The pregame flap between Cincinnati Enquirer sportswriter C. Trent Rosecrans and Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was reported around the world shortly after it happened. As I stepped off the plane here in Kabul after four wonderful days in Mazar-e-Sharif, a friend of mine said, “Your guy Phillips tore into a sportswriter last night.”
I watched the video of it; the camera squarely on Dusty Baker but Brandon’s unmistakable voice in the background and also, apparently, of Rosecrans.
People are blaming Phillips. Or Rosecrans. Or both.
I tend to blame both but focus a lot of the fault on Dusty Baker. More on him later.
Baker started this whole thing in motion when he uncharacteristically made a change to his batting order. He moved Phillips from 4th to 2nd, Jay Bruce from 5th to 4th and Todd Frazier from 2nd to 6th. It was a bold move, considering it came from Dusty. And I thought it was a good move. Someone, somebody needed to try and wake this lethargic Reds team up.
Rosecrans tweeted that after this change, the Reds had a hitter in the second place of the order with an on-base percentage of .310 while Frazier had an OBP of .320.
My reaction was, “Who cares?” Lefties be damned, I was glad to see Bruce batting cleanup behind Joey Votto. I admit it, I’m old school. I don’t bat shortstops second, unless that shortstop is a good hitter. I don’t want to have to pinch-hit for that hitter in the 8th or 9th inning. I want a guy that can hit in the order before Joey Votto.
Rosecrans must have been bored. Or had too much time on his hands. In my opinion, it was a silly thing to tweet, perhaps, but idleness and the ability to tweet usually generate this sort of thing.
DatDude’s reaction was even worse. He used profanity and made fun of Rosecran’s size, both of which are demeaning for a professional athlete, or anyone for that matter. I want to like Brandon Phillips but have a hard time doing so, especially during instances such as this. He’s clearly the best Reds second baseman since Joe Morgan and the second best second baseman the Reds have had in my lifetime.
But what bothered me the most was Dusty Baker. He sat there, grinned and said, “I’m staying out of it. It’s between him and him.”
No manager of the Cincinnati Reds should let this thing happen (other than maybe Bob Boone or Don Heffner, possibly the two worst modern Reds managers). Dusty just sat there. He’s better than that— or should be.
There have been other altercations between players and sportswriters and there always will be. But when Vada Pinson and Earl Lawson got into it, Fred Hutchinson was in his office, not a witness to it. And that fight came about because Lawson wrote an article suggesting that Pinson use his impressive speed and bunt for more hits to boost his batting average.
Dusty’s “new” lineup worked out well; Bruce drove in five runs, BP had a pair of hits, Joey was Joey and the Reds won 10-0 behind Double No Hit Homer.
I don’t know C. Trent. I’m not a big follower of his writing. I felt bad for him when the Cincinnati Post went belly-up and he lost his job. But if I was a beat writer that covered the Reds, I would try and find out why there is no fire or spark in that clubhouse.
There’s no story there (about BP’s OBP). The story was Bruce batting cleanup, and Phillips moving to second, thus giving the Reds an advantage with four of their best hitters getting more at bats during a game.