GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Joey Votto’s arrival at spring training had a bit of a last-man-standing feel. The Reds have traded a lot of long-time teammates. Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman, Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto. And Jay Bruce could be next.
“It’s definitely weird,” Votto said. “The guys that were traded were teammates, guys that I played with for a while, friends. That’s a weird feeling.”
Votto knew this could happen when he signed the 10-year contract. The reality that it is actually happening hasn’t made it any more difficult, Votto said. He plans to be here.
“I better be,” he said.
There were rumors Monday night that Bruce had been traded. The trade since fell through. But that would be a tough one for Votto. Bruce and Votto were teammates in the minors and have been Reds together for more than seven years.
“For sure, when they traded Aroldis and when they traded Todd and then the discussions about Brandon (Phillips), those are all kind of upsetting to a teammate,” Votto said. “I’m going to learn all my teammates’ names and get to know them and make connections and bond with them.
“We’re going to be one squad here. But I’m going to miss those guys. If anyone else goes, I’ll obviously miss them.”
But Votto plans to be here for the remaining eight years on his contract.
“I’m not going to buy high,” he said. “That’s silly. I’m a buy-low kind of guy. I think the future of franchise is heading in the right direction. It’s unfortunate to trade such high-level talent. The starting All-Star third baseman. Aroldis, one of the best closers in the game. Johnny and Mike.
“Alas, the 'times they are changin,’ Bob Dylan. I felt like Dusty (Baker) right there.”
Again, Votto is prepared for the long haul.
“We rode out some (stuff) last year,” Votto said. “If I can ride that out and have a good time, I can handle just about anything. As long as we continue to head in the right direction, I’m very excited and proud to be a Red. I’m motivated by being part of the future.”
Was last year the bottom?
“I can’t point one way or the other,” he said. “But it damn well better be. A hundred losses — 98 losses — was not that fun to take on a daily basis. We were in the inverse position, where we were kicking everybody’s ass. It was easy.”
If Bruce goes, the Reds will be left with two veteran position players, Votto and Phillips.
“I think Brandon and myself have a shared responsibility to make a connection with all the guys on the team and learn from them,” Votto said. “Do our part — I don’t want to use the word leadership because I think that’s a silly word — but to do our part to set a standard and play at that standard on a consistent basis. Hopefully, other guys follow suit.”
Votto searched for words when asked why leadership is a silly word.
“No comment,” he said.
“I think it’s thrown around too much," he continued. "I think it’s awfully . . . what’s the word? Not arrogant. What’s the opposite of humility? When you start talking about you imparting leadership, give me a break. True leaders don’t talk about leading. Martin Luther King was never like: I’m a leader.”
Votto comes into camp in much different place personally. Last year, he was coming off a year in which he was limited to 62 games and put up the worst numbers of his career. The knee/quad injury that kept him out had people wondering if he would ever be the same player. He responded by hitting .314 with 29 home runs and 80 RBI. And he finished third in the National League MVP voting.
“It's nice to come in and concentrate on performing instead of rehabbing or overcoming setbacks from the previous year,” he said.
Votto said his offseason was normal.
“A lot of sleeping, a lot of walks. I went for a lot of walks,” he said. “The Cincinnati fan base can be excited about the future of my performance. I’m rested and I practiced walking a lot.”
That last bit a was subtle dig at those who question Votto’s approach to hitting. He led the NL with 143 walks.