Cincinnati Reds: It’s time we as fans trust in Joey Votto

TORONTO, ON - MAY 31: A detailed view of the back of the jersey of Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 31: A detailed view of the back of the jersey of Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

Joey Votto is one of the most clutch hitters in Reds history.

“Why is Joey Votto leading off?” You’ve asked it. I’ve asked it. My peers have asked it. But I think Cincinnati Reds radio broadcaster Jeff Brantley answered it. “I think if you get Votto to the plate with Akiyama in scoring position, you win the ballgame right here,” The Cowboy asserted on Fox Sports Ohio, as Joey Votto waited in the on-deck circle in the bottom of the ninth.

Brantley was right. Casali was walked. Then, Votto delivered a signature soft slap into right field and walked it off to save the Reds from being swept by the St. Louis Cardinals. The Canadian GOAT reasserted once more that he is still as clutch as they come.

At 36-years old, Joey Votto is still the answer for the Reds. He is the franchise star. Some fans might not like that. Joey Votto himself might not like that. But Votto hitting leadoff is putting your best foot forward. Your franchise player. Your captain. Mr. Clutch.

Fundamentally, your leadoff hitter needs to get on base. Everybody wants the speedy guy to lead off but what good is that if the speedy guy can’t get on base? (Shogo Akiyama, Billy Hamilton, Drew Stubbs…)

Joey Votto has now lead the National League in on-base percentage for half of his 14-year career. This season, he has the second highest OBP on the team (.325). His 26 hits are the third-most on the team. His .440 slugging is the best it’s been in three years. That’s your leadoff hitter.

Yes, there was the benching. Kudos to David Bell for sitting a slumping veteran player. It needs to become the norm. It sends a message. It allows a player to reset. And most of all, it works. Since returning, Votto is .450/.500/1.222 in a six-game span. For the Cincinnati veteran, everything is coming up roses since returning to the lineup.

Speaking of roses, Joey Votto tied Pete Rose atop the franchise’s all-time leaderboard for walk-off hits. Votto also has the most walk-off hits (13) at Great American Ball Park. That would have any fan ready to put the captain’s wishbone C on Votto’s chest. Yet, there is a disconnect between some people in Reds Country because of the Votto vs. Rose debate.

With all much due respect to Ricky Henderson, Pete Rose is one of the greatest leadoff hitters of all time. Rose posted a career .379 out of the leadoff spot. An outlandish number these days. Some folks that grew up watching Rose do that don’t like that Votto gets paid the big bucks to have slumps and get benched. Understandable.

But for others, they’ve grown up in a completely different game than the ’70s. They’ve grown up watching Joey Votto while understanding that there will never be another Pete Rose. There is no replicating Rose’s hustle and the way he played the game. It can’t be done. But to use one legend to discredit another is a silly practice in sports.

Reds fans shouldn’t get upset that Joey Votto is leading off because he’s not a .379 leadoff hitter like Rose. Fans shouldn’t be so quick to defend Rose against Votto just because he will probably have more walk-off hits than him eventually. Instead, Reds fans need to trust in their veteran franchise player and realize what they’re watching right now.

There are four active players in the top 100 of the list of all-time on-base percentage leaders. Joey Votto is the best of those four, sitting right behind Micky Mantle for the 18th best all-time OBP of .4201. This should excited Reds fans, not send them into a rant about how overpaid he is. It’s time we start trusting Joey Votto.

Votto’s mega-contract expires in 2023 with a team-option in ’24. For now, he is the captain of the  Reds and our leadoff hitter. I encourage fans to look at that glass half full. Plus, Votto continues to be the clutchest of the clutch at the plate.

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Votto may not have the illustrious hustle that Rose had. He might not have the power that Tony Perez had. Perez’s walk-off homers were so special it’s said one of them even created Marty Brennaman’s famous phrase. Well, if Votto continues to successfully leadoff the lineup, lead the team as captain and continue to be clutch, then maybe, just maybe, this October can belong to the Reds.