What Does $225 Million in Baseball Get You?


The focal point of recent Reds fodder? Joey Votto and his $225 million contract. And it’s not good fodder, not like it was. Back in 2010, most of us were hugging our Joey Votto jerseys on our couch, rocking back and forth, sending thoughts and prayers to any baseball god that would listen. Please give Bob Castellini either the stones or the funds necessary to Occupy Joey Votto.

No really, there was a Twitter handle created for the sole purpose of demonstrating the overwhelming support and admiration fans had for their 2010 MVP. @VottoOccupied – they still around?

But it’s August 6th. The All Star Break has come and gone and Joey Votto is sitting on 52 RBI. And like that, the fans of Cincinnati have turned on Votto faster than Carlos Ortiz did Aaron Hernandez. Check out some of these bits of baseball insight:

Proof that I’m not making this up. To be candid, it’s mildly embarrassing for a city that’s known for its baseball.  This may truly be the most misguided criticism of a professional athlete ever witnessed on the Ohio River.

July 22, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) scores against San Francisco Giants catcher

Buster Posey

(28) during the fourth inning at AT

First, define what it means to not be worth the millions you’re making. You’ve heard of Alex Rodriguez. No reason to really expand upon that anecdote. That’s what it means to literally be wasting millions. But a more realistic example: Albert Pujols, previous owner of the NL Central first base crown before Votto’s Coup d’état in 2010.

For $16 million, the Angels get a .248 BA, 17 HR’s an OBP of .330; and yes, 64 RBI.

Another Angel, Josh Hamilton will command $17 million this year. For the same kind of coin the Reds are paying Votto, the Angels get a .221 batting average, 14 HR’s, a .276 OBP and 51 RBI.

The Angels are 51-60.

Joey Votto is making $17 million this year. For $17 million, the Reds enjoy a .321 batting average (the only Red hitting above .300), the #2 OBP in all of baseball (.438), 17 HR (as many as Pujols) and yes, 52 RBI. And at 52 RBI, your eyes stop. The number magically morphs into a giant middle finger that just jumps off the monitor and into the faces of anyone not making $17 million this year. Because that’s at the root of seemingly every drive-by criticism of the Reds’ best offensive player.

He’s #2 in OBP, in all of baseball, and you don’t care. But a high OBP means he’s a base runner, which means he’s eligible to score runs, which is the only method physically possible to win a baseball game. The Reds have to score more runs than the other guys. Don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that the Reds have the pitching necessary to limit damage of other teams, but do they have the offense necessary to shoot it out, with say, an American League team, or the Cardinals?

I don’t think they can. If they’re going to win a series featuring those teams, it won’t be because of offense. But despite an outstanding rotation that boasts baseball’s 4th best ERA, the Reds have to find ways to cross the plate. Right? We acknowledge this isn’t a great offensive team because it’s so prone to painfully long slumps, but there are two beacons of consistency that have enabled the Reds to score the runs necessary to be sitting at 61-5 and in possession of the NL’s final Wild Card: Joey Votto, your $17 million fraud, and Shin-Soo Choo. Joey’s crossed the plate 76 times, Choo 73.

Just for fun – what do you think Shoo’s going to cost next year? He has 35 RBI this season.

Brandon Phillips, the RBI King, bats behind not one, but two of baseball’s top 3 OBP-ers.  Because of that, he has 83 RBI, is slated to crush his record for RBI in a season and is in no way involved in talks about wasting money.

March 2, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter

Adam Dunn

(32) sits in the dugout before a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Reds are 12th in baseball in runs scored. Where would they be without Joey Votto’s 76? What about games like the decisive game two of the most recent series with Pittsburgh in Cincinnati? Votto came to the plate late with bases loaded. He works a walk. One run scores. The Reds would escape with a one-run victory, which ensured the series victory. Isn’t this what you pay your best guys for? The moment? If it’s all about RBI and home runs for your best hitter, why aren’t more fans begging for an Adam Dunn homecoming?

From 2001 to 2008, Adam Dunn quickly went from fan favorite to one of the most despised Reds at that time. Griffey and Dunn were the faces of a lost era that many Reds fans still struggle to talk about. But how soon we forget the criticism from those days. While Adam Dunn was constantly raking 40 plus home runs,driving in over 100 RBI and making $13 million, the Reds were getting comfortable in 4th, 5th, sometimes 6th place.

By no means would I even suggest he was the reason the Reds were so dastardly in those days.  But do we honestly forget the criticism of Dunn? Master of the Solo Shot. Not an ounce of clutch in his body. Strikes out more than anyone else in baseball. Remember how little fans cared about his RBI and home runs when the season ended ever year after September?

Maybe not, it’s been a while. Here’s a refresher: Dunn’s banking $15 million this year and fans are hissed about his OBP, batting average and amount of strike outs. Winning in baseball isn’t cheap, and runs, as you should well know, are not easy to come by.

What does $225 million ensure you? If it buys you the National League’s #1 creator of runs, on a team that struggles to manufacture them, is that enough to validate Bob’s checkbook?