Some pointed comments from Joey Votto set the baseball corner of the internet on fire Tuesday, but the part getting the most play wasn’t the most interesting.
In case you missed it, Yahoo Sports posted a lengthy conversation between Votto and writer Tim Brown that included the Cincinnati Reds star first baseman noting fans are losing interest in the team in the midst of a historically bad start.
He added that all the losing (The podcast was recorded late last week before the Reds swept the Dodgers in L.A., so things aren’t quite as dire as they were then) feels extra personal for him because he has spent nearly half his life as a member of the Reds organization after being drafted out of high school in 2002.
The first part is, “Well, duh!” while the second is noteworthy because not every player develops that type of connection with a team anymore.
Votto is a consummate pro, but he has proven on multiple occasions (remember spring training?) he understands the fans’ point of view, too.
After diving into the podcast, I thought the biggest takeaway was this part:
“I think you see it often whether it’s a hot start from a player or a hot start from a club, you start telling stories about that club or start telling stories about that player. You start highlighting the strengths and not acknowledging the weaknesses, and I think that would have been a very, very big mistake, and I think as often as we can we need to be informed of where we are and what adjustments we need to make and how much we need to improve.
“And a lot of people are viewing this as a really bad thing. I personally think it’s a good thing. I can only speak on my own experiences, but every time I’ve gone through rough stretches, whether it is defensively, offensively, bases — whatever it is — I’ve needed to make an adjustment and that adjustment has to have happened or else I just would have had the very same results.”
This is a pretty good indication that while Votto shared the belief the team was ready to show significant improvement from the past few seasons, there were some underlying issues that hadn’t been taken care of.
Of course, a six-game winning streak (snapped Monday night) doesn’t mean they are all better, either, but it’s interesting perspective from inside the clubhouse.
I thought changing the manager and the pitching coach, while far from a panacea, was needed to send a message that the status quo wasn’t going to cut it.
Falling into a losing mentality is easy, and leaving the leaders of the losing in charge made it seem like losing was OK.
The Reds also sent out a pair of veteran bench guys in favor of two young players, made some changes in the bullpen, brought in Matt Harvey from the Mets and gave him the spot in the rotation previously held by a struggling former prospect.
Coincidence or not, the team is doing more things winning baseball teams do since then.
They still aren’t good defensively, and they still can’t run the bases, but the starting pitching has been more reliable and the bats have awoken. The bullpen has for the most part complemented those things nicely, and they have won 11 of their last 20.
Roster questions remain, such as who are the top three outfielders and where will Nick Senzel play when he is ready, but I guess it’s better to have everything out in the open than to be bought off with fool’s gold.
As for the rest of that podcast, it’s worth a listen in full.
Votto went on to talk about lots of other interesting things, such as his affection (or lack thereof) for Canadian baseball, how PEDs messed up our perception of historic numbers, his admiration for Bryce Harper, the legacy of Ichiro, the potential of Shohei Ohtani and more.