There are some great players in the National League right now, St. Louis’ Albert Pujols, his early batting problems notwithstanding, and Ryan Braun of the Brewers, to name just a couple.
The reigning MVP in the National League, Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds has started this season much like he finished last year. He is seventh in batting at .357, second in OBP with .492, tied for fifth in slugging, fourth in OPS and leads the league in walks.
He is as steady as can be, having reached base in 44 consecutive games in which he has started, dating back to September 11 of last season. In only three full seasons he has a career OPS+ of 154, a .317 BA, and a .406 OBP. He is only 27 and only great things are predicted for him.
The biggest problem Votto has is the Reds do not have a top-caliber play batting behind him. Manager Dusty Baker has experimented since Scott Rolen went on the DL. He has tried Jonny Gomes and Jay Bruce, both of which were lacking. Most recently he has had second-baseman Brandon Phillips batting in the cleanup spot. He has been productive but still doesn’t product the fear-factor necessary to keep pitchers pitching to Votto instead of giving up a free pass.
Pujols, 31 has had probably the best first 10 years of his career of anyone in history. His lowest BA was recorded last year at .310, the lowest HR output was 32 in 2007, the lowest RBI was 103 in 2007, his lowest OBP was .394 in 2002, and his lowest OPS+ of 151 in 2002.
Pujols has won three MVP awards, second in NL history to Barry Bonds with 7. He was also the NL Rookie of the Year in 2001. It is hard to believe he was a rookie during the season that the disaster of 9-11 occurred.
Brewers’ left-fielder Ryan Braun, 27 has so much potential that it is scary to any NL pitcher or manager. He has as much power as anybody and actually led the league in hits in 2008 with 203. He was Rookie of the Year in 2007 as a third-baseman. He hit 34 HR even though he wasn’t called up until May 25, playing in only 113 games that year.
He is currently second in the league in HR with 10, fourth in RBI with 24, fifth in OBP at .444 and third in OPS with 1.129.
In order for the Reds to repeat as the Central Division champs is for Votto to remain hot and to get some help from Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs and Jonny Gomes.
As Votto goes, so go the Reds. That is what makes him valuable. That is also what makes him having help all the more important. Remember what Branch Rickey told Ralph Kiner when trading him to the Cubs in 1953? “We finished last with you and we can finish last without you.”
About the Author
Written by Cliff Eastham
I am an avid sports fan, especially MLB and boxing. I also like NCAA Basketball and MMA. Baseball is my passion. I love the Cincinnati Reds and will argue with anyone about them. :-) I have been following them for over 50 years (yes my Social Security # is 2.) I live in West Virginia with my lovely wife Debbie and my equally lovely youngest daughter Holly. We have two other daughters and two sons, one grandson, and three granddaughters.