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
rumors.

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
anymore.

“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.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.