Joey Votto spoke recently with Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville on their Starkville podcast, which y’all should probably listen to. Not because it provides a useful prologue to this here thing, but because Starkville is a good show and Joey is always a fantastic interview. So they are talking about some of the hitters that Joey admired and he lists a few different hitters he tried to emulate when he was a young cat. Dude has good taste, so it won’t surprise you to hear he looked up to guys like Todd Helton and Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez and so on.
And it got me thinking about Che Guevara.
See, Che is among a handful of people in the history of our modern world who is even up for debate as a serious claimant to the title of Übermensch. It was Friedrich Nietzsche’s conception of the ideal human. Like, imagine you had a stat that measured the quality of a human life lived based on parameters like originality, beauty, and scale of impact on the society in which they lived. To be both completely original and yet recognizably archetypical. Che is obviously a provocative selection here, but whatever your politics are its hard to deny there has never been and nor can there ever be another dude like him. He was a man who lived his convictions to their very literal conclusions and was quite successful at imposing his will on the world around him. Style points count.
Kierkegaard was always fond of the father Abraham, particularly for his breathtaking (and frankly irrational) faith that God was always looking out for him. Nietzsche was never one to front on the classics but he understood that the past could no longer be trusted as a template for life in the modern world. Abraham was an Übermensch, for sure, but he was also a person of his time. Same with Alexander The Great and Jesus and Ghandi and And that goes for every single one of us. Simply mimicking the styles and habits of the greats who came before us will never, ever be enough. To really be considered among those inner-circle types, you have to transcend everything and everyone that has come before, and in doing so, impose your will upon history. To stand unyielding and proclaim to all in attendance that I ... am. And we all know it and see it and feel it.
I’m not gonna link to The Athletic’s subscription page twice in this here piece but you should also read CTrent’s Legend of Joey Moppo piece from a while back. Jonny Gomes is quoted in it saying something like he personally witnessed Joey call his own shot ten or 15 times (they played together for like two years). And he isn’t alone, you know. Everyone talks about how incredible it is that Joey can impose his will on the game the way he does. He decided to stop striking out, and he did. He decided to win a Gold Glove, and he did. He decided to be the very best hitter in baseball, and I mean good lord.
You can’t just ... do ... that, you know?
His force is something gravitational, changing and manipulating the spacetime around him in very subtle but immediately noticeable ways. You saw that happen, but did you see that? And that really is the work of gods, isn’t it? (it always makes me mad to think we missed the opportunity to give him the nickname Dr. Manhattan).
In that interview with Stark and Glanville, he also mentioned how proud he was of that 2017 season, when he lost the MVP to Giancarlo Stanton’s One Good Year. That was his “pièce de résistance” (his words not mine). That was the year he played every game and walked 50 more times than he struck out and he created something whole and beautiful and indistinguishable from the man himself.
And it nearly broke him! He said it took a terrible toll on his knees and his back. Heavy is the crown.
But see how he didn’t say his 2010 MVP season? That was obviously a fantastic year, and everyone knows it, but that wasn’t Joey Votto out there winning that MVP. That was Joey Votto doing his best Albert Pujols impression out there winning that MVP. There’s a difference.