Dusty Baker managed Joey Votto in Cincinnati between 2008-13, taking over on the bench in the first baseman’s second season in the majors, and the two developed a mutual admiration for one another during their time together with the Reds.
As Votto explained it before Baker returned to Ohio’s Great American Ball Park with the Washington Nationals last July, the veteran skipper was one of the people he’d actually listen to when the manager tried to talk to him about his game.
“Most people, if they criticized me or stayed on me, I’d blow them off because I’d think they’re coming from a place of ignorance or a lack of experience,” Votto explained, as quoted by Washington Times’ writer Anthony Gulizia.
“There’s only so many people in the game I’ll listen to, but he played. He was a really great player. Had a real long career. He’s been through just about everything a player can go through. So when he spoke, you listened to him because you knew it was coming from a place of experience, not an ideology. He was tough. There were times he drove me nuts, but it always made me better and I miss him and admire him and respect him. Even when I’m playing well, he pushed me more and I didn’t understand it and now I do with some perspective.”
“It’s crazy, man,” Votto added of seeing Baker once again. “It’s like seeing your favorite uncle.”
While the Nationals likely weren’t happy to see Votto again on Friday night, considering he came into the series with a .306/.419/.601 line, 16 doubles, and 20 home runs on the season, and a .328/.447/.639 career line against Washington, with a .345/.436/.621 line in Nationals Park, Baker talked glowingly about his former player in his pre-game press conference before the start of the three-game set in D.C.
Baker was asked what, when you see him every day, stands out and what sets Votto apart as a hitter.
“No. 1, he believes he can hit,” Baker said. “That’s No. 1. And he’s fearless, he doesn’t care if it’s right or left and he doesn’t care. He has an emergency swing that people laugh at. He don’t really care how it looks, because he gets another swing and that’s how it supposed to be.
“We had many discussions, we had many agreements and also some disagreements, you know what I mean, which I -- he’s one of the favorite guys that’s ever played for me, and went through a lot of personal stuff together too as well, so probably what makes him stand out is that you don’t know what he’s thinking, is what I think, you don’t know if he’s trying to take you deep or if he’s going to try to take you to left.
“No, you don’t know what he’s thinking.”
When Votto does share what he’s thinking... it’s often kind of brutal: