Marlon Byrd and Joey Votto on the same team? Sharing a clubhouse? Shaking hands after every Reds win? Awwwkward.
Those were my first thoughts after the Reds acquired Byrd in a deal with Philadelphia last December. The pair, of course, have been teammates before. They both played for the National League in the 2010 All-Star Game, a game the NL won in no small part thanks to Byrd, then a member of the Chicago Cubs. Though Byrd had a big hand in the victory, he couldn’t get a high-five from Votto in the next regular season game. Votto told reporters, “I don’t like the Cubs, and I’m not going to pat anybody with a Cubs uniform on the back.”
This clearly calls for an investigation. Marlon Byrd and Joey Votto: friends, enemies, or frenemies?
Votto’s hate for the Cubs is well documented, like in this clip where he is heard rejecting an exceedingly eager and formal young fan looking for an autograph. (Turn up the volume at the 34 second mark.)
He didn’t back down from that sentiment in an interview with CBSSports.com.
“I don’t,” Votto said, with a laugh. “I try not to. They’re in our same division and we play good baseball against them. I think it’s kind of fun to play the heel. Not everything has to be friendly, we take it seriously every time we go there. It’s not just a game to us, it’s our job.”
The article also cites the Cubs winning the 2007 NL Central title at Great American Ball Park as the main reason for Votto’s disdain.
“I still remember that now, I remember them looking at the scoreboard and Cubs fans cheering and everyone in the stands wearing blue,” Votto said. “I still remember that and it meant a lot to me. I guess I should probably let it go, but I’m not an easy forgiver.”
So Votto’s dislike of the Cubs is no joke. But maybe his statement about not congratulating a Cubs player was? “I was laughing when I said it,” Votto told reporters later that week. “I realized it was a Chicago reporter.”
He went on.
“The shame of it is, Marlon and I got along the best on the bench and in the outfield and stuff. I talked to him and I was one of the first people to congratulate him in Chicago (after the all-star roster was named). It was definitely taken out of context. I was laughing when I said it. I have the utmost respect for the Cubs in general — not necessarily for the fans, but …”
So it turns out Votto did congratulate Byrd after all. Maybe this isn’t as awkward as originally thought. Or even at all. Byrd even told ESPN’s Bruce Levine that Votto is “a great guy.”
“When it comes to baseball, he’s like I am on the field, go get ’em,” Byrd told ESPN. “I can smile at the opposing player, but at the same time, I don’t wish them well when I’m playing against them.”
Looks like this is simply a case of Votto’s original comments being overblown. When Byrd’s ninth-inning line drive scored the winning run in an April 10 game against Pittsburgh, Votto’s celebration looked like it was five years in the making.