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.