Votto-Bruce act a can't miss
BY PAUL DAUGHERTY | PDAUGHERTY@ENQUIRER.COM
SARASOTA, Fla. – Crown Jewels, The Sequel occurs every day down here. The Reds didn’t trade either Joey Votto or Jay Bruce, a good thing probably. Because who would one rag on, if the other weren’t around?
“I’m fire,” Votto is saying. “Jay’s ice.”
Here we go.
“I’m neat, Jay’s a slob. I’m funny, he’s the straight man. I’m better looking.”
“No, you’re not,” Bruce decides.
We have dubbed Bruce The Next Big Thing. Bruce blew through the minor leagues like a hurricane through the Caribbean. He is the best Reds prospect since the dawn of prospects. He’s five weeks short of his 21st birthday. Meantime, Bruce has taken to calling Votto The People’s Champ. At 24, Votto has the inside track to start at first base after impressing in Cincinnati last September.
The two became friends last summer, when Bruce joined Votto in Louisville. Since, they’ve become close enough to finish each other’s insults.
“We can talk some trash,” says Votto. “That’s all we do,” says Bruce.
“I’m more cultured, he’s more of a politician,” says Votto. “He walks around the clubhouse shaking people’s hands. This guy’s running for office. He wants votes. It’s like, ‘Here I am, the next big thing.’ ”
“Joey wants to vote for me,” Bruce says.
“I’m not voting for you, OK?” says Votto. “Are you even old enough to vote?”
Bruce: “Do you guys vote in Toronto?”
“Do we vote in Toronto?” Votto asks, shaking his head. “Oh, boy.”
No game sells youth like baseball. No season sells baseball like spring. No players sell spring like two young guys on the cusp of something fine. And away we go.
Votto: “I played some high school football, then I quit.”
Bruce: “So, you’re a quitter.”
Votto: “No, I wanted to focus on baseball, thank you very much.”
It helps that Votto is so entirely without pretense he could teach a humility class, and that when they were passing out fat heads to eternally praised ballplayers, Bruce was playing golf.
It’s good that off the field, neither takes himself entirely seriously. What seals it is their stated desire to be Reds a long time. We don’t hear that a lot much from our sports stars. First, Brandon Phillips. Now, Votto and Bruce. What’s going on?
Votto: “We want to be part of a championship.”
Votto: “We genuinely care about the Reds, about making the playoffs and being a part of it. The team we have right now is something to be optimistic about.”
Bruce: “I’m really happy to say I didn’t get traded.”
Votto: “It’s flattering to be mentioned in trade talks.”
Bruce: “Yeah, that too. It’s even more flattering to still be here after the trade talks. We both came up with the Reds. They took you, they believed in you. It makes me believe in them and what we’ve got going here. I don’t think there would be any better story than 10 years from now, me and Joey are still in Cincinnati, winning championships.”
Votto: “The Next Big Thing and The People’s Champ.”
Who hits more homers in the major leagues this year?
“Oh, man,” says Votto. “Jay hit 26 last year. I hit 22 and four more in Cincinnati.”
“Just go ahead and say it,” Bruce says.
“Jay, I honestly think you won’t hit as many as I will,” says Votto.
The Reds are in transition, from a team whose clubhouse revolved around Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn to one filling up with happy-to-be-here players. What that means come March 31 is anybody’s guess. But the face is changing. It’s looking more like Big Thing and The Champ.
Bruce: “We have another joke.”
Votto: “Don’t tell that joke.”
Bruce: “Our infield coordinator, Freddie Benavides …”
Votto: “Emphasize that he’s an infield coordinator. Not a hitting coordinator, not even a weatherman.”
Bruce: “You know how the saying is usually ‘Thunder and lightning?’ He calls me ‘Thunder’ and Joey ‘Drizzle.’ ”
Votto: “That’s really funny, Jay. Tell them how you dance.”
Bruce: “I can’t dance. I try.”
Votto: “Oh, man, does he try.”
Bruce: “It’s like one of the jokes on American Idol, when they go in dressed like a chicken.”
Votto: “He can break it down with the worst of them.”
And so on. Big Thing and Champ want to play this routine in Cincinnati for a decade. We’ll wince through it, if we’re lucky.