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Why did the Reds allow Joey Votto to decide when to get an MRI on his left knee?

"Pigeons?" (AP)Joey Votto originally injured his left knee while sliding into third base during a June 29 game against the Giants at AT&T Park.

But it wasn't until Monday that the Cincinnati Reds first baseman underwent an MRI that revealed a torn meniscus that will require surgery and keep the MVP candidate out of the lineup for 3-4 weeks.

The news sent a shock through the Reds fan base and more than a few were compelled to ask why it had taken 17 days for Votto and the Reds to decide that surgery was necessary. (Stew pal Mo Egger of ESPN 1530 discusses the issue here.)

The explanation for the delay given by Reds GM Walt Jocketty on Monday was a simple and short one — though it was far from satisfactory or even logical.

From the Associated Press:

Jocketty said Votto didn't have an MRI earlier because the first baseman didn't think he needed one.

''He didn't request it until then,'' Jocketty said. ''He said it wasn't a problem until the last couple of days.''

Votto decided to have the surgery. Jocketty said it's a simple procedure that takes only 20 to 30 minutes.

So to recap: The Reds allowed Votto — a player who does not hold a medical degree but does hold a 12-year, $250 million contract with the team — to dictate the terms of his treatment. This despite the fact that the Reds team doctor was on the West Coast road trip. All-Star week was also coming up, which would have limited Votto's absence from the Reds lineup had a precautionary MRI uncovered anything.

Votto, of course, is far from the first athlete to tell his team that he's fine and can keep playing even though he's really hurt. He's a ballplayer. It's what ballplayers do.

But it's also the job of the team and its doctors to protect the players from themselves and ensure they get the treatment necessary. Votto tried to play the next day but left that game and missed the two after that, so it's not as if there weren't cause for concern (or time for a quick trip to the MRI tube). Both Jose Bautista and David Ortiz — stars who share Votto's stature — will undergo precautionary MRIs Tuesday after hurting themselves on Monday night. Maybe they'll turn something up, maybe they won't.

But at least everyone will be sure.

The good news for the Reds is that the injury could have been much worse. There's no doubt Cincinnati will miss Votto's production — he leads the NL in on-base percentage and extra-base hits — but he should return as good as new before anything in the NL Central race gets too out of hand.

In the meantime, Todd Frazier will move across the diamond to fill in for Votto at first, which will create more playing time for Scott Rolen at third. The biggest problem that probably exists — the absence of a MVP's output aside — is that Votto's injury creates an even bigger void in the team's left-handed bats. The Reds' bench was already without a lefty and Votto's departure will increase the need for Jocketty to add a left-handed bat, either through the promotion of switch-hitting infielder Henry Rodriguez to the major-league roster or through the trade market.

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