Joey Votto is the most polarizing player in Cincinnati Reds history

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) watches the game from the dugout.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) watches the game from the dugout. /

Every Cincinnati Reds fan has an opinion on first baseman Joey Vottosome good and some bad. Votto has been a helluva player for the majority of his career with the Reds, and is one of the last of a dying breed of players who end up spending their entire career with one organization.

Cincinnati, being the oldest franchise in all of baseball, has a rich heritage when it comes to players. From Pete Rose, to Joe Morgan, to Barry Larkin, to Ken Griffey Jr.; the list goes on and on. Some of the best to ever play the game have been Cincinnati Reds. In this humble fan’s opinion, no Red has ever been as polarizing as Votto.

Love him or hate him, Joey Votto is the Reds most polarizing player.

Is today’s Joey Votto dilemma a product of social media? Absolutely! When Frank Robinson went 0-4 on a Saturday night in Cincinnati in 1965, about the worst shellacking he was going to get would be from fans in the stands, or on the local evening news.

Robinson didn’t have the ability to log on to Twitter and see the reaming fans were giving him online. In this day and age, everybody has an opinion, no matter how outlandish, chances are you could find people online who agree with you.

Now don’t mince my words and turn this into me saying Votto is bad. I don’t think he is, I think Votto is one of the greatest Reds of all-time. The reality is, people are too far on either side of the argument. Some say Votto sucks, which I disagree with, but it’s impossible to look at the stats on FanGraphs and not notice something is awry.

Until 2018, Joey Votto had never hit below .300. But in 2018 and 2019, Votto saw major declines in the numbers he was accustomed to putting up. Last season, which I don’t put much stock into, the power did seem to be back. Is this Votto “sucking”? Probably not, I chalk it up father time who to this day, is still undefeated. I’m looking at you Tom Brady.

Votto isn’t the same player he once was, and that’s to be expected. Some Reds fans just can’t let go of the idea that the Joey Votto, who won the MVP in 2010, isn’t coming back. They can’t understand that Votto will never be as good as he once was, although he can still be a key contributor to the Reds’ success or lack thereof.

Don’t be mad at Joey Votto, but rather the Reds front office.

If the fans need somebody to be angry at, perhaps that anger should be directed at ownership and the front office. Be mad that the Reds front office signed a then nearly 30-year-old Votto to a contract that was not only the largest contract in Cincinnati history but would tie him to the Reds until past his 41st birthday.

If Votto were in a more team friendly deal that was indicative of a player his age, the pressure and criticisms would be few and far between. There are 250 million reasons for Reds fans to be upset.

One of Votto’s biggest enemies has been Joey Votto himself. Votto during the last few seasons has struggled has been at times a literal mess. At times he’s looked clueless, from constantly changing his approach, to his bizarre demanor Votto’s decline had gotten into his head. The six-time All-Star sat down on The Jim Day Podcast recently and gave a brutally honest assessment of himself:

"“I was playing so poorly that like, it was less father time and more I was using poor technique and I wasn’t being myself. I feel like I’ve got a lot left in me… truly. You know it was a good thing for me to be humbled that way, to be reminded that this route isn’t going to work.”"

Votto has, in ways, been “the most interesting man in the world” for a lot of his career. Seeming almost like a machine not only physically but mentally. The former MVP has always shied away from showing emotion, but it seems at this late stage in his career he is starting to let loose and have fun despite the struggles on the field.

I’ve watched Votto for nearly 15 years, and until recently, I couldn’t tell you a thing about him besides he’s from Canada and plays baseball. It has been fantastic to see Votto let his guard down and show that he is a human being, and he’s absolutely hilarious.

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Are Joey Votto’s best days behind him? Absolutely. But perhaps it’s time to let Votto ride off into the sunset and send him out a winner. There has never been anybody like Joey Votto before, and there certainly will never be another like him. Votto has given his entire career to Cincinnati and will likely retire a Red. There will never be another Cincinnati Reds player as polarizing as Joey Votto.