Earlier this week, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun caught up with hometown boy Joey Votto to discuss his off-season. It seems that this was the first winter in ten years that Votto spent in Toronto rather than Florida. Votto listed ten activities that kept him busy all off-season, some of which were predictable, others less so. Of course, since it’s an interview with a local paper, Votto speaks glowingly of Toronto and how much he enjoys his time there. But in light of recent discussions about him and his role on the team, it’s hard not to read between the lines when he says things like "When I’m in the U.S., they see me a certain way…In Toronto they see me as a guy they went to school with. I’ve never felt as comfortable in the other cities as I do at home." Let's just assume he was pandering to the locals.
‘Tis the season for team-by-team previews and breakdowns across baseball. There will be plenty to choose from over the next several weeks, but here’s a good NL Central preview from Jay Jaffe for Sports Illustrated. For each NL Central team, he lists the big question, the big position battle, and the big prospect, so it’s a good primer for what the Reds will face if you haven’t been following the moves of their divisional opponents that closely. Concerning the Reds themselves, there’s probably nothing new here for Reds fans (the big question is Votto’s health, the big position battle is the back end of the rotation, and the big prospect is Jesse Winker), but Jaffe wins the hearts of clear-thinking Reds fans everywhere when he opens his Votto discussion saying, "Never mind the weapons-grade stupidity of those who criticize Votto for his patient approach at the plate…" Preach on, brother.
While you’re researching the Reds’ divisional opponents, check out AJ Cassavell’s list of the most heated position battles this spring for Sports on Earth. The Reds don’t have any position battles that make the list, but three of their NL Central mates do: the Cubs at third base, the Pirates at shortstop and the Cardinals at starting pitcher. Also, former Reds prospect Yasmani Grandal makes the list for being part of the Dodgers’ position battle at catcher.
If you’ve seen any off-the-field pictures of Billy Hamilton lately, odds are he’s been decked out in gear advertising the "hydration drink" Hoist. It turns out that’s a drink created by high school friends from the Cincinnati area, and they’re currently trying to re-sign Hamilton as their official spokesman. As the Cincinnati Business Courier notes, Hamilton originally signed with them while in the minors, so now as an established Major Leaguer, he’s likely to demand a higher price (as well he should – get yourself paid, Billy). Hilariously, the Hoist product began life marketed as a hangover cure, but the bros who run the company are rebranding it as a hydration drink (Aren’t all drinks hydration drinks? Isn’t that the point of consuming liquids? Am I overthinking this?), apparently without changing the formula at all. In one of the founders’ words, "We were rebranding it as the fastest hydration drink, and he’s the fastest man in baseball." Good thinking, fellas.
With the Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special airing last weekend, there’s been a lot of talk about the show and its various cast members over the years. The best story to come out is this oral history of the time noted baseball lover Bill Murray spent playing for and coaching the Grays Hill Loggers, an independent minor league team in Washington state while an SNL cast member in the late 1970’s. Murray had a total of two pinch hit appearances, got one hit, and even has his own Baseball Reference page. It’s a great story.
Finally, since it wouldn’t be Saturday morning on Red Reporter if I didn’t throw a little baseball history at you, here’s a great article from Michael Beschloss for The New York Times looking at the impact of Jim Crow laws on spring training in Florida in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Some of this will be familiar to those who have seen the movie 42, but it’s interesting that baseball, never considered the most progressive of institutions, managed to have all its teams’ Florida lodgings desegregated well in advance of the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act. Interesting stuff here.