Unfounded rumors only add to Joey Votto's burden

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When I saw the story, I almost decided to ignore it. Better to pretend
it wasn’t there than to give it any credence. But then I figured
something needed to be said.

In case you didn’t know, there have been rumors floating around
regarding Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto’s trip to the
disabled list. Before returning to action tonight, Votto had been out with what was officially termed “an undisclosed stress-related issue.”

It’s a lame, mysterious description, for sure. And whenever we are
confronted with lame, mysterious information, what do we do? We become
a sewing circle, or a bunch of old dudes in a barber shop. We gossip.
We speculate. By we, I mean all of us. Fans, writers, journalists,
bloggers. Everyone.

The speculation got personal. The innuendo invasive. The word on the message board/blogosphere was that Votto is gay.

No proof. Just some twisted logic: Votto + stress = gay baseball player. To which I say two things:

1. No one should believe such words unless Joey Votto utters them himself.

2. Even if he does, who cares? Does it matter in the least?

If a gay athlete wants to come out of the closet, let him do so —
on his own. He should never be forced to come forth simply to answer

And a straight athlete shouldn’t be put in a position where he feels the need to say “I’m not gay … not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Because there isn’t anything wrong with it. But it’s personal. And it’s nobody’s business.

As writer Jeff Pearlman, a man far more eloquent than myself, put it …

A ballplayer should come out because it’s important for America to
see that gay does not mean weird or freaky or diseased. But nobody
needs to be forced out via rumor and innuendo. It’s not fair and it’s
not righteous.

I can only hope that Votto didn’t feel the need to answer the rumors when he came forth on Tuesday with incredibly personal details about his absence.

Votto said that he has struggled dealing with the death of his father
in August. He was distracted by baseball, but when he went on the DL in
May with an upper respiratory infection, he became overwhelmed, and the
emotions of his loss came crashing down. He struggled with depression,
anxiety and panic attacks. He saw doctors. He called 911 in the middle
of the night for a trip to the hospital. Finally, he couldn’t take it

“It finally seeped its way into the game. I just had to put an end
to it. I really couldn’t be out there. It’s difficult to explain what I
was going through. I couldn’t do it. I physically couldn’t do my job.
That’s what I’ve gone through.

Votto spoke of his love for his father, and the stress of being the
oldest son and feeling as though he was now responsible for his family.
He said the pressure was so great, he felt like he “was going to die.”

It would be a terrible ordeal for anyone to deal with, let alone a public figure, a man who lives in the spotlight.

There is no need for any of us to add to it.

The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.