I have worked diligently to avoid writing this article. There is little to be gained by the discussion and one of the best reasons to watch Reds baseball could be lost as a result of the contract negotiations surrounding one Joseph Daniel Votto and yet here we are.
Joey Votto is a challenge to read. He is a student of the game of baseball focused on mastering his craft at the expense of marketing his abilities to the adoring public. When you look across the Reds roster you see the varying personalities come out in the way they attempt to have themselves perceived. Brandon Phillips uses Twitter as his own marketing tool, his trivia contests result in good feelings across the Reds community when he flies a contest winner to whatever town the Reds are playing in to see the sights and the game. It rarely has a spontaneous feel to it but it is savvy marketing. Bronson Arroyo plays to his own tune, he is an artist in an aging athletes body and is unique for that reason. Jay Bruce is a growing into his role as the Reds superstar. I have felt for a while that 2012 could vault him into superstardom. If he can maintain his humble, laid back attitude, he could become a hero to a generation of Reds fans.
But Votto is an enigma. He has led the Reds to the Division title for the first time in over a decade. He has an MVP award on his mantle. Now he not only has a Gold Glove award, but with the departure of Albert Pujols, he has the possibility of locking up the award for the immediate future. He is low key, near impossible with his gaudy offensive statistics. Last season he did a segment on WLW called “Ask Joey”. It was an attempt to soften and humanize a player who attacks the game with machine-like precision and it worked for the most part. But here we are, just 13 months past the signing of his 3 year $38 million contract and the speculation is rampant across the country about who will sign Votto next or who the Reds will trade Votto too. Of course no one seems to believe Bob Castellini will allow Walt Jocketty enough budgetary rope to make another deal work. Let’s look at the speculation:
John Fay wrote in his Cincinnati.com blog that the Prince Fielder deal set the table for the negotiations with Votto. He speculates that the Reds might go as far as to offer a deal with similar monetary commitments just not as long term as the 9 year $214 million contract Fielder signed. The most revealing comment in this article was when Fay recalled a comment Votto made in his presence regarding the spotlight. He said Votto once commented “that the only athlete in L.A. who gets any real attention is Kobe Bryant”. This was his reasoning for suggesting LA as a good fit for Votto to get paid but avoid the spotlight of New York or Boston or even hometown Toronto where I would imagine Joey would be under the most intense microscope of all.
Major League Baseball Trade Rumors suggests that the time is ripe for Joey to sign a new extension now that the dust has settled around the departures of Pujols and Fielder’s from the NLC division. Using numbers that seem to make a lot of sense to me, Ben Nicholson-Smith writes that Votto should generate at least $161 million over 7 years. A contract that would extend Joey to 36 years of age. That seems a wise decision on the part of the Reds to make a deal of that nature.
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune, in ranking the teams leading up to the 2012 season opener, counseled Toronto to be patient for another couple of years before they would land the big prize. He simply opines that because they want him, they will get him.
Finally, last Friday ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield wrote that 6 teams will chase Votto and Cincinnati is not one of them. The teams he mentioned are the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Mariners, and Rangers. I must admit the inclusion of the Blue Jays, Dodgers, and Rangers makes sense to me. Toronto, for the same reason bringing Ken Griffey Jr. made sense for Cincinnati and that did not work out as planned. The Dodgers need to counteract the Albert effect across town and I have to believe whoever the new ownership group becomes, they will want a splashy announcement to drive attendance. The Rangers like competing, and this kind of a deal would help accomplish that goal. Also the momentary relapse of Josh Hamilton over the weekend may seem like a small bump in the road but it could send the Rangers front office seeking cover in the form of Votto without the character questions that Hamilton will automatically draw to mind. I dismiss the Mariner’s because I just don’t see them making a long term commitment to anyone. The Cardinals do not strike me as a stupid team and for them to sign Votto to a long term deal while letting Pujols walk seems a foolish way to toy with their fan base. The Cubs do offer a number of positives for a player of Votto’s nature, but would not fulfill his desire to remain a baseball player rather than a celebrity.
Finally, I offer my best argument for the Reds and Votto returning to the table in 2013 to work out a new deal. Both the Fox Broadcasting TV deal and the ESPN Sunday Night TV deal will expire in 2013 meaning sometime between now and then a new contract will be hammered out. This deal will mean ownership groups will have more money to negotiate deals as I am certain any new deal for broadcasting rights will involve significantly more money than any deal signed in 2006.
I do not want the Reds to sign a deal that does not allow them to secure a strong supporting cast for whoever the star player or players are. The Griffey deal was exciting for a moment then we realized that with it the Reds did not have the ability to sign the players needed to win games before Jr. was injured.
In John Fay’s article, John also said this about Joey Votto. “He’s (a) different cat, i.e., he doesn’t think like your average player. While I’m sure he wants to get paid fairly, I think he’ll weigh a lot of other factors as well.” Consider this, according to Wikipedia Joey Votto, a student of the game, has a dog named Maris. Seems I have read the story about the 1961 season where another media shy superstar tried to avoid the spotlight while chasing destiny. It is easier to hide from the spotlight in Cincinnati than in LA or Toronto or Chicago.
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