Baseball, which was founded in 1876, is a game long dominated by traditions, complete with unwritten rules that protect the “right way” to play the game. It's easy to think that players and fans alike will be resistant to drastic changes, but Joey Votto, the Cincinnati Reds' 39 year-old franchise first baseman, is no ordinary player.
In a podcast appearance with Jayson Stark in “The Athletic Baseball Show”, Votto revealed just how big a fan he is of the new rule changes set to be implemented in 2023, which include the introduction of a pitch clock, bigger bases (from 15 to 18-inch squares), and a ban on infield shifts that will surely change the way the sport is played.
“I do think we’re about to approach a really fun version of our sport. I love that there’s going to be a pitch clock. Votto said, emphatically expressive in his love for the game. “I love the (larger) base. I love that they’re changing the base… anything to make the game more athletic.”
Joey Votto, a predominantly pull hitter from the left side, has seen the shift in 86 percent of his plate appearances but knows the shift, or its impending removal, is irrelevant to his quest of always improving and competing against the best baseball players in the world.
“Does the shift matter? No, it doesn’t matter at all. Because to me, it’s my responsibility to counter it because all my competition, my peers, the people I’m competing against for contracts or future jobs. […] It made me a better hitter, to be honest with you,” Votto added.
When asked about the pitch clock, Votto acknowledged that it will be learning process to get used to a different pace of play, but is appreciative of the fact that games will be much shorter next season.
“I think it’s wonderful. I wish that [the pitch clock] had been instituted throughout my career, to be honest with you, because I feel like I’ve played an additional 50 games, with how long these games have been.”
Joey Votto has struggled this season, posting a dismal .205/.319/.370 across 376 plate appearances en route to a -0.9 WAR before the season-ending injury that ended his season in mid-August. Nonetheless, his insightful take on the rule changes is another proof of just how much he loves baseball. Hopefully for Votto and the 56-85 Reds, the rule changes next season prove to be of help in Votto's bid to bounce back from a lost season.