The Cincinnati Reds first baseman joined Rogers Sportsnet's broadcast for Game 6 of the World Series and was predictably good.
Screengrab via Sportsnet
In what could very well go down as the greatest World Series of all time, there's been no need to search for ancillary storylines or seek other things to enjoy beyond the games. Baseball alone has been enough, as it so often is, and it's likely made the jobs of those broadcasting the games that much easier. Call the action, let the big moments breathe, and convey the specialness of a remarkably competitive series between two historically great teams.
Intermittently through Game 6, though, an element of the Canadian broadcast stood out. Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto joined the Rogers Sportsnet team alongside Jamie Campbell and Gregg Zaun, and the former MVP was able to steal the quiet, otherwise empty moments between innings.
Votto delivered thoughtful, passionate analysis on the finer art of hitting and the emotion contained within each moment. The player's perspective is often an important part of broadcasts, and Votto conveys that nuance with a confident simplicity that relays institutional knowledge without skewing too "inside baseball."
After George Springer hits a home run, Votto notes the impact of the elements—rain and temperatures were well below the earlier games in Los Angeles—and points to a crossover in Springer's step that allows for power the other way. When Joc Pederson goes to the opposite field for a home run of his own a few innings later and celebrates around the bases, Votto preempts Zaun's usual distaste for such displays by putting the viewer in Pederson's shoes, the "natural" emotion of the biggest moment of Pederson's professional life absorbed through the screen. (That Zaun largely concedes the point and lobs a joke that Votto fake-laughs at so well that he could be on Fox's panel makes the segment.)
Votto wasn't perfect, of course. There were a few throat-clears, "umm"s in the pre-game, a peak at the notes here and there, and one response that ran long enough to give him some dry-mouth—the type of minor issues that a bit more experience will no doubt iron out. Generally, Votto is not the most outspoken or first to make himself visible, but he's as thoughtful and direct as they come when he does speak, like when he held court for 16 minutes at Rogers Centre in June as he received Canada's top baseball honour, the Tip O'Neill Award.
That he excelled as an analyst should not be surprising. Intelligence is at the core of his Hall of Fame approach to the plate, where his discipline and pitch recognition are nearly unrivaled in this era. Teammates rave about the preparation he puts in for each opponent, and it's patently obvious he's put the same kind of preparation into each segment on the broadcast. He came armed with advanced baseball metrics like wRC+ and other evidence to make his points, admitted what he didn't know, and even sprinkled in some self-deprecation.
It was a breath of fresh air. Sports broadcasts, and particularly the analyst panels, can at times feel like analysis is being shouted at or jammed down the throats of viewers. Zaun and Campbell have long maintained a good chemistry built around Zaun's strong, polarizing opinions, and it's a credit to that pairing, too, that Votto was worked in seamlessly as a sort of straight-man. Given the way Votto approaches baseball, he surely went full A-Rod and broke down his performance and found room to get better. That's who Votto is, and it's why even on a first try, he was a resounding success.
"I love unpredictable baseball, and tomorrow has a chance to be the most unpredictable," Votto said about Game 7, as he closed out the broadcast predictably well.