Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto Takes the Day Off, but Was It Really Necessary?

J.P. WainscottContributor IMay 31, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 27:  Joey Votto #19 of the  Cincinnati Reds plays first base during the game against the Colorado Rockies at Great American Ball Park on May 27, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Joey Votto took the day off on Wednesday. It was a mutual decision between the manager, Dusty Baker, and the MVP first basemen.

Votto wasn’t injured, and the Reds were not facing a tough left-handed pitcher—AJ Burnett took the mound in the rubber match between the Reds and Pirates.

The Reds did not strategically opt to start a guy that has a lot of success off Burnett. Mike Costanzo’s 15 career at-bats and .067 batting average replaced Votto’s decent 1.060 OPS.

Joey just needed the day off. My immediate reaction?

Do baseball players really need a day off?

Baker explains, “I’ve seen Joey wearing down in the last week.”

Statistics reply, “Joey batted .423 last week!!”

More Baker, “I talked to Joey about a week ago. We came up with this day as the best day.”

So this was a pre-meditated day off for the MVP. In May. He’s 28 years old. He was not injured. Burnett is not Sandy Koufax. It was a rubber match of a three-game series. It was 80 degrees for the first pitch of a night game. Mike Costanzo is not as good as Joey Votto.

Oh, and get this: The Reds had the day off on Thursday. And on Monday!

For what it's worth, the Reds lost 2-1 yesterday. Costanzo didn’t get a hit and made an error. Votto batted 1.000 when he pinch hit against the Pirates’ closer.

This really is not meant to be an attack on Joey Votto and Dusty Baker. Every team is doing this these days. This issue just came to light because I watch the Reds everyday.

It just seems that the idea of giving healthy, 20-something baseball players scheduled days off has crept into the managerial mindset just like pitching arms will fall off if they throw more than exactly 100 pitches in a game or 200 innings in a season.

Pete Rose played the full 162 at 41 years of age. Cal Ripken played a lot of games—I think. I always heard Andre Dawson’s knees were held together with pine tar and Big League Chew; he played in 157 mostly day games at age 33 for the Cubs.

Do I have a case here or is my inner Andy Rooney starting to come out?

Votto did pinch hit yesterday, so his stat line might end up saying he played the whole 162. But, I still can’t understand yielding three at-bats to Mike Costanzo to keep the 28-year-old MVP fresh from the rigors of sleeping in at the Westin before heading to the ballpark to mostly stand around and be awesome five at-bats a night.

Tough duty.

And I haven’t even brought up the money yet. Or the days off he gets in the fall and winter. Or on Thursday. And Monday.

I have no problem with Votto taking a day off. Just make the day off coincide with a strategic advantage for the Reds. For example, the Reds might face Cole Hamels in late August. August has a history of being friggin’ hot. Votto is batting .143 against Hamels, Costanzo might own Hamels; who knows?

Unless Votto is hurt or facing Cole Hamels, I think he is young enough and compensated enough to be out there every day. Is that too much to ask for $21 million a year? Wouldn’t you grind out 162 straight days at the widget factory for $21 million?

After all, we’re paying this guy’s salary. The $8 beers at the stadium would agree with me.