How the Reds Are Setting Up Votto to Fail

Joey Votto hasn’t played a game for the Cincinnati Reds since July 5. Battling a quad injury in his left leg, the four-time All-Star has watched his team fall out of contention, as the Reds have gone 12-25 since the All-Star break and 19-28 since he last suited up. His teammates picked him up early on, winning seven of nine games heading into the break, immediately following Votto being placed on the disabled list, as the club was just 1.5 games out in the NL Central before the break.

Then…it all fell apart. The offense has the lowest OPS in baseball in the second half (.596, 13 points lower than the next worst team), while the starting pitching, formerly the club’s greatest strength, has fallen off, including having to battle the depth chart due to an injury to Homer Bailey.

At ten games back going into Wednesday night’s battle with the Chicago Cubs and just 30 games remaining, there isn’t much left to play for this season, and there isn’t much left for Joey Votto to prove.

The recent news of Votto returning to the field and completing “baseball activities” is great. He has been out for so long and the offense is suffering. A healthy Joey Votto makes the Reds worth watching. A healthy Joey Votto makes the ten years and $213 million look much less unreasonable, and his ability to produce at his 2010 MVP levels would make it a bargain…
But…we don’t know if that Votto is ever coming back. We don’t know just how bad this quad injury is, and whether rest is or was the correct solution. The Reds allowed Votto to sit on the disabled list for nearly two months to rest his injury, while setting him up for a September return. Over those two months, fans weren’t updated on his injury, his treatment, or his future outlook, but was it really the fan’s rights to know that?

Votto swings? Who knew!!
Votto swings? Who knew!!

Here is the problem with how the Reds have handled the Joey Votto situation:

1) No one knows the true extent of the injury. Is it the quad, the knee, a ligament, a tendon? What is wrong with him and can it heal with rest or would a surgery have been more appropriate? What if rest didn’t work and another surgery knocks him out of action for a third or half of the 2015 season?

2) The Reds didn’t communicate the status of their superstar, which has left fans and media alike wondering what is going on. When Votto finally made an appearance, the media nearly ripped his head off and this was his response:

“Let’s make it clear here. This is a real gray area and I feel like I’ve been the one in the crosshairs. I’ve been injured and this is something I’ve had hanging over me in the general population, with the fans. The question is whether it is toughness or playing through pain or playing hurt sort of thing. I’m injured. And I’ve played injured. I went on the disabled list because I’ve been injured.  I’m trying to be un-injured right now. So the second I’m capable of playing, and no longer injured, I will be back on the field. In the meantime, you can assume I’m injured. I shouldn’t get any sort of different treatment (from the fans). I’ve noticed little comments here and there, just a general perception that this is something I elected to do, that I elected to be hurt. I didn’t elect to get injured. I’m injured. What can I do?”

The organization left those who follow the team out to dry, but not nearly as much as they left the face of the franchise out to dry. Why do that to your top asset, whether you agree with the contract or not?

3) Votto is now coming back in September. He is going to prepare to return to the team WITH the team, as there isn’t going to be a minor league rehab assignment with the minor league season nearly over. With a game and an approach built on timing, the Reds are, once again, setting Votto up to fail. He has a .390 on-base percentage this season in 62 games, but the focus remains on the six home runs and .255 batting average that many still, unfortunately, consider the only valuable measurables when it comes to determining player value. If the fans and club weren’t happy with his production before the injury, how are they going to be satisfied with Votto returning to the lineup in September after 60 or more days away from live, Major League pitching?

Votto1It doesn’t make sense for Votto to return in 2014. He has nothing to prove and he is only going to hurt himself more by coming back. The expectations that he has to live up to in a “small-market” like Cincinnati seem quite outrageous, and it’s very unfortunate that a very good player with a very useful skill-set continues to be ripped apart for accepting a life-changing contract that the team was responsible for offering.

Joey Votto is a fantastic player. He needs to get himself right to truly help the Cincinnati Reds. Unfortunately, the rest of the team and management didn’t do their part in 2014. Replacing Shin-Soo Choo‘s production with a rookie speedster (Billy Hamilton) and veteran utility-man (Skip Schumaker) didn’t do the trick, especially when the club’s top player was unable to take the field. Joey Votto didn’t help the Reds in 2014, but neither did Walt Jocketty or Bob Castellini. It’s time to put the blame elsewhere and let Votto get himself right for 2015 and beyond. There is much more riding on his knee in 2015 than this wasted 2014 season.

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