It seems like only yesterday when all we had to worry about was Todd Frazier’s playing time, a deluge of sacrifice bunts, Juan Pierre and the incredible disappearing Aroldis Chapman. Where did those far happier times go?
Welcome Nation, to the new, grim reality of obsessing over Joey Votto’s left meniscus.
Obligatory outrage section.The Reds management watched Joey Votto struggle to run, hit and field for nine games on the recent road trip after the first baseman injured his left knee sliding into third on June 29 in San Francisco. That’s not exactly right. Votto was hurt badly enough that Dusty Baker saw fit to give him more than two games off. So, more accurately, Votto played noticeably injured in only seven games on the West Coast. And when our favorite Canadian slugger did take the field, he produced very unVotto-like numbers, zero home runs and one RBI. His sudden slump was another MVP-sized tell that something was wrong.
Yet it apparently didn’t occur to anyone who is responsible for the success of the Reds to ask their $225 million investment to take a simple MRI. Hey, we’ve got a players manager! And apparently a players GM, and training staff and medical team. Leave the diagnosis up to the player. I assume he’ll be doing the surgery himself, too.
Apparently, no one said something like, “You know, we’ve got the All-Star break coming up. Just on the off chance that our most important player has to miss some time, why not have him take an MRI now so that part of his recovery will be over the four off-days. Plus, you know, it might also be nice to see what’s wrong.”
If the Reds don’t have anyone with enough common sense to say something like that, well, they should hire me. Or any of a hundred other citizens of the Nation.
It’s simply stunning that the organization didn’t take a single proactive step out of concern for Joey Votto’s well-being, or more crassly, out of attention to that part of the newspaper where they keep track of wins and losses. Either way.
Enabling Votto’s continued play may have worsened the meniscus tear, made the surgery more serious and lengthened the all-important recovery time. Seriously, if I were the owner of the team, someone would get fired over this. And I don’t mean the team doctor. Whoever has the job of watching our players, using their judgment about whether they’re playing hurt and doing something about it. That person.
If the Reds had acted like a competent professional sports organization, Joey Votto would now be two-and-a-half weeks into his recovery. Yes, the Reds would have had to do without his recent relatively unproductive stretch of games. The National League would have had to do without Votto’s three routine outs. But at least now we’d be close to the end of it. Instead Nation, circle your calendars for August 15 and say your prayers.
The upcoming easy schedule. It’s true that on paper, the Reds have a pretty easy schedule the next 3-4 weeks. Like when we played the last place Minnesota Twins at home. The Reds have three more games against the defending NL West division champions, then three vs. the defending NL Central Division champion Brewers, at Houston, at the always-easy-to-beat-in Colorado Rockies, the Padres, the Pirates, (the freakin’ PIRATES!) and the division-rival Brewers again, in Milwaukee. That takes us three weeks out.
Please don’t write or say that’s easy. You know what schedule was easy? The four-day All-Star break.
BTW, the Reds are 0-1 on the easy schedule, so far.
The surgery and recovery. The surgery to repair Votto’s meniscus is scheduled for this morning. Of course, you have an abnormal curiosity about it. So here’s the Mayo Clinic, the NIH and WebMD, plus a short video of what they’ll be doing to JoeyMVP’s left knee, probably right around the time you’re reading this.
But what we really care about: How realistic is the 3-4 week recovery window? That estimate was peddled by the Reds in a reassuring manner last night. In reality, they can’t possibly know yet. It depends on a number of things, including whether the surgery ends up being a “trim” (4 weeks) or a “repair” (Pirates division champs). Read this somewhat unsettling line in the WebMD piece on recovering from meniscus surgery:
But heavy stresses, such as running and squats, should be postponed for some months.
Out of sheer horror I’m holding to the belief that being a major league baseball player, and hitting, sliding, fielding, spitting, running etc. would not be considered “heavy stresses” by the interns who write at WebMD.
Other players have had this surgery recently, but there’s not much definitive to learn from their examples, other than there is a great deal of variability. On the optimistic side, Mets reliever Tim Byrdak had the surgery on March 12 and pitched on April 5. But Royals catcher Salvador Perez missed half the season (had to type that three times before I got it right). Travis Hafner had surgery on May 29 and played five weeks later on July 4. Lance Berkman just returned after being out eight weeks. Variation, but I did notice the inconvenient truth that none of those recoveries were just three weeks long.
Bottom line: Reds management won’t have an accurate estimate on the duration of the recovery until after the surgery, if then. Commence holding your breath. And Votto’s recovery could easily be longer than 4 weeks. Raise your hand if you have confidence in the organization’s fitness to estimate and manage his recovery.
The Reds roster. How should the Reds replace Joey Votto? Moderation, not panic, is called for. Assuming he’s only out about a month.
Based on Frazier’s glove skills last night and the way he’s hit all season, pencil Super Todd in as your everyday first baseman and worry more about third. Miguel Cairo can back up Super Todd, if necessary. Absent a move for an additional third baseman, the Reds will be relying on 37-year-old Rolen and 38-year old Cairo (another terrifying sentence to type). Neither has hit well this year and both have already spent time on the DL. The Reds should acquire a solid backup third baseman, they don’t need a regular like Chase Headley. If all goes well, in a few weeks, we’ll want Super Todd back fighting for time at the hot corner.
Votto’s injury removes one of the two left-handed bats in the lineup. At least we won’t have worry about crossing the streams for the next month. While acquiring a backup third baseman would be cheaper than finding a full-time first baseman, the handedness issue is maybe a reason to acquire a first baseman instead, as lefties there are much more common. In terms of Jocketty’s previous agenda from back in the good old days, ESPN’s David Schoenfield points out that Votto’s injury may strengthen the case for acquiring left-handed Shane Victorino.
The Reds lineup. Speculating on the lineup with Dusty Baker as manager always has two distinct parts – what should he do, and guessing the outcome of WWHD.
What should the lineup be? Phillips, Frazier, Bruce, Ludwick, Stubbs/Heisey, Rolen, Catcher, Cozart, Pitcher.
What will it be? You have to think that Baker won’t continue to bat Frazier third, as he did last night. Baker might have been in shock or denial when he did that. Or maybe the team hadn’t had time to replace the preprinted lineup cards showing the first baseman batting third (CF batting first, SS second, catcher eighth etc.). Prior to last night, Baker hasn’t been willing to bat Super Todd higher than sixth, and barely that. Hard to believe the rookie will bat third. Then again, he’s stubbornly used a rookie with an .287 on base percentage to hit lead-off.
On the other hand, maybe last night’s lineup does preview how Baker will approach a Vottoless batting order. Frazier-batting-third was posted at least four hours before game time. My guess is that Baker will return to what the lineup has basically been all year, except for moving Jay Bruce to #3 and sliding everyone below Phillips up. Baker loves lineup stability. Expect: Stubbs, Cozart, Bruce, Phillips, Ludwick, Rolen, Frazier, Catcher, Pitcher.
The word cataclysm means “a momentous and violent event marked by overwhelming upheaval and demolition; an event that brings great changes”
It’s Day One of the Vottoclysm, Nation.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.