Votto enjoyed resurgent 2021, eyes huge '22

October 3rd, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- Joey Votto enjoyed a renaissance 2021 season. For an encore, the Reds' first baseman plans to make '22 -- his age 38 season -- even better.

“Personally, it’s good to know that I still have it and that I can play. I can perform well and it can come out pretty easy and I can have fun, which is really a gift,” Votto said.

Votto entered the final day of the season batting .266/.377/.560 with 35 home runs, 96 RBIs and an OPS+ of 136. His career high in homers is 37, back in his 2010 MVP season.

A strong final month of 2020, following an overhaul of his batting approach during a three-game benching, set Votto up for success.

“Of course, you don’t know for sure over six months. I’ve had moments of doubt, but I was pretty confident after how I performed in September of last year,” Votto said. “It was like, ‘Would I be able to handle the test of six months with this style?’ It turns out, yeah. I actually think I’m going to play better next year, to be honest with you. I felt like I refined some of the changes. It’s come out easier. I’ve got high expectations for next year.”

This year included Votto’s remarkable seven-game streak with at least one homer in July -- one shy of tying the AL/NL record -- and his reaching career milestones of 300 homers, 2,000 hits and 1,000 RBIs.

“What being a true professional is,” Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos said, describing Votto. “He’s honored every bit of his contract. He keeps himself in shape. He takes his job seriously. He shows up to work every day with a purpose. He reinvents himself as he gets older. He finds different ways to motivate himself. It’s really impressive. You have to think this guy has been playing baseball for as long as he has been, and he’s more than financially well compensated. He could’ve mailed it in and just said, ‘Hey, this is what it is. I’m going to take [this] and enjoy myself.’ He still puts his occupation and playing baseball at the highest level that he can a priority, which is tremendously respectful of him.”

All of Votto’s achievements came despite his missing a large chunk of Spring Training with COVID-19 and spending a month on the injured list with a fractured left thumb.

Votto still sees plenty of room for improvement.

“The thing I'd like to improve on for next year is hitting against left-handed pitching,” Votto said. “I was very mediocre against them this year.”

Votto batted .217 vs. lefties this season, entering Sunday, compared to .290 against right-handed pitchers.

“Without making excuses, I really do feel like a strong Spring Training makes a difference when it does come to that in terms of preparation,” Votto said. “When I more or less rolled out of my house in Arizona to Opening Day after COVID, I wasn't able to dedicate myself to defense and left-handed pitching, which is something I spend a great deal of time on in Spring Training. Now, we're six months past and I can't make excuses, but when you're concentrated on playing every single day, it's hard to dedicate a stretch of time against one specific area. I plan on spending time on that in the offseason and in Spring Training of next year. I expect to play better against left-handed pitching.”

Votto clearly enjoyed his season, including with his teammates. He had fun on the field and in the dugout and clearly appreciated the fan support as he reached some lofty career milestones.

But there is unfinished business. Votto has two years and $50 million remaining on his contract with a $20 million club option for 2024 that carries a $7 million buyout.

“In years past, getting eliminated was disappointing. But for some reason, because I’m seeing the end, you know you have only so many opportunities,” Votto said. “Also, I really enjoyed playing with these guys. I am enjoying where I fit in. When you get eliminated, you’re realizing there’s an end to time together.

“Of course we're going to play again next year, but this year, there's a sadness because you have to transition to your own cities and families and friends, which is wonderful, but there's a bond you build with your teammates that's really difficult to replicate. And if you're doing it with a team that's winning, it's even more difficult to replicate because you're expecting more and you're supporting one another and you're watching your teammates succeed and you know it's possibly going to breed more time together. I felt genuine sadness, I felt really down. Yeah, it's a bummer. I'm hoping at some point, some season that I get to play until the very end and get to share it with a group of guys that I really enjoy.”