CINCINNATI — Joey Votto didn’t want to talk about it, hoped it would all blow away and as he said, “Be a nothing.”
But on media, especially social media, Votto’s home plate eruption Wednesday night against umpire Bill Welke was more than nothing. It was everything.
So Votto felt compelled just prior to Friday night’s game to defend himself, to defend his good name, to give his side of the story.
IN BRIEF, BEFORE the eighth inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Votto asked Welke for time out. Welke said no. Votto used the word please three times. Welke said no.
When Votto turned toward the dugout for help, Welke ejected him. And Votto reacted in an explosive manner, although at no time did he touch an umpire or bump an umpire.
“Did I overreact? Yeah, I did overreact,” said Votto. “But I felt so compelled and I was in such an intense place that like, who is to decide how angry I can get as long as I follow the rules? Overeaction? Sure. The public is allowed to say it is an overreaction. MLB is allowed to say it is an overreaction. But who is to say how angry I am allowed to get.”
NEVERTHELESS, VOTTO was suspended for two games, a suspension that he is appealing.
Votto was extremely emotional during a 12-minute monologue during which he took only one question.
“I want to give my personal side so fans know that I’m not just a uniform, I’m not just a player in a uniform, not just a nut that reacted on the field,” he said.
Despite all the commentary about the issue that indicated that Votto and Welke were at each other all evening over balls and strikes calls, Votto said that wasn’t that case.
“The first at bat there was a ball that was called a strike and it appeared I was talking to him and disagreeing with the call,” he said. “Actually, our bench disagreed with the call and I agreed with Welke. I told him, ‘Bill, there is nothing there to get upset about. It was a strike and you and I both know it Don’t worry about the bench.’”
ABOUT ARGUING CALLS, Votto said, “My rules? I like to disagree once and let it be. It is their strike zone, not my strike zone. I don’t play the ball-and-strike game. I’m not getting thrown out on balls-and-strikes. The strike zone is different every day. These are the best in the world at what they do and I admire and respect them. I don’t have problems with them. They are balls. They are strikes. They are outs. They are safes.”
Votto said he did disagree with him on a balls and strikes call, “But then I moved on. I came up in a crucial situation (in the eighth) with our team down three (and two men on),” said Votto. “I am intense, serious and focused when I am up there. In that situation, with a chance to tie the game, there was a ball called off the plate. I didn’t say anything.
“That was the most important thing in this disagreement,” Votto added. “I made a point not to say anything. I took a little extra time. I’ve played this game nine years and I’m granted extra time as long as I don’t show up the umpire.
“We have a good relationship, umpires and myself,” he said. “I have a great track record.”
BUT IN THIS CASE, after the strike call on which Votto said nothing, didn’t disgree, he did ask for time, and he said, “You can see on the videos, I did ask for time and I said please. I said please three times.”
Welke said no at least twice. “I asked again, not understanding that he would say no again, but he said no. That made me feel boxed in as a person. I was boxed in physically and metaphorically, in the most intense part of the game. I couldn’t step away and get back to neutral mentally.”
After Votto looked toward his dugout for help and Welke ejected him, that’s when Votto reacted in an offensive manner. But he is right. He did not touch or bump an umpire, although he admits using expletives after the ejection.
“I feel terrible about that,” he said. “I was angry. I told him I was going to make points about what happened between he and I publicly. I told him I couldn’t have been more professional. I treat him with respect, but unfortunately they were accompanied with some expletives. At no point did I put my hands on anybody. People touched me (umpire Laz Diaz). I touched no umpires.”
“It is important to me for people to know that truly I have great relationship with the umpires,” Votto added. “I admire and respect them. The next time I see Bill Welke I will say hello to him because this is a nothing to me.
“In this instance, though, I disagree with my ejection because at no point before the ejection was I disrespectful,” he said. “There was politeness on the field and I went over and above to be respectful. So unfortunately I had to defend myself publicly and I didn’t want to do that.”