Joey Votto popped out to first base. Yes, it’s true: after 6,827 plate appearances in which he never once popped up to the first baseman, Votto did just that on Wednesday afternoon against the Dodgers.
With two outs and a runner on first base in the bottom of the eighth inning facing Pedro Báez, Votto worked a 3-1 count before hitting a change-up up in the air in foul territory. Cody Bellinger made the grab.
Votto has been famously stingy with the pop-ups. According to FanGraphs, he has a 1.1 percent infield fly ball rate for his entire career. He didn’t pop up once in 2016 or ’18, and didn’t this season until today. The major league average pop-up rate since 2007, Votto’s first season in the majors, ranged between 9.3 and 10.6 percent. Among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances since 2007, the only other players with a pop-up rate below two percent are Ryan Howard (1.5%) and Howie Kendrick (1.7%).
Votto went 0-for-3 with a walk on the afternoon. The future Hall of Famer is now batting .228/.323/.386 with a home run and three RBI on 65 plate appearances this season.
The Padres fired manager Andy Green on Saturday, per an official team release. Bench coach Rod Barajas will step into the position for the remaining eight games of the 2019 season.
Executive Vice President and GM A.J. Preller gave a statement in the wake of Green’s dismissal:
I want to thank Andy for his tireless work and dedication to the Padres over the last four seasons. This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we felt was necessary at this time to take our organization to the next level and expedite the process of bringing a championship to San Diego. Our search for a new manager will begin immediately.
In additional comments made to reporters, Preller added that the decision had not been made based on the Padres’ current win-loss record (a fourth-place 69-85 in the NL West), but rather on the lack of response coming from the team.
“Looking at the performance, looking at it from an improvement standing, we haven’t seen the team respond in the last few months,” Preller said. “When you get to the point where you’re questioning where things are headed … we have to make that call.”
Since his hiring in October 2015, Green has faced considerable challenges on the Padres’ long and winding path to postseason contention. He shepherded San Diego through four consecutive losing seasons, drawing a career 274-366 record as the club extended their streak to 13 seasons without a playoff appearance. And, despite some definite strides in the right direction — including an eight-year, $144 million pact with Eric Hosmer, a 10-year, $300 million pact with superstar Manny Machado, and the development of top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. — lingering injuries and inexplicable slumps from key players stalled the rebuild longer than the Padres would have liked.
For now, they’ll prepare to roll the dice with a new skipper in 2020, though any potential candidates have yet to be identified for the role. It won’t come cheap, either, as Green inked a four-year extension back in 2017 — one that should have seen him through the team’s 2021 campaign.