Eno Sarris has made a wonderful habit of getting access to the top players in all of baseball for awhile now. Even better, he’s had a knack for not just coming up with thought-provoking questions to ask them, but for getting the kind of answers out of those players that truly give insight into how they’re as good at what they do as they are. Sometimes, it’s talking to pitchers about the varying grips they use to tweak their pitches.
Other times, it’s talking to Joey Votto about the one thing the Cincinnati Reds 1B thinks he struggles with - defense. As the FanGraphs piece spells out in great detail, defense to Votto seems like that one exercise at the gym that you dread the moment you wake up, but know you have to grimace through to become the specimen you strive to fully be. It’s easy to do what you’re already good at doing, since that hardly seems like work to most. It’s hard to routinely jump out of your comfort zone, however, but that seems to be exactly what Votto’s been doing in order to improve upon the shoddy defense he displayed in 2016.
So, here we are, now in March, watching Votto’s defensive workouts. Given what he said about his defense back in December when talking about why he opted against playing in the World Baseball Classic for Team Canada, it’s exactly what we all should have known he’d be working on. And if his continuous effort to get back to the level of 1B defense he displayed in previous years works out and pairs with the excellence he’s had as an offensive player since being fully healthy again, well...
/pulls up Rocky 4 training in snow montage
Joey Votto really is every single misunderstood '80s movie hero ever, isn't he?
In other news, Zach Buchanan posted a great look into how Sal Romano became a Red, detailing the last-minute contract he agreed to with Cincinnati out of high school on the eve of him officially beginning a college career at the University of Tennessee. Not only is it a great read about the pitcher who has shined the most in early Cactus League play, but it notes how current Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts was in a similar situation at the exact same time - whether to commit to playing 3 years at UT, or sign and become a professional. If both Romano and Betts had actually attended UT, they’d have been on their squad through the 2014 season before being draft-eligible again, which means they’d have been a teammate of a talented then-freshman infielder by the name of Nick Senzel. Talk about a would-be roster.
Over at Reds.com, Mark Sheldon caught up with both Bronson Arroyo and Devin Mesoraco to talk about yesterday's intersquad scrimmage - the one that featured the first in-game action of the Spring for the two former All Stars. All things point to both emerging from the game feeling good, although the quotes from each of them seem to indicate there was definitely some rust that still needs to be shaken off. How each progresses over the next four weeks will quite possibly be the two largest storylines in camp, since neither has truly been a healthy big league performer since that mythical Betts/Romano/Senzel superteam would've been plying its trade for UT.
Did I mention that Eno Sarris asks excellent questions while exploring the innovative ways players evolve their game over time? Well, he does, and when he was in Reds' camp earlier this week, he didn't just speak to Votto. In fact, he picked young pitcher Cody Reed's brain about the way he approaches hitters with his varying pitches, and the result of their conversation paired with Eno digging through a pile of data produced yet another wonderful article worth reading. Reed talked openly about how former teammate Dan Straily's method of attacking hitters with pitches they may not expect given the count helped him turn his own game around, and how he himself is looking to keep hitters off guard more as his career progresses.
Finally, Redleg Nation had an interesting piece up this week titled The Case Against Service Time. In it, friend of the blog Jason Linden points out a vitally important slice of information - that MLB teams have plenty of money to pay all their players, and manipulating service time shouldn't be a method they need to employ. I'd agree with that completely from a payroll perspective, as there are ample billions in the baseball world to make paying a Super Two player through four arbitration years instead of three shouldn't be a driving force in the industry, especially given how the youth movement has altered the Free Agent market in the post-steroids world. The only minor quibble I'd add, though, is that I'd bet it's not actually the money portion of service-time manipulation that teams are concerned with. Rather, it's having team control for most of seven years over a player instead of just six, overall cost largely be damned. $20 million probably doesn't mean a whole lot to the Chicago Cubs over the next few years, but having Kris Bryant under team control through 2021 instead of just through 2020 was well worth keeping him in AAA for those extra two weeks back in 2015.