Brandon Phillips has had quite the offseason. He has seen several of his most talented teammates traded, and one of those trades brought back a potential replacement in Jose Peraza. The Reds then tried to trade Phillips to both the Nationals and Diamondbacks, but Phillips full no-trade ability allowed him to block both deals. He apparently wanted too much money in return for accepting the trades, a tidbit stated publically by Walt Jocketty.

Many fans still want to see Phillips in a Reds uniform, even if the organization does not. He remains popular, and his brand has remained strong even after some ugly instances.

The next couple of seasons could test the patience of his supporters though. Phillips seemed to be on a steady decline before he reset his value last season. He will turn 35 in June, and guys in their mid 30s often collapse without much warning.

Even if Phillips remains productive over the next two seasons, the Reds have plenty of middle infielders ready to take over. Since they likely won’t compete for a playoff spot in the next couple of seasons, they likely want to get their prospects regular playing time at the highest level.

Jocketty’s public acknowledgement that Phillips wanted too much in return to accept a trade may foreshadow a future (current?) tension between the organization and a popular but aging player. If Phillips doesn’t receive the playing time he think he deserves, things could get ugly and in a very public fashion. He saved his own Reds’ career by rejecting deals to better clubs, but his time in Cincinnati is numbered regardless.

With that knowledge, I’ve begun to wonder: how will we remember Brandon Phillips when his career is over? Phillips may be the most unpopular popular (you read that correctly) player in Reds history. He is incredibly likeable, except that he is not that likeable. People agree that he has been a great player for the Reds, except those people who think he’s overrated. His time in Cincinnati has been the best of times and the worst of times.

The worst of times come mostly from Phillips’ off the field behavior. In 2013, he called owner Bob Castellini a liar, prompting speculation that he would be traded following the season. Later that year, he berated C. Trent Rosencrans for bringing up Phillips’ lackluster OBP in a tweet. Redleg Nation didn’t escape his wrath either as Phillips sent a direct message to the site’s twitter account laced with profanity and disdain for the site.

Phillips’ performance on the field also caused controversy, though not to the same degree. He frequently gets caught up in the statistical debate of old versus new metrics. As some fans and writers rallied around Phillips’ love for RBIs and sacrifice bunts, others derided him for being overrated. A fierce battle broke out with Phillips and Joey Votto in the middle of the fray.

He harshly criticized stat guys as geeks and nerds and suggested they were “messing up baseball.” His disdain for new metrics is fine. His anger towards those who use them to evaluate players (Rosencrans) is unacceptable.

These instances were all ugly. Phillips comes off as petty, overly sensitive, and childish in his worst moments. Unfortunately, these moments are hard to forget and a part of what we have come to expect from him.

His worst moments lead some to believe that Phillips’ career with the Reds will have an ugly ending. But even if that does happen, I hope we don’t remember him for any of the cringe worthy stuff. If we get in the habit of remembering people at their worst, a lot of us are in trouble.

For those of us that grew up with the disastrous teams of the mid 90s through the first decade of the 21st century, Phillips’ time with the Reds roughly mirrors a time of renewal for the franchise, and the gifted second baseman played a large role in that renewal.

Phillips’ story is well known in Reds country. In 2006, the Cleveland Indians decided that Johnny Peralta was their shortstop of the future and sent a disgruntled, young Phillips to Cincinnati in return for a bag of balls. A year later, Phillips produced 4.4 WAR while hitting 30 homeruns and stealing 30 bases. He had his best year in 2011 when he hit .300/.353/.457 and earned 5.4 WAR.

Phillips’ calling card on the field has always been his defense. While the numbers are traditional and advanced metrics are fantastic, the individual plays like the following stand out.

His array of over the shoulder catches, barehanded throws, and diving stops seem endless. And he did it all with a smile that reveals a genuine love for the game. Fans love that stuff. Beat writers love that stuff. Baseball needs that stuff.

And Phillips’ passion has never come under question. His enthusiasm during the 2013 Wild Card loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates was lauded by fans. He clearly loves the game and enjoys himself like little leaguers do: the game is the reward in itself.

Phillips’ also seems willing to invest in fans and the community. In spite of some previously stated rough moments, the fans have largely embraced him. My favorite Phillips’ fan story happened in 2011. A 14-year-old boy asked Phillips to come to his little league game, and Phillips obliged. He went by himself, taking pictures and tweeting from the game. What 14 year old hasn’t dreamed of playing in front of their baseball idol?

Rarely do we see baseball players invest in their fans so personally. Phillips is notorious for engaging with his fans, even taking them to dinner after games (see previous link). He may be sensitive to criticism about his performance, but he certainly seems to love the people of Cincinnati.

That’s how I hope we remember Brandon Phillips. Whether underrated or overrated, he was a good player for some really good teams. And he enjoyed the ride as much as anyone we’ve ever seen. Baseball needs more players to interact intimately with their fans the way Phillips does. Yes, he has had some ugly moments, but he has given more than he has taken and for that, I’m grateful.

51 Responses

  1. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I was questioning BP’s motives during his last contract season. All those twitter contests he was doing, something simply didn’t seem right. I couldn’t help questioning, “Why hadn’t he been doing them all along?” (Similarly, “Why hadn’t he been doing them ever since?”) The reason I believe, BP was trying to get the Reds FO to put up the money to extend him. BP figured he couldn’t do it anymore simply on the quality of his play, since Votto passed him on that. So, BP thought to make himself popular among the fans. Thus, all the twitter stuff.

    I will remember BP as a player who did pretty much whatever was asked of him in the batting order. I will remember him as a member of the 30-30 club. I will remember his as a great defender. I will remember him as someone who seemingly wanted to stay here, in Cincinnati, at a time to his detriment, I believe, since he could have easily gone to a better team this year in a trade. But, he had to ask for more money.

    However, I will also remember him for his antics like the tirade at C Trent. I will remember him getting picked off by the Phillies by 6 feet with the banana-in-the-tailpipe trick.

    Overall, I still wish the Reds “could” have let him walk before his last extension. I specify “could” because the Reds had no “plan B” if/when BP wouldn’t be here anymore. Now that we do have a “plan B”, being able to go various different ways, probably most likely Peraza, we can’t get him to another team.

    • gaffer

      In summary, he is a stubborn A$$ but he was our suborn A$$. He is kinda like OchoCinqo, Icky Woods, Marge Schott (and maybe even Pete to a degree) as Cincy fans loved the BS as much as everyone else hatted it.

  2. Kyle Farmer

    What I will remember about BP is his insistence to be the last player out of the dugout each and every game. I’ll also remember how much my son loves him. He may be the most polarizing player in Reds history.

    • Bill Lack

      Kyle, I thought I was the only one that noticed that.

      • Kyle Farmer

        Nope. I knew we were kindred spirits when I saw that it bugged you as well!

  3. Lanny Sterin

    Phillips legacy will be that he was an extremely big part of some very successful years . A really good second baseman ; only overshadowed by the great Joe Morgan!

  4. Mike Stacy

    I can only remember him for his detromental, vengeful acts towards the Red’s this off season. He knows he’s setting our team back in it’s rebuild. If he really “loves the fans” well why is he giving us the middle finger? No matter how great he was, how nice and cool he was, and the good teams he played a large part in. Purposely screwing the city, the team, and the fans for at least 2 more years is disgustingly unacceptable!

    • greenmtred

      Screwing the fans how? By using his leverage to get paid more? Isn’t that the American way?

      • Bill Lack

        It is absolutely his right…but I don’t EVER want to hear how he wants to win, because if that was his goal, he’d have taken one of the trades.

      • greenmtred

        Maybe he wants to win with the Reds. Also likely that he wants to win and also wants to get paid as much as possible. He would differ little from almost every other player if that is the case.

    • VaRedsFan

      I can’t believe people want him to forgo his 10/5 rights.
      It’s like a coupon. Would you be mad if a store didn’t let you use your coupon, that was only sent to you?

  5. Hotto4Votto

    I do believe, and have stated as much before, that Phillips is the most polarizing player on the Reds.

    The engagement with the fans, the defensive, and several good offensive years will be remembered with fondness.

    The negativity toward to owner, the media, his base running blunders, the negative comments toward his teammate, being stand-offish in the locker room (according to Fay), and his demands to accept a trade will be looked upon negatively.

    If the Reds never extended him, I think almost all would view his time here as resoundingly positive. It’s all the time since, with sour grapes over his contract, has he really acted out and showed his worst side. For me, it’s been one too many times and I don’t think I’ll view his time here in a positive light.

  6. Westfester

    Let’s not forget that he verbalized every Cincinnati fans’ opinion that the Cardinals were a bunch of WLBs!

    • Tom Diesman

      He also is directly responsible for instigating the on field altercation with the Cardinals the following day. It’s hard to comprehend what kind of mental midget you have to be to think it’s ok to give one of the team leaders of the team you called out as WLB the previous night a little tap tap on the shin guard as you climb into the box the next day.

      • greenmtred

        There’s no altercation if the targets of the instigation don’t rise to the bait. And there is a long tradition in sports of gamesmanship, including attempting to make one’s opponent angry and, consequently, less able to concentrate. Calling Molina a mental midget would probably have been as effective as tapping his shin guard.

  7. sultanofswaff

    I think the final parting of ways will cement his legacy in either direction. If he leaves bitter, he will be looking in from the outside for a long time. Similar to Frank Thomas and the ChiSox. I think it’s 100% on BP to decide.

  8. Scott Carter

    I agree with you Nick. I love watching BP on the field making one outstanding play after another. I love his attitude towards the fans, especially kids, but his attitude in other areas particularly the contract squabbles and apparently (we are not there) sniping attitude with teammates and media really throw me off. I think it may be hard for some fans but I hope we remember what he brought us on the field. I for one do not want to be remembered for my worst moments.

    • Nick Carrington

      Your post summarizes my conflicting feelings toward him. I want to like him and appreciate his on field efforts for the Reds, but like you, the other stuff bothers me.

  9. Patrick Ponds

    I´ll remember him as one of the best players in a Reds uniform, sabermetrics or not. One that never complained hitting wherever he was asked, made some of the best defensive plays I´ve seen and a true baseball player.

    Calling out the WLB´s, my favorite though.

  10. Patrick Jeter

    Very well-written, Nick.

    Phillips is the athlete that has helped me learn to appreciate what someone can do on the field while disliking their personality and off-the-field antics. Earlier in my life I couldn’t really differentiate the two parts of a player, but now I can. I appreciate BP for that.

    Phillips turned the best double play I’ve ever seen and always seemed to be having fun. For that, I appreciate his time here, while I simultaneously feel glad that his time is coming to an end.

    Since it’s been mentioned in some form twice already, I want to address the whole Phillips “batting order” narrative.

    I looked at it last year, and perhaps will do a post this year, but Phillips doesn’t change his approach based on where he is in the lineup. He has the most ABs in the 1, 2, and 4 holes in his career and he had almost identical slash lines in each role, as well as almost identical plate discipline stats. The narrative that he changes his approach based on where he hits isn’t true at all and was, at some point, likely baked up by fans in the media.

    Also, the idea that he never complains about where he hits is sort of a strange thing to bring up. Who complains about where they hit? I can’t really recall any major leaguer complaining about hitting in different spots. So, he’s doing his job. Not really laudable, in my opinion.

    • Steve Schoenbaechler

      I don’t believe anyone said he changes how he hits based on his place in the batting order. But, I, not a BP fan, will give him credit that he never seemingly questioned where he was batting in the order. Bat him first? Fine. 4th? Whatever. He still stepped up and did what he could.

      • Patrick Ponds

        Fair enough. I would like to see some of today´s prima donnas being moved around in the lineup as BP has been. Those who criticize his “hitting approach” are the ones who love to hate him “because he doesn´t walk enough”. Well, in his prime, BP was the guy I wanted there with RISP.

    • lwblogger2

      You’d actually be surprised by how many guys are really, really funny about where they hit in a lineup. A lot of it doesn’t get out to the fans but it does go on.

      • Patrick Jeter

        My point exactly. It doesn’t get to us. So how do we know BP hasn’t complained?

        Basically, extolling a guy for not complaining about doing his job is silly.

    • greenmtred

      Patrick: I think that his evident willingness to hit where asked conflicts with the narrative about BP being a prima donna, as does his playing hurt. I don’t know the man, or any other mlb players, but if he is indeed self-centered and egotistical, I can’t imagine that he doesn’t have a good deal of company: a strong ego is probably close to being a prerequisite for a high achiever in a competitive field. BP doesn’t always keep that hidden with cliches and happy talk, and that makes us uncomfortable. I can forgive him, though (easy since I don’t deal with him), because watching him play defense has provided me with some of my favorite moments as a fan.

  11. TR

    I’ll remember Brandon Phillips as a talented, passionate ballplayer who was always in the game. He reminds me of another fine Reds second baseman, Lonny Frey, who was on the winning teams of 1939-40. I saw him play his last year with the Reds in 1946.

  12. streamer88

    BP is an interesting case-study on how today’s multi-media/Twitter/full access culture negatively (and positively) impacts fan perception. Sixty years ago this guy’s hustle, smiles, and spectacular plays would’ve left him an indisputable legend in Cincy and perhaps around the MLB. But today, due to the e-news / web ecosystem we get to see his faults up close and personal. Sometimes I wonder if the personal scrutiny is unfair to these guys (maybe that’s why we pay them so much– deal with it– would be the counter-argument). Just as I love Pete Rose, Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath, etc etc I will also force myself to focus on Dat Dude the player.

    I have no doubt that if Ty Cobb was known as a sour, mean, some say bigoted old cuss from his era then he would’ve been outed even more so in today’s world of mass media. Yet we choose to remember him for his greatness almost exclusively. Our heroes are ultimately as flawed and as fallible as we are!

  13. DEN

    To me this whole idea that BP is screwing this franchise this year and next is hogwash. NO one forced the Reds to resign BP to a contract that in many ways was above his production level for the final few seasons. Also no one but El Cheapo Bob kept the Reds from trading him this offseason. Lets remember, every MLB owner is making money hand over fist.

    BP has incredible talent and performed at a high level for a number of seasons and did whatever he could to help this team out. Were there some bumps in the road, sure but that is not a rare thing with pro athletes. BP’s time in Cincy was great and when it comes to an end most fans I believe will look back at his time here and be happy.

    • Chuck Schick

      How can you state that the Reds overpaid Phillips and in the same sentence refer to the owner as El Cheapo? Were that the case then why was BP resigned? The Reds allocate an extremely high percentage of revenue to payroll. One can argue that they spend money poorly, but they do spend.

      Also, there is no evidence to suggest that every MLB team is making money hand over fist……or even actually making money.

  14. Tct

    I will remember BP for two postseason at bats. Both came in the leadoff spot.

    First, 2010 Game 2 vs the Phillies. After being no hit the previous night, BP starts off the game with a leadoff homer. It got the entire team fired up and seemed to send a message that the Reds weren’t dead yet. It didn’t turn out so well in the end, but it was exciting at the time.

    Second, 2012 Game 3 vs the Giants. BP leads off the bottom of the first with a ball in the gap. Everything went right for the Reds in San Francisco and it seemed like the train would keep rolling as BP started off the inning with a sure double. But for some reason he decided to try to make it a triple and made the first out of the inning at third base. It might not be fair to BP, but it really seemed like this was where the momentum turned. If the Reds had given Homer any run support that day, they would have swept the series.

    These two plays seem to sum up BP for me. The same passion and energy that made him so exciting at some times made him so frustrating at others.

    • Hotto4Votto

      “The same passion and energy that made him so exciting at some times made him so frustrating at others.”

      This may be the best summation of BP I’ve seen.

  15. lwblogger2

    Nice piece Nick. I really enjoyed the read. Your feelings are quite close to my own.

  16. Mark Lang

    I think those who got their egos bruised by Phillips are the sorts who were asking for their egos to get bruised.

    Brandon Phillips plays baseball like you want all the guys on your team to play – and the guys who are coming up – the ones that someday may replace him – we can only hope they can grow to fill his shoes.

    Loved having him on the team – and I will certainly miss him when he’s gone.

  17. Redgoggles

    I will remember him as a crazy good talented defensive player, who had some big hits in his prime. I will also remember him as a prima dona, and a “me first” player.

  18. deltaxray468

    I think Phillips is a Reds HoF caliber player and it’s been a joy to watch him play defense. It’s also been fun to watch his pinch Jim Day’s nipples on TV. As for him not accepting the trades – I have no issue with him trying to leverage his position. I also have no issue with the Reds putting him on the bench through 2017. But, if he plays, I’ll enjoy his twilight years playing a solid second.

  19. JB WV

    Best fielding second baseman I’ve ever seen.

  20. Obc2

    The majority of Reds fans will remember BP as the Reds HOF’er that he is. Multi time Gold Glove winner. 20/20 man. Big contributor to ’10 ’12 ’14 playoff clubs. Fun personality demonstrated in FSO hijinks with Jim Day.

    And probably the most fan friendly dude at the ballpark, signing tons of autographs and posing for countless photos with fans.

    I guess the half empty glassers will always first recall the C Trent thing, but funsuckers gonna funsuck I guess.

    • lwblogger2

      Speaking of the autographs, when people ask me who will sign, I pretty much always say Phillips and Bruce. They are always signing after warmups.

  21. dan

    I will forever remember DatDude as the guy who played by the rules, treated the game like a business (just like every other player), even though he was a millionaire worked hard, loved the fans, was hated for not being what a majority of fans wanted.

    He never broke a single rule and yet Brandon is hated by so many fans.
    His contract is too…. even if that were true, what would you do if you were overpaid for your work?
    He refused a trade. He didn’t break any rules here. He treated the trade process as a business which is what the Red’s management was doing and he didn’t like the business outcome of a trade.
    He riled ownership….. Seriously. Who loves the Red’s ownership as it is?
    He had conflicts with the media….. i would imagine if a mike what shoved in my face at any given moment I would also provide for some “masterful” commentary. he tirades look like the Pope though compared to Bryan Price.

    The 2nd best Reds second baseman of all time. Forever grateful for watching him play it out for the home team.

    • Patrick Jeter

      You must have completely forgotten how the C. Trent thing went down. A mic was not shoved in BP’s face. BP entered Dusty’s office, uninvited, during Dusty’s pre-game meeting with the media and proceeded to insult C. Trent’s weight and call him all sorts of stuff, in front of CTR’s colleagues. All because of a tweet CTR made about BP’s OBP.

      Maybe you don’t care about it, but that is one of the most unprofessional things I’ve ever heard of, in any profession, not just baseball.

      You are either the kind of person who does that stuff, or you aren’t. BP is that kind of person. With that said, it doesn’t take away from his on-field accomplishments, but painting BP as a victim is irresponsible, I think, in this situation.

  22. WVRedlegs

    BP, may just go down as the best defensive second baseman to play the game. But he is also a guy that doesn’t have his head on straight. Tweeting a photo as you go through the new Krispy Kreme drive-thru 5 minutes before a game starts is inexcusable.
    But anything BP related that blows up in the Reds face is all on Walt Jocketty. Jocketty should have never, ever let BP get to this situation of having full 10/5 rights. That was a turd everyboby but the Reds front office saw coming down the pike. He should have been traded before that. Then this off-season’s BP shenanigans is again on Jocketty. If they were planning on trading him, why the heck did the front office not have all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed with BP before even entering into trade negotiations. No excuses on that one.

  23. i71_Exile

    I’ll remember BP as a supremely talented defensive player who worked hard at his craft and hit well for a second baseman. I’ll also remember him as a two-faced explicative who wore a public mask of “happy-go-lucky team guy” over that of a selfish, sullen, me-first “entertainer” who would rather clown around the case paths instead of pay attention.

    There is a reason the Reds were able to get young BP for a stale box of KABOOM.

  24. pigskin55

    There will be precious few reasons to spend time at Great American Ballpark this summer. The team management has seen to that. One will be watching Brandon Phillips make breathtaking plays in the field, while showing a passion for the game beyond what the caretakers of this franchise deserve, given their ghastly stewardship of the Reds brand over the past year and change.

    Keep Brandon and get rid of everyone above the 3rd base coach, up to and including the GM and his understudy.

  25. wyoRedsfan

    good read. nicely done. i see it getting ugly though. thanks for the rehash.

  26. chettmixx

    BP’s salary and dollar value per WAR nearly equaled out last year, which means that it was fair pay. One thing that is overlooked is BP’s value to Reds branding which IMO is higher than any other Reds player with MAYBE the exception of Votto. Every Philips Web Gem on ESPN was free billboard for the Reds to capture a larger market share. The same can be said about BP’s Gold Gloves and All Star appearances and most of all his unparalleled involvement within the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky community. The people that he comes into contact with will undoubtedly be more vested in the Reds as a team. Phillips value exceeds his cost.

    The Reds FO made the mistake of giving up on a injured team and decided to rebuild a team that more or less just needed its bench and bullpen rebuilt. Now some are angry at Phillips for a contract that the FO negotiated and this seems absurd to me as the contract is the going rate for a Phillips-esque player….its just that he’s nearing the end of his career and understandably that comes with the risk of a let down. But none the less he has earned his contract.

    Honestly Reds fans that are looking at BP as a problem that should just go away need to look at the Reds FO and ask why did the Reds feel it necessary to fire Dusty Baker and why is Price still a coach.,….and why did the reds trade away all the talent it had for mid tier talent.

    My hopes are that the Reds sign him to a smaller contract where he plays a supportive roll and let him play his final years in Cincy and retire a Red. IMO BP’s earned a bronze statue at GABP!

  27. cincinnatiredstockings

    One of my three favorite Reds of my lifetime, along with Larkin and Eric the Red. Made amazing plays in the field, fan friendly, the only one of the Reds who would go out on the caravan after he had made it. Never saw Votto, Bruce, Frazier, Cueto, Chapman on the caravan after they had really made it, but Phillips was out there.

    Somehow two off-field incidents in one year out of an eleven year Reds career somehow ruined the fact for some Reds fans that he was a no doubt Reds hall of famer, and if he has a good age 35-40 part of his career might have a Cooperstown case. I watch baseball games to watch baseball games. One singular incident with the media, and one about ownership isn’t going to change the fact I’ve been so glad to watch him play the game as well as he has with the passion he has. Unlike so many other players he realizes how lucky he is to get paid millions to play a game. Some people act like he beat his wife or sexually assaulted someone. Nope. Just said some bad things about a reporter and management. That’s deserving of Ray Rice-like contempt. Not.

    I dont see this offseason stuff as bad. He lives in Cincy full time and has always said he never wants to leave the Reds, I see the trades as an extension of that. If you want me to move out of my home and out of where I’m comfortable, compensate me for it, if you don’t I’ll stay where I want to be. I personally wouldn’t relocate to another city and out of my home without being compensated for it assuming I have a choice. I assume all the haters would do that for their employers for free.

    • chettmixx

      I agree with everything that you said! Hopefully we’ll see a sea of Phillips jerseys at the ballpark this year to show support for a player that has shown his love and loyalty to Cincinnati.