Brandon Phillips is right. And anyone with half a brain, including us sportswriters, should understand that he is.
Desperate for controversy in a slow week of spring training, news spread like wildfire when Phillips said he was “punked” when managers and coaches voted Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs the Gold Glove last year for second baseman.
Writers then chased down Barney, told him what Phillips said and then Barney answered them in a sarcastic tone that it didn’t bother him.
This is much ado about nothing. It’s a non-story.
Darwin Barney is a good, quality second baseman who plays great defense but there is no way Phillips should have not won the award. Yes, Barney had the long consecutive game streak without committing an error. Yes, Barney is a steady, reliable second baseman. Yes, Barney was one of the few positive stories in another disastrous Cubs season.
But straight up on defense, you can’t compare the two. Phillips has better range. Phillips has the experience. Phillips is the better athlete. And Brandon Phillips is the better second baseman. That’s nothing against Darwin Barney. It’s not his fault he played for a team that lost 101 games last year. It’s not his fault he’s playing for a team that is regarded still as a Lovable Loser, hasn’t won a Series since 1908, and plays its games in a broken down historical relic of a baseball park.
I’ve watched many games at Wrigley Field. I guess everyone should experience it once and hope their sight of line of the field isn’t blocked by a steel pillar and pay $25 to park their car. And you know you’re in a rustic environment when you’re surrounded by a bunch of guys in the 7th inning urinating in a horse trough for a urinal. (True story: In the 7th inning of Game 5 of the Marlins-Cubs series in 2003 I was doing just that when a guy accidently dropped his cell phone in the horse trough urinal. All at once, eight streams of urine adjusted their aim to hit the downed and trapped cell phone.)
But back to Brandon. He is absolutely right. His flair rubs people the wrong way. If you’re a Reds fan, you love it. If not, you hate him. He’s not bragging when he says what he says.
Remember what Johnny Bench said one time about the art of catching and throwing out would-be base stealers out. “It’s not being cocky, it’s being confident.”
Johnny Bench was right. He was the best catcher of his generation, period. And Brandon Phillips is the best second baseman in the National League — period.
Darwin Barney can make the routine plays. Brandon Phillips makes the great plays. If the truth hurts, so be it.
I’m not sure what being “punked” means but I have a good guess. And if Brandon Phillips says it and means it and is basically right, he doesn’t owe anyone anything.
Let’s put it this way. If a game is on the line in crunch time, who would you rather have at second base? If you have any intellectual honesty or baseball sense —or both— you’re gonna say Brandon Phillips.