Team Canada opens the World Baseball Classic against the Dominican Republic on Thursday, March 9th in Miami
Joey Votto has declined his invitation to play for Canada at the upcoming 2017 World Baseball Classic in March. Bob Elliot of the Canadian Baseball Network was first to report the news.
Soon after, Votto issued a statement through the Cincinnati Reds.
Without Votto, the best player that Canada has to offer in the tournament, Pool C will be even more difficult with the powerhouse Dominican Republic and United States sitting above them. Columbia will round out the group.
While disappointing for fans of Canadian baseball, Votto’s decision is an understandable one. Posting a .985 OPS in 2016 would be viewed as an across-the-board success for any other player in baseball, but Votto did express frustration earlier in the season with his slow start.
“It’s not something I’m OK with. I’d rather quit and leave all the money on the table than play at a poor level,” Votto told C. Trent Rosencrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer back in early May. “I’m here to play and be part of setting a standard. It’s something I’ve always taken pride in. I love to play at a really high level. So far this year, it’s not been that. I will not be a very satisfied, happy person if I don’t perform at the level that I expect.”
These comments came after an April where Votto hit .229 with a .640 OPS and just two home runs.
Of course, Votto rebounded to play the game at a level rarely seen over the second half of the season with an OPS of 1.102 (and an astronomical OBP of .482) from June 1st on.
The most direct fallout of this move could be an increased opportunity — and simpler positional fit — for Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves. The last report on Freeman from Jon Morosi in late November said that Freeman “remains in talks” with Baseball Canada.
Freeman’s parents were born in Canada, making him eligible.