McCoy: Not so ‘grumpy’ Votto reflects on career milestone

Reds first baseman recorded 1,000th career RBI with a home run in Wednesday’s loss to Padres

Joey Votto was out of sorts, in a foul mood on a September day in 2007.

So, when he hit a home run off New York Mets pitcher John Maine, a 15-game winner that season, it was like, “OK, take that.”

That was Votto’s first major league RBI and since then he has piled up 999 more, reaching 1,000 Tuesday night with a home run against the San Diego Padres.

“I was grumpy that day of my first RBI,” said Votto. “It was my initial call-up and that was cool. But I was in a grumpy frame of mind because I felt I should have been in the big leagues years before that.”

Votto was 18, in his first year in the Gulf Coast League and hitting the ball with stinging success and as he said, “Figuring out quickly how to hit professionally.”

One of the coaches, Bobby Williams had a question for the precocious young player.

“What are your goals,” he asked Votto.

“To be in the major leagues next year,” said Votto.

Williams snickered and said, “No, seriously, what are your goals.”

Said Votto, “In my head, I was thinking ‘Oh no, dude, I’ll figure this out real quickly. Obviously that didn’t happen, but not terribly long after that I felt I was ready offensively.”

It was a five-year climb through the system before that 2007 call-up and Votto said, “So, I was grumpy. I wasn’t in a very good mood when I got my very first RBI. I was thinking, ‘It’s about darn time.’ And now I’m very happy to be here.”

Votto was happy when RBI No. 1,000 crash landed in the right-field seats and the fans demanded a curtain call. He obliged.

“What’s my philosophy on curtain calls? Try to get as many as you can in your career,” he said. “Get out there and do it as quickly as possible so the hitter can continue his at bat.”

Votto did not make himself available to the media after the deed because the Reds lost, 7-5, in a rain-shortened game.

“After the game I didn’t speak to the media because we lost,” he said. “It is weird talking about stuff when you lose. After losing an ugly game like that, it is weird talking about personal accomplishments.”

When the Reds took the field Wednesday night, trying to snap a six-game losing spell against the Padres, the team was a game below .500, eight games out of first place and tied for third with the St. Louis Cardinals.

“That’s not good enough,” he said. “Just not good enough. We have about a month to really show up. I know we’ve got three months left, but it is really important over this next bit that we’re going to be a very competitive team to the very end. We have to get hot soon, we have to play good ball, for sure.”

Votto’s numbers are border-line Hall of Fame and get better as he piles up the RBI and home runs and on-base percentage.

Cooperstown is never on his mind.

“I spend most of my time thinking about how I can be competitive as long as I have the opportunity to play,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to see some very good players play well to the very end of their careers until the opted not to play anymore.

“I’m talking about Adrian Beltre, I’m talking about Torii Hunter, I’m talking about David Ortiz and Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones,” he added. “These are players that decided, ‘Y’know, I’ve had enough.’ That’s good. Those are players I admire the most.”

Why those?

“Because I know that one day I won’t be good enough to play baseball anymore,” he added. “But as long as I have the opportunity, I want to keep fighting. I look up to those players and try to emulate that. That’s my current challenge. I just want to be in the middle of the order, playing solid defense, playing every day, being competitive and earning from my manager, front office and teammates the faith that I’m going to be a helpful to the team.

“I want to play well to the very end and … I need to continue to get better, but I feel like I’m doing well and adjusting on the fly.”

FRIDAY’S GAME

Cubs at Reds, 7:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410