If this was reported at the time I missed it, but Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com has an interesting story about a dustup between former Indians great Kenny Lofton and current Indians leader Nick Swisher back in January.
The upshot: following Lofton’s comments that the 2013 Indians weren’t truly a playoff team because the Wild Card game didn’t really count in his mind, several Indians players were unhappy. When Lofton arrived for FanFest, Swisher went nose-to-nose with him. It was described as “intense.” Since then, Castrovince reports, Indians players have been cold to Lofton, largely ignoring him during his visit to spring training in Goodyear recently.
It’s certainly an interesting dynamic. On the one hand you don’t want to turn one of your franchise’s all-time greats into an enemy. On the other hand, a franchise’s all-time great shouldn’t be in the business of disparaging the current team’s accomplishment. Al Kaline hangs around the Tigers clubhouse all the time and you don’t hear him saying that the 2012 team sucked because they lost the World Series.
You have to figure someone in ownership will try to smooth things over at some point. Or you at least hope they would.
We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.
Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”
Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).
Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.