By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Joey Votto won’t be there.
Now maybe Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman might be.
Votto said from Toronto Wednesdy night that he had decided “not to partake” in World Baseball Classic in March. Canada will work out in Dunedin for three days before heading to Miami to play in the same pool as Team USA, Colombia and defending champion Dominion Republic.
Votto, Canada’s highest-paid athlete, said he did not want to distract from getting ready for the Cincinnati Reds regular season. On May 29 of 2015 he was batting .207.
“I wasn’t satisfied with my start really,” Votto said. “I sold my teammates short. I can provide a better performance.”
There certainly wasn’t anything wrong with Votto in the second half as the former Etobicoke Ranger hit .408 with a .490 on-base mark). On the season, Votto batted .326 with 34 doubles, two triples, 29 homers and 97 RBIs. He led the National League with a .434 on-base average, slugged .550 for a .985 OPS.
Votto finished seventh in the NL MVP voting, one spot behind Freeman, whose parents grew up in Windsor Ont., before moving to California, thereby making him WBC eligible.
The left-handed hitting Freeman had 43 doubles, six triples, 34 homers and 91 RBIs, while batting .302 in 158 games. He had a .400 OBA, slugged .569 for a .968 OPS.
No word yet on whether 1B Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC) will play. Morneau signed with the Chicago White Sox this season and is a free agent.
Votto was a prospect at double-A Chattanooga in 2006 when Canada appeared in the first WBC at Phoenix. Ernie Whitt’s squad had Matt Stairs and Morneau to DH and play first.
In 2009, hometown boy Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) took the GO train to the Rogers Centre, he went 4-for-5 with a pair of RBIs in a 6-5 loss to Team USA before 42,314. He was 1-for-4 in the elimination loss to Italy making him 5-for-9 (.555) in the 2009.
And in 2013 at Phoenix -- a loss to Italy, a win over Mexico and a late-inning loss to Team USA -- coming off an injury he was 2-for-9 (.222).
Votto’s statement through the Reds’ Twitter account:
“I have decided to decline this years WBC event. There were some aspects of my performance in 2016 that I have decided were lacking. I would like to use 2017’s Spring Training time for preparation.
“I am thankful to the Baseball Canada program for inviting me to join the team. It is an honor to represent my country. I made this decision with much reflection because of the pride I have wearing the Canadian flag on my uniform.
“I look forward to cheering the team on and watching them win the 2017 event.”