Now that Joey Votto is safely back in the bosom of the Reds lineup, it’s interesting to watch when he vanishes and when he’s there. “I just want to help the team,” he says every time he’s asked about how he’s doing. “I just want to contribute.”
He came in hot, and then he slumped. Then he didn’t. Now we don’t know if he’s going to give us a strikeout or a walk or 5 home runs in a game. Maybe he doesn’t either. Then again, the whole team is rolling on this slam-rutted road. They’re in first place; their closest competition is the Stupid Cubs. Fan attendance has fluctuated accordingly.
These peculiar starts of Votto’s– along with his propensity to vanish in the last third of a game, replaced by a speedy baserunner– have not at all dampened his determination to cement this new dimension of personality of his; the talkative one, the slightly mad one, the one who leaves autographed items for fans to find and keep for themselves… but only if they send him proof of sharing the bounty with someone else.
He does this via videos on Instagram that are only available for 24 hours. Last week he posted a photo of a man walking on the Suspension Bridge, Votto jersey on his back. Votto instructed the fan to identify himself so that he could leave him free tickets. “Thanks for your support,” he said.
But is this a goodbye tour, or simply an extension of Votto’s recently revealed wacky side, formerly shown only in the clubhouse? When asked if he would throw in for a contract extension, he responds that he will see how he plays. If he– the man loves this word– “contributes.”
On the whole, he has– even with teammates who were born the year he was drafted. He name-drops Fresca and participates in elaborate celebration rituals with Elly De La Cruz, age 21. He is, after all, young and hip. The grizzled veteran and the call-up sensation are friends, and the entire situation has a full circle finality about it.
No one knows what to expect out of this team on a game-to-game basis, let alone series to series or through the final days of the season. These are men who swept the Diamondbacks and then were pretty much immediately swept by the Nationals. It’s a minute-to-minute existence. I suppose this is what my family endured when the hormones came for me in the middle of 7th grade.
We Just Have to Find It
So maybe Votto is, too, existing minute-to-minute and waiting to discover how his body, by then 40 years old, rests and regenerates over the off-season. We’ve been focusing almost quite a bit on the cringey circumstance that Votto will likely retire without any kind of ring at all. But if he’s going to go out, perhaps it’s fitting that we send him down the road having ridden a careening, runaway horse rather than plodding slowly and silently into a last-place-and-always-last-place the sunset.
I do know he’s been tossing more and more goodies into bushes around Cincinnati; every day he adds another item to the bag. Today was a bobblehead. It was the first one he’d signed this season, he said. You can understand how they’d all blend together.
We don’t know what the next item is. Votto rarely shows his face in these increasingly lengthy hint videos, but the one constant is that he keeps throwing in more and more. He’s giving all he has to give.