5 Reasons the Joey Votto Injury Was a Blessing in Disguise for Reds
When Joey Votto went down with a knee injury right after the All-Star break, most Cincinnati Reds fans and baseball analysts alike figured the Reds were in trouble. Fans hoped that their club could play just .500 baseball during that time and many started to doubt their team's playoff chances.
This was the critical turning point in the season—the one that defines a team's season. But little did anyone know that it was going to mark a positive turning point. The Reds would go from a tie for first in the NL Central to a double digit lead in games between them and their next closest opponent while forming the largest divisional lead in baseball.
Reds fans and even the Reds themselves may not have seen this turn of events coming, but the Joey Votto injury was a blessing in disguise. Let's check out why.
Todd Frazier Continued to Get His Shot
The Joey Votto injury and the return of Scott Rolen all but coincided with each other. It's hard to say for sure what would have happened to Todd Frazier's playing time if Votto had not gotten injured, but I think it is safe to say he wouldn't be a top Rookie of the Year candidate for lack of playing time.
The absence of Joey Votto gave Dusty Baker an opportunity to keep Frazier in the lineup. By the time Votto had returned it was clear that Baker's hand would be forced to keep Frazier in the lineup on a regular basis.
During Votto's absence, Todd Frazier stepped up and became a vital piece of the puzzle—not only on the field, but as a leader. That's right folks, this rookie has positioned himself as one of the leaders on this club. And the Votto injury had a lot to do with it.
Ryan Ludwick Was Forced to Step Up and Produce
When the Reds signed Ryan Ludwick, there were many reasons to think he could become a vital part of the team's success as well as numerous reasons to assume the opposite. It was going to be up to Ludwick to decide if he would live up to the potential that made him a hot commodity for two consecutive trade deadlines moves or to let his career continue to fade off into oblivion.
Ludwick seemed to be content with the latter and the Reds were looking at replacement options for him at the trade deadline—someone who could take over left field and provide consistent pop behind Votto. And then it happened. Votto went down.
It is hard to say what happened to Ryan Ludwick's mentality at this point, but one thing is for certain and the numbers do not lie—Ludwick became a man among boys. Since that time he has posted a .309/.381/.598 slash line with 14 home runs.
Much like rookie Todd Frazier, the wily veteran became a fast leader on this ball club, except Ludwick took it to a whole new level.
A fire was lit and it was Ryan Ludwick that carried the Reds through Votto's absence. Ironically Ludwick, a guy the Reds were looking to replace, seized the opportunity due to the lose of Votto and the Reds are much better because of it.
The Reds Realized They Can Win in the Face of Adversity
The Reds faced some minor adversity due to injury early on, but nothing on a major scale. With the exception of losing Brandon Phillips for a short period and Scott Rolen off and on, the Reds have been remarkably healthy all season long.
So when adversity struck, many fans and media began to write them off after losing the leading NL MVP candidate while in the middle of a playoff race—and rightfully so. Usually teams struggle or at least lose a little steam when losing their top player. They aren't supposed to gain steam and momentum.
That is exactly what the Reds did though.
When faced with true adversity, this team responded and responded big time. They have proved to themselves that they can win in the face of adversity and that could be huge with the playoffs looming in the near future. These players have confidence oozing out their ears.
Which leads me to the next point...
Team and Fan Confidence Got a Major Boost
The confidence for this team skyrocketed during Joey Votto's absence. Not only that, but the fans' confidence in their team skyrocketed as well. Why do I bring up the fan confidence? Make no mistake here, teams feed off of their fans and they can feel that confident vibe.
This circle of confidence allowed, what seemed like a new player each and every game, to step up and contribute. Confidence is contagious and confidence allows people to excel.
Without even trying, Joey Votto helped his team build up this mental attribute and they are a much better team because of it.
Joey Votto Is Now on a Mission
This is only my assumption, but it is rooted in some very practical reasoning. We all know how meticulous and how dedicated Joey Votto is to become the absolute best at his craft right? We know that when Joey Votto goes three for five in a game he expects to have gone four for five.
It's this kind of ridiculous dedication and pursuit of perfection that would have to eat a guy up when he sees his team produce a better win-loss record without him than with him in the lineup. Joey Votto is without any doubts a team player, but the competitor in him wants to prove that his team is better with him in the lineup.
This mentality may devastate weaker minds, but not Joey Votto. He thrives off of his pursuit to be the best. During Votto's absence from the lineup, the rest of the Reds simply placed a challenge in front of him and said come and conquer this mountain (we had a better record without you, now make us better).
Votto will gladly accept that challenge and it only benefits his team.
Let's Sum It All Up
To sum things up—whether or not the Joey Votto injury sparked the Cincinnati Reds and their roll—the truth is that all of the aforementioned items coincided with Votto's injury. The Cincinnati Reds are in a better place than they were before it.
Now the time has come for the team to capitalize on the "re-addition" of Joey Votto to the lineup.
October will be here before we know it—blessing or not, it really doesn't matter if October ends as quickly as it gets started.
You can follow Josh Ramsey on Twitter @JRamCincy