2013 Reds

Oh, Brandon Phillips

Our friends over at Cincinnati Magazine don’t always write about the Reds, but when they do, it’s always interesting. We linked to this piece about Aroldis Chapman a few months ago. Now, Justin Williams has this fascinating profile of Brandon Phillips.

Before I get into the comments that are going to cause all the controversy, I want to note that Brandon comes across as very likable here. We shouldn’t be surprised by that — Brandon is a very likable guy — but this isn’t a hatchet piece. BP’s enthusiasm and the unique flair he brings to the ballfield are treated as admirable traits, and I’ve come to love those characteristics of our second baseman as well. Brandon Phillips is genuine. He is who he is.

The piece also shows Phillips’ thoughtful side, as well as how much he likes this community. Several years ago, someone in the Reds front office told me that Brandon was the go-to guy whenever the higher-ups needed someone, be it for a community appearance, or a charitable event. At the time, they really considered him the face of the franchise, I was told. BP seems to be happy to accept that mantle:

“Number one, the fans love me here. I love it here. It’s a blessing. It shows that [the team] invested a lot of money in me to go out there and do my job, and to keep representing the Reds in a positive way,” he says. “I feel like that’s the only reason I got that deal—if they didn’t feel I was important to the city, then I wouldn’t still be here.”

Sometimes the fact that he has no filter, however, comes back to bite him. Case in point:

“I just feel like they didn’t have to sign Joey to that contract. He still had two more years on his,” says Phillips. “And for [the front office] to go out there and sign him before they sign me, and they knew I was going to be a free agent?” Phillips shakes his head. “I understand Joey’s a good player. He’s one of the best players in this game. But I feel like I am too. I told them that this is where I wanted to be. I begged them. I told everybody I want to finish my career here. And then they give someone a contract who didn’t ask for nothing?”

With Phillips hoping to garner a deal in the range of the league’s highest paid second basemen, the numbers weren’t adding up. Rumors were beginning to swirl about Phillips being used as a trade asset later in the season. Quietly, the Reds front office offered him six years for $72.5 million. Phillips says that Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty and team owner Bob Castellini—chairman of Castellini Co., the billion-dollar national produce distributor—made clear it was all the team could offer. Phillips swallowed his pride and signed the deal, though he clearly hasn’t forgotten what he perceived as a slight.

“To this day, I’m still hurt. Well, I don’t wanna say hurt. I’ll say scarred. I’m still scarred. It just sucks that it happened,” he says. “For [Castellini] to sign somebody for $200 million, there must be a new vegetable or fruit coming out that we don’t know about. For him to do something like that and tell me they didn’t have any more money, that’s a lie. But what can I do? I just feel like it was a slap in my face.”

Phillips’s voice trails off as he shakes his head again. It’s not in his nature to be serious for this long. “But how can someone slap you in the face with all that money?” he finally says, the smile returning to its rightful location. “It’s a nice slap in the face.”

I’m not sure what to say about that. You don’t have to be a devotee of sabermetrics to understand how Votto and Phillips differ as players, in terms of value to the club.

Before you start hammering Phillips, however, go read the entire profile. It’s worth your time, trust me. Brandon Phillips isn’t a bad guy. And I can’t wait to see what he has planned when the Reds win a World Series.

21 thoughts on “Oh, Brandon Phillips

  1. He’s actually right, to a certain extent. The Reds front office clearly had a certain number in mind, and they weren’t going to budge on it for him. He wanted o be paid like a top 2B, and he was, but he could’ve gotten more.

    I can’t make this longer at the moment, but that’s basically it. I can see both sides.

    • @rhayex: Alright, I’m off work now so I can expound.

      Basically, he’s completely right from one point of view. The Reds should have been frank with him, “We understand that you want more, but we need the money to lock up our other stars”. They should have told him that they wanted him to stay and form the core of the team with Bruce and Votto. That would have most likely appeased him, especially since he already wanted to resign with the Reds. They should have praised him for the dedication and work he’s shown, especially during the times when the team was bad, and then followed up with something about how he’s been a crucial part in the team’s turnaround. That would have appealed to his pride and caused few if any hard feelings when Votto’s extension was announced.

      On the other hand, his quotes here were poorly chosen. He should have been more diplomatic and understanding about it. He needs to realize that he’s on the wrong side of 30 now, and his skillset doesn’t age well.

      Regardless, he’s a future Reds Hall of Famer and I’m glad the Reds were able to trade for him and keep him around.

  2. Unfortunately, the vast majority are only going to hear the juicy soundbites out of this and not read the entire profile. That entire passage isn’t that bad when read in context.

    I hope this doesn’t cause too much of an uproar. Sure it will be on front page of ESPN.com soon if not already.

  3. unfortunately for Brandon, the calendar.

    Had the birth dates been reversed, Brandon would have seen a lot more money (and rightfully so).

    I does make Jay Bruce’s deal so cool. A guy who just wanted to get it done and focus on Baseball. That one will be the bargain before it is through

  4. “You don’t have to be a devotee of sabermetrics to understand how Votto and Phillips differ as players, in terms of value to the club.”

    – No, but you do need a basic understanding of advanced metrics to appreciate Votto’s value compared to Phillips’. Look no further than Paul Daugherty, who has frequently argued that Phillips is more value than Votto. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Dusty say something of the sort. After all, he did say “On base percentage is nice, but RBI are better.”

    Basically, I’m saying there is a large portion of Reds fans who think Phillips is more valuable than Votto.

  5. I read the article, and it is pretty positive when it comes to Brandon, but if the Reds go on a slide in the second half, I can see Brandon getting crucified for those comments.

    But, let’s play “What Brandon should have said”!

    What Brandon should have said was:

    “At the time, I felt it was a slap in the face. I was going to be a free agent, and was hurt that they made Joey a higher priority then me, when he wasn’t going to be able to be a free agent for two more years.

    Looking back on it, I realize they made it a priority to sign both of us long term, and Joey just happened to the first to happen. I’m happy for him, and I’m happy for me.”

    I don’t think Brandon had any malicious intent, but it was a pretty dumb thing to say.

  6. They were discussing it on the MLB Network show MLB Now – apparently Votto was asked about the comments and said “it’s refreshing, it makes me like the guy even more”. Oddly enough, if I remember right, they were running a poll during the segment and about 50% though Phillips was underpaid, 25% overpaid, and 25% paid just right.

      • @al: I always thought Votto was a great teammate. His response just proves how much character he really has. This may be stating the obvious, but I’m very, very glad we have him on our team.

      • @al: I always thought Votto was a great teammate. His response just proves how much character he really has. This may be stating the obvious, but I’m very, very glad we have him on our team.

      • @al:

        Yeah, I agree…Votto is always pretty classy it seems. I love Phillips too, but I thought it was kinda odd that so many thought he was underpaid. If Dan Uggla’s salary was the standard for 2B, then yeah Phillips is underpaid. But the Uggla contract was a mistake. Brandon is getting paid in line with the best 2B and should have more money than he will ever need. (Votto is getting paid in line with the best 1B) When this contract ends, it appears he will have made nearly $100 million and he will probably get one more contract that will pay at least a few million.

  7. While I can understand BP’s point about the order of things happening, he broke one of the oldest rules of all team sports; don’t bring your team/teammate dirty laundry out in the press. Because, then, posters and bloggers like us will sit here and discuss it. I find it odd that Brandon chose to break this unwritten rule since he genuinely does seem to be an old school guy (i.e.- RBIs more important than anything else just because he’s hitting 4th).

    I think he over-values himself, monetarily, as well. Taken with a grain of salt given the difference in years, but Dustin Pedroia signed a 6yr $40.5MM contract after his MVP season. Brandon, 4 years later, got $72.5MM. I think the two players are similar in regards to offense/defensive contribution and intangibles provided to the team. Maybe BP could have gotten more elsewhere, but to act like that contract was a slap in the face because Votto got $200MM+ is a bit strange to me.

    It’s hard to think about how athletes deal with it on a day-to-day basis. That’s why in office settings you are always told not to discuss salary. Thinknig you are a bigger contributor than another person who makes more money than you leads to resentment, which leads to a lack of chemistry.

    THankfully, BP’s good nature seems to override his obvious resentment of Joey Votto and his mammoth contract.

    Going back to 1990 (I’m 29), this is currently my favorite Reds’ team, so of course, with all that said, I still love BP. Mostly because he hates the Cardinals!

    (Update after erading petejohnson above: Even if this tees off Votto, he gave the diplomatic answer. Kudos.)

  8. certainly no big story here, but definitely shows how out of touch pro athletes can be. anyone who makes tens of millions of dollars but still can’t make it through an interview without bringing up some perceived slight from two years ago clearly has no idea what 99.999 percent of people go through.

  9. My late friend, a Red Sox season ticket holder, used to say, “Major league baseball players have no right to bitch about anything, ever.” He was only anout one-quarter joking. Most players, frankly, are morons about money issues; they want big contracts not because they can buy more with $90 million than they could with $72 million, but because as competitors they want a big number next to their name.

    Phillips has now, for better or worse and likely unwittingly, has consigned himself forever to the uber-moron pool of players complaining about their $72 million. Add about 175 points to your OPS, genius, and maybe you would have a case.

  10. Here’s why BP is (and will be for a long time) my favorite Red: he realized he was being a whiny little b* about $72m, and he caught himself on it–“a nice slap on the face.” And it says a lot not just about Joey but BP too that Joey’s reaction was so gracious. BP2B has put himself out there so much for so long and in such a genuine and passionate way that he deserves the benefit of the doubt on whatever he says. He sure a he’ll isn’t graceful our refined, but he’s a great guy and a fine ball player.

  11. Sorry, I think BP is whining a bit here. He’s upset that Votto got extended first before him? He couldn’t understand a team would look to lock up the reigning MVP before him? Sorry, that’s whiny. BP needs to concentrate on how fortunate he is to be good enough to make this kind of money, especially at a time in his career where his skills are degrading a little more each year, where he will lose his head in the game which he will get picked off 2nd by 6 feet because he was jawing with the other team’s SS, a contract which at the time I believe was the 2nd or 3rd highest paid 2nd baseman in the game. There are millions and millions of people who would love to be paid 1/1000 of what BP is getting to play a game. He may have been speaking from his heart, true to his heart, and even factual. He was also being whiny.



  13. I’d think it would have been more prudent of BP to keep the actual business behind closed doors and just concentrate on selling himself, which so far he’s been pretty good at doing. Making that much money it’s just crass to argue about the fact you feel somewhat underpaid, why alienate potential fans or customers. The guy has made himself a fairly nationally known baseball player in a small market playing a usual non-glamour position. The guy plays his cards right, he probably will end up with a pretty good after baseball job in media as a commentator if he has those skills.

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