CINCINNATI — Joey Votto had his say with umpire Bill Welke Wednesday night and that is that.
When approached at his locker Thursday afternoon the discourse with the media lasted 58 seconds. And the last 30 seconds with Votto standing in front of his locker was silence, his lips pressed tightly closed, not a word escaping.
The incident on the field lasted longer than the interview that didn’t last long to even qualify as a briefing.
Actually, what was there to say? Votto was at the plate against Pittsburgh left hander Tony Watson.
Welke called a dubious strike two on Votto — and it wasn’t the first pitch Welke missed, not only on Votto but several players on both teams. Pittsburgh starter J.A. Happ struck out 10 and five were called third strikes.
AFTER THE STRIKE two call on Votto he stepped out of the box and politely asked for a time out. He even used the word please, as in, “Please may I have a time out.”
Welke said no and Votto turned to the dugout and said something like, “Hey, he won’t give me a time out.”
That’s when Welke ejected him and that’s when Votto slam dunked his batting helmet to the ground and had to be restrained from getting at Welke, although he was close enough to him before being restrained that it looked as though they were dancing cheek-to-cheek. Welke said Votto spit on him, but it was accidental, the result of Votto spitting words at him.
IN FAIRNESS TO VOTTO, he was the recipient of several bad calls during the three-game series against the Pirates, including a strike three call to end Tuesday night’s game. He foul-tipped it and the ball appeared to hit the ground. But it was ruled that the ball didn’t hit the ground and the catcher caught it. Strike three. Game over. Reds lose.
So who can blame Votto for being frustrated and wary and leery.
Votto and his teammates left a pre-game hitters meeting before Thursday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals and the media swarmed Votto’s locker.
He was asked, “It appeared you politely asked for a time out so what is your version of what happened?”
Said Votto, “I’m not going to talk about the exchange last night.”
THEN HE WAS asked if he had heard anything from Major League Baseball and was he in today’s starting lineup.
“No, I haven’t heard anything from the league and yes I am in the lineup,” he said. “Most definitely.”
When he was asked if he was surprised that he was ejected after he turned toward the dugout, Votto went mum. He squeezed his lips tightly and said no more.
He was asked if he had talked to the umpire (Welke). More silence.
That’s when Reds Media Relations Director Rob Butcher said, “You see where this is going. Anybody have anything else for Joey?” Nobody did and Votto spoke — “Thank you guys, thank you very much.”
MANAGER BRYAN Price, also ejected when he rushed onto the field to defend Votto, although Votto was already ejected, had a few things to say.
“I have done some investigative work and made a couple of phone calls to see if I could get a better understanding of what happened,” he said. “I imagine I’ll get some contact from the league anyway.”
It is likely Votto will draw a fine and a suspension. He had a home plate altercation in Pittsburgh on May 6 over balls and strikes with umpire Chris Conroy. He bumped Conroy and was suspended one game.
It was the third time this year Votto was ejected, the seventh time during his career. And Bill Welke ejected him one other time, July 12, 2009 in New York for arguing a called strike three.
“There will be some finality to it but I’d like a better understanding of what happened and why it happened from the perspective of the umpires and those who evaluate it,” said Price.
PRICE, OF COURSE, was on Votto’s side, as is most of the baseball world this side of the guys wearing blue.
“I think he had every right to be angry,” said Price. “If you ask for time out, you should get time out. The proper response from the umpire, after giving time out, is to say, if the batter is taking an elaborate amount of time outs, ‘Hey, listen you need to get back in the box or we’ll put the ball in play with you inside or outside the batter’s box.’
“I’m sure there was some back-and-forth before that, but it doesn’t matter if it’s Joey or anybody else, if he asks for time out he should be granted a time out,” Price continued. “And then move on from that point.”
Price had more to say in defense of his team’s best player, one who is quiet and reserved for 99 per cent of the time, but is quick to erupt and explode when he believes he has been done wrong.
“From what I know, talking to both Joey and Welke is that Joey asked for a time out and was not granted that time out. To me that would warrant a response from Joey to get some help from his manager, which he asked for,” said Price.
AND THAT’S WHEN Welke excused Votto from further competition.
“He was ejected for that,” said Price. “Joey feels as if he handled the situation as he should. He responded to the ejection.”
The big question? Why wouldn’t Welke grant the time out request? It is something umpires do without second thought.
Price said he thought Welke didn’t grant it because he expected Votto to start arguing with him about the called strike two and other calls. “He came to his own conclusion as to why Joey would ask for a time out. If there was any disagreement to previous calls in the strike zone, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that the guy is asking for time out and then as he typically does Joey will be back in the box ready to compete.”
Price leaned back in his office chair and said, “I’ll sure be interested to see how all this shakes out. I don’t think I have ever been in a situation where a player asked for a time out and was not given it.”
And now, when the league responds, Votto is certain to get a time out he didn’t ask for and doesn’t want.