Before the chicken-dancing, there came the betrayal.

Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez were traded March 14. Joey Votto appeared on social media on March 22, and the Reds were more than happy to tell you all about this.

I strongly doubt there’s a giant conspiracy afoot here. You’ve met this front office. They’re not tremendously good at cleaning up their own messes.

What these events do tell us is that, entertaining and amusing as Votto is, the fact is that this season’s highlight is likely a video of him in a golf cart singing “Mockingbird” with two spring training staffers. After 153 years of existence, your Reds are no longer simply leaning on their first baseman’s bat and clubhouse leadership. They’re desperately in need of his dentist chair selfies as well. We could do worse.

The little writing Votto has done online reveals, as expected, a heavy reader who understands how words and commas work together as tools of communication. He’s posting sad-face emojis when Joe Burrow asks if he isn’t a little old to be on TikTok. He’s high-kicking past the Eiffel Tower (the actual one, not the somewhat-smaller version in Warren County.) There is dancing, coordinated dancing, dancing that requires original choreography, several takes, and a great deal of rehearsal.

What are we to make of this?

The Grand Takeover

In a podcast with Jim Day, taped before his account went live, Votto mentioned that he was thinking about joining social media. I’m not saying that Votto purposely rushed to the Gram with chicken dance videos to soothe and distract a furious fan base. I’m saying that the Reds signaled pre-defeat on March 14 and that Joey Votto instituted his grand takeover of all social media on March 22, that’s all.

Frankly, I don’t care how it happened. The Joey Votto virtual world has been created, and it is good. Twitter and TikTok followed upon Instagram, and when we feel too sad about having the worst record in a baseball season that’s all of two weeks old, we can watch Votto dancing in the Braves clubhouse on an endless loop.

Original media output from Joey Votto is most welcome. He is thoughtful. He is funny in a way that only smart people are funny. And after years of keeping a newcomer’s respectful silence, his 2020 interview with Day revealed that he isn’t a standoffishperson, merely managing anxiety and reluctant to reflect poorly on his team.

In the wake of that interview, this is what I wrote:

We pieced together what we could. Given his expansive vocabulary and penchant for complete sentences when Votto did speak, we suspected high intelligence; there was scattered evidence of a screwball sense of humor. He’d lay low for months and months and then show up on national television in a Mounties uniform. Nothing but highly guarded sentences would suddenly give way to fake-pumping foul balls into opposition crowds. He screamed at umpires, but rarely put his name in for general autograph sessions; he was among the first out of the dugout in a fight, then did his best to calm the waters. This is not a shy person.

But this is a complicated person.

Most intelligent people are. Joey Votto, in a larger market and with a louder voice, would have easily become a pop culture phenomenon. He’d have hosted Saturday Night Live–assuming doing so were still relevant–and appeared in smirky commercials with Martha Stuart. He’d make cameo appearances in Farrelly brothers movies. He’d do brunch.

Such a thing could still happen, assuming Votto would like his life’s course to unfold as such. But, as he said to Day, that’s not why he put his phone on selfie mode: “I just keep thinking about the gripes about baseball not being fun, and there’s ways to connect two separate things.” He mentioned wanting to reach the youths he mentors. It was an extremely Votto-like conclusion.

Joey Votto These Days

There are grumblings that Votto’s debut on the socials is evidence that the old guy knows he’s not getting a ring, so he might as well eff it all and give himself over to the likes and the shares (his DMs are open, ladies!) Well, why not. Who has earned it more assiduously? Why shouldn’t this man launch himself into a pending retirement with a celebration of Haiku Poetry Day?

These are mostly reactions from non-Cincinnati media, who express surprise that our first baseman knows how to put a sentence together: “This guy is suddenly the most interesting man in baseball. Who knew?” Well, we did, but you didn’t care to pay attention. Because he wasn’t on Instagram.

“That’s Joey Votto these days,” said the commentators on ESPN’s coverage of the Red’s first game (if it didn’t happen here, it’s not Opening Day.) They mentioned Votto’s decision to get a tattoo in Brazil with an artist who wouldn’t tell him what it would look like before firing up the needle. They said he was out on the field early during warmups, working on defense.

That’s not Joey Votto “these days.” That’s Joey Votto always–fascinating, hardworking. This isn’t news. This is just Votto being Votto, only with an iPhone in his face.

Temps and College Brochures

Joey Votto is running out of time. At no moment, ironically, was this more apparent as the Bengals approached the Super Bowl.  I mentioned the contrast of his career with Burrow’s a couple weeks ago:

You have to wonder about the thoughts and emotions of Votto, who came semi-close to smelling the night air of October a couple of times, as he watched Joe Burrow sweep in here and throw his football and smoke his cigar and in twenty-four months get his trip to the big dance.

If Joe Burrow’s Bengals career were measured in child development years, he’d be a toddler, pacifier and blankie, still not old enough for preschool. Joey Votto, on the other hand, has been with the Reds long enough to be a junior in high school. He’s got his temps and started getting college brochures last month.

Over the tenure of Votto’s residency, we have come to know this guy, or at least we know him better than we did–but on his terms. And that’s understandable. (Will Smith just texted me. He agrees.)

“I also can’t wait to share each and every one of my meals,” Votto deadpanned in his Instagram introduction. These posts are throwaway, brain-surface stuff, and he knows it. They are not the full measure of him as a man or as an athlete.

Joey Votto is on social media solely because it is in the service of baseball. He expressed to Day his misgivings about becoming the center of attention as a social issues commentator, perhaps alluding to photographs of him in a Black Lives Matter shirt during batting practice: “I don’t want to drag the average fan down with reality,” he said. “And I’ve certainly done that in the past.” He has become aware of the importance of time, place, and consistency.

Playing Catch

We are blessed with a man who understands that the very understitching of baseball–the simple act of playing catch–is a two-way operation. It is impossible to play catch alone; it requires interaction with another human being.

“You have to make eye contact,” he pointed out to Day. “You have to be considerate when you’re playing catch. You have to serve the other person when you’re playing catch… and the other person feels that.”

And so now Joey Votto is lobbing us photos of himself with his mother and holding his right hand in the air at his naturalization ceremony. He is making eye contact with us in the way we make eye contact these days. But no, as he indicated to Jim Day, it’s not for the Gram.

“I love baseball,” he said.

21 Responses

  1. LDS

    Sorry MBE, but JV on social media doesn’t do a thing for those of us more interested in winning baseball games than seeing its stars make themselves the center of attention. I’d respect Votto more if he’d stayed off social media and hit more baseballs. In fact, if he doesn’t start hitting soon, I’d respect him even more if he simply said “enough is enough, I’m out of here”.

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      Why do you hate people having fun?

      • LDS

        I don’t. But it’s a poor substitute for performance.

    • CFD3000

      Votto is by all accounts one of the hardest working players in baseball, and has been for many years. There is zero question in my mind based on his past behavior and years of interview answers that his first and highest priority is performance on the baseball field, and he would not be on social media if that detracted from his ability to hit a baseball hard and far even a tiny bit. I may be wrong but I strongly suspect that Votto will find his groove and hit very well this year, again, at age 38 and in defiance of the “decline phase”. And posting on social media will not impact that any more than the time he spends eating meals, getting haircuts, or playing chess. I live and die by Reds success as a team and as individual players. I can do that and still enjoy a Joey Votto mic’d up interview, Instagram post, or citizenship tweet. Votto is a fine representative of the Reds and Cincinnati on and off the field. I expect we’ll say the same of Jonathan India, Hunter Greene, Tyler Stephenson and other young Reds. So thanks for your insights Mary Beth. I for one appreciate them, as I so often do!

  2. centerfield

    I enjoyed reading the article. I am not giving up on Votto just yet. 150 games still to be played. My take on the social media thing, is that Joey is trying to deflect from the trainwreck this season has become. I cancelled my Reds viewing packages, but I may pack a lunch and go see a game or two this year.

  3. Rut

    Yikes, not sure one has anything to do with the other. Frankly, any more Joey Votto access we get is pretty interesting; not like he has interns controlling his account and making product placement references for cash.

    While I can be a cranky old dude myself, that take screams way too much “get off my lawn” vibes…

    And, fwiw, the best part is that Joey took it upon himself to become a citizen of the USA. That requires real effort and dedication, attributes we all know Joey has an abundance of.

    Congrats Mr. Votto! ?

  4. Daytonnati

    MB – if you haven’t already, there is a funny exchange on David Letterman’s Netflix Show, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction …” between Dave and his guest, Jerry Seinfield, about Joey Votto. It reinforces what we all believe.

    My nephew will always love Joey. Years ago, he washed cars as a summer job at a local Mercedes dealership while he was a student at UC. Joey tipped him $125. This was before the Big Contract.

  5. Rednat

    it is fun to see these long term players mature and develop as good citizens during the time as a red. we saw it with JB, Larkin and now Votto.

    the age old mythical scenario:- Bottom of the 9th, 7th game of the world series…2 outs… bases loaded… tie ballgame…. if you could choose any Red to be at the plate for this who would it be? Honestly Joey doesn’t even crack my top 20 choices. But dang, as far as his personality and presence he is definitely in the top 5

    • Doug Gray

      So you simply need someone to get on base to end the game and the guy who has led the league in getting on base 7 times isn’t one of the top 20 players in REDS history you’d pick? That seems like a very, very poor decision on your part.

      • Doug Gray

        To add: No Red in history has gotten on base at a higher rate than Joey Votto. He is currently tied with Joe Morgan at the top of the list with a .415 OBP.

      • LDS

        Perhaps so, but I’d certainly take my chances with Morgan first.

      • Daytonnati

        There you go, Doug, bringing logic into the discussion again 🙂

        Any of Joey, Morgan, Pete, or Tony and I’m good.

      • Rednat

        this is just going by memory. and i admit, I am old and my memory fails me often. But honestly the guy that i cannot remember failing me throughout his entire career was Davey Concepcion. he always seemed to come up with the big hit when we needed him to. Even well into his final years

  6. Mark Moore

    Joey is just good people. I know he’s battling right now and I have to believe he’ll find a way out of it. That extra short Spring Training didn’t help him or many others. Add to that he’s aging, and we get the picture. I’d be happier with him producing, but I also have the utmost respect for the guy. I don’t follow much social media like Insta and the like, so him being on those platforms doesn’t do much for me. But what I do see of him and his Mom, his US citizenship, etc. makes me smile. But I only smile until I see him overmatched once again at the plate.

    Thanks for another great offering, MBE. You continue to demonstrate how Baseball is Life in a major way.

  7. Votto4life

    Congratulations to Joey on becoming an American citizen!

  8. Leon E.

    I’m sorry, but Joey’s little stunt wearing the “Black Lives Matter” shirt to Batting Practice ruined him for me permanently. It shows a person who’s easily manipulated by media lies and gaslighting. And now that we have 2 years worth of context and information regarding George Floyd’s actual death (of which the cop had nothing to do with per the Autopsy, and even the full Body Cam footage giving full context), it makes him and “Black Lives Matter” look so much worse.

    And then to add even more fuel to the fire, his response of “I don’t want to drag the average fan down with reality”….What does that even mean?? What reality?? None of what he did was based in “Reality”. Cops are NOT going around finding innocent black people to execute for sport, but this what BLM and Joey Votto call “Reality”. So Smug, Condescending, and just plain Ignorant.

    He’s incredibly unlikeable and his attempts to be “quirky” are far too forced and aren’t the least bit organic.

    I have to admit that i’ll be very happy after he retires, and then I can comfortably follow the Reds again full time instead of checking in once a month out of curiosity.

    • Daytonnati

      “And now that we have 2 years worth of context and information regarding George Floyd’s actual death (of which the cop had nothing to do with per the Autopsy, and even the full Body Cam footage giving full context), it makes him and “Black Lives Matter” look so much worse.”

      I am not sure where you are getting your information? Derek Chauvin was found guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter by a jury of his peers. He later plead guilty to civil rights charges contributing to Mr Floyd’s death. If the cop had nothing to do with it, why is he in prison?

      I really enjoy RLN and detest bringing politics to the forum, but I felt that this statement had to be refuted.

    • CFD3000

      One of the very best things about Redleg Nation is that it is always civil, and there is a universal mutual respect across the community based on our shared appreciation of and fondness for the Cincinnati Reds franchise, teams and players. Out of respect for Doug Gray and the RLN community I won’t respond to this post in detail. But in my opinion this might be the single worst, fact free post I’ve ever read on RLN. Count me amongst those who vigorously disagree.