[This article was co-authored by Mike Maffie and Steve Mancuso.]
Paul Daugherty has authored a paper trail of criticism directed at Joey Votto that stretches farther than one of the slugger’s trademark opposite-field home runs.
Daugherty, a sportswriter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, has written columns that questioned Votto’s toughness, willingness to play through injury and then criticized Votto’s production when he did play injured. When Votto hasn’t played with enough passion for Daugherty’s taste, the writer described the Reds first baseman as disengaged. The Joey Votto Isn’t Paid to Walk nostalgia club? Daugherty is a dial-up-modem-carrying member.
Yet despite Paul Daugherty’s well-worn pattern, it was still a bit breathtaking to read his column yesterday criticizing Joey Votto’s angry outburst Wednesday night.
In a way, you have to feel sympathy for Daugherty and the Votto bashers who occupy broadcast booths. This baseball season has been kinda tough on them, what with the Reds first baseman having another one of the greatest years of all time. The anti-Votto choir has been stat-shamed into silence. But old habits die hard. Daugherty couldn’t resist taking Votto to task over the horrible sin of getting thrown out of a game – something that happens to the 2010 MVP about once a season.
Because of his long history of unfair criticism, presumption goes against Daugherty when it comes to the Reds’ first baseman. But before we dig into the substance of what Daugherty wrote, let’s look at what well-respected voices in the national baseball media had to say about the incident between Votto and umpire Bill Welke.
Peter Gammons tweeted:
Should Welke get whatever suspension Votto gets?
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) September 10, 2015
Phil Rogers praised Votto for the passion he showed. Craig Calcaterra called Votto’s outburst “a thing of beauty” and “fantastic”. Calcaterra went on to belittle Welke’s comment about Votto spitting on him by calling the comment “bush league.” Perhaps the best discussion about the Votto-Welke feud was between Buster Olney and Keith Law on Olney’s ESPN podcast:
Buster Olney: “Joey Votto 90-95 percent of the time has a terrific relationship with umpires, a respectful relationship with umpires. [Votto asking for time] was like the kid who’s angry and is asking to walk in the corner for a little bit, [saying] I’m not happy about what took place can you just give me a little bit of space? And the answer was ‘no’, and I just think in that case, he could have given some latitude to Votto.”
Keith Law: He’s just asking for time. I don’t even see why that’s a big deal. And what could he have said? He wasn’t even talking to Welke at the time. This is the part that bothered me the most: he was so quick to eject Votto, which almost says to me, was he looking for a reason to eject Votto at that point. I mean at that point, that’s a situation where Welke should have been able to at least calm it down. And then obviously if Votto drops one of the forbidden words or something, then at that point, okay fine, you throw him out. But Votto didn’t seem or appear to be heated or angry until Welke threw him out, and then he lost his mind. And I kinda can’t really blame him at that point because it looks like Welke completely overstepped his bounds…it looked to me like he [Welke] massively overreacted to, as you said, a player with a good reputation for demeanor and the subject at hand – which in this case, is a blown ball/strike call.” [emphasis in original]
C Trent Rosecrans provides the full follow-up comment where Price defends Votto’s actions as warranted:
“I wasn’t at home plate, but I do know that Joey has a good rapport with the umpires. I think when he talks, he talks respectfully, and obviously something got sideways there between the two of them, and it went into a direction we had hoped it wouldn’t,” Price said. “I think Joey handled himself professionally up until the ejection and then was rightfully upset. How do you qualify what’s the right way to be upset? He was upset. Bill was upset. I was upset. There was a lot of upset people today. You know, and that’s – we felt it was warranted.”
Today, Price voiced a full defense of his first basement:
“From what I know, from talking with Joey and also from talking with Bill out on the field, (Votto) requested a timeout and was not granted it,” Price said. “That, to me, would warrant a response from Joey to get some help from his manager. Which he asked for and was ejected for. That’s what I know.”
Now, back to what Paul Daugherty wrote. He made two points: (1) That if anyone acted like Votto in a normal workplace environment, they would be fired, and (2) Joey Votto hurt his team by “removing himself at a critical point in the game.”
To set the record straight – and this should be obvious – Joey Votto didn’t remove himself from the game. The umpire did. Votto had turned to talk to his manager and was thrown out. Even Daugherty admits the ump blew it. Given that, how exactly is it fair to conclude that Votto “removed himself” from the game? Votto’s outburst didn’t hurt the Reds chances since he had already been thrown out of the game. Daugherty gets the timeline backwards and that completely undercuts his point.
Daugherty’s first point is just as off base, that Votto’s actions would result in anyone else being fired from their job. The cultural differences between a normal workplace and Joey Votto’s batter’s box are large. Many workplaces do have “shop talk” and other direct, loud and personal arguments.
But for Daugherty to write a column singling out Votto’s outburst for criticism displays jaw-dropping hypocrisy. Daugherty has a pattern of looking the other way, or endorsing, the behavior of other professional sports figures that wouldn’t be any more appropriate in the typical workplace than Votto’s tirade.
For example, in yesterday’s column, Daugherty scolded us all for giving “a pass” to coaches and managers who “generally behave like a spoon-banging 2-year-old.”
Yet Daugherty has done just that himself in the past. In fact, “pass” is an interesting word for Daugherty to choose, since that’s how he described his reaction (“easy for me to give him a pass”) to Bryan Price’s profanity-rich tirade in April.
Maybe we should forgive Paul Daugherty for not remembering what he wrote all of five months ago. But just five weeks ago, August 3, when the Reds had a bench clearing brawl with the Pirates, he celebrated certain Cincinnati players for showing their passion, especially one who got thrown out of the game. Daugherty praised the “pride and professionalism” of the players who were willing to go on the field and “punch it out.” Daugherty wrote:
“It’s nice to see players in a disappointing season that was recently lessened by two major trades at least give the impression that their spirit is still in the game.”
Daugherty singled out “that guy, right there, Number Nine. Marlon Byrd” for bravery in battle, even though Byrd got thrown out. What, no criticism toward Byrd for “removing himself” from the game? (It’s also worth nothing that Joey Votto himself was one of the leaders out on the field that day with Byrd. He was the other Reds player who was thrown out. Paul Daugherty, for some reason, couldn’t bring himself to include Votto in the praise, or even a mention.)
To review for those keeping score at home: When Bryan Price loses control and acts in a way that would get you fired at your job Paul Daugherty gives him a pass. When Marlon Byrd gets thrown out of a game for instigating a fight it’s evidence to Paul Daugherty that Byrd cares.
But when Joey Votto shows passion for playing – remember, he was mad about getting thrown out of the game – when Votto shows that he still cares about the outcome of a meaningless game, Paul Daugherty becomes the strict schoolmarm with a ruler. One who always has her eye on a particular student she doesn’t like.
In an otherwise brutal year for Reds fans, Votto has been a source of pride. Votto wants to play every inning of every game and plays hard when he’s out there. He’s not perfect, but what professional athlete – or any of the rest of us – is? Votto is the kind of role model we should hope for in our sports superstars. Baseball fans should be celebrating Joey Votto and his intensity.
And the nations’ great sportswriters are. Joe Posnanski compared Votto to Ted Williams. Richard Justice called Votto one of baseball’s greatest and most consistent performers. Jeff Sullivan says Votto is playing like an MVP.
But not Paul Daugherty. He cranks up his tired, sad Joey Votto outrage machine and spits out a load of nonsense. The hypocrisy in his writing lays bare his bias and lack of objectivity.
To borrow preachy judgment from a writer with whom Daugherty is quite familiar: That’s unacceptable.