”

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller: “I’d rather beat the New York Yankees than throw a no-hitter.” (Feller pitched three no-hitters and 12 one-hitters. And one of those no-hitters was against the Yankees.

—SILENCE, PLEASE: For new Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton, it was open mouth and insert clipboard.

Before the season and his first game as Broncos coach, Payton said of the previous Denver coaching regime, “It might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL. That’s how bad it was.”

Then Payton’s version of the Broncos played the Miami Dolphins last week and lost 70-20, one of the worst beatings in NFL history.

The 0-3 Broncos missed 24 tackles, which led some to believe that the Broncos quit mid-game.

—NO GLOVE, PLEASE: Baltimore’s Brooks Robinson, ‘The Human Vaccuum Cleaner,’ died this week. I always thought, to be fair, he should have played third base without a glove.

—THE VAGABONDS?: When the Oakland A’s move to Las Vegas, a foregone conclusion, they should change their name to the Las Vegas Vagabonds.

It will be the franchises’s fourth move. They began as the Philadelphia A’s, then were the Kansas City A’s, then were the Oakland A’s.

They are running out of cities to which they can flee. They can run, but not hide their yearly ineptitude.

—TOWER OF BIG BEN: Why are the Jacksonville Jaguars London’s team? On Sunday, the Jags play in London for the 10th time. And this season, they are staying in London to play two weeks in a row.

When Ben Roethlisberger was quarterbacking the Pittsburgh Steelers it would have made sense for the Steelers to be London’s team. Y’know, Big Ben.

—QUOTE: From former Pittsuburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: “You have to be able to step up when your name is called.” (By the time they call out Roeth-lis-ber-ger, you already are two steps behind.)
—WHAT’S YOUR NAME?: Always wondered, why can’t Auburn make up its mind on a nickname? Are they the Tigers or are they the War Eagles?

And it’s the same with Gonzaga. Are they the Zags or the Bulldogs?

OBSERVATIONS: Another must-read Posnanski baseball book

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from the beach house kitchen while enduring an all-day downpour on St. Simons Island, Ga. Hence, some off-the-cuff observations

—ANOTHER GREAT READ: A few years ago, I read a book by former Cincinnati Post sports columnist Joe Posnanski called, ‘The Baseball 100.’ I said it was the best baseball book I ever read, and I’ve read hundreds. . .really. I still believe it is.

Another Posnanski book was just released entitled, ‘Why We Love Baseball,’ and it, too, is a classic. Some snippets:

**Sometime in the 1930s. a 17-year female named Jackie Mitchell, owner of a nasty sinker, was signed by the minor-league Chattanooga Lookouts to pitch one inning of an exhibition game against the New York Yankees.

She struck out Babe Ruth on a 2-and-2called strike three, then struck out Lou Gehrig on three pitches.

**There is a famous photo of Jackie Robinson sliding hom on a steal in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series. It shows New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra vehemently protesting that Robinson was out.

Berra had that photo hanging in his musuem until the day he died and every time he passed the photo, without fail, he said, “Out.”

And long after Robinson died, when Robinson’s widow, Rachel, and Berra crossed paths, Berra’s first word was, “Out.” And Rachel replied with, “Safe.” Then they both laughed and hugged.”

**Nolan Ryan scoffs these days when he sees pitchers lifted after 100 pitches. There was a game during which he threw 235 pitches.

When a reporter mentioned it, Ryan shrugged and said, “Hell, I threw 242 in my last start.”

After Nolan struck out 17 in one game, former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Frank Robinson said, “He struck me out three times and I didn’t even play.”

**After Springfield-area native Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings for the Pittsburgh Pirates in Milwaukee, only to lose the game in the 13th on a three-run home run by Joe Adcock, he received a mountain of letters.

His favorite came from a fraternity at Texas A&M and it read, “Dear Harvey: Tough shit.”

Said Haddix, “It was short and sweet, but it summed up everything pretty well.”

—MORE PUNISHMENT: After his Colorado team was pole-axed by Oregon, 42-6, coach Deion Sanders said his team played like hot garbage. And he added, “You better get me now. This is the worst we’re gonna be.”

A message for Coach Prime: Your team looked more like frozen garbage and those glasses you wear must be rose-colored because this week could be worse when you run up against Southern Cal.

—THE NAKED TRUTH: The jersey worn by Wilt Chamberlain in the final game of the 1972 NBA finals sold at auction for $4.9 million.

Wonder how much my Kent State jersey that is hanging in my closet would fetch? Nadine is stilll laughing.

When I covered the Cincinnati Royals of the NBA, Chamberlain played for the Philadelphia 76ers and scored 52 points one night.

I waited for him at his locker after the game for an interview. He walked out of the shower naked, of course. He was 7-foot-2 and I’m 6-foot-2. I introduced myself and we shook hands.

The next day, I told my sports editor, “Wilt Chamberlain came out of the shower and we shook hands.”

Said my sports editor with a wry grin, “Are you certain you shook hands with him.

—QUOTE: From famous author John Irving: “The majority of American males put themselves to sleep by striking out the batting order of the New York Yankees.”

Despite my friendship with Yankees manager Aaron Boone and what he did for my career, I’ve always despised the Yankees because when I was a kid they always beat up on my beloved Cleveland Indians.

—KISS AND RUN: When Morganna Roberts sat in the stands in Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium for a game in 1971, she was not yet ‘The Kissing Bandit.’ She was just a fan.

But a friend seated with her bet that she wouldn’t run on the field and kiss Pete Rose. She did it, won the bet, and made a career out of running on to playing fields and kissing superstars.

And what does she say about it? “My career began on a bet and Pete Rose’s career ended on a bet.”

—JACK BE NIMBLE: One of my all-time favorite people, as a manager and a person, Jack McKeon, admits that as a player he wasn’t top-notch. He likes to say, “I hit three ways. . .left, right and seldom.”

Ask Hal: Post-season Awards Are Not Ego Trips

By HaL McCoy
Contributing Writer

Q: Are post-season awards such as Gold Gloves any more than bragging rights? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: They give the winners the right to brag, being the best at what they do. Most of them, though, are not braggarts and accept the awards with appreciation and humility. Most will tell you the most coveted is the Roberto Clemente Humanity Award and I guarantee there is not a braggart who wins it. Then there was Rickey Henderson, who broke Lou Brock’s base-stealing record and said, “Lou Brock was a great base stealer, but today I am the greatest.”

Q: Shouldn’t the guidelines for comeback wins be a little more stringent when winning a game, 10-1, after surrendering a run in the top of the first inning counts as a comeback win? — MIKE, Beavercreek.
A: Absotively and posilutely. Example: The Cincinnati Reds scored a run in the top of the first against the Mets and led, 1-0. The Mets won, 8-4, and were credited with a comeback win. Seriously? To me, they should require a team to come from three runs behind after the sixth inning to qualify for a real comeback win. The Reds have 46 comeback wins, many of them legitimate and many of them bogus.

Q: It seems as if when managers use position players to pitch, hitters have trouble with 55 milles an hour pitches, so why not use pitchers at strategic points earliier in games? — JOEL, Dayton.
A: First of all, most of the time those position players get blasted like batting practice pitchers, which they are. Secondly, it is against the rules. A position player can only come into a game when his team is behind by eight or more runs. And for a position player to come into a game with hi team winning, it can only be done in the ninth inning with his team ahead by 10 or more runs. Personally, I think using position players to pitch should be stopped because it makes the game a mockery.

Q: With Cincinnati’s surplus of infielders both on the current roster and in the minors. is there any consideration to move Elly De La Cruz to center field in the future? — ROB, Beavercreekk.
A: While De La Cruz has a great arm, I’ve seen too many errors and too many balls glance off his glove at shortstop. And why is a 6-foot-5 guy called a short-stop? I like Noelvi Marte at shortstop. With his speed and that Gatling gun arm, De La Cruz might make a good center fielder, if he can track fly balls and line drives. I would like his chances of going above the wall to snag home run balls.

Q: Regarding your comments about pitchers throwing 120-130 pitches a game,  what would you think about limiting each roster to 10 or 11 pitchers that would put more offense back into the game? — CHARLEY, Centerville.
A: Back in the day, when teams used a four-man rotation, teams carried only 10 or 11 pitchers. There were no specialists. A relief pitcher might throw three or four innings. There was no straing of one-inning pitchers. I like the idea, but it won’t ever happen. With the fragility of arms and shoulder and elbows that constantly put pitchers on the injured list, the attitude today is the more arms the better, good or bad.

Q: Why do pitchers, who throw pitch after pitch to home plate, seem to have so much trouble throwing to a base after fielding a ground ball? — ALAN, Sugar Creek Twp.
A: I assume this query comes after Cincinnati Reds pitcher Carson Spiers threw a double play ball into center field, opening the jar for the New York Mets to score four runs. A pitcher calmly delivers pitches to home plate from a wind-up or a stretch, taking his time. For some reason, they seem to hurry their throws to the bases, often off-balance. It shouldn’t be. During spring training they spend hours on PFP, pitchers fielding practice. But that’s practice. Things speed up under game conditions.

Q: How many signatures do we need to get Marty Brennamen and Thom Brennaman back in the broadcast and we could add George Grande, too? — BILL and MIKE, Centerville/Kettering.
A: You could get an encyclopedia-sized stack of signatures from every baseball fan in Redsland and it won’t happen. Marty and his wife, Amanda, are world travelers and Marty is happy to be away from the game. Like me, he doesn’t like the way the game has gone. Thom, who deserves a second chance, keeps trying to get back into a booth but nobody will even take his calls. And George Grande is happy with his semi-retirement, as am I, although Nadine says I write more now than I did when I was fully employed. And I believe she is correct.

Q: How do you think Sparky “Captain Hook” Anderson would manage his bullpen under the rule that a reliever has to face three batters and if a hitter reached base and he wanted to make a change, would he intentionally walk the next two hitters? — JIIM, Fairborn.
A: Sparky did a lot of bizarre things during his tenure as Reds manager, but I don’t think he’d ever purposely load the bases so he could make a pitching change. The rule wouldn’t bother him, because in his time relief pitchers sometimes went two, three and four innings. Sparky wasn’t a guy who made two or three changes an inning to get a lefty-on-lefty match-up or a righty-on-righty matchup. He figured Pedro Borbon, Clay Carroll, Rawlins Jackson Eastick III and Will McEnaney could get anybody out, left, right or ambidextrous
Q: With a runner on first, Cincinnati’s Luke Maile successfully sacrifice bunted the runner to second and was out at first, but manager David Bell challenged and won and Maile got to bat again,so what was the call? — DAUNTE, Portand, Me.
A: I was confused, too, a normal state for me. As explained to me, when Maile bunted, the pitch hit his pinkie finger before it hit the bat. Once it hit is finger, it iis a dead ball and strike. So he came back out a drove a single that led to a run. In 50 years of covering baseball, that was a first for me.







McCoy: Reds Win, Votto Given Heart-Warming ‘Sendoff’

By Hal McCoy
Contributing Writer

The Cincinnati Reds applied the air brakes to a four-game losing streak Sunday afternoon, 4-2, over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It was the final home game of the 2023 regular season and perhaps the last game in GABP for Joey Votto.

In an emotional post-game interview with Bally Sports piped into the stands, Votto told the fans to keep the faith, that playoff hopes remain alive, although by a sliver.

While the Reds won, both the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins took care of business, so the Reds remain 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs and 1 1/2 games behind the Marlins with only five games remaining.

When Votto came to bat in the second inning, the crowd of 31,191 gave him a nearly two-minute standing ovations while chanting, “Joey, Joey, Joey.” He doffed his batting helmet twice before stepping into the batter’s box. Even the opposing Pirates applauded and cheered in their dugout, a first-class reaction.

He was 0 for 2 with a pair of strikeouts when he came to bat in the eighth, perhaps his last in GABP, and singled to center.

Manager David Bell sent in a pinch-runner and Votto ran to the dugout. The crowd demanded a curtain call and Votto emerged, saluting the adoring throng.

“It was a good win today,” Votto told the crowd after the game. “Thank you for the support. I’m speechless. I’m speechless. I don’t expect that sort of thing.

“For you to stop me in my tracks, stop the game. You almost had me crying,” he said. “I almost cried. Y’know, like, there’s no crying in baseball. That moment was really special to me.”

Then Votto got to the crux of his mission in what could be his final year. The team owns an option on his contract for next season at $20 million or a $7 million buyout.

“This was a good game and that’s what we’re here for, to give you that,” he said. “We’re going to fight to the very end this season. This team is tenacious, this team is tenacious. I can’t tell you how badly this team wants to win for you. Five more games to go and we’re going to try to give it to you.”

And the team needed the tenacity Votto spoke about on Sunday afternoon.

For five innings against Pittsburgh starter Quinn Priester, they not only did not have a hit, they hadn’t hit a ball out of the infield.

Cincinnati starter Brandon Williamson held the Pirates to one hit through four innings, but gave up a leadoff home run to Jack Suwinski and a run-scoring single to Jason Delay in the fifth and the Reds were down, 2-0.

Both leadoff hitter and number two hitter TJ Friedl walked their first two times but nothing came of the free passes.

India broke the no-hit spell with a single to left field to open the sixth and Friedl belted his 17th home run to tie it, 2-2.

It stayed 2-2 until India came to bat in the seventh with two outs and nobody on. He doubled to left and Friedl did it again, this time a run-scoring single to give the Reds a 3-2 lead.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand gave the bullpen a bit more cushion with his 11th home run, a one-out rip to left field in the eighth.

The Reds lost two of three to the Pirates, but it wasn’t Friedl’s fault. In the three-game series he was on base 11 times out of 13 plate appearances.

He was 6 for 8 with five walks, three home runs, two doubles, six RBI, four runs scored and two stolen bases.

And for once the bullpen held serve after Williamson departed with two on and no outs in the fifth. Buck Farmer came on to record a strikeout and an inning-ending double play.

Farmer gave up a walk and a single to begin the sixth. Sam Moll came to his rescue with a strikeout and a double play hit into by Liover Peguero, who was 0 for 7 in the series with four strikeouts, a double play hit into and four defensive lapses at shortstop.

Bell showed extreme confidence in and copassion for closer Alexis Diaz, bringing him in for the eighth inning. On Saturday, Diaz surrendered four runs and five hits in one-third of an inning in a 13-12 loss.

And he didn’t make it easy Sunday by walking two batters with the Reds in front, 3-2. But he struck out Henry Davis to thwart the threat.

Ian Gibaut got the call to close up shop and he went 1-2-3 for this third save.

The Reds take Monday off, then hit the road for two games in Cleveland Tuesday and Wednesday, then close the season with a three-game series next weekend in St. Louis.

OBSERVATIONS: A Too Early Rush to Judgement on De La Cruz

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, down 36 pounds and only four to go. I’m loving the new clothes Nadine keep bringing home. And some of then are even for me.

—RASH JUDGEMENT: One of the most absurd pieces I’ve read in a long, long time was put out by WCPO-TV in Cincinnati. It sounded more like something from WKRP in Cincinnti. Unadulterated fantasy.

The piece said 21-year-old Elly De La Cruz is a bust. Say what?

Ask opposing teams if he is a bust. They fear the prospect of De La Cruz getting on base. He disrupts the entire defense, puts it into perspiration mode.

In recen back-to-back game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he singled, stole second, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly and a ground ball. That’s vintage De La Cruz, playing the game on Cruz control. He can provide the Reds with a snap, crackle and pop offense.

Yes, he is currently on the struggle bus, hitting below the Mendoza Line since the All-Star break. He sees a fastball about as often as Queen Latifah sees her toes.

He is being force-fed breaking pitches and finds it difficult to lay off. It’s an adjustment he has to make, an adjustment he will make.

When he was called up, he showed what his body of overstuffed talent can do. And he’ll show it again.

He is 21 with little more than a half-season in the majors. It is evident his confidence is on a downer right now and it shows in his suddenly leaky defense.

He seems so insecure right now that when his mother says she loves him he probably asks for a second opinion.

But to say he is a bust on a small body of evidence is like saying Willie Mays was a bust when he began his MLB career 0 for 12, or saying Greg Maddux was bust becaue he was 8-19 his first two seasons, or saying Randy Johnson was a bust because he was 7-17 his first two full MLB seasons.

A bust? It wouldn’t surprise me if when his career is over, Elly De La Cruz will have the equivalent of a bust in Cooperstown.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer Willie Mays: “It isn’t hard to be good from time to time in sports. What is tough is being good every day.” (Somebodu read that quote to Elly De La Cruz.)

—ALSO ON CRUZ CONTROL: When Johnny Cash sang, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” he must have been singing about Cincinnati Reds 34-year-old rookie Fernando Cruz, the one relief pitcher still reliable out of the team’s bullpen. In a recent game he faced four Pittsburgh Pirates and struck out all four.

When it comes to perseverance, Cruz’s picture should be next to the word in every Funk & Wagnalls. He never gave up, despite wearing more uniforms than a platoon of soldiers.
In his native Puerto Rico, he pitched for Mayaguez, Santurce, Ponce and Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

He also pitched for Caribes in the Venezuelan Winter League, for Licey in the Dominican Winter League and for Puebla and Guadalajara in the Mexican League.

His U.S. stops included Idaha Falls, Des Moines, Knoxville, Myrtle Beach and two different seasons with the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League.

And through it all he remained as happy and chirpy as a cricket.

—QUOTE: From Chinese philosopher Confucius: “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” (Confucius never threw a splitter, but Cruz knows what he was talking about.)

—FUN FACT: When Rickey Henderson set the record for most career stolen baes, he swiped 1,406, probably a record that will stand up for a long, long time, if not forever.

Accomplished base stealers say it is easier to steal third than second, but few try it. Rickey did. He stole third base 322 times, another record that probably is forever.

Before Henderson, Lou Brock was the base-stealing aficionado. He stole third 133 few times than Henderson.

One year, injuries hit Henderson and he didn’t win the stolen base title. That went to Seattle’s Harold Reynolds (Yes, the MLB-TV guy) with 60.

Henderson called him after the season, not for congratulatory words. He said, “Sixty stolen bases? You ought to be ashamed. Rickey would have had 60 stolen bases by the All-Star break.”

—HE’S PHOTOGENIC, TOO? — Most historians agree that the most iconic baseball photo ever was one taken on July 23, 1910, an image of a grim-faced Ty Cobb sliding into third base. New York Highlanders third baseman Jimmy Austin is off the ground taking the throw. It doesn’t indicate if Cobb is stealing third or sliding in for a triple.

And, no, I didn’t cover that game. I was covering Philadelphia’s 3-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds at the Palace of the Fans with 7.500 fans. The game took 1:35 and the losing pitcher was 5-foot-7 20-game winner George Suggs.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame base-stealer Ty Cobb: “I had to fight all my life to survive. They were all against me, but I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch.” (And most of them were bleeding.)

—PUT IT IN PLAY: In the first inning of Friday’s Colorado Rockies-Chicago Cubs game, there was only one ball put in play on the first 51 pitches thrown. Now why did I count them? That’s what Nadine asked and I had no answer.

And I counted pitches during the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game: 381 — 197 by the Reds and 184 by the Pirates. There were 14 walks and two hit batsmen.

You’d think home plate was seven inches wide instead of 17 inches. And who came up with the odd number of 17? Why not 20? Why not 15?

Why 17? The legend/myth is that when Alexander Cartwright laid out the field, he used a dinner plate 17 inches wide for home plate. It’s a good thing he didn’t use a coffee cup saucer.

McCoy: Reds lead, 9-0, but lose, 13-12, one of the worst losses ever???

By Hal McCoy
Contributing Writer

Every night Cincinnati Reds fans shake their heads and say, “It can’t get any worse.” Then it gets worse.

And it couldn’t get any worse than what unfolded Saturday night in front of 29,680 stunned fans.

The Reds lost, 13-12 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, which is ugly enough. But the method is beyond belief.

The Reds led, 9-0, after three innings. They led, 9-1, entering the sixth inning.

The Pirates then scored 12 unanswered runs against the arm weary Cincinnati bullpen, fivein the sixth, three in the seventh and four in the eighth to grab a 13-9 lead.

To their credit, the Reds didn’t quit. They scored two in the eighth and one in the ninth. And they had the tying run on third base with one out.

But Elly De La Cruz battled Pittsburgh relief pitcher Carmen Mlodzinski for 11 pitches before striking out and Jonathan India flied to shallow center to end it.

So the Reds are searching for some sugar to sweeten the bitter pill of a season getting away from them.

The Chicago Cubs came from 3-0 behind to beat Colorado, 6-3, and the Miami Marlins scored the winning run on a wild pitch to beat Milwaukee. And the Reds have only six games to cover the difference.

That meant the Reds are 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs and 1 1/2 games behind the Marlins for the last playoff berth. Just when they needed it most, they’ve lost four straight and five of six,

With the score tied, 9-9, entering the eighth, manager David Bell brought in closer Alexis Diaz, a guy who has struggled mightly recently.

And the struggle couldn’t be more profound on this night. He faced seven batters and retired one. He hit the first batter, then the Pirates bashed five hits and turned the 9-9 tie into a 13-9 lead.

The unimaginable comeback began in the sixth when Jared Triolo and Endy Rodriguez singled to start the inning against Reds starter Connor Phillips.

Alex Young replaced Phillips. After Ji Hwan Bae singled for a run and Joshua Palacios singled for anoother run, Bryan Reynolds homered and it was 9-5.

The Pirates tied it with four in the eighth when Alfonso Rivas cracked a three-run double off Lucas Sims.

Then came the eighth and the total meltdown by Diaz.

So how did the Reds construct that 9-0 lead that looked like a laugher that turned into a full-blown cry?

They scored three in the first on back-to-back home runs by Christian Encarnaion-Strand, a two-run rip, and Tyler Stephenson.

They scored five more in the second off Pittsburgh starter Bailey Falter, so how could they falter? The inning was highlighted by Stephenson’s two-run double and TJ Friedl’s inside the park home run into the right field corner.

It was Cincinnati’s first inside the park home run since 2012, when Jay Bruce did it in Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.

They added a third run in the third on Stuart Fairchild’s double and and Spencer Speer’s double.

Then came some pain. Dauri Moreta took the mound for the Pirates in the fifth and retired eight straight Reds. Why the pain. Moreta spent the first six years of his professional career with the Reds through last season.

When he left with two outs in the seventh, he held aloft a fist and pumped it vigorously.

After getting nine runs and 11 hits in the first three innings, the Reds didn’t have another hit under India broke a 0 for 16 slide with a single in the eighth inning.

Both teams had 16 hits and the Reds had 29 total bases to 22 for the Pirates.

Encarnacion-Strand had three hits and drove in four runs and Stephenson had two hits and drove in three.

On the Pittsburgh side, Rivas produced three hits and drove in five, Reynolds had two hits and drove in three and Bae contributed two hits and three RBI.







McCoy: Reds Suffer Devastating Defeat to Pirates, 7-5

By Hal McCoy
Contributing Writer

With the wild card chase tighter than a lid on a new jar of dill pickles, there is no doubt the Cincinnati Reds were watching the clubhouse television sets as they prepared for Friday night’s game.

They saw the Chicago Cubs beat the Colorado Rockies Friday afternoon in Wrigley Field, knowing that their Friday night game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Great American Ball Park was ultra-important.

Win the game or put themselves in a pickle, falling farther behind the Cubs in their quest for the third wild card spot.

And the worse case scenario unfolded, an ultra-disheartening 7-5 loss to the Pirates that dropped the Reds 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs.

The lead changed hands six times in a wild and poorly-played game by both sides, but the Pirates ended up with the upper hand.

After the Pirates hit four solo home runs to take a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning, TJ Friedl, who was on base five straight times, unloaded a two-run home in the home sixth to give the Reds a 5-4 lead.

Home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman aided the Reds when it appeared Luke Maile had taken a strike three. But Dreckman called it a ball and Maile blooped a single to right. Friedl then homered.

But the lead was to change hands a sixth and final time in the Pittsburgh seventh against Ian Gibaut.

Ji Hwan Bae grounded to second and Jonathan India tried to short-hop it, but it skippped off his glove into right field. It was ruled an error, but later changed to an infield hit.

With one out, Bryan Reynolds singled and Ke’Bryan Hayes singled home Bae. Miguel Andujar hit a double play ball to India, but shortstop Elly De La Cruz threw wildly to first and Reynolds scored to make it 7-5.

The Reds desperately tried for a seventh lead change in the ninth against Pittsburgh closer David Bednar, who was wilder than a Pamplona bull.

His first six pitches were balls and the first four gave Friedl a walk. Spencer Steer grounded to third and Hayes tried for a 5-4-3 double play. Friedl, though, beat his throw to second, the second time in the game Friedl beat a double play ground ball to second base.

That put the potential tying runs on base with no outs. But Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit into a double play. Bednar then walked Joey Votto on a full count, putting runners on third and first.

But it ende when Bednar struck out Noelvi Marte on four pitches, his 37th save in 40 chances and 14th straight, but surely the most wobbly of them all.

Both sides used seven pitchers and they threw 381 pitches, 197 by the Reds and 184 by the Pirates.

Pittsburgh did everything it could to gift wrap a win for the Reds before handing them their third straight loss and fourth in five games.

The Reds stranded the bases loaded in the first and scored a run in the second but stranded two more. In the first two innings, Pittsburgh pitchers issued four walks and hit a batter, but the Reds scored only one run.

Cincinnati starter Andrew Abbott pitched three scoreless innings and struck out six.

But Hayes led the fourth with a home run. And number eight hitter Henry Davis crushed only his third home run, a 431-footer in the fifth.

Buck Farmer came on to pitch in the sixth with the Reds leading, 3-2, and gave up home runs to Jared Triola, his third, and to Endy Rodriguez, his fifth, which pushed the Pirates back in front, 4-3.

Friedl’s homer in the seventh reclaimed the lead, but once again the bullpen couldn’t close the deal, insuring the Reds would suffer their 38th blown lead this season.

The Pirates are on a hot streak with 15 wins in their last 24 games that includes taking recent series from the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago Cubs.

McCoy: Reds Blow Lead in Ninth for Devastating Defeat

By Hal McCoy
Contributing Writer

The Roulette Reds wagered on red ’21’ Wednesday afternon in Great American Ball Park, but in the bitter end it came up black ’13’ for the Cincinnati Reds

The ’21’ is the uniform number worn by Reds pitcher Hunter Greene and he was two levels above awesome for seven innings.

But what Greene giveth, the bullpen taketh away.

The Minnesota Twins scored three runs in the ninth inning against closer Alexis Diaz and Sam Moll to turn a one-run deficit into a 5-3 victory, a devastating defeat for the Reds in their quest to qualify for the playoffs.

With only eight games remaining, the Reds have made their path to the number three wild card spot a rocky journey.

Greene, the last man standing from the rotation that opened the season, gave a Cullinan diamond performance, 14 strikeouts, one run and three hits over seven innings on just 92 pitches. But manager David Bell turned it over to the bullpen after seven innings, usually a reliable protection agency, asked to protect a 3-1 lead.

But Ian Gibaut gave up a run on three hits in the eighth, including a run-scoring single to Edouardo Julien to cut the lead to 3-2.

Closer Diaz entered the ninth and was touched for a bunt single by Willi Castro. He immediately stole his 32nd base and continued to third when catcher Luke Maile threw the ball into center field.

Former Reds infielder Kyle Farmer singled to right, scoring Castro that sliced Cincinnati’s lead to 3-2.

Diaz retired the next batter, but when he walked Christian Vazquez, Bell brought in left-hander Sam Moll.

He struck out Trevor Larnach for the second out on a full count while Farmer and Vazquez pulled a double steal.

That put runners on third and second, but Moll and the Reds were one out away from a 3-2 win.

Bell chose to intentionally walk pinch-hitter Ryan Jeffers, filling the bases.

Moll’s next pitch, to Jorge Polanco, was driven past second baseman Jonathan India, a two-run single and a 5-3 Minnesota lead.

Diaz had blown only two saves all season, but not only was it his third, but he was slapped with the loss.

Minnesota chose to bring in Griffin Jax to close the game in the home half, a guy who had blown 14 of his 17 career save opportunities.

And he walked pinch-hitter Nick Martini to open the ninth, but India struck out, TJ Friedl drove a deep fly just shy of the wall in right and Spencer Steer grounded into a game-ending force play.

Minnesota loaded its lineup with five left-handed hitters to face the right-handed Greene, a strange move because left-handers hit below .100 against Greene and right-handers hit .280.

Of his 14 strikeouts, the most for a Reds pitcher since Ron Villone whiffed 16 St. Louis Cardinals in 2000, Greene struck out the left-handers 10 times.

The Reds were facing 6-foot-9 Bailey Ober and the Reds made sure it was not Ober-and-out against the change-up maven.

Cincinnati took a 1-0 lead in the third when Ober walked Will Benson on a full count, hit India with a pitch on a full count and Friedl singled home Benson.

The lead expanded to 2-0 in the fourth when Christian Encarnacion-Strand extracted some revenge because the Twins traded him to the Reds for pitcher Tyler Mahle. CES homered over the left field wall, his ninth.

Greene’s only mistake surfaced in the seventh when he gave up a home run to Castro, a menace to the Reds the last two games of the series. It was his second home run in two games and he made two above-and-beyond catches to rob Tyler Stephenson of a home run and a two-run single in the second game.

In between Castro’s home run, Greene struck out six straight and struck out the side in the sixth.

Bell, though, managing his 700th game for the Reds, determined that seven innings was enough and turned it over to the bullpen.

And they let the big one get away.

After an off-day Thursday, the Reds open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night, their last series at home.

They finished the season with two games in Cleveland and three in St. Louis.