By Hal McCoy
Q: What percentage of manager firings would you consider justfied? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beaverceek.
A: Pretty much zero. A manager, who never throws a pitch, never swings bat and never fields a ground ball or catches a fly ball, is usually the scapegoat when a team doesn’t win. They can’t fire the entire roster, so the manager is the guy told to clean out his desk. To me, it is only justified for non-managerial reasons. Billy Martin was a great manager, but his off-the-field fights and shenanigans justified his many dismissals.
Q: Is Bruce Bochy the best manager over the past 20 years? — DICK, Hendersonville, TN.
A: Everbody who knows me knows how much I respect Dusty Baker. But he has won only one World Series. Bochy has won three, including knocking Baker and the Cincinnati Reds out of the playoffs in 2012 with three straight wins after the Reds won the first two games. After retiring. Bochy is back and has turned around the Texas Rangers. He is a master at handling pitching staffs. And it won’t surprise me if Bochy gets his fourth World Series ring this year.
Q: Do you believe Elly De La Cruz has done enough to be a starter in 2024 or does he have to prove himself in spring training? — GARY, Dayton.
A: De La Cruz is on overload as far as raw talent. There is nothing he can’t do on a baseball field and do it spectacularly. He showed early in his career how dynamic he can be. He has nothing to prove. He just needs to make some adjustments and he can do that in spring training. But he doesn’t have to earn a starting spot. He will be in the 2024 lineup and he will be a force. . .I think.
Q: If your prediction that Joey Votto and Jonathan India won’t be with the Reds next season, who do you see as a leader for all the young players to keep in line? — CHRIS, Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
A: Leadership can come, and often does, from a player who sets examples on the field. Guys who play hard on every pitch, like TJ Friedl and Matt McLain, do just that. And catcher Tyler Stephenson is capable of stepping into a leadership role. Even a pitcher can fulfill clubhouse leadership and Hunter Greene has the respect and intelligence to be the guy. Nobody can be appointed the leader. It evolves from within.
Q: Do you see Joey Votto getting into Cooperstown? — RYAN/ELVIS, Englewood.
A: For a nominal fee of $28, anybody can get into the Cooperstown Museum & Hall of Fame. To get a plaque in the Hall takes years and years of outstanding play on a baseball field. Joey Votto has done just that. He hates it when people ask him about it because it is out of his hands and will be in the hands of the voting baseball writers. Does he have my vote? An unequivocal yes. And I believe he’ll gather the necessary 75 per cent of the votes to make it on the first ballot.
Q: Which free agent pitchers should the Reds pursue? — JOE, Kettering.
A: First of all, the Reds have a problem in that most pitchers don’t like pitching in Great American Smallpark, where home runs fifty cents a doezn. As of now, there are at least 12 solid staring pitchers who can become free agents. Some, though, are likely to re-sign with their current teams — Clayton Kershaw, Sonny Gray, Blake Snell, Aaron Nola. That leaves guys like Wade Miley, Julio Urias, Luis Severino, Jack Flaherty, Marcus Stroman, Lucas Giolito, Jordan Montgomery and Eduardo Rodriguez Of all those, I like Rodriguez, if Detroit doesn’t re-sign him. But every team needs starting pitching, so the Reds are going to be in a fight for any free agent pitchers with a lot of teams.
Q: Were there any rule changes used in the minors this season that might be used by the majors next season? — GREG, Beavercreek.
A: Since MLB already adopted the pitch clock, bigger bases, the three-pickoff limit, the three-batter requirement for relief pitchers after testing in the minor leagues, there aren’t any rules changes on the horizon. These aren’t rules changes, but the robot umpires and the tackier baseballs for a better grip that were used in some minor leagues might soon find their ways into MLB. For me, OK on the stickier baseballs, but no on the automated umpiring. There is already too much technology being applied to sports, which should be a human activity.
Q: What umpires are we going to pick on now that Angel Hernandez had been fired? — JOE, Englewood.
A: While the rumor that Hernandez has been fired is out there, there has been no confirmation from MLB or from the umpires union, which is stronger than the Teamsters. The union protects its umpires diligently, no matter what. Firing Hernandez might be difficult. If he is gone, you can turn your attention to the dubious work of C.B. Bucknor, Doug Eddings, Laz Diaz and/or Brian O’Nora, all of whom draw heavy and regular criticism. But we all do our best umpiring work from our La-Z-Boy recliners.
Q: What are you looking to do this off-season? — ALAN, Sugarcreek Twp.
A: Please don’t ask Nadine that question. As most know, I’m an avid Cleveland Browns fan so that covers Sundays. And I cover the University of Dayton basketball team for a web-site and love being inside UD Arena for the pomp and circumstance on game nights. After doing dishes and taking out the trash and folding clothes, I sit down and read voraciously, mostly baseball books. I will continue doing Observations from The Man Cave two or three times a weekk. And I count the days until spring training.. I may be 83 and slow of gait, but my mind (mostly) and my fingers still work.