OBSERVATIONS: Reds Montas Off On Right Foot

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, overdosing on college basketball and spring training baseball. . .with the best yet to come — March Madness.

—THE MONTAS MONTAGE: His first name is Francelis and his last name is pronounced Moan-Toss. He is 30 years old, was born in Sainagua, Dominican Republic and he’ll carry $14 million away from the Cincinnati Reds this season.

And it the Reds like him and he likes the Reds, there is a $20 million mutual clause is in his contract. Or the Reds can pay him $2 million to go back to where he came from.

He is known in the Reds’ clubhouse as Frankie Montas, a late addition to the pitching rotation, a high-level risk/gamble because he is coming off shoulder surgery after pitching a total of 1 1/3 innings all of last season with the New York Yankees.

But like every other Reds starter so far this spring, Montas looks like Cy Young incarnate. Fans can get excited about it, but don’t get giddy. The long accepted cliche is that pitching is always ahead of hitting the first week or two of spring training.

Nevetheless, Montas threw two perfect innings of no runs, no hits, no walks and two strikeouts this week against the Chicago Cubs in his Reds’ debut.

“I’m getting better, definitely getting better,” he said. “My fastball (which touched 97 miles per hour on the speed gun) is getting better from where I thought it would be.

“It’s been a long time since I was pitching in spring training, so just being back on the mound is exciting, just being happy because of that.”

And the best thing I heard about Montas came from the mouth of catcher Tyler Stephenson: “He’s a Grade-A human being, a really nice guy.”

—A SHORT TURNOVER: Remember when Davey Concepcion and Barry Larkin occupied shorstop for the Cincinnati Reds for about a hundred years? Well, it seemed that way.

My how times change. If Elly De La Cruz is at shortstop for Opening Day this year, he will be the seventh different Reds Opening Day shortstop in seven years.

And if your name is Jose, playing shortstop for the Reds is strictly short term.

The last six: 2017-Zack Cozart, 2018-Jose Peraza, 2019-Jose Iglesias, 2020-Freddy Galvis, 2021-Eugenio Suarez, 2022-Kyle Farmer, 2023-Jose Barrero.

—QUOTE: From former Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley: “Good stockbrokers are a dime a dozen, but good shortstops are hard to find.” (And the Reds keep looking.)

—JOLTIN’ JOE: Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio, The Yankee Clipper, is the only player in MLB history to hit more than 300 home runs (361) and strike out fewer than 400 times (369)

For the math challenged, that’s only eight more strikeouts than home runs. Over his 13-year career he averaged 34 strikeouts a season

There are guys playing the game now that strikeout 34 times in three weeks.

—QUOTE: From Joe DiMaggio: “I remember a reporter asking me for a quote. I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it might be some kind of soft drink.” (Hey, it wasn’t me.)

—GRIN AND BARRETT: Everybody remembers Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when the Boston Red Sox were one strike away from winning it. Then the ball went between first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs and the New York Mets won that game and Game 7.

Don’t blame Buckner. Blame the Bosox bats. For example, Boston second baseman Marty Barrett was on base 18 times in the Series, 13 hits and five walks. And how many runs did he score?


—A GREAT PROPOSAL: With UMass leaving the Atlantic 10 Conference after this season, my great friend Tim Brabender proposes a great idea.

He says, “Why not add Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, San Francisco and Pepperdine to the A10. At the same time, get rid of Fordham and LaSalle. Let’s take a page out of the Big 10 playbook?”

Splendid idea. Taking it farther, split the A10 into two divisions, East and West.

EAST: St. Bonaventure, George Mason, Saint Joseph’s, Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth, Davidson, George Washington, Rhode Island.

WEST: Dayton, Duquesne, Gonzaga, Loyola Chicago, Pepperdine, San Francisco, St. Mary’s, Saint Louis.

That would make one super Division I conference of basketball schools that don’t play Division I football.

—SOME INCREDIBLE HOOPLA: What in the name of Jame Naismith was going on Tuesday night in basketball? Well, just three incredible shots in three different games.

***The Cleveland Cavaliers were down two points with two seconds left when Cleveland’s Max Strus unleashed a 59-footer that swished, giving the Cavs a 121-119 win.

As the ball swished, Dallas TV play-by-play man Mark Followill screamed into his mic, “Oh, no. . .oh, no. . .oh, no!!!” Oh, yes.

***Then there was the half-court bank shot at the buzzer by Jarod Lucas to give Nevada a 77-74 win over Colorado State. It was redemption for Lucas.

Lucas, a 91% free throw shooter, missed three of four in the last minute, enabling Colorado State to come from 70-63 behind to tie it. . .before Lucas maade his game-winning heave with the scored tied, 74-74.

***The topper, though, was a shot made by Destiny Slocum of the Maryland women’s team against West Virginia. Her shot was from the top of her own free throw line, a three-quarters of the floor three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give Maryland a 38-24 lead.

Not as dramatic, but it certainly wins the year’s long-distance trophy.

—THE AIR THAT I BREATHE: For several years I attended something called Wyomania, a gathering of baseball writers and scouts in Laramie, Wyoming for a weekend of ribaldry. . .with a University of Wyoming football game as an excuse.

There is a sign painted on a War Memorial Stadium wall that reads, “Welcome to 7,220 feet.” It is a reminder to the opposition that they are playing in thin air, more than a mile above sea level.

Now the Wyoming basketball team has adopted it. Right above the top of the lanes at each end are the numbers, “7,220.”

Hasn’t bothered the opposition too much. The Cowboys are 13-15, 8-5 at home.

—SOME HAIRY GOALS: The line of the night was delivered by ESPN’s David Lloyd as he talked about the five goals scored by Manchester City’s Erling Haaland in his team’s 6-2 FA Cup win over Luton Town. It fell one goal short of George Best’ six goals in 1970 for Manchester United during an 8-2 win over Northapton Town.

Said Lloyd about Haaland’s five goals, “And he did it all in a man bun.”

—QUICK QUOTES: What they said and how they said it:

From Pete Rose standing at the batting cage during spring training: “I’ll tell you three things that’s gonna happen this summer. . .the grass is gonna get greener, the sun is gonna get hotter and Pete Rose is gonna get 200 hits.”

From baseball writer Charles Dryden, describing the old Washington Senators: “Washington. . .first in war, first in peace and last in the American League.”

From Joe DiMaggio’s successor, Mickey Mantle: “Somebody once asked me if I ever went up to the plate trying to hit a home run. I said, ‘Sure, every time.’”

From Jim Kaat, pitching coach for the Reds when Pete Rose was managing: “A young fellow got called up from Triple-A and I saw him in the batting cage take a few swings and I said to Pete, ‘This kid’s swing looks more like Ted Williams than anybody I’ve ever seen.’ It was Paul O’Neill.”

—STILL LEARNING: This is truly something that proves you are never too old to learn something and I didn’t know this.

What are those two dots above the letters i and j called? They are titters (Insert wise crack here).

—POP QUIZ: On the pudding front: vanilla, chocolate or butterscotch? Naked or with bananas or whipped cream or both?

—PLAYLIST NO. 25: I believe my iPod is ready to cry uncle, but not yet:

Earth Angel (The Platters), Maggie (Rod Stewart), Joanna (Kool & The Gang), All For Love (Bryan Adams), Don’t Pull Your Love (Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds), Mr. Bojangles (Niitty Gritty Dirt Band), Making Love Out Of Nothing At All (Air Supply), Ventura Highway (America). Manic Monday (The Bangles).

My Sweet Lord (George Harrison), So Far Away (Carole King), When Did I Get Old? (Derrick Dove & The Peacekeepers), Dust In The Wind (Kansas), Stuck On You (Lionel Richie), Tears On My Pillow (Little Anthony), November Rain (Guns N ‘ Roses).

**Special note: Did you know that Neil Diamond wrote UB40’s ‘Red, Red Wine,’ and the Monkees’ ‘I’m A Believer?” Me, neither.

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