Joey Votto finished his 2012 season with singles in each of his final two plate appearances, but it was his fifth-inning at-bat in Game 5 of the National League Division Series that sticks with him.
The Reds trailed 6-2 in the bottom of the fifth and Votto had two men aboard with two outs. He ended up grounding out to end the inning, but it was an earlier pitch — a slider from starter Matt Cain — that he fouled off which stuck with him.
“I got a pitch I normally, I look for it, I put a good swing on it and it goes in the seats and I missed it,” said a bearded Votto at RedsFest last week.
It was obvious to anyone watching Votto since he returned that he didn’t have the same power. While Votto reached base more than half the time he came to the plate after returning from the injury, 22 of his 31 hits from September on — including all seven of his hits in the NLDS — were singles. None of the 22 were home runs. He was still a very good player — he was basically Wade Boggs, who is in the Hall of Fame — it’s just that he wasn’t Joey Votto.
“Baseball’s not other sports, one player does not change it,” Votto said. “However, baseball players have moments where they change things. Buster Posey hit that grand slam, he basically put the ball out of reach. Had he hit a two-run homer or a single or something, it would have been different. But he hit a grand slam and changed the game. He knocked us out and sent them to the World Series in a roundabout way. I never had that opportunity. All I could do was hit singles, get on base, be a tough out. Hopefully the guys behind me could do their thing — and they did, Ryan Ludwick was fantastic — I just didn’t have that moment, I didn’t have those moments.
I wasn’t a consistent threat. That was a byproduct of my knee.”
Votto, who underwent two surgeries on his left knee during the season, said it was so bad once he returned that he couldn’t even crouch in the on-deck circle like he usually does. While he’s still not at 100 percent, Votto said he has gotten his range of motion back and is feeling much stronger than he did in October. He’s still contemplating playing for his native Canada in the World Baseball Classic, but will only do so if he feels 100 percent.
While he was rehabbing from his initial injury in July and August, Votto said the same thing. He said he wouldn’t return until he was 100 percent, but still ended up rushing back. He was still a very good player and a threat in the team’s lineup, but he wasn’t what he has been and what he will be.
“It’s a new experience for me, I’ve said this multiple times,” Votto said. “I’ve never been injured before. I think my expectations were a little out of whack — they weren’t realistic initially. However, with some distance from the injury, I feel much better.”
Thinking Out Loud
Anyone who believed Butch Jones’ vows of loyalty was either too young to have seen it before or an idiot. For all of those who bemoan Jones’ move and claim hypocrisy, well, they’re probably just mad at themselves for looking bad by believing it. Every college coach says he’s going to be loyal, and they all have to in order to recruit players. I’ll always remember what Colorado State college basketball coach Larry Eustachy told me about the hardest part of his recovery from alcoholism — that it was really hard recruiting because Alcoholics Anonymous preaches you can’t lie, which made it very difficult to recruit. Jones isn’t a bad person, he’s just a college football coach. ... That said, UC ended up with a better coach. The day after Jones was introduced at Tennessee, Tommy Tuberville was at Fifth Third Arena before UC fans as its latest football coach. The basic lesson is that UC athletic director Whit Babcock is a ninja AD. In Friday’s press conference announcing Jones’ departure, Babcock said it wasn’t about winning the press conference — well, he did anyway on Friday and on Saturday. Well done. He may be the next guy other colleges poach — and if they do, it’s because he’s done well at UC. ... There are those who don’t agree with the Reds’ decision to move Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation — including some of those on his own team. However, he does have a supporter in Votto. “No disrespect to David Price, I’ve got [Chapman], as far as natural ability, ahead of him. David’s never hit 100 mph, David doesn’t have one of the greatest athletic bodies I’ve ever seen in my entire life. We could be seeing the next CC Sabathia on our club. He could also get hurt, not pitch well, or get sent back to the bullpen, who knows? But you’ve got to take a chance sometime. I really hope it pans out.”