THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
He is listed as the 6th biggest hothead in Major League Baseball, according to the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. His name is Joey Votto, and you'd think that a Canadian would be nicer.
Votto is the first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds, and he's not going anywhere anytime soon. He's signed through 2023 with a team option for 2024. He won the NL MVP in 2010 and a Gold Glove in 2011. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2008, and he is a four-time All Star.
And he's a jerk.
A story broke this week about Votto's conversation with a kid in the front row while the Reds were in San Francisco. The kid had asked for Votto's batting gloves. Votto's response?
Ms. Nichols didn't help herself much afterwards with this one, though...
Let's take a brief pause while my hands slide slowly down my face.
Okay, we're back.
Votto has a history of this kind of behavior. In May of this year, Votto faked out a kid in Philadelphia by mimicking the action of tossing the kid a ball. Votto then kept it for himself and said, "Too bad." Prior to that, Votto went on a stomping spree to destroy a paper airplane that landed near him while on the field at Dodgers Stadium.
In both of those incidents, members of the media spun the acts to be more playful. Whether you agree with that or not, this incident in San Francisco has no playfulness.
Votto's behavior doesn't stop there. In 2015, Votto was ejected three times. In May 2015, Votto was ejected by home plate umpire Chris Conroy for slamming his equipment after a strikeout. Votto didn't realize he had been ejected until he was warming up in the field for the next inning; when he did realize it, he stormed over to Conroy and bumped him.
Later that year in August, Votto was ejected as part of a fight that broke out between the Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Finally, the big one in September: Votto was ejected by home plate umpire Bill Welke after disagreeing not only over the strike zone (insert comment about how the blog is named the same thing), but also over a request for time during an at bat. Votto not only seemed to make contact with Welke, but he also spit on him.
As a quick aside in the above ejection, credit to Laz Diaz for holding Votto back. But I suppose we could always expect moves from Diaz after this:
Okay, back on point now...
We see the history of Joey Votto. We see he has a temper with umpires and a rude demeanor with fans. It's time for Joey Votto to grow up.
Let's take a moment real quick to play devil's advocate and argue the opposing side. Votto could argue the same thing that many players argue when displeased with the call of an umpire. This goes beyond just a game to some of these players: this is their profession, and their performance on the field dictates their ability to negotiate the highest possible salary for their services. If a player is going to have a bad year, the player wants to be responsible for poor performance; he doesn't want the umpire to play a role in his ability to earn a living.
You know what the response is to that? Suck it up.
This is coming from someone who is economically conservative, mind you, but if you're going to make $25,000,000 per year between the years of 2018 and 2023 inclusively, the negotiation is over. I'm all for everybody trying to earn every penny they can, but you've won already, Joey. Unless you violate the terms of your contract, you and many generations of your family will be set for life. You become more valuable when you show restraint and show you are a good influence on your teammates. Good clubhouse personalities are hard to find these days.
Okay, so what about the kids who asked for the items from Votto? If they're sitting so close to the field, do they really need the additional game-used souvenirs? The experience of just sitting there at a level where they can hear the players pass gas should be rewarding enough, right?
In theory, yes. If you're going to look at it from the standpoint of trying to give all kids an equally great experience, then the kids who sit that close to the field have already had theirs. If it came down to Votto having to decide to give a ball or his batting gloves to the kid in the front row or to the kid in the bleachers, then it's a completely different story, especially if Votto makes the right call and gives whatever he has to the kid in the bleachers. In fact, Andrew McCutchen knows how to make grown men cry by doing it:
But what makes this such a head scratcher is the selfishness that creates the divisiveness between the two schools of thought. Votto cares about earning every penny he can earn on the field, but when it comes to doing something nice for kids, it's more about spreading the wealth and not rewarding the kid in the front row who may have already had his reward. Either that, or Votto is just so selfish that it's all about him through and through.
Perhaps the kids need to be reeled in a little and taught a lesson about being grateful for what they do have. Is today's generation of youth self-entitled? In general, absolutely. Perhaps the kids need to experience a tough lesson.
But at the same time, you are a professional athlete. You are the role model for these kids. You have the power to make a dream come true. You can make a fan for life or an enemy based on your behavior on the field (and in public). Andrew McCutchen probably has his finger wrapped around the hearts of those young boys in the above video.
And at the very least, do what you're told to do by every high ranking official: ignore it. Pretend that person isn't there. Don't instigate it and then end up on a blog like this because you're a jerk.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.