For some, 2016 Spring Training marks the start of a brand new Major League Baseball season. For others, this time of year marks the height of the presidential primary elections. While many pontificate over who is best suited to lead the country, The Sports Fan Journal fam decided to take a look at which player, manager, or front office member is the best candidate to lead their team to the top of the baseball mountain.
Baseball in the Queen City was forgettable during the 2015 season.
The Cincinnati Reds finished the season with a record of 64-98, the second-worst record in the National League. It seemed as nothing went right for the Redlegs during last year's campaign. General manager Walt Jocketty, who is currently stuck in the middle of rebuilding the entire roster, has sold off the team into resembling more of the ‘Bad News Bears’ than a team that just as recently as 2012 took home the NL Central division title.
With the season approaching, the outlook for Cincinnati appears to feature a lot of losing and the regularly lurking possibility of more untimely roster moves. With a team that isn’t equipped to compete in the brutal Senior Circuit, a lot of pain, heartbreak and angst is expected for Reds fans in the 2016 season. In spite of the voluminous amount of tears that may creep down Reds’ fans faces, at least there is Joey Votto to help wipe away some of the tears.
The 2010 NL MVP may have be the best player that the Reds have seen since Barry Larkin. The impact Votto has on the field has been insurmountable. Last season, he once again proved his elite-level talents, finishing third in the NL MVP voting behind Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt. In life there are things are certain: death, taxes, and Votto getting on base. Votto, who has a knack for getting on base by any means, was walked for a career-high 143 times. With a .314 batting average, to go along with 29 home runs, 81 RBIs, and a ridiculous on base percentage of .459, opposing teams could not find a way to slow his roll down. So complete was his value that he posted a 7.4 Wins Above Replacement figure, which was also the best of his career.
Yet, despite Votto’s consistent play, it will not be enough to put the Reds over the hump. Simply put, the roster has a lot of uncertainty and there are many holes to be filled, especially by a team that is consciously looking to create more as it strategically deconstructs. The decision to trade away Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox will mean Votto will have an even heavier burden to carry. I wish that I could say that Votto’s impact could lead the Reds back to NL Central supremacy, but that’s not a reality with this roster.
Baseball is the ultimate team sport, and every facet of the team has to be in unison in order for the team to thrive. Cincinnati is the total opposite as they are a one-man show for the most part. The individual success has already began and the season has not officially started. Votto was voted #11-best player in all of baseball by the MLB Network. That trend will only continue as the overall team success will be stuck in neutral. It may be hard to believe, but this season may include the first All-Star selection for Votto since the 2013 season. This past winter, he was approached to waive his no-trade clause in his contract and he declined. During the off-season, Votto expressed his adoration for being a Cincinnati Red in an interview with Mark Sheldon of MLB.com.
"I just absolutely love playing here. I really like where I live. I like my team and my job. I like the location of the ballpark and the fans and the clubhouse and the uniform and the number on my back -- all the littlest things that people take for granted are very comfortable to me and something I look forward to. I don't think of myself as anything other than a Cincinnati Red. It's one of the really cool things about having a no-trade clause. I'm one of the rare players who has that. I get to stay a Cincinnati Red."
Although, his feelings about the Reds are admirable, the reality of it all is that he is stuck with a team in transition.
Votto's current situation with the Reds is similar to driving a Lamborghini in the brutal Cincinnati snow-filled winter. High-performing, yet squelched because of their surroundings.