Discover more from The Riverfront by Chad Dotson
The Era of Joey Votto
Here's hoping it's not yet over
We’re moving my son into his college dorm today. His freshman year will begin next week when classes start. Where has the time gone?
I’ve written about Casey before. There's something about the rhythm of baseball—and in particular, the song sung by the Cincinnati Reds—that has woven itself into the fabric of our lives. As I said in that linked piece above, I can still vividly recall the day Casey arrived in this world. As I nestled him close, the hospital room, with its sharp scents and cold, ambient hum, faded away. Instead, the tiny television screen mounted above us captured our attention, showcasing the indomitable swing of Ken Griffey Jr.
As the years have unfolded, Casey and I have trekked our way to the seats of Great American Ball Park more times than I can count. We've felt the rush of the crowd, the taste of the ballpark hot dogs — well, a Skyline coney for me, more often than not — and the thrill of a game-winning hit. And it wasn't just GABP; our passion has led us to diamonds across the nation, each with its own stories and memories. Every pitch, every pop of the glove, is a shared moment between us.
Yet, amid the ever-changing roster and the myriad of games, one figure stands out, unfaltering and steadfast: Reds legend and future Hall of Famer Joey Votto. Through highs and lows, he's been the undeniable heartbeat of our baseball journey.
Votto was drafted a couple of years before Casey was born, but Joey made his debut a couple of months after we celebrated his third birthday with a pool party and a Buzz Lightyear cake. Shortly thereafter, it was all baseball, all the time for the boy. (Okay, there was a pretty good dose of basketball tossed into the mix, as well.) He became a huge Cincinnati Reds fan (I’ll take the blame for that one.) And Votto has been the best player on the Reds for pretty much that entire span.
In this week’s column over at the Mothership, I noted an interview Votto did this week with Jayson Stark of The Athletic. As always with Votto, the conversation was interesting. But what intrigued me about this interview was Votto’s frank comments about the aging process and his day-to-day effort to remain relevant in a young man’s game.
“Today’s at-bats, and the next day’s at-bats, each day’s individual at-bats, defense, baserunning -- they’re all basically a tryout. Not to other teams, not to my team, but they’re actually a message I’m sending to myself on a daily basis. I want to be an effective major league player. I want to be a really good major league player, and one of those players that you just pencil in the lineup and forget about. You throw them at first, and you forget about them. You know he’s going to run the bases, and you forget about him. That’s what I’ve been when I entered the league, and that’s most likely what I’m gonna be when I leave the league.”
The conversation then veered to the elephant in the room: Will Votto — whose contract expires this year, though the Reds have a team option for 2024 — remain with the Reds next year?
“[W]hatever happens, happens. I know when I play well, I’m a major league player. I’m not going to be soft about this. I’m a major league player. There’s nothing to say about that. When I’m not a major league player, I’ll leave. And if you’re asking where I think I’ll be next year, I have limited control on that. They have a team option for next year, and we’ll see what they have to say about it.
Most importantly, we’ll see what they feel about me. It’s time, at some point to move on. Maybe they feel like they want to move on…. Maybe they feel like they don’t want to pay me. Maybe they feel like there’s budgetary stuff…I have no idea whatsoever. All I can really do is run through this finish line, play, and to be honest with you, that’s really where my head’s at.”
Ultimately, however, Votto was pretty clear that he wanted to finish his career with the Reds. He discussed his admiration for players who played for one team their entire career, even noting that Frank Robinson would probably have been his favorite player if he had played only in Cincinnati. And he admitted that there were times earlier in his career, especially when his father passed away and he thought it would be good to be back home in Toronto, where he thought it might be a good idea to move on.
But as the years passed, and as he fell in love with Cincinnati, he changed his mind.
“With time, you’re like, no, I’m proud of this. This is my home, this is my heart, this is my career. This is me….”
This is my heart.
At some point, Joey Votto will no longer be an active player for the Cincinnati Reds. As I noted at the Magazine this week (see below), I hope it won’t be this year. But it’s going to happen eventually, and when it happens, it will be a sad moment in my life.
Not because I won’t get to watch Votto play anymore, though that’s part of it. Mostly, it’s a father and son thing. Joey Votto has always been there. And when he’s finished, a small part of this thing that my son and I share will be over.
I need at least one more year of Votto, if only so it doesn’t coincide with Casey’s first year of college. I can’t take this much change and upheaval at once. We can start the Elly De La Cruz Era in a couple of years.
This week at Cincinnati Magazine: The Reds need to bring Joey Votto back next season
This week, Reds first baseman Joey Votto made an appearance on Jayson Stark’s podcast to discuss a wide range of topics. (You can listen to the full episode here.) It was the latest in a series of fascinating conversations with the Reds legend, and Votto pulled no punches. Among the topics discussed: His future, and where he sees himself next year.
“I’ve been a Cincinnati Red my entire career,” he told Stark. “I have nothing but pride wearing this uniform. I would love to finish my career in a Reds uniform. But there’s only so much control I have over that.”
Expect this conversation to continue in the months ahead. The Reds hold a team option on Votto for next season; if they choose to exercise that option and bring him back in 2024, they would owe him $20 million. If Cincinnati chooses not to exercise that option, they would be required to pay Votto a $7 million buyout amount. So what it comes down to is this: Will Joey Votto be worth $13 million to next year’s Reds? Read the rest of this week’s Reds column over at Cincinnati Magazine.
On the Road With Joey Votto, Who Hasn’t Turned On a Hotel TV in 15 Years
This piece at GQ, another interview with Votto that focuses on his travel routines, is an outstanding read. You should read every single word.
For some reason, the headline made it seem strange that Votto doesn’t turn on his hotel television. What’s going on, Big Dan? How could someone refuse to turn on that hotel TV?
I have traveled a lot, and it’s maybe the biggest passion of my life (even moreso than these silly Cincinnati Reds). I intend to write more about my travels in the coming months here at The Riverfront. But one thing you won’t read about when I talk about the various places I’ve been and the experiences I’ve had is television.
I literally don’t remember the last time I turned on a hotel TV. It has certainly been more than 15 years since I’ve turned one on. Is this a weird thing? And is this literally the only thing I have in common with Joey Votto?
Thanks for reading The Riverfront by Chad Dotson! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.