When word got out that Joey Votto‘s locker was empty and that Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini was meeting with manager Bryan Price before yesterday’s game, all hell broke loose in Reds Twitterdom. As Samer Kalaf points out on Deadspin, it turned out to be nothing but a day off for Votto, but the knee-jerk panic and Votto’s ongoing injury problems make it clear that his spotty presence in the lineup is contributing little at this point. With signs pointing to yet another stay on the disabled list, it’s time for the team and its fans to accept that Votto’s season is done.
To be sure, the loss of a team leader who’s making a good chunk of change is not a palatable thought, but the alternative is even less appetizing for a team with designs on the post-season. Votto has managed to find his way into the lineup on 62 occasions this year, but the constant uncertainty around his status makes it difficult for the Reds to find any consistency in their lineup, and it shows in the form of a below-average run-scoring ability despite playing in a hitter’s park. Even when he plays, of course, Votto is showing very little power, and his .409 slugging percentage is a career low by far.
If the Reds have any hope of making the playoffs, they need to seriously upgrade that offensive production, and a one-dimensional first baseman won’t cut it, even if he IS Joey Votto. By shutting him down now, the Reds can give Votto a chance to recuperate from his bruised quad, which has a months-long healing period. At the same time, knowing that Votto is gone would give General Manager Walt Jocketty further impetus to seek a hitter or two on the trade market, while also opening up the list of potential trade candidates.
If all goes well with the quad during the rest of the summer, and if the Reds can gain some offensive steam and find their way into the playoffs, who knows? Maybe Votto can gimp his way back in time to provide some post-season heroics, invoking Kirk Gibson. In early July, though, neither Votto or the Reds have the kind of staying power to start making October plans, and it seems like a cooling off period is in order.
As painful as it is, we may have seen the last of Votto in 2014.