clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A Public Apology to Brandon Phillips

New, 27 comments

I've been wrong about him for pretty much ever. I'm finally a big enough man to admit that.

Dat smile, y'all
Dat smile, y'all
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

In this bloghole, I've been correct about many, many things. I'm really, really smart, and this is evident in my success not only as an internet personality, but in my chosen career, in my personal relationships, as a father and husband, and as an everlasting soul achieving enlightenment and oneness with the universe. I'm also a lustful and generous lover, by the way.

But there is one (admittedly trivial) downside to being so bitchassingly smart: it is really difficult to admit when I am wrong. You see, I've been wrong about maybe four things in my entire life. I just don't have a lot of experience being wrong, because I'm so dang smart and right about everything. This kind of brilliance is blinding, you know.

I have finally realized though that I have been wrong about Brandon Phillips for basically ever. And so this is my apology.

When the Reds got BP from the Indians just before the '06 season, I wasn't so happy about it. He was had for a song, so it wasn't really a big gamble or anything, but I knew well his rep from Cleveland. The Franchise Cancer seemed the wrong kinda guy to bring on. Also, I was really hoping to see Ryan Freel (God rest his soul) take the everyday 2B job. It was pretty much him, Tony Womack, and Rey Olmedo, so adding a busted prospect like BP seemed kinda pointless.

But Phillips quickly took over the everyday job. Ken Griffey Jr got hurt after about two weeks and Freel was needed in the outfield. BP acquitted himself just fine, hitting 17 home runs. But his OBP was thin and his batting average was buoyed by 100 singles. He was fine, but whatever.

'07 was his breakout year, so to speak. That was his 30/30 year, you'll recall, when he walloped 30 home runs and stole 32 bases. He also drove in 94 runs and played some serious defense, earning some down-ballot MVP votes.

He seemed to me to be a perfect sell-high candidate. Despite his 30/30 cred and run-producer tag, he was still a merely average hitter. But he coulda brought in a handsome prospect haul for a flailing, losing team with a serious lack of good young pitching. Instead, the Reds signed him to a four-year $27 million deal. I grumbled about it, but whatever.

He played the length of that contract without changing much, really. He hit some home runs and a bucket full of singles and won a few Gold Gloves, but didn't walk much and was far too reckless on the basepaths. He was valuable comparable to his contract, but as it ran out I really thought it was time to trade him. He turned in a good season for the division-winning team of 2010, but 2011 was a pivotal year for both the Reds and BP. The team struggled, finishing third in the NL Central largely due to a serious lack of pitching. But BP put up his best season, posting nearly 5 WAR and winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.

But he was 30 years old. This was clearly his peak. With the team in need of some roster adjustments and only one year left on his deal, I thought the worst thing to do would be to sign him to a big contract extension. It is always ALWAYS a bad idea to sign a player coming off a peak year. It seemed so obvious that 2011 BP was not a new baseline. He wasn't going to repeat that over and over again for half a decade. They could either trade him or let him walk, but locking up his 30s for major dollars seemed a huge mistake. They gave him $72 million over six years.

Predictably, his career began to backslide. His slugging dropped by about 25 points each year for the next few. He stole only seven bases between 2013 and 2014 and was caught six times. Middle infielders are notorious for aging hard as hell in their early 30s. After posting an 87 wRC+ with only eight home runs in 2014, it sure looked like Phillips was heading over the cliff. I really wanted the Reds to offload the remainder of his contract for whatever they could get. Of course, they kept him.

2015 looked like it was going to be an ugly one for both the Reds and BP. Of course the team has floundered, but this is despite the efforts of their long-time 2B. At 34 years old, Phillips is hitting .293 and posting a league-average wRC+. Adding in his somehow-still-fantastic glove and rediscovered ability to steal bases (he has 20 so far, which is more than his previous three seasons combined), BP is once again a legitimate All-Star caliber player. This is a renaissance season, and a really damned impressive one. And once again, he has proved me wrong.

He has made about $100 million so far in his career, and if you believe WAR/$$ (which, come on, we all know the caveats) he has been worth twice that. Even this year at the old-as-hell-age-for-a-2B of 34 he has created great positive value. I've argued over and over again that he would be more valuable to the Reds in assets acquired in trade rather than production on the field, but in the end it is undeniable that he has created a ton of positive value. I don't know what more one can ask of a player or of a team's decision-makers.

So I was wrong. Numerous times. I have been wrong this whole time. So I want to formally apologize to the Reds' brass for criticizing all of their BP-related decisions over the last ten years. But most importantly, I want to apologize to Phillips himself for not appreciating his career with the Reds as I should have. I spent way too much watching him and saying, "Yeah, but ... " when I should have been saying, "Yeah. Hell yeah." Fortunately for you all, I'm humble enough to admit it. Also I look really good in a sweater.