A few minutes ago, Joey Votto called the Reds beat writers over to his locker and spoke strongly and at length about the concept of leadership and those critics who say the club lacks it. Fay and Rosecrans provide a rough transcript of Votto’s comments. Mark Sheldon has a partial transcript up now. More to come later.

Here’s Votto addressing the criticism:

“The thing that upsets me the most is the people that are talking about leadership and talking about our clubhouse are not in our clubhouse,” Votto said. “They’re not consistently here to make any sort of comment on the clubhouse. These are guys that very rarely show their face in the clubhouse, are never on the bus, not in the hotel, certainly not on the field and these guys are constantly commenting on the importance of leadership with no sort of experience to be able to have that conversation. They don’t see the interactions. They don’t see the bench. They’re going to write and talk endlessly on something they have no information on. To me, I think that’s doing a disservice to this team. It’s doing a disservice to the front office, to the coaching staff and I think it’s highly, highly convenient because we lost last year to highlight something like that.”

When pressed on who he was talking about, Votto would not list specific people. You have to wonder if he was talking about Walt Jocketty. The general manager mentions the leadership issue every time he signs an old-guy free agent, implying the team lacks that quality. Votto mentioned that this came up when the Reds signed Marlon Byrd. Cincinnati Enquirer sports writer, Paul Daugherty, wrote about the club’s leadership twice today. He would certainly fit the category of not being in the locker room. It doesn’t seem like Votto is primarily addressing Mat Latos, but other sources.  More from the Reds first baseman:

“I’m telling you, these guys are grinders, ass-kickers, you’re not going to lead Devin Mesoraco. He’s part of the leadership. You’re not going to lead Brandon, he’s part of the leadership. You don’t need one focal point, we don’t need rah-rah, we don’t need everyone to be slapped on the ass and patted on the back, because we’re not that group of guy. None of these guys need to be motivated to be at their very best. I’d like to think that this year we’re going to play and play well and win and win the division again and all that chatter will just be chatter — chatter in the rear-view mirror.”

“The thing I wanted to say is we’re doing all right. We just lost last year. We won three of the last five years. We had a couple of not-so-good runs in the playoffs. There’s a lot of variables involved. There’s no excuses. We just lost in the playoffs, but we got there. We won the division two out of three times. Last year, I would like to think was a bit of an aberration.”

Here’s to hoping this issue can become a rallying point for the club.

50 Responses

  1. unc reds fan

    Way to speak up Joey, suck on that Matt in your Miami sweat pit

  2. CP

    Votto, as usual, gets it exactly right. They lost last year so they get to hear from glorified tabloid writers like Daugherty on how they lack leadership. If they win, all the riff raff shuts up even, even if nothing changes. Votto always has a good perspective on these things..

    FWIW, I don’t take his comments as being directed towards Jocketty.

    • icee82

      I do believe that Mathew’s statements shed light on an issue that we have suspected for quite some time. Votto is young and probably does not realize that throughout the history of baseball, most good teams have strong leadership. The Big Red Machine had Perez, Rose, and Bench, The 1990 team had Ron Oester and Eric the Red. This team does need leadership. They need a take charge guy that is not afraid to ruffle some feathers if necessary. Mr. Jocketty obviously recognizes the need as well because we continue to hear him talking about it when he got Rolen and now Byrd. I hope that this revelation lights a collective fire under this team!

      • CP

        Because “leadership” is having 3 clear cut HOFs in your starting 8, a HOF manager, and another borderline HOF at 1B.

        Also, it was pretty much the same group of players from 1972-1974. There may be some outlier leaders out there, but it’s the talent on the field that is most important. All the people whining about lack of leadership last year somehow miss the fact that last year’s team simply lacked talent. What the leadership crowd really means is that they were entertained by big on-field personalities. Even when Pete Rose or Lou Pinella were losing, they were entertaining.

      • Earl Nash

        I think last season pretty much most that could go wrong did go wrong. After losing Votto and Phillips nearly back to back, the Reds just seemed to hold on ok till All-Star Break (51-44), then they ran out of gas and limped home.

        Votto missed 100 games, Phillips and Bruce both missed a month and along with large parts of season for Latos, Bailey, Cingrani and Marshall. Even Mesoraco who had a good year missed nearly a month too. Not too many clubs could have survived that many injuries to key people. I think the injuries also led to the bullpen getting exposed some too.

        I hope they can bounce back. If Votto and Bruce don’t return to their norm, I can’t see how the Reds can compete. Thing is this year they don’t have the luxury of that stocked starting rotation.

        Cincy seems to me to be a bit of a negative sports town media wise and has been for years. I think some of it is from the Reds and Bengals both having a couple bad decades and even with winning and playoffs, the failure there just brings back the existential angst on WLW.

  3. Chad Jones

    I’m thinking all of this might bring these guys together. Like the Indians in Major League,” There is only one thing to do. Let’s win the whole freaking thing”.

    • OCRed

      Chad – Right on! Just the fact that Votto was proactive and called the reporters over to his locker shows leadership. True leaders lead by example – and as Votto states it, the “grinders” and “ass kickers” will lead the way!

      • Thegaffer

        Agree, all this Latos, Marty, whomever. All good stuff to put a chip on their shoulder!

    • TC

      You need to change your name. There’s only ONE Chad here. 😉

  4. redmountain

    I think that Votto implies that someone believes there is a lack of leadership. Whether or not it is true there appears this team lacks fire. Votto is right about “ra,h-rah” not being the only way to show leadership, but many of us expect to see some reaction. Teams that do not show frustration or elation will look to be suspect. Perception, whether accurate or inaccurate, is like truth because everyone perceives differently. Consequently, everyone has their own version of the “truth”.

    • Tom Reed

      I’d like to see a busted water cooler now and then as in the days of Paul O’Neil and Lou Pinella.

      • Matt WI

        But those things have NOTHING to do with winning. That’s part of what Joey is saying… what people choose to believe is leadership from the outside may have zero correlation with how the team operates, or how the team even needs to operate.

        And as CP said above, and Votto hit on… it never fails that the narrative become: winning=leadership and losing= lack of leadership, even with the same principals involved.

      • docmike

        Awesome post. It’s amazing to me that when the team plays badly, some people want to claim that it means there’s a lack of leadership.

        Really? Did a lack of leadership cause Votto, Bruce, Mes, Bailey, and Latos to all spend significant time on the DL? Would better leadership have caused career backups like Pena, Santiago, and Schumaker to start playing like All-Stars? Would having clubhouse leaders have caused a legit left fielder to suddenly materialize on the Reds?

        Looking back at last year, a “lack of leadership”, even if true, was the least of the reds’ worries.

      • lwblogger2

        See, and I used to think that was a huge sign of immaturity and the inability to control oneself. Hated playing with guys like that and really, really hated coaches like that. A leader needs to be in control, and that starts with control of oneself.

  5. jdx19

    I’m glad to see this from Votto. So far, his increased vocal presence in camp might be the harbinger to a super-determined Votto who tears the league for .320/.480/.550. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see?

  6. Frogger

    Big Votto fan, but he is not going to throw any teammates under the buss. Lets get real about that. Players can have fun and stay loose. Just hope they put the work in as Votto does in preparation. It has been 25 years since I got to go to attend a World Series at Riverfront. I’m tired of the excuses. Not old enough to have seen the Big Red Machine, but wow do I remember what it was like as a kid in 90. Still remember the little red brooms some of my teachers had in class when the Reds took took it to the steroid twins. Can’t wait for April.

  7. docmike

    I don’t think this was directed at Walt Jocketty either. Votto even says in his quote that all this stuff does a disservice to the front office, which includes Jocketty.

    I believe this was completely directed at the local media like Paul Daugherty, who consistently harp on a lack of leadership on the Reds. Votto’s right, these media types have no idea about the leadership within the team. It’s all just idle speculation. The only ones who truly know who the team leaders are, are the guys in the clubhouse every day.

    To me, it’s silly to blame last year’s problems on a lack of leadership. The vast majority of the blame falls on the injury bug. The importance of a healthy Votto, Bruce, Mesoraco, Bailey, and Latos can not be understated. Most of the rest of the blame goes to Jocketty for his failure to have a legit left fielder on the roster by Opening Day. All the leadership in the world isn’t going to matter when the other teams have way more talent on the field.

  8. James

    Wow. You see Jocketty in those comments? Sounds like wishful thinking.

    This entire episode, specifically Votto’s comments about observing interactions, supports my belief that we need real qualitative research in baseball to learn about these micro cultures and their relationship to winning. Otherwise, we are left puzzling over whatever biased comments an ex-player chooses to make.

    • lwblogger2

      It is my opinion based on playing a lot of ball that the winning comes first and the chemistry comes from the winning. There are also teams that have won that really, really hated each other and had very poor chemistry. Now, how leadership fits in is a little different but I will say that leadership starts with the GM and is enforced by the manager. If the manager lets stuff go on, then the players will tend to say “Hey, Francona ain’t sayin’ anything so why should I listen to you? You gonna try to kick my butt if I don’t?”

      • i71_Exile

        Word. There are guys on teams that I played for that I liked and others that I couldn’t stand, but when we succeeded we succeeded together and were best buds in that moment. Winning builds chemistry.

  9. Bruno

    I remember Joey Votto took Spanish a couple of off seasons ago,to better communicate with all of his teammates.His stoic determination and consistent approach are leading by example.Votto IS a leader in his own way. Healthy Votto is still a beast.

  10. redsfan06

    Arroyo made a comment giving Latos a bit of a break, saying that Mat speaks based on his current feelings and may not say the same thing twice in a row. It sounds as if Latos talked to Arroyo a bit. He probably did miss his presence. People have different needs and Mat may be projecting his own feelings about losing Rolen and Arroyo toward others on the team.

    Obviously Votto and others don’t feel the need to have someone to lead them. They can remain motivated to do their best on their own.

    I am not trying to defend Latos comments about the Reds locker room. They were unnecessary and are nothing more than his own opinion. But he may have felt a lost presence.

  11. jessecuster44

    Joey Votto is my hero. He could have an impressive career in politics after his playing days are over.

    • Tom Reed

      He could be a future mayor of Toronto.

  12. cfd3000

    Don’t Votto’s comments, particularly in support of BP and Devin Mesoraco, but also his teammates in general, constitute real leadership? Votto is a guy who has always gotten some credit for leading by example, but rarely for being a clubhouse leader or veteran spokesman kind of guy. But if making a point to defend your teammates and nurture an us against the outside world attitude isn’t leadership I’m not sure what is. I am impressed by Votto’s intellectual side almost as much as by his considerable on field skills. Let’s just say I’m glad he’ll be a Red for many more years.

  13. bohdi87

    Daugherty is a joke. I refuse to give his articles page views. I lost all respect for him (or what little I had left) after his Homer temper tantrum.

  14. WVRedlegs

    I love Joey Votto. But leaders on this team?
    “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” John C. Maxwell.
    I see one or two of these qualities in the Reds “leaders” but not all three.
    There is a reason none of the Reds players carry and proudly display the captain’s “C” on their uniform.
    I believe the last to have the “C” was Barry Larkin. This Reds team sorely lacks a Larkin.

    • bohdi87

      Where are you “seeing” or not “seeing” one of those qualities? You’re welcome to that opinion but its rooted in zero quantifiable evidence or observation of what goes on behind the scenes, which is Votto’s point. The only people that can accurately opine on any of the players’ leadership are the other players and coaching staff. Everything is just conjecture.

      • WVRedlegs

        I can only go by the games and the product they put on the field. That is really the only window we have into this team. And Votto’s point is correct, we don’t see the behind the scenes actions of the players.
        Last season in the second half, when the Reds and BHam were struggling offensively mightily, during a game did we ever see Votto, Bruce, or BP sit down with BHam on the bench, put their arm around him and just talk to him and offer up some leadership? These three are the elders on the team experiencee-wise and are the stars of the team. The younger and/or more inexperienced players look up to them. Frazier, Cozart, Mesoraco and BHam were looking for leadership. Ludwick didn’t provide much and Choo wasn’t here long enough to establish himself as a team leader.
        Votto, Bruce and BP seem to be reluctant leaders. They don’t seem to want to embrace the role. The Pirates have McCutcheon who took their leadership role by the reigns. The Cards have Molina and Holliday and nobody questions their leadership. Votto seems more inclined this year to embrace that role and that is a very positive thing. I would hazard a guess that Price and Votto had a long talk this winter about just that.
        Frazier and Mesoraco are emerging and seem to want to take that role. But it takes time.

      • docmike

        Maybe those older Reds did talk to Hamilton. But maybe it happened in the clubhouse, away from the prying eyes of the camera.

        We really don’t know what goes on in the clubhouse, it’s all just speculation. And that was the point of Votto’s statement.

  15. wvredlegs

    I beckon back to last season when playing the Cubs on the Reds HOME turf, and the Cubs Anthony Rizzo charged the Reds dugout from 1st base.
    Where was the Reds leadership then?

    • Matt WI

      That’s entirely based on the idea there is one correct response to that situation. Good leadership can also demonstrate that ignoring the antics of a silly Cub and saving energy for more important things is fine. If, for instance, the Reds don’t respect Rizzo, his antics really don’t gain any advantage on them whether or not they say “boo” to him.

      • lwblogger2

        Very good point… In a situation like that all that has to be said is “You come on in here and see what happens.” It’s even best delivered without much raising of voices and in a calm manner. Rizzo didn’t get into the dugout or else I think we would have seen him get a pretty well deserved butt-whoopin’.

      • WVRedlegs

        I’m not saying that someone should have laid out Rizzo, even though he deserved such. But I would have liked to have seen more of the Reds players get up on that top step of the dugout and point him back to first base. I’d like to see more desire and fire from the Reds players.
        There is a reason Kristopher Negron became a fan favorite last season, even though he is no star player. He didn’t hit .300. But the fans loved the way he played. Can we say that about every Reds player?

      • lwblogger2

        Negron is a high-energy guy. He’s fun to watch play. Fans, Reds’ fans in particular, do love scrappy guys. I guess it’s a matter of the kind of person you are. I am guessing that you’d probably be one of the guys on the top step, and you’re probably a bit more vocal than someone like me. I’m more a quiet voice, big stick kind of guy. So, some of this debate, I’m sure is just a matter of personality type in general. I think the Reds have more of the laid back types than guys who are wound a bit more tightly. It doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t have each others’ backs but at times it may not appear they do. Maybe, they need a little more balance with a couple guys who are wound a little more tightly and are more vocal in their leadership? Maybe that’s what people are getting at who say the Reds have leadership issues?

  16. User1022

    I wonder what Votto would have to say about the “accountability” issue.

    We all watched this team last year. We all saw half hearted effort, mental lapses and just general lackadaisical play (to say nothing of the TOOTBLANs).

    Isn’t holding othes accountable a sign of leadership? Can we all agree, regardless of what happened behind the scenes, we did not see that on the field?

    Just something to think about.

    • ManuelT

      I agree that the seeming abundance of past mental errors might be a sign of weak leadership, starting with the manager. Also, that time Phillips went off on the reporter in front of Baker and the unwillingness to bat him lower in the order because he might be upset. Chapman’s unwillingness (in contrast to Iglesias) to do what’s best for the team by being open to new roles. Would these things (and there’s more I could have listed) have happened if there was strong leadership?

    • lwblogger2

      There are some very valid points with what you and ManuelT are saying.

  17. Yippee

    We may be thanking Latos for these comments in a few months…if it galvonizes the Reds into taking an “us against the world” mentality….everyone’s expectations are pretty low for this team this season, we may be in for a surprise! Love Votto’s comments, btw, he always gives a good interview and I think this pretty much cements his place as Reds captain (even if he doesn’t have the “C” on his chest).

  18. Jeremy Conley

    I don’t think that it is the player’s responsibility to lead the team. Obviously, every single human has some amount of leadership/charisma, and most baseball teams are going to have some guys that are natural leaders and lots of guys that aren’t. But that’s not what they are hired to do. They are just hired to play baseball well.

    When Latos was talking about the leadership void that was created when Rolen left, the thing that I kept thinking was, where was Dusty? Why was it such a big deal when an aging third-baseman retired? Why wasn’t the guy who is paid to lead up to the task?

    Last year, with Arroyo leaving, I thought the same thing about Price. Here are quotes from Price this spring:

    “At times I made some decisions based on what was best for an individual.”

    “Making sure our best team is on the field is what’s most important, not getting caught up with being the fairest manager of all time. Because I really appreciate the hard work our players put in, it was easy for me to (think), these guys deserve playing time.”

    I think it’s clear he was talking about guys like Hoover and Cozart, who got chance after chance despite terrible numbers. But whoever it was that he was talking about, he is basically saying that he didn’t want to hurt guys feelings and so played worse players than he had to at times. Another way of saying that is that he didn’t hold his players accountable and showed poor leadership skills.

    So the Reds manager has all but come out and said that he didn’t do a good job leading the team last year. I guess to me, that’s where the conversation about leadership on the Reds starts and ends. Clearly the Reds lacked leadership last year, because the guy they hired to lead the team said he didn’t do a good job of that.

    • ManuelT

      I agree that it has to start with the manager.

    • lwblogger2

      I think you’re extrapolating meaning from things that he said and are coming to conclusions that are possibly right but might not be. That said, your general premise of it starting with Price with spot on in my opinion.

      • Jeremy Conley

        I don’t want to say that Price was a terrible leader or anything just because of the statements he made. But I don’t really see there being any way to interpret what he said as meaning anything other that that he did not always put the best team on the field because some guys deserved to play because of their hard work.

        If your manager states that he did not play the best team because he was trying to be fair, how else can you interpret that other than it was a failure of leadership?

      • lwblogger2

        Mostly I was talking about your naming of specific players. The failure of leadership on the part of the manager I was and am in full agreement with.

      • Jeremy Conley

        Gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. I don’t know what players it was, but based on his comments it has to be players that weren’t performing well, so those were decent guesses.

  19. Tom Reed

    In the highly competitive environment of a ML team, I also think that leadership starts with the manager. It’s his responsibility to set the objectives, goals, and what he wants done in each game. I also like to see a manager talk to his coaches and players in the dugout, which can make for a more cohesive team effort and establish the manager as the leader.

  20. Vanessa Galagnara

    All the talk matters not. Just wins and losses. There is no stat for leadership or moral so they dont matter in the baseball world.