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Votto first Reds player on SI cover in six years

Reds first baseman and National League MVP candidate Joey Votto graces the cover of this week’s Aug. 30 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, now on newsstands, 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.

JOEY VOTTO: ALL THE RIGHT MOVES – L. JON WERTHEIM

SI senior writer L. 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: “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.