Baseball eras come and go faster than you think. The game you remember as a child is played differently than the one you are now enjoying as an adult. It's not unrecognizable but it has changed. That's true now, and it's probably always been true.
The game is played much differently now than when future Hall of Famer Joey Votto was born, which was in 1983. That year marked the final big-league campaign for, among others, Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.
If that reference to Votto as a future Hall of Famer gives you pause -- and reportedly Votto himself abhors the description, so sorry about that, Joey -- well, that's what I want to talk to you about. In short, it's not so much about how I see Votto as a Hall of Famer but how anyone possibly could not, and I think the answer has something to do with the uncertainty around changing standards.
Votto is not just a future Hall of Famer. He's the archetype of what a Hall of Famer from his generation looks like and probably the generations to follow him as well.
Votto is one of the handful of best players during his generation and that's the only real criteria we need to point him toward upstate New York. He doesn't have to meet any historical standards. He is the standard -- for his generation. (If the name Mike Trout pops in your head here, let it pop right out. Trout is in a different class, as was Babe Ruth, as was Willie Mays, as was Oscar Charleston and so on. That's why he's not a "standard" because to judge players by performances at that level is to set the bar way too high.)
Obviously the newborn Votto wouldn't have seen Yaz play live. In fact, in a wonderful bit of serendipity, Yaz hit his 452nd and last career homer in Cleveland on Sept. 10, 1983 ... the day Votto was born in Toronto. Despite the wide generational gap, it's interesting to consider their similarities. Both were generational lefty hitters who played their entire careers with one team. (OK, Votto isn't done yet, but if he were to end up on another club at this point, that would be a crime to baseball history.)
Let's consider the two in terms of some metrics, all found at Baseball-Reference.com. But if you are old enough to have seen Yaz play, or at least close to old enough to remember his legacy, or at least have a keen appreciation of baseball history, ask yourself a question without looking up a number or thinking too much about it: Who was the greater hitter?