For the first time since 1995, the Cincinnati Reds will be playing post-season baseball, and Toronto’s Joey Votto is a major reason why.
Votto has been having a career year and is a strong candidate for NL MVP, finishing the year in the top three in batting average (.324), RBIs (113) and home runs (37), along with a 1.024 OPS (On-base plus slugging) – good for tops in the league.
Despite putting up these spectacular numbers and being the undisputed offensive leader for the Reds, the soft-spoken slugger remains humble.
“We’re a team,” he told reporters. “That’s one of my very favourite parts of playing baseball. I might get MVP consideration. That means [that] instead of being worth three per cent to the team, I’m worth four per cent.”
Not getting caught up in his own hype has helped Votto perform at an elite level. He’s also taking precautions against outside distractions for the post-season.
“I’ve established boundaries,” he told the Globe and Mail. “When people start to get inside [my head], I’ll direct them away.”
He has also turned to veteran teammate Scott Rolen for advice.
“[The playoffs are] emotionally different than anything else you’ve experienced,” Rolen told the Globe and Mail. “You can be 0-for-10 or 0-for-15 or 16 before you know it.
“I’ve gone into playoff series where I’ve been hot, swinging the bat really well, and before you know it, somebody makes a diving catch off you and all of a sudden you go to the plate feeling you need a hit.”
Seeking out Rolen’s help is wise, especially since the third baseman has already won a World Series back in 2006 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
However, Votto, 27, still understands that no amount of conversation can capture the intensity of October baseball, needing to experience the playoffs to fully grasp what it takes to win.
“I don’t even know what to think about,” Votto said. “I don’t know what it’s like. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know the atmosphere. I don’t know how the city of Cincinnati is going to react. I’m looking forward to just taking it all in.”
The Reds face a tough opponent in the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that has been to the past two World Series. Cincinnati will need Votto to be every bit as good as he has been in the regular season if it wants a long October run.
The two clubs will begin their National League Division Series on Wednesday afternoon (5:07 p.m. ET).