The circus recently came to the comments section of my second favorite Reds blog (the first being Redleg Nation, of course). It was littered with Clowns, Freaks, and even a guy that could “effectively” predict every move needed to make the Reds World Series champions. The Clowns talked about how “washed up” and “overpaid” Joey Votto is. They talked about “trading” him and “releasing” him. They even talked about how Joey Votto is “one of the worst hitters in baseball” and how he needs to “swing the *expletive* bat” – even if the pitch is 10 feet outside the strike zone.
I got tired of hanging out with the Clowns so I strolled over to Twitter (I know – more clowns, right?). There I found (among the Clowns) some Apologists. The Apologists were talking about the 30 games before the Reds last 10 games where Joey Votto hit around .300. They were still talking about the month of June and the year 2017. The Apologists were talking about how he’s on pace to hit more home runs this year than last year. They were even gloating over the fact that Votto recently had two hits in a game – a game in which he took a close strike 3 looking…in the 9th inning…with two outs…and two men on base…where they were losing 3-1. The Apologists were grasping for straws and squeezing the positive out of every Joey Votto criticism thrown their way.
The Apologists and the Clowns have come out in full force this season. Joey Votto has become the most polarizing player on a team with more characters than a Dr. Seuss book. The guy that was once known as “boring” has been the cause of Civil War between Reds fans. Simply put – is Joey Votto good or not?
The answer is yes and no.
Joey Votto isn’t as good as he once was. This is a fact. Over his last 236 games (2018 and 2019) he is down (sometimes significantly) in pretty much every major offensive statistical category. His OPS over that time of .799 is down from his 2007–2017 OPS of .969. Votto isn’t hitting as much, he isn’t walking as much, and he isn’t hitting for as much power.
Joey Votto isn’t the worst player in the league – or even on his own team. This is also a fact. Votto ranks 5th in the National League in average and 10th in OPS for first baseman when looking at that same 2018–2019 time window. When expanding that lens to include all position players in the National League, Joey Votto ranks 31st in the entire league in OPS over the past two seasons (sitting right above J.T. Realmuto, funny enough). He is also in the top 25 in average. Joey Votto is surely not the worst player in the league. He’s been arguably one of the best 25 players in the National League over the past two seasons.
I understand the frustrations from the Clowns and the stubbornness from the Apologists. Many of the Clowns have become so accustomed to a Votto-like season that they lose perspective on what decent or above average actually looks like. I also get why an Apologist may grasp for any kind of positive they can muster up. It’s hard to see such a beloved player for some struggle at times the way that Joey Votto recently has. Many of us are still holding out hope that the Votto of old will eventually walk through those GABP doors.
How far apart the Apologists and Clowns sit on the spectrum between Joey Votto being good and bad is what can be ridiculous at times. It’s tiresome and embarrassing to hear the Clowns constantly complain about how bad Joey Votto is – especially when he is realistically only a fraction as bad as they make him out to be. Likewise, it can be frustrating and hopeless when mentioning that Joey Votto is MAYBE not as good as he once was to an Apologist. When it comes down to it, the Apologists and Clowns aren’t being fair to themselves or Joey Votto.
I think deep down we all know that the Joey Votto over the past couple of years is comparable to the guy we’re going to get from here on out. Some ups, some downs, and a lot of average. About as good as you can expect from an aging 35-year-old first baseman. A guy who’s decline is comparable to fellow MVP Miguel Cabrera’s and Albert Pujol’s decline. In a sense – the norm.
We’re getting a guy who’s not nearly as bad as the Clowns make him out to be but not really as good as the Apologists want him to be – somewhere in the middle.
Clowns and Apologists – come meet me somewhere in the middle.
Former Joey Votto Apologist, signing off.