Below is a transcript of much of Joey Votto’s conversation with Lance McAlister for those in Redleg Nation who may not have access to the podcast. Left out are a few of the opening remarks about Bryan Price, but it does reveal the bulk of the interview in areas of most interest by the Nation.
Votto broaches the subject of money—and how it has altered, in his opinion (and my opinion as well), fan expectations. He also goes to great length to communicate just how much the fan base means to him, as well as wearing the wishbone C. To paraphrase another (famous) Richard:
Was ever a city in this humour woo’d?
Was ever a fan base in this humour won?
Because if you haven’t been won over before, you surely will be now. Joey Votto once again displays the intellect, the curiosity and humbleness that has made him the face of major league baseball.
Votto’s silence in the immediate aftermath of the Price hiring have been fodder for parts of a local media trolling for fan angst. McAlister was tweeting it with faux concern. WCPO’s Dennis Janson ominously intoned “I could be wrong but to date, I can’t find any reaction from Joey Votto to Baker’s firing or Price’s hiring. Telling.”
Or not very telling, depending upon how high the rpm needle needs to spin on your overwrought narrative. Everything we know about Joey Votto suggests he is not arrogant or self-absorbed enough to think a city is breathlessly awaiting his approval. Nor is he so inclined, if only the media would stop treating him like St. Peter standing guard at the manager’s office door. Above all, he is careful and considered with his words—something painfully missing from many of today’s athletes not named Peyton Manning.
I’m going to watch this man play baseball as much as I can over the next few years. We may not see his like again in the city of Cincinnati for a long, long time. Here are some of Joey Votto’s “telling” remarks:
[On Bryan Price] Everybody seems to be using the word “accountable,” holding players accountable. I just think he’s a “professional.” I think he communicates well and I think he’s knowledgable and I think those three things go a long way for guys who have gotten to the highest level of their job.
[More on “Accountability”] I definitely don’t want to get into some sort of debate or discussion about other players, the front office, the coaching staff. I can’t speak for other people. I think you accept that paycheck. You do the best you can the second you get to the major leagues. You have a responsibility to yourself, personally, and then to the team, and then the city, and the uniform you’re wearing. And I think that accountability kinda comes as part of the package. Same as any other profession, there’s going to be different personalities, there’s going to be different styles of preparation, there’s going to be different styles of work. Everybody wants a player to behave a certain way, to have a certain “fire,” or to be the type of person that they’ve seen have success in the past. And I think one of the great things about Bryan—and Dusty was very good at this too—I think one of the great things about the both of them, they both respect everybody’s style, they understand that there’s going to be a guy who doesn’t need a lot of work and he just goes out there a performs at a high level—and there’s going to be people who are high maintenance, there’s going to be personalities who need to play with energy. There’s going to be people that need to play their game in a more subdued way.
I think, like Dusty before him, Bryan has a healthy respect for different personalities and will be able to understand that some guys are going to hold themselves accountable in one way—and another guy is going hold himself accountable in another way. Now, nobody’s going out on the field trying to fail or trying to trip themselves up or trying to compromise the team’s chances for a win. So I think “Accountability” is the wrong word. I think that preparation, there could be a style of preparing, there could be a personality to a team, a certain character. You know, everyone brings up Scott Rolen. Before he left, we talked a lot about base running—and he was a great leader by example—a fantastic base runner and very aggressive. And that became kind of the culture of our team. And it’s important for us in general to have kind of a culture. And Bryan mentioned in his press conference he wants to have a team that no team wants to play, that’s not a fun team to play and I think that’s very well said.
[McAlister quoting Jocketty] “you have to fit better into the role that they see for you or you might have to hit in a different spot in the order.” What’s your reaction to that?
[Votto] Well, if they want me to hit in a different spot in the order, I have no problem doing that. That comment can be kind of taken both ways. I imagine a lot of people think that it’s a really big deal that Walt said something along those lines, that ‘I better change my ways or I’m gonna be penalized.’ But, I think from what I’ve gathered from that, what Walt was trying to say is that I have certain responsibilities in a position and it’s important for me to maximize the opportunities I have, and if not, there might need to be a change in the way the order is laid out for me to get the most out of it.
A lot of complaints this year were about my lack of RBIs, and you know, that’s a very fair complaint. But at the same time, this is a team sport, and my responsibility to the team is to play as well as I can and provide as many opportunities as I can for the guys in front of me to cross the plate, and behind me to drive me in, to create more runs. I thought that I had a pretty good year last year. I know that in an ideal world, there would a have been a one hundred in the RBI category, but that’s just one number. And a player should not be judged based on one particular number.
[McAllister] “Should someone who reached base a franchise record 316 times have to change his approach at the plate?”
[Votto] The year before in 2012, I wasn’t having this conversation about the number of RBIs. And, it kinda makes me scratch my head. I know I was injured, but I still played 111 games, and that to me, is probably an 80-85 RBI-pace. But, there’s a lot of people saying that before my knee injury, the conversation was not ‘should Joey drive in more runs?’ It was more along the lines of ‘is Joey the best hitter in Baseball?’ And, I think the thing’s that’s changed is, I’ve had a couple of knee surgeries and I didn’t play quite as well as 2012. But that kinda clouds the conversation, the argument that all of a sudden this year ‘there’s something wrong with Joey’ and last year, with pretty much the exact same team, we’re not going to complain about it.
So, I think that people need to maybe look at the whole picture. I’m not making excuses for myself. I’d love to drive in a hundred runs. I’d like to hit 30 homers. I’d like to hit .300. I’d like to do everything I can for the team. But, I still feel like I provide value for the team. And I really, you know, conversation is always going to be is he underpaid, is he overpaid at the end of that contract or for his salary this year. I’m not understanding some of the complaints because of my performance this year. I’m a little confused, but I understand, I understand, it’s a tough sport, part of what I signed up for, and I really appreciate criticism at times, or at least the comments at times because it does make me better and it motivates me and reminds me about all the different facets of the game that I need to be accountable for.
[Regarding his career-high 44 strikeouts looking and a "lack of aggressiveness”]. It could be an isolated year, it could be an isolated … sometimes there’s some luck involved in Baseball. There are all kinds of numbers that, when it’s one isolated season, you ask whether or not it’s going to be a trend going forward. So, I really couldn’t answer that. I certainly, certainly don’t make a point to go up there to strike out looking, but if it’s a career high, I guess it happened, but I don’t think my strikeout percentage was too far off my career average. So maybe this is one isolated year where I just had more stikeout lookings. The funny thing is, I’m always trying to get better, to figure out ways to be as productive as I can and be the best ballplayer I can be for the fans of Cincinnati, who I so desperately, so consistently want to please. It’s almost like an insecurity complex. I’m constantly thinking about how can I make the fans—how can I satisfy them and at the same time, do the very best I can to help the team win? And post-knee surgeries, the best thing I thought I could do was be productive with the bat, but if that didn’t come up, I’m gonna get on base for the guys behind me. So, it wasn’t necessarily a passive approach, it was what’s the best bang for the buck, how can I do the most I can to help the team win, while still acknowledging that I am not where I was before my knee surgeries for a good percentage of the year. And it’s pretty, pretty difficult in August, to all of a sudden have a surge in energy and leg strength and power while you’re in the middle of the season. No excuses, I thought I did alright, but I can understand the comments and I really am grateful for them.
I am trying to be me. Again, where I’m most confused was where was the criticism in ’12? I just didn’t understand that. But, it’s perfectly acceptable for people to have complaints and I think that a lot of people are fixated on round numbers. We’re paying him THIS much, he should produce THIS. He DID produce THIS. Why is he not doing THAT? Well, things change, and I’m not sure whether I was pitched around more or not, I really don’t know, you’d have to ask somebody else, but I think some adjustments in maximizing the efficiency of my at bats, that I’ve tried to do over my career, I think that’s the reason why I probably have less RBIs, my first goal is to drive the runner in so I can get on base, get a hit and then hand the bat to the next guy so we can continue to score runs. I know a lot of people complain, ‘why doesn’t he hit a ground ball to make an out and score the run?’ I’m really, really greedy, so I want to get a hit and if that hit doesn’t come, all of a sudden the at bats have a tendency to get really tough and the strike zone gets pretty narrow and I’m not getting a lot of opportunities presented to me and then it ends up being a walk at times, and that where the accumulation at the end of the season came.