By now, most of us have read or heard about ‘datÃ‚Â articleÃ‚Â written by Bob Nightengale (USA Today) that quotes Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto about their hitting approaches. The article highlights the contradictions and frames the parallel interviews as a debate.
But commentary about whether it is Votto or Phillips who is right about batting misses the larger point. Brandon Phillips was wrong, for another reason.
Forget about the breathtaking ignorance, inconsistencies and phony arguments throughout Phillips’ statements concerning basic baseball knowledge. As Dan Szymborski (ESPN) tweeted in reply: A baseball player criticizing OBP at this point is like a surgeon complaining about washing his hands.
Forget Phillips’ laughable claim that he doesn’t care what people think of him. Ask C. Trent Rosecrans about that. AÃ‚Â profanity-filled direct messageÃ‚Â Redleg Nation received a couple years ago from DatCrudeÃ‚Â also suggests otherwise. The Reds second baseman is as thin-skinned as they come. Phillips conflates not caring what people think about him with not caring what he says about them. It’s a classic dish-it-out-can’t-take-it playground situation.
Forget that a journalist treated incoherent ramblings with the same deference as candid thoughtfulness, meanwhile taking his own shot at Votto with an (inapt) comparison to Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
And try — as best you can — to put aside the looming possibility that Bryan Price could give the third most at bats to a player who doesn’t value getting on base.
Ignore all of that for now.
Rather, consider Brandon Phillips’ unbridled selfishness in attacking a teammate.
Last season was an injury-fueled disappointment for the Reds. The fallout has given the run-up to 2015 the feel of a last, but determined, gasp. The front office has allowed, rightfully, in my opinion, the core group of players that won the NL Central in 2010 and 2012 to make one final push together. Win or lose, expect next year’s team to be vastly different. With an assist from the departed Mat Latos, tattooedÃ‚Â more ways than one yesterday, the Reds have been displaying a welcome us-against-the-world edge.
Then, two weeks from Opening Day, Brandon Phillips pops-off with this interview. Not only was it 100 percent self-serving, worse yet, it could foment division on the team. Here’s what Phillips said to a national audience about Reds players other than himself:
“I think people now are just worried about getting paid and worrying about on-base percentage instead of just winning the game.”
“I play the game to win. I don’t play the game for stats.Ã‚Â I’m not talking about nobody else. I don’t penalize nobody. I don’t talk negative about nobody. I’m just talking about me.Ã‚Â Maybe, I’m just different.”Ã‚Â
DoesÃ‚Â anyone believe Phillips isn’t criticizingÃ‚Â Joey Votto? Ã‚Â In mentioning “getting paid” and Votto “eating real good,” Phillips vented long-simmering resentment about how much the Reds pay their first baseman. It’s the same issue that caused him to call his owner a liar. Twice. Transparent and phony denials notwithstanding, Phillips is plainly taking a shot at his teammate. One sentence follows the next. In English. Worried about getting paid instead of winning games. I’m different. Read that again.
(Look, we know he’s talking about Joey Votto because who else in close proximity worries about on-base percentage? Not the team that, without Votto, had the second-lowest walk-rate in the NL. Not the manager who bats Billy Hamilton first. Not the general manager who /list too long for the internet/. That’s Joseph Daniel Votto in Phillips crosshairs.)
What really stands out is how unusual Phillips’ behavior is. Are there other examples where players attack specific long-time teammates in the press? If so, I haven’t seen them.
Usually it’s just blogs like this that rile up fans for no good reason.