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Joey Votto plays chess, as well he should; this is a game ofΒ  visualization, patience, and evaluation, all requirements for a good first baseman and, indeed, an elite batter. But Votto didn’t sign the most long-ranging contract in this baseball team’s history for his skills with a glove. He was brought on board for the long-term in expectation of creating many happy events with his bat. This he has done.

But the Reds were blessed far more than they imagined with Votto– packed down, shaken together, and spilling over. No doubt they wanted a clubhouse leader, and they got one—one who stays out of jail, waves to the folks at Redsfest, and keeps his trap shut regarding the steady downward spiral of his team.

So it should surprise no one that he stepped into spring training having adroitly read the room. Rather than resenting the exasperation for the home nine, he endeavored to Win Fans and Influence Twitter Comments:

I don’t mean to suggest here that Votto is a politician or that he doesn’t mean what he says. He has every reason in the world to back up a dump truck of complaints upon his bosses– what are they going to do, fire him in the final year of his contract?– but it cannot have missed noticing that the first thought most Reds fans have when they hear his name is “That man got robbed.”

Indeed, the replies to Votto’s comments took to task not his fading batting average, but the constant construction zone in which he managed to build a career. The man came of age dodging the orange cones of a never-ending rebuild.

Most apologized to him for feeling that he had to apologize (this is what happens when you stick a Canadian in the Midwest for fifteen years) and assured him that they understood the complexity of the situation. Some even encouraged him to go elsewhere once his contract is done– a good team, a Moneyball team, one that has social media ads ready to go for the playoffs.

One was particularly blunt: “They had a real window,” he said, and now it’s gone. Votto will reiterate that he’s grateful just to have had a life as a Major League baseball player. But the sudden fits and starts of management and ownership have left him just about the only guiding star left in the organization. And someday soon, his teammates will have orient themselves to another true north.

With little to hope for, the fan base has tried turning away from the gate, renting billboards, and complaining in general. It’s our only move, and it hasn’t worked at all– but we have no other option.

The actual team is offered many more options for action, and Jonathan India has chosen open combat. He will fight. He texted position players to nudge them into showing up early for spring training at a time when Christmas decorations are still dangling from the roofs of Cincinnati. Some stayed home. But most of them came.

“Everyone (should have the) same mindset of competing every day no matter the outcome,” India told The Enquirer. He then pronounced this year’s team “scary.” With the injured Votto relegated to piecing together film noir-inspired videos about losing chess matches,, this is a fine testing ground for a 26 year old.

Some might say he simply hasn’t been ground down by the heavy exhaustion of feeling each team in the division sitting above him yet– but even if that’s the case, the man at least doesn’t seem to want to insult us. Which, if that’s our baseline, says a great deal about the absolute fourteener India must scale if he wants to turn this team around.

In the meantime, we wait. We have no other move.


17 Responses

  1. Mark Moore

    It’s sad that Joey won’t get a chance before he cashes in his chips. He’s a stand-up guy and that response you posted clearly shows that. He certainly could have deflected to the BobPhil Follies as they are a major fault in our would-be stars. But he owned it, just like we’ve come to expect. Perhaps India will follow in that path for as long as he wears Red. When our objectives include avoiding a 3-23 start and not losing 100 games, the bar is set low. But it’s our game and these are our Reds. For better or worse.

    Baseball is life, MBE. It really is. And I’m anxious to live a little.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Oh me too.
      No fan should approach Opening Day with a lining of dread.

  2. LDS

    Sad but true. Votto likely insured that the Reds don’t pick up his option for next year.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      He doesn’t strike me as the Tom Brady type– the kind who just cannot lay it down. He has other things in his life.

  3. Melvin

    “and keeps his trap shut regarding the steady downward spiral of his team.”

    He ought to get a medal for that alone. πŸ™‚ Ownership and fans alike should feel very fortunate to have Joey Votto on the Cincinnati Reds his entire awesome career. He really is “one of a kind”.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I feel like he’s the only adult in the entire city sometimes. He’s more mature about not having a ring than we are!

      • Melvin

        Yeah. You’re probably correct? πŸ™‚

    • TR

      I don’t see a steady downward spiral for the Reds considering their potential for starting pitching and the infield.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        I truly hope you’re right πŸ™‚ Maybe we will be pleasantly surprised.

  4. redfanorbust

    Hey Mary Beth nice article.
    Joey asked for no trade in his contract. I don’t know how mentally ready he was for a team like the Yankees or another major contending team. He has always seemed quite content, even though he did not like the losing of course, with a team like the Reds. I am pretty sure over the years management offered him a trade but he has said many times he is not going anywhere. So I don’t really feel bad for him specifically. I feel bad for him, his teammates and the fans who have had to endure ownerships who have not fielded a seriously contending team for over 30 years. Reds were smart/lucky to sign him like they did, it gave Reds fans some space to hang their hats on over the years. Here is hoping he has a (last?) good year with the Reds. As for India he seems to have the drive and talent now lets see if he can somehow flourish on a team like the Reds.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Seconded! His loyalty is commendable, and I have long said that if he chose a New York team, he’d be a media superstar. But he doesn’t want that. Even at such a tender age signing such a massive deal, he was aware of the kind of life he wanted to lead.

  5. MK

    As the accolades of a fine career continue, I hope that management doesn’t misread them as Carl Lindor did with Barry Larkin and keeps a washed-up player around an extra year or two because they think they are doing it for the fans. I was at the game when word was out that Barry had been traded to the Mets. The fans gave him a standing ovation in what would be his last Reds at bat. It was a very respectful thank you for what he had accomplished as a Red. Lindor misread it as oh please keep him, stopped the trade.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I hadn’t heard that! I do think Linder was more sentimental than current ownership… which is understandable from a Cincinnatian point of view, but it can really hurt the team, as we’ve seen.

      I think Votto is humble and realistic enough to know when it’s time. He has a lot of non-baseball interests.

  6. Daytonnati

    The fact that Joey will have finished his career here without ever playing in a World Series is tragic.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      It’s an embarrassment to the city and the team. No, championships don’t make the man, but the length of his contract gave ownership plenty of time to make a significant playoff run at least viable.

    • TR

      I don’t see it as tragic. Votto has given his all, been paid well, and has a ‘no trade’ clause in his contract.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        I agree that it’s not tragic and I have always greatly respected him for the no trade clause. He himself would agree with you that he’s had it pretty good πŸ™‚