CINCINNATI — What fans should be talking about when it comes to Joey Votto is that over the last two months he has become Terror in the Batter’s Box, a hit machine that is turned up to full speed ahead.
Since June 1, when he was hitting .213, he is hitting .443, lifting his batting average to .293. And his on base percentage climbed right along with it, from .330 to .425. Votto is man right now that no pitcher wants to deal with — just walk him and avoid bigger disasters.
That, though, isn’t what folks are talking about when it comes to Joey Votto. For some reason he has become Joey Villain, fast sinking from a fan favorite to a fan ogre.
UNTIL TUESDAY NIGHT, most of his curious antics have come on the road — Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In Philadelphia and Washigrnton, he taunted fans with baseballs, acting as if he were going to give them baseballs, only to pull them away and keep them. In Los Angeles he angrily stomped on a paper airplane, as if it was bogey aircraft. Players normally just pick up paper airplanes and stuff them in their back pockets. Votto, though, trampled it as if it were a live coral snake.
In San Francisco he reprimanded a fan for asking for his batting gloves, chiding the fan for asking for something free when the was sitting in privileged and expensive seats.
Votto brought it home to Great American Ball Park Tuesday night on a foul pop near the stands. Votto reached in to make the catch. But a fan, wearing a Reds shirt with the wishbone ‘C’ logo reached above Votto to grab the ball. When Votto couldn’t make the catch, he grabbed the logo on the shirt, as if to say, “You’re wearing a Reds shirt, so why would you interfere with me making the catch?”
The fan, of course, was doing what all fans do when a baseball is within reach. They reach for it. A souvenir. A free baseball.
TO HIS CREDIT THIS time, Votto apologized for grabbing the fan’s shirt.
“I made a big mistake by crossing the stands/field boundaries and ended up going into the stands to make a catch,” he said after the game. “I misplayed it. I took my frustation out on a fan. First of all, I should have made the catch, regardless. I crossed the boundaries and touched the fan.
“I felt really bad about it afterwards,” said Votto. “Randy is his name and I went up to see him afterwards. He was generous enough to apologize at the time and afterwards. In retrospect, he is not the one who should be apologizing. I should be apologizing. He was just trying to catch a ball and here I am bullying him. I do want to treat my fellow man with respect and I was in the wrong completely.
“I was certainly regretful and he was forgiving so I would like to think all is good,” Votto added. “They guy ended up striking out anyway so it was all a zero.”
THAT IS ALL WELL AND good, a gold star for Votto’s forehead. But they won’t forgive him in Philadelphia or Washingtin for his taunting, or in San Francisco for his comments.
There is nothing anywhere that says Votto has to give fans baseballs or to give fans his personal equipment, no matter how many free boxes of batting gloves arrive at his locker. They do belong to him.
What puts the bad light on it is when Votto fakes throwing a ball into the stands. Just ignore the requests for the ball, tuck it in your glove and leave. Don’t fake a throw. And just ignore a fan’s request for your batting gloves. A snippy, snarky reply isn’t necessary.
All it is doing to Votto is truly making him Votto the Villain around baseball. If that’s what he wants, fine. Just a couple of years ago he was voted The Face of Baseball. Now he is putting an ugly mask on that face. He is too good and he is the face of the Cincinnati Reds.
You don’t see Votto smile much, but a grin now and then wouldn’t hurt his image, especially in these days when so many players wearing Reds uniforms are not recognizable. For the sake of the franchise, and his image that is being tarnished this season, the hitting machine that plays first base for the Reds needs to take a chill pill or a good will pill.
ON TUESDAY NIGHT, when Scott Schebler hit his three-run, game-winning, walk-off home run, he was playing left field. Adam Duvall, who hit a two-run home run, was in reight field.
When Wednesday’s lineup was posted, Duvall was back in left and Schebler was in right field. What’s up with that?
“We’re trying to guage Schebler as a right fielder,” said manager Bryan Price. “I talked to (Louisville manager) Delino DeShields about how much he played in right. He primarily played center. He has played right in the past, right for the Dodgers and right in spring training. And he played some right for Delino. It is just a chance to take a look at him out there.”
IN ADDITION, BILLY HAMILTON was not in the lineup and Tyler Holt was in center field, but Price said it was not just to give Hamilton a day off.
“It is more that I just wanted to get Holt into the lineup,” said Price. “He has mostly been just a pinch-hitter and a double-switch guy the entire month of July. I just have to find some ways to get him some regular at bats. Today seemed like a good time.”
That’s because the Reds were facing St. Louis pitcher Michael Wacha, “And right handers seems to hit him significantly better, like about 30 points better,” said Price.
ZACK COZART was out of the lineup for the second straight game with a sore right ring finger and possibly could miss the entire Cardinals series with the finale a day game Thursday.
“He didn’t have a great deal of improvemeent overnight so we’re hoping a lot of treatment today will allow him to play tomorrow. It is day-to-day right now, with not a whole lot of overnight improvement.”
CATCHER DEVIN MESORACO, walking around on crutches after his recent hip surgery, certainly is frustrated with his two years of mostly inactivity due to surgery on both hips and a shoulder.
“I miss playing so much,” he said. “It sucks, not only for me. The Reds signed me to a contract and they expected me to be out there and contributing to the team, helping these young pitchers. And that hasn’t happened. Unfortuntley I haven’t been able to be out there. I wanted to be somebody who overperformed on their contract rather than underperformed. It hasn’t worked out, either way.”
Mesoraco signed a four-year $28 million contract before the 2015 season and so far has played 39 games the past two season.
Mesoraco was quick and adamant when asked if the two hip surgeries affects his future as a catcher.
“No, not at all,” he quickly said. “I came back from the left hip (surgery) and I expect this one (right hip) to go smoother. I don’t see any reason why I can’t catch. In theory, I’ll have more range of motion than I ever had. I should be able to get into position better than I ever have because I’ll have more range of motion.”