The Reds miss the playoffs, ending Joey Votto’s season

As of late Saturday night, all remaining MLB playoff spots were filled. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays woke up Sunday morning as playoff teams, inheriting a full day of the regular season to revel in their fate. The Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds, all eliminated, experienced a season finale that they had planned to postpone.

For the Cubs, whose playoff chances were at 92 percent less than a month ago, the result was a collapse. For the Mariners, determined to clinch another playoff berth after last year’s losing streak, the disappointment led to homegrown star Cal Raleigh publicly criticizing management for not spending enough money on the kind of proven talent which he said helped.

For the Reds, however, progressing to the end of the season meant a win rather than a defeat, the beginning of an era rather than a disappointing end. Their squad relied primarily on younger players who will be around for years. In an annually weak division, they appear to have enough talent to make the playoffs in the coming years.

“I’m disappointed that we came up just short of making the postseason,” star Joey Votto told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Saturday night, though he was one of the few people on the team who seemed unwilling to talk about the future in defeat. While the Reds played in St. Louis, Votto spent his weekend as a (sometimes) polite spectator of another man’s farewell tour, while the Cardinals waved goodbye to Adam Wainwright – at least until Votto was ejected from Sunday’s game in the first inning for disputing the ball and Punches from the Reds dugout. The part that remained unsaid, at least by Votto himself, was that he might soon be waving goodbye too.

“As far as my future, my individual future, I’m not ready yet. I can’t… I was given so much praise and attention on that last stretch that it caused conflict,” Votto said. “I appreciate it and I acknowledge it and I’m grateful for it, but then there’s the competitive aspect that says, ‘Just let me compete today.’ ”

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Votto, the Reds’ longtime first baseman with more than 2,100 hits to his name, is now 40 years old and has a surgically repaired shoulder that isn’t quite the same, with a .747 OPS in 208 at-bats for one team this season Having done this has made many young players hit better. His contract includes a team option for next season that would cost the Reds $20 million to exercise. In some markets, this option would be a formality, a small price to pay for a franchise player’s final ride. In Cincinnati, where pay cuts are common and every dollar is measured, the Reds probably can’t afford to pay for nostalgia.

Besides, Votto wouldn’t want that. As he recovered from a shoulder injury this year and hoped to join a dynamic young team that had taken off without him, Votto emphasized how much he appreciated having to fight for a spot. He was grateful to return to a team where he had to perform well to play, a team that couldn’t afford to trade a little less performance for a little more spirit.

“I have to do my job!” he told a laughing crowd after delivering a base hit in his final home at-bat last week. The fans then stood up and cheered for him. He turned around, waved and told them how grateful he was to represent them for 17 seasons. Everyone seemed to admit that they might not play anyone else.

“That was the first time I felt that feeling. We all kind of knew we were going to get through this year, the possibilities of next year, and the fact that we wouldn’t have him back. It’s a real thing. But I always thought, ‘That’s Joey Votto; “He’ll be back next year,” Reds outfielder TJ Friedl said. “That last shot made me sit back. . . . I’m so glad the city gave him that applause and did what they did for him for everything he’s given to the city of Cincinnati over the last 17 years.”

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Always analytical and tirelessly confident, Votto is realistic about what he can contribute and what he may still have to give. And teammates say he didn’t approach his work like someone running out of time.

“He’s still working as hard as I’ve ever seen him. He still has a lot of power in his swing. It just depends on whether he lets himself go there,” Reds catcher Curt Casali said. “You see him in batting practice – he can still get the batsman’s eye out of a BP arm, which is really difficult, especially at 40. His diet is ridiculous. He works really hard in the weight room. He still goes out and dives for balls during batting practice, which…

“Especially for the young guys, when you look at him you realize you don’t have to play one way or another,” Casali added. “You can just go out and play like a kid again.”

From Elly De La Cruz to Spencer Steer, from Matt McLain to Christian Encarnacion-Strand – the Reds have more kids playing like veterans than the other way around. And while this is no longer the heart of Votto’s Reds era, this is still his team, with his stamp on all of it. During the team’s final road trip of the season, Votto was sitting in his chair in the corner of the clubhouse when big Will Benson walked over with a huge box in his hand. He sat down as Votto opened the box and pulled out a shiny new chess board, a gift from Benson to the man he said saved his career with a long conversation on a long flight during an even longer lull this season have.

Votto, an avid chess player who wrote a lengthy story on his Medium page announcing that he would be taking part in the Cincinnati Children’s Theater production of “The SpongeBob Musical: Young Adult Edition” next month, never miss the chance to analyze. As he rehabbed his shoulder injury last year, he stayed in the minors to spend time with De La Cruz and others, mentoring them months before their big league breakout.

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“He’s very smart and very introspective about his approach to batting, which means his philosophy is really different to mine. I like to simplify,” Friedl said, joking that he tries his best not to think too much while Votto is constantly thinking about things. That’s why he was curious one day this year when he saw Votto, a left-handed hitter with an uppercut, bouncing off a pitching machine and shooting fastballs up and in as he tried to hit them in the opposite direction – ” a very uncomfortable pitch, a pitch that no one would make.” “I want to attack,” said Friedl.

Everyone in the clubhouse knows that Votto always has a reason. That’s because he hit more than any active player other than Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, how he hit .294 in 17 big league seasons and why the Reds’ younger players wear T-shirts that say “Our Future Hall of Famer.” “Runs harder than yours.” ” So Friedl asked him why.

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Votto, of course, took the time to explain: The exercise helps him keep his front shoulder upright, helps him make sure his hands start high and go straight to the ball – helps him keep his hands in whatever pitch Votto also did anyone who played baseball at certain times in their career.

“In my head, I thought that if I was in my right mind, I would never voluntarily say, ‘Hey, put it this way,'” Friedl said. “And now I’ve been doing this exercise every day since spring training.” The Reds miss the playoffs, ending Joey Votto’s season

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