The last time Joey Votto was in the Cincinnati Reds lineup was back on July 5. The last time he hit a home run? May 10. It has been a living nightmare for Joey Votto in 2014, with seemingly nothing going the way he planned. Which is why it is time to look towards 2015.
In a small to medium market like Cincinnati, the unfortunate truth is that not every superstar can stick around for the entirety of their career. This issue will once again pop up next winter when Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake all have their contracts expire at the same time, putting intense pressure on the Reds front office to figure out who they want back—and who they can afford to bring back.
Even during a season that he has only played 62 games (most of which have been impacted by his injury), Votto is still showing signs of his superstar ability. For the first time since 2009, someone other than Joey Votto will lead the league in on-base percentage, although his is a still gaudy .390. His string of four straight All-Star Game appearances and top-15 MVP finishes will also come to a close, signifying what Reds fans all already knew: we are witnessing the evolution of Joey Votto.
It was back in 2009 when Votto exploded to begin the season, just to head to the disabled list as he battled anxiety and depression surrounding his father’s death. In a time of unbelievable grief and heartache, even what Votto may be best at seemed not to matter. The game was put in perspective.
Fast-forward five years later and Votto has gone from a young Canadian prospect, to a quarter-of-a-billion dollar man who is now the face of Cincinnati professional sports. He has survived rumors of switching positions, a miserable Postseason in 2010, two knee surgeries in 2012 just to get back for the Playoffs and demolish San Francisco pitching, and now, more health concerns.
On the surface, the concept of the more money a player makes, the harder he should play at all times is a logical one. Much like the belief that socialism is plausible, this theory is significantly flawed.
The issue came to a head this past off-season when former New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano hit the open market and virtually demanded a king’s ransom (and then some) for his services. The Yankees were willing to pay him a hefty price, but there were whispers that many within the Bronx Bombers did not want to pay a player who loafs down the first base line that much money.
Turn on a Reds game in the past three years and when Joey Votto hits a groundball at an infielder, he is not exactly turning on the burners. While the fact that he makes more money than anyone else on the club by leaps and bounds probably should mean that he has to hustle harder than all 24 other players, but it actually means quite the opposite.
Compare the concept to a right fielder diving headlong into a cement wall for one fly ball. Or a pitcher attempting to catch a pop-up and potentially flipping over the dugout fence. For just one play, one out, the loss of Votto is not so important. There have been multiple occasions where the fielder has gone on to bobble the ball and appear to allow Votto to sneak in safely, just to still be thrown out. While the frustration from a fan base can boil over at that time, it is during summers like this that fans will be begging Joey just to jog down to first.
Without question, this will be Joey Votto’s least productive Major League season. Even during his 2008 rookie campaign in which he was jilted of the award (Geovany Soto, anyone?), he clobbered 24 home runs and drove in 84 runs while batting .297.
The beauty (or some may see it as horror) of the Votto narrative is this: he will be a Cincinnati Red until the conclusion of the 2023 season. That may be a frightening thought to some. For me, it will mean having a player I watched as a kid in middle school still be playing for the same club when I turn 30 years old.
As supremely talented as the frontline of this roster was heading into 2014, things have not worked out. The unfortunate truth is that this happens yearly around baseball, but it is so rare in the Queen City for a Reds club to come so highly touted just to struggle to finish .500.
Rushing Votto back for the remaining 31 games is a meaningless ploy. The cornerstone of the franchise has another 10 seasons to play in white and red, he absolutely has to be healthy in order for the Reds to be successful; this season has shown that.
When healthy, Joey Votto may be the best player in the National League. If he is to play down the stretch, not even a healthy Votto could dig the Reds out of the ditch they have placed themselves in, let alone an injured one.
It may be the difficult, white flag waving decision, but Joey Votto should not play his next baseball game until 2015.