Bill Baer

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 31: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds walks in the dugout during the third inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 31, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Joey Votto: “I probably would’ve been far more embraced 50 or 75 years ago.”

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In an interview with FOX19’s Joe Danneman, Reds first baseman Joey Votto discussed how he would have been viewed in the past as opposed to the current era. Votto, of course, has been criticized by fans and media types alike in Cincinnati because he draws so many walks. Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman has been one frequent critic of Votto’s for that reason, and many fans have followed in suit.

Votto said to Danneman, “I probably would’ve been far more embraced 50 or 75 years ago to be honest with you because I had a steady batting average. That would’ve been a major marker and people would’ve pointed to that and said, ‘Look how well he’s playing.'”

Votto certainly has been elite in the batting average department. He’s a career .313 hitter and finished with an average above .300 in seven of eight seasons in which he’s logged at least 100 games, and hit .297 in the other season. It’s the on-base percentage, though, that sends Votto from great to elite. His .425 career OBP is tops among active players and he’s led the league in OBP five times. Excepting intentional walks, Votto is Barry Bonds-esque in this department.

However, Votto has only 730 RBI in his career and has topped the 100 RBI threshold only twice in his career, which has angered his critics. But, as many (including myself) have pointed out over the years, that’s had more to do with the likes of Billy Hamilton and Brandon Phillips hitting ahead of him than anything else.

Mets announce Noah Syndergaard will start on Opening Day

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05:  Noah Syndergaard #34 of the New York Mets reacts during their National League Wild Card game against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field on October 5, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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The Mets have announced that Noah Syndergaard will start on Opening Day, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. That’ll be on April 3 at home against the Braves.

That Syndergaard gets the nod comes as no surprise, as he was the Mets’ best starter last season. He went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and a 218/43 K/BB ratio in 183 2/3 innings, earning a nomination to the National League All-Star team in the process. Syndergaard finished eight in National League Cy Young Award balloting, but arguably should’ve finished a lot higher than that.

Syndergaard reportedly added 17 pounds of muscle over the offseason.  Considering his 97.9 MPH average fastball velocity was by far tops among starters last season, it’s scary to think about what he can do with even more strength.

Syndergaard will be the seventh different Met to start on Opening Day in as many years. Those prior to him included Matt Harvey, Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, Johan Santana, and Mike Pelfrey.

Dave Stewart: ‘My gut the whole time said I shouldn’t move Dansby Swanson.’

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 06:  General manager Dave Stewart of the Arizona Diamondbacks laughs on the field before the Opening Day MLB game against the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field on April 6, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Former Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart appeared on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday to reflect on his time with the team. Stewart talked about the difficulties he faced in his role and expressed regret for trading top prospect Dansby Swanson. From MLB Network Radio’s Twitter:

The full interview can be heard here.

Swanson was taken by the Diamondbacks first overall in the 2015 draft. Six months later, the club sent him to the Braves along with outfielder Ender Inciarte and pitching prospect Aaron Blair. They got starter Shelby Miller and minor league pitcher Gabe Speier in return. It’s a trade that was widely ridiculed at the time and still is to this day. Miller went on to have a horrendous season, finishing 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA. He battled mechanical issues which caused him to drag his fingers on the dirt on his follow-through. Blair struggled with the Braves, but Inciarte won a Gold Glove Award and Swanson lived up to the hype in a small sample size of 38 games.

The Swanson trade was not the only blemish on Stewart’s record with the D-Backs, however. The club traded pitching prospect Touki Toussaint and veteran Bronson Arroyo to the Braves for infielder Phil Gosselin. The trade was basically a way for the D-Backs to shift Arroyo’s salary to the Braves. Stewart downplayed Toussaint’s importance by suggesting he can’t even hit 96 MPH anymore. Well, Toussaint hit 98 MPH in a start for the Braves’ Single-A affiliate in Rome shortly thereafter.

There was the Zack Greinke contract. Greinke was 32 years old when he inked a six-year, $206.5 million contract with the Diamondbacks in December 2015. Signing a player in his mid-30’s to a six-year contract worth in excess of $200 million isn’t the wisest of moves, many can tell you. And Greinke went on to have his worst season since he was a 21-year-old with the Royals back in 2005.

Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, signed to a six-year, $68.5 million contract, was been worth -1.8 WAR in two seasons, according to Baseball Reference. The D-Backs have baseball’s worst minor league system, ESPN’s Keith Law says. The Diamondbacks undoubtedly would have ranked a fair bit higher with Swanson, Blair, and Toussaint still in the system. The organization has habitually resisted embracing technology and analytics.

(Update: As FanGraph’s Eric Longenhagen notes, there’s also the $8.27 million Yoan Lopez deal. Most scouts were not very high on the Cuban right-hander. The signing put the Diamondbacks over their pool allotment, making them unable to sign any other international free agents for more than $300,000 for the next two signing periods. Lopez left the team twice, most recently with the intent to retire, but he returned in August to pitch for the team in rookie ball. The Diamondbacks also left $1.7 million in draft money unspent in 2015.)

Stewart blamed the Diamondbacks’ upper management for hamstringing him, and he also blamed injuries for the team’s poor results. It might very well be true that he had pressure from above to make some of the unfortunate transactions they made. But part of the job of being a GM is being the public face of a team, which means receiving most of the accolades when things go well and bearing the brunt of the blame when things go poorly. Furthermore, this is not the first time Stewart has been salty since leaving Arizona. In October, after he was fired, Stewart said, “Quite frankly, I’ve got better things to do. I just got to figure out what to do next, but really, I’ll be just fine.” He called his firing “almost a relief.”

Based on everything that’s come out about the failed Stewart-La Russa regime, it sounds like there was a lot of dysfunction in the Diamondbacks’ front office. Now it’s Mike Hazen’s turn to try to fix it.