This was originally published in The Athletic....
Joey Votto became the Reds’ franchise leader in a statistical category Sunday. The game proceeded without interruption and none of Votto’s teammates made a big outward deal about it, but after taking ball four from Steve Cishek in the fifth inning of a win over the White Sox, the first baseman passed Pete Rose to become the club’s all-time leader in walks.
I’ll bet news of the achievement was met with almost as many eye-rolls as salutes.
There is a loud, almost obnoxious minority of Reds fans who don’t like Joey Votto. Maybe you’re not one of them, but you and I both know that a lengthy search isn’t needed to find someone who claims to root for the Reds but shows disdain for their most accomplished guy.
You might find the suggestion that Votto isn’t universally beloved to be a stunning revelation if you don’t live here. You haven’t heard years’ worth of comically inaccurate and off-base assessments about how he isn’t clutch, or that he doesn’t give his best effort. Maybe you haven’t seen folks mimic that goofy half-swing he sometimes does between pitches. Perhaps you haven’t listened to talk-show callers who swear, even when Votto was at his productive peak, that the Reds’ 2012 decision to give him nearly a quarter of a billion dollars is easily the worst move any club executive or owner has ever made. You haven’t been here through the parade of Billy Hamiltons, Scooter Gennetts, Yasiel Puigs, Derek Dietrichs and other flavors-of-the-month fan favorites who were never close to as good at their best as Votto was at his.
And you certainly haven’t been here to listen to people bitch that Votto walks too much.
The oft-repeated assertion that Votto isn’t really interested in swinging the bat is a silly one, of course. A player doesn’t amass nearly 2,000 big-league hits and hit close to 300 home runs by just looking at good pitches, and his well-established ability to work counts is a major reason he’s put together some of the finest individual statistical seasons in club history. Still, there’s always been a reluctance by some to embrace Votto’s patience at the plate and instead frame it as passivity. It’s an accusation that’s enhanced by the resentment of his hefty salary.
The main reason there’s been such a disconnect between Votto and some fans though is that for as great as he’s been — and I believe Votto’s hall of fame case will be a fascinating one to listen to when he’s finally retired — he’s just not associated enough with winning. No player was more responsible for the Reds turning the corner after a truly forgettable decade and reaching the postseason three times over four seasons starting in 2013 and Votto gamely tried to stave off the franchise’s mid-decade nosedive by having some truly excellent seasons. But I believe what’s kept him from being universally cherished by Reds fans is that the team simply hasn’t won that much during his lengthy tenure, and the player himself lacks one signature meaningful moment that will resonate long after he’s gone.
To read more, go to The Athletic.
(Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty)