Votto could face suspension after bumping ump, getting ejected
The Reds could be playing without first baseman Joey Votto for at least one game in the near future. It's Votto's own fault, and he knows it.
Votto was ejected from Wednesday night's 3-0 win over Pittsburgh at PNC Park, a win that pushed the Reds (14-13) back over the .500 mark for the first time in two weeks, following an apparent misunderstanding between Votto and home plate umpire Chris Conroy after Votto struck out swinging to end the third inning.
The ejection isn't what will get Votto in trouble with Major League Baseball. His reaction, which included bumping into Conroy, is what has him in potential hot water.
Votto is passionate when it comes to the game. He's even more so when it comes to hitting. He knows the strike zone better than any computer-generated box on TV. When he fails at his job, as he did in the third inning against Pirates starter Gerrit Cole on three pitches, he's his own worst critic. That's what started a chain reaction Wednesday night.
He took a called strike one and then swung at the next two pitches, foul-tipping the last one into the mitt of catcher Francisco Cervelli. Votto threw his helmet and bat aside in disgust, then turned and walked towards his defensive position at first base. As he was walking up the line, he turned back towards the Pittsburgh dugout and could be seen gesturing with his hands and saying something, apparently at Cole.
Cole told reporters after the game he hadn't said anything to Votto and didn't know why Votto was yelling at him.
Conroy noticed Votto talking and tossed him from the game. Votto didn't know that fact right away. When he found out, he tossed his cap and glove down before sprinting directly at Conroy, who was in conversation with Reds manager Bryan Price. Votto didn't stop soon enough. He doesn't deny bumping Conroy.
"I feel as a major league player I have a responsibility to be a good example for younger players and making contact with an umpire is unacceptable," said Votto after the game. He started off with his own statement before taking any questions.
"During this entire thing that's the one thing I feel very remorseful for and I think was something that just crossed the line. Just because I had a verbal disagreement with someone doesn't make it okay to make physical contact with someone. In all of this that's the thing that I regret the most and I'm not happy about. As major league players we have a responsibility to keep everything ... We can push the limits as much as we want but never cross that line."
Votto declined to go into specifics about what he said on the field, either to Cole or Conroy. He walked out of the Reds clubhouse after the game as reporters were waiting to enter, went down a hallway that leads to the umpires' room as well as the Pittsburgh clubhouse but, again, declined to discuss where he went.
He did discuss his reaction.
"By the end of it I was out of the game I wasn't certain exactly what had happened but my reaction was over the top," Votto said. "Being passionate or emphatic about something is one thing, verbally disagreeing, but I got too close and I made contact with (Conroy)."
This was the fifth time Votto has been ejected from a game in his career but the first time since 2010. He was ejected twice in both 2009 and 2010, and all four previous times he was booted for arguing balls and strikes. His first career ejection, on July 12, 2009, ended a 14-game hitting streak. His second one happened 15 days later and snapped a 7-game hitting streak.
He was ejected from a game at Wrigley Field against the Cubs in the top of the first inning on July 4, 2010, by home plate umpire Angel Camps. That ejection snapped a streak of reaching base in 41 consecutive games.
Votto officially went 0-for-2 in the game, marking just the fourth time in his 27 appearances this season he hasn't reached base at least once in a game. Votto leads the Reds with a .323 batting average, .427 on-base percentage and .596 slugging percentage.
Boston's David Ortiz received a one-game suspension for bumping umpire John Tumpane on April 19, a bump that appeared to be more incidental than the aggressive move Votto made on Wednesday. Any contact with umpires will draw attention from MLB's disciplinary wing.
Even Price didn't realize Votto had been thrown out initially. He came out to talk with Conroy and get an explanation. That's where he was when Votto came running into the home plate area from first base.
"It sounded like the home plate umpire felt like Joey was saying something to him and I don't think Joey was. I think maybe he was having some back-and-forth maybe with somebody on the other team," Price said. "We'll have to let it play out. I'm hoping we can avoid anything. I think the whole situation was unfortunate how it unfolded.
"Joey shouldn't have gone down there and made contact with the umpire, we know that, but I think this was an avoidable situation for sure."
If he is out of the lineup for a short spell both Brayan Pena and Kristopher Negron have played first base this season. Pena took over for Votto Wednesday. He made 45 starts at first base last season when Votto was out of the lineup with a strained distal quad. The Reds also have Chris Dominguez playing first base at Triple-A Louisville.
Votto has no idea what, if any, discipline he'll be receiving from MLB. He does know he crossed a line.
"I don't know. It doesn't really matter at this point. The game is done," Votto said. "Where I'm standing right now I feel I need to be accountable for my actions."