At some point during spring training — usually around the second or third week — most interviews begin to sound the same. As a general rule, players want to (a) improve on a good season, (b) improve on a crummy season or (c) sign a contract extension. In each clubhouse, at every locker, all of them say they feel great.

My conversation with Joey Votto was different. He said something at the Cincinnati Reds complex in Goodyear, Ariz., that has stuck with me for four months.

I want to be the best.

He didn't mean it in the abstract. He wasn't repeating it blithely, the way a high school football player might because that's what it says on his team T-shirt. Votto told me he wanted to become the best player in baseball, because, frankly, it's within his grasp.

A half-season later, he's done it: At this moment, Votto is the greatest offensive force in baseball.

Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton took their turns during April and May, but neither is better than Votto right now; Kemp hasn't played this month because of a left hamstring strain, while Hamilton's June batting average is .197.

Meanwhile, Votto leads the majors with a 1.121 OPS, while walking at a Bondsian rate and continuing his Gold Glove work at first base. As if to validate his stature within the sport, Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that Votto has eclipsed Kemp as the top vote-getter among National League players for the All-Star Game (FOX, July 10, 7:30 p.m. ET).