2012 Reds / Reds History

Name Votto “Captain” Now

Credit: The Enquirer/Jeff Swinger

The Cincinnati Reds went 100 years without a team captain.

That streak ended in 1970 when manager Sparky Anderson named Pete Rose the first captain of the Cincinnati Reds. Rose was an obvious choice. He was a native Cincinnatian, having played baseball (and football) at Western Hills High School. By the start of the 1970 season, Rose had already twice won the NL batting title, been named to four All Star teams, been named Rookie of the Year, won a Gold Glove and the Lou Gehrig Award, which is given to the player who “best exemplifies character and integrity on and off the field.” He was, remember, Charlie Hustle.

Rose served as the captain through the Big Red Machine era until he left the club in 1978.

Davey Concepcion was named captain in 1983 by manager Russ Nixon, a title the shortstop held until 1988. Concepcion had a distinguished career for the Reds, winning five Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers and was named to nine All Star teams.

After Concepcion retired, ten years passed before Moeller High School’s Barry Larkin was dubbed the club’s third captain by manager Ray Knight. Among Larkin’s many accomplishments were three Gold Gloves; twelve All Star Game appearances; the 1995 National League MVP; the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to the MLB player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team” (Rose also won this award); and a 30-30 year in 1996.  Larkin also learned Spanish so he could better communicate with his teammates.

Since Barry Larkin hung up his glove in 2004, no player has held the role. Not Sean Casey or Aaron Harang. Not Ken Griffey, Jr. or Scott Rolen.

Is it too soon to make Joey Votto the team captain?

After all, Pete Rose played for seven years before being named captain. Barry Larkin waited ten, Concepcion thirteen. Joey Votto has played for the Reds only since September, 2007.

But maybe it’s exactly the right time. The first baseman is not already without substantial accomplishment. He’s won the league MVP award and a Gold Glove. He’s been selected for a couple All Star teams and has led the league in important hitting categories.

On Wednesday, the Reds expressed $225 million worth of confidence in Votto, connecting the player with the club for the rest of his career. And crucially, Joey Votto is a strong leader, as shown by his disciplined practice habits, frequent encouragement of teammates and by playing as hard as he can every single game.

Reds leaders offered compelling testimony this week.

Reds’ CEO Bob Castellini said: “Joey not only is one of the game’s best players, but on the field and in the community he represents himself, the organization and our city with extraordinary professionalism and dignity. We certainly are proud to be able to keep him in Cincinnati for 12 more years.”

Votto’s manager, Dusty Baker, said: “Kids (will) grow up emulating Joey Votto. It means a lot to the city to have Joey as the face of the franchise. He’s a very good role model for the task.”

By their own historic actions, the Reds have undeniably singled out Joey Votto as the top player on the team. As long as Votto plays for the Reds, certainly no other player will be captain, and presumably that’s twelve more years. The Reds brass should back up their words of praise with a simple action.

Dusty Baker should name Joey Votto captain of the Reds.


19 thoughts on “Name Votto “Captain” Now

  1. If Rolen is no longer a Red after this year, name Votto captain. From what I can gather, Rolen is the most respected veteran in the clubhouse. In other words, he is the unofficial captain and naming Votto captain at this point would likely seem a bit contrived.

  2. Personally, I don’t think Votto should be captain. Why? He leads quietly by example, but he doesn’t seem to want attention, and he doesn’t seem to want to be the focus. He is never the kind of guy who will speak out, which isn’t what you want in your captain.

    You look at guys like Rose, Larkin, and Concepcion, these guys were more than just good players, they were mouthpieces of the organization.

    See what I’m getting at?

    The captain, based on being an outstanding player as well as being an outspoken teammate and as well as tenure, should be Brandon Phillips. Phillips has said Larkin is his hero and I think the significance would not be lost on him if he were named captain. Phillips loves the Reds and is unabashed about it. He never waffled or seemed to be hesitant about signing a long term deal like Votto was. He said all along “This is where I want to be.”

    Personally, I don’t get why Phillips is suddenly being treated like a second fiddle. The dude has been phenomenal, yet it seems like Cincy fans take him for granted. Do you guys want to go back to the days of D’Angelo Jimenez?

  3. Good afternoon,

    Nice article. If I may, let me bring one thing to the table. Mr. Votto doesn’t like any attention. That is one reason he likes the Cincinnati media market(this was indicated in a recent article on one of the Reds following sites.)

    Why cant he be a silence leader? Which would fit his style; not pushing our agenda. Let us remind ourselfs that Mr. Votto likes things quiet and uneventful. Again, another reason he agreed to stay in Cincinnati. Mr. Votto is a special player, lets not change him.

    There is many silence leaders in MLB. We have a few on our club: Rolen, Cairo, Arroyo….

    Again I liked your article. I am just saying Mr. Votto is a different sort of person. Like the old saying that goes something like: ‘A square peg doesn’t fit in a round whole.’ Or something like that. 🙂

    Anyways, thank you for allowing me to reply. And it is a Great day: we have another Reds game. I am excited to hear how Mr. Latos does this evening.

    Thanks again.

  4. @CI3J: I agree that Votto doesn’t seem particularly suited to the captain role, at least right now.

    But I disagree with the idea that Brandon Phillips is a possible captain. As recently as 2010, Phillips was still doing dumb things, like starting fights with St. Louis (and then going 2 for 13 in the series). He’s a nice player, but not a franchise player.

  5. @Chris Garber:

    I guess it depends on what you look for in a baseball player. As far as I’m concerned, I see no problem with a player, and a leader on your team, coming out and saying he doesn’t like another team or another player. I respected Brandon that he wasn’t afraid to say it. Hell, the Cards are our rivals and they ARE “whiny little bitches”, why mince words?

    It spices up the sport and has a long and proud tradition. Reds/Dodgers anyone?

  6. My guess would be that the players don’t really care much about the title “Captain.” I could be wrong, but my guess is that they already respect Votto, and would listen to him just as much (and follow his lead), with or without the “C” on his jersey.

    I think they also respect and listen to Rolen, probably even moreso, since he’s older, and just sort of seems “wise,” and at peace or something.

    I don’t know – you think the players care if there’s an official “Captain”?

  7. I don’t think money should dictate leadership, and that’s what it would look like if Votto was named captain right now.

    Phillips isn’t the perfect fit, but he’s closer to being a captain of the Reds than Votto is. Brandon is the face of the franchise, Joey is the Reds’ press favorite and best player. Phillips does all the things you want out of a captain, which is be visible off the field, be vocal about winning and be supportive of teammates.

    The one thing he’s only done for one year is try to prove that he takes the little things seriously like hustling to first on routine grounders. In the past that was an issue, but if he plays the way he did last year and Castellini extends him, he has to be team captain in 2013.

  8. Opening Day, Thursday, Chapman was in the dugout in the bottom of the eighth, after his dismantling of Reyes. The tv camera showed that Joey sat next to him and had a conversation (with the help of Chapman’s interpreter) with Aroldis. This went on for at least five minutes, as far as I could see. Some good back and forth.

    He may be more of a vocal leader than we give him credit for.

  9. @Dan: I don’t know – you think the players care if there’s an official “Captain”?

    In a word, “No”. It sure didn’t matter to me much back in high school, and I don’t imagine if I was playing this game for a living making millions while managing my portfolios it really would mean much either. Truth be told, most of these guys were probably captains themselves on some team. I think the reason that the Reds waited so long to give it to guys like Davey and Barry was to show tenured respect.

    I also agree with the prevailing thought that Joey probably wouldn’t want it. It seems to me he enjoys working in a profession where he dresses and looks like everyone else he works with. Let the man just blend as best as possible.

  10. @Redleg75 Totally agree. Votto may not speak much. But when he does, those few words have a lot of weight to them. Would love to see the “C” on Votto’s jersey. To this point exemplifies everything a Red should be.

  11. a) This article isn’t about Brandon Phillips. And any comparison between his and Votto’s talents/accomplishments on the field is pretty one sided. One is an MVP candidate and likely to be most every year (or at least that his the belief when he was signed to this huge contract) and the other is one of the best players at his position (and it’s not a star studded position to begin with), but not in the discussion for best player in the league, etc.

    b) I don’t see any need for a captain in baseball. What’s the purpose? How many teams have captains? I assume Jeter is the captain of the Yankees, don’t even know that for certain…can’t name anyone else.

  12. I’d suggest waiting a few years before bestowing the title on Votto, or anybody. He never struck me as the Look At Me type of guy that Rose always was……….And while naming Rose captain certainly made a lot of sense back then in a PR scenario — Charlie Hustle and what not — I never thought that Johnny Bench thought much of it.

    The players almost unanimously said the real leader of the Big Red Machine was Tony Perez, who seemed to get along with everyone, whereas there could be “Rose guys” and “Bench guys”.

    And yes, as others have noted, giving it to Votto now just makes it look like it’s being done because of his updated contract status.

    If something HAS TO BE DONE NOW, and Phillips re-ups for three or four more years or whatever, I’d suggest making them co-captains. Brandon’s ego gets the stroke that he craves, and he certainly has longevity with the team, and Joey has the title if he wants it………… Rolen would be left as more of a Perez type of clubhouse presence, but I don’t think he cares about that kinda stuff anyway.

  13. All in all, I don’t think the Reds have anyone on their team who really fits the “Captain” role. As others (and I have said), if you HAVE to give it to someone, I’d give it to Phillips. But why force the issue when there’s no need for it?

    Joey Votto is the best player on the team. We get that. That doesn’t mean he is (or wants to be) looked at as a leader. Respected, sure, but leader? It could very well be that Joey doesn’t want that burden nor do the players want to be told who to look to as their “leader”.

    If a player emerges as a natural leader, sure, make it official and call them captain. But just giving someone a title doesn’t make it so.

  14. What I’ve read suggests that if anyone is the de facto captain right now, it’s Scott Rolen.

  15. Agree with the comments above. Your captain isn’t necessarily your best (or highest paid) player. In fact, I would not be surprised if Votto would rather not be team captain.

  16. This conversation reminds me of something Fay wrote from Goodyear (2/26).

    ‘Scott Rolen is great with his banter. “Don’t allow children to watch that,” he said when Brandon Phillips made a nonchalant one-handed catch during a popup drill.

    Rolen was joking, but Phillips caught the next one with two hands.’

    • This conversation reminds me of something Fay wrote from Goodyear (2/26).‘Scott Rolen is great with his banter. “Don’t allow children to watch that,” he said when Brandon Phillips made a nonchalant one-handed catch during a popup drill. Rolen was joking, but Phillips caught the next one with two hands.’

      That’s very insightful.

  17. Pingback: Once again: Name Joey Votto Captain Now | Redleg Nation

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