The #19 may not currently be enshrined in the Reds Hall of Fame, or yet be retired, but at the end of Joey Votto’s legendary, massive contract, it certainly will be.
Receiving the fourth largest contract in Major League history, Votto’s 10-year, $240 million deal runs until he turns 40 years old, and may in fact, be a bargain. As our resident columnist Cory Collins pointed out yesterday, teams are in fact, paying anywhere from $5-6 million per win in today’s culture of baseball. Votto has averaged a WAR (according to baseball-reference.com) of 6.4 over the past four seasons, exceeding even the astronomical $25 million that Votto is slated to make per season in the coming years.
Crash landing onto the scene at just the right time at the conclusion of the 2007 campaign, Votto batted .321 over just 24 games, but established himself as the go-to man at first base for the coming future.
In his debut season, Votto was robbed of the National League’s Rookie of the Year trophy from now journeyman catcher, Geovany Soto. Soto had held down the catching position for the division rival Cubs, but has certainly not had a fraction of the career Votto has established. Additionally, it was the only season in which Votto has not hit .300 in his professional career with the Reds. (He batted .297)
Not many fans could have projected the meteoric rise that would come about following even another impressive 2009 season. Votto played third base and caught during his season at rookie ball, before ultimately settling in at first base. When the Reds drafted Yonder Alonso and his powerful bat, the questions immediately arose of where Votto would play. At multiple stops along the way, Votto had experimented in left field, and was notably not the most fleet of foot over at first. The decision caused a high level wariness within the organization as Votto was becoming the franchise cornerstone, and moving him from his spot could be detrimental to the club. As the story goes, Alonso was eventually swapped in a blockbuster trade in order to acquire Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres.
After the 2010 season, Votto had cemented his spot among the game’s elite. Along with launching 37 homeruns, he led the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. Since that season, Votto has led the league in on-base percentage every year since, topping out at .474 in 2012.
The past few seasons have equated to dubious amounts of scrutiny for the highest paid player in the history of the organization. Due to the girth of the contract, Votto is expected to performance at an even higher level than he had previously. If Votto were to consistently stay the same player over the remainder of his contract, it would ultimately be worth every cent, as long as the Canadian star brings a World Championship or two to the Queen City.
Coming off his torn meniscus in 2012, there were legitimate concerns about the health of a knee that Votto clearly favored both when running the bases, and sliding. In defiance, Votto went on to lead the league in games played (all 162) and overall plate appearances (726), showing his longevity and lack of ailment.
But he walks too much. If I had a nickel for every time someone stated that about the player with the best eye since Ted Williams, I’d have a whole lot of nickels. It is without question that Votto draws a whole ton of walks. In fact, he has led the league the past three seasons with 2013 producing a whopping 135 base on balls. What is interesting is that throughout the throngs of history, batters that have drawn substantial amounts of walks, have been robust sluggers who can mash baseballs 450 feet at the blink of an eye. In actuality, that is not Joey Votto.
Votto hit a career-high 37 homeruns in 2010, way before he had changed his entire approach at the plate. As he himself has stated multiple times, his goal when stepping in the box is to “not make an out.” Thankfully, the Reds lineup has some competent individuals in Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce, who have a track record of being able to drive in runners, batting behind Votto. Should Votto be playing for the Astros, or even the miserable Cubs, his approach may have to become different. The legendary tales of Joe DiMaggio reaching outside the strike zone on 3-0 pitches during his immortal 56-game hitting streak, are long over.
There was no doubt who would be receiving the #19 award for best to slip on red. Votto has single-handedly transformed a culture of accepting losing, to one attempting to bring a title back to the Queen City.
He has persevered through losing his father, being a below average defensive first baseman, and becoming one of the richest men to ever play the young boys game. Joey Votto may be a Canadian, but he personifies Cincinnati to the core. He was never interested in leaving for the big city and bright lights. More than anything, people should be able to tell that Votto wants to win a championship for an organization that has given him so much. Rather than throwing stones at our Superman, Reds fans need to embrace the greatness of a player that may go down in history as one of the best first baseman to ever play the game.