The following are snippets from Sports Illustrated’s weekly press release..

NEW YORK – August 24, 2010) – Reds first baseman and National League MVP candidate Joey Votto graces the cover of this week’s August 30, 2010, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, on newsstands tomorrow, with the billing TIME TO GET MEAN: NICE GUY (AND MVP?) JOEY VOTTO HAS THE REDS SET UP FOR A SICK SEPTEMBER. Votto is the first Red to have top billing on the cover since Ken Griffey, Jr. more than six years ago on the June 14, 2004, issue.

Votto and the Reds are among the upstart contenders that have crashed the pennant races normally reserved for big-market teams. SI takes a closer look at baseball’s surprises in 2010–all of whom, as senior baseball writer Tom Verducci points out, have been powered by pitching and run prevention (page 30)…

SI senior writer L. Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) describes this week’s cover subject as “the dinner-party guest you feel fortunate to be seated alongside.” In his third full season Joey Votto has emerged as a Triple Crown threat while carrying a professional, polite and eager-to-please persona that seems too good to be true. Not bad for the rare Canadian who was naturally enthralled by baseball. Wertheim writes (page 34): “If you needed proof Votto was a unique species, here was the rare (perhaps only?) natural athlete in Canada who didn’t take to hockey. Votto never even got the hang of skating. Another story he tells: He went to a rink as a teenager for a first date with a new girlfriend. ‘When she saw what a disaster I was on the ice,’ he says, ‘she dumped me.’ “

Votto’s strong 2010 also makes for a feel good story, as he spent a month on the DL in 2009 dealing with the unexpected death of his father, Joseph, the previous summer. Since then Votto has eased up slightly on the intensity he brings to the game, making more time for himself–he was granted permission to miss a team flight in mid-June to attend Game 7 of the NBA Finals–and relishing the fun parts of his day job. As he told Wertheim: “My attitude changed. I needed to do a better job of reflecting and balancing, making my free time really mine. Not to disrespect the game or disrespect the fans, but baseball doesn’t own my life. I’m not going to allow it to…. I hope I said it right. Grieving is a tough process, and I’m still working through it.”

On the iPad: A slideshow highlighting the great seasons of Votto and the other candidates for this season’s NL and AL MVPs.



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