[This post was submitted by Warren Leeman, better known in the Arctic tundra and Redleg Nation as Shchi Cossack, writing as he says, from the view of the old recliner. Thanks, Warren!

Joey Votto played in all of the first 74 games of the 2012 season with a .290 ISO and a 1.121 OPS. He was on pace to shatter the all-time record for doubles in a single season and on track for his second MVP award in three years. On June 28, he slid into 3B in San Francisco and tore the meniscus in his left knee. Two days later, he left the game in the 5th inning with swelling and soreness in his knee after being unable to run out a slow roller to 3B. A few days later, Votto returned to the lineup with an ailing left knee and played in every game leading up to the All-Star game. But during this stretch, he lacks power in his swing (.096 ISO).

On July 10, Joey Votto played first base for the National League in the All-Star Game. Then, after playing in a 3-game series against the Cardinal, Votto was placed on the 15-day DL with a now-diagnosed torn meniscus. From June 30-July 15, had had hit with even less power (.086 ISO). On August 10, he had a second surgery to repair loose, floating cartilage from his left knee, after experiencing pain during sliding drills in his rehab. On September 10, Votto returned to play with a left knee not fully healed and managed just a .105 ISO through the end of the 2012 season.

The injury to Votto’s left knee was one of those unavoidable things that happen in life and especially in sports. The mishandling and lack of diagnosis of the torn meniscus in Votto’s left knee was inexcusable with plenty of blame to go around (Votto, Dusty Baker, the entire training staff, the entire medical staff and Reds management).

Votto returned in 2013 and had an excellent season by and reasonable standard (.305/.435/.491) with a .186 ISO. But to some, this was just a mediocre season by Votto standards. Prior to 2013 (including the powerless 2nd half of 2012), Votto produced .316/.415/.553 with a .237 ISO. Votto was simply not 100% healthy during 2013 but played all 162 games. The strength and flexibility of Votto’s left leg, after 2 knee surgeries and the mishandled diagnosis and rehab, was not 100%, even though the knee was structurally healed and intact.

Joey Votto’s continued to rehab and strengthen his left leg during the offseason after 2013. The reports of Votto’s offseason rehab and strengthening regime are sketchy at best, but Votto (the Reds’ $200 million investment) seemed to have been left virtually unsupervised. Votto’s left knee was healthy, so no one seemed concerned enough to maintain vigilant oversight of the first baseman’s off-season progress despite the lack of strength in his left leg .

Joey Votto is one of the most focused and dedicated athletes I have observed and certainly places higher expectations on himself than almost any other athlete. I believe it’s reasonable to interpret Votto’s evaluation of his 2013 season as not up to his own standards due to limited workout prior to the 2013 season. In his mind, he failed to come through and carry the team when the team needed him most, and he was not going to let that happen again. Votto’s knee was healthy and he was determined to make sure his left leg was back to 100% strength and agility for 2014.

In his preparation for the 2014 season, Votto over-extended the training and strengthening of his left leg.

He started the 2014 season strong, hitting .327/.443/.571 with a .244 ISO during the first 2 weeks. Then his left leg succumbed to the rigors of the off-season training and strengthening. The distal quad simply gave out (turned to mush as it has been aptly described). Votto hit .218/.393/.379 over the next 4 weeks before landing on the DL. His season was over and the efforts to bring him back without a full recovery of the distal quad failed miserably. Fortunately, the Reds seemed to have learned a lesson from the hands off approach of the 2013 off-season, and maintained a reasonable oversight of Votto’s off-season rehab after the 2014 season.

Although there was a correlation between the 2012 injury to Votto’s left knee and the 2013 injury to the distal quad, there was no direct relationship between the two injuries. Votto’s knee was 100% healthy and fully recovered going into the 2013 and 2014 seasons and should remain 100% healthy going into the 2015 season. Votto’s distal quad should now be 100% healthy and fully recovered going into the 2015 season. Only Votto’s on-field performance will demonstrate his return to 100% capability, but I believe we can reasonably expect such a return in 2015.

With the optimistic preliminary reports on his health, I expect the fully recovered Votto to produce in 2015 as he did in the 1st half of 2012 with a 1.100+ OPS and a .250+ ISO while leading the league and setting a new NL record for doubles. With Frazier hitting in front of him and Mesoraco hitting behind him, Votto could WALK (pun fully intended) away with another MVP award in 2015 and quash the vocal Votto naysayers and negative pundits.