CINCINNATI — Brandon Phillips spent most of Friday afternoon avoiding the media.
Phillips kept the local reporters waiting for the whole time the visitors’ clubhouse was open. Later an Atlanta Braves spokesman said Phillips wasn’t going to talk.
But Phillips finally relented and gave an interview to Fox Sports Ohio and channel 5 as he was coming off the field. He sounded a little bitter:
“It hurt in my heart to see myself leave Cincinnati. It sucks,” Phillips said. “I ain’t going to platoon when I know I can play every day, especially with the years I’ve been having with the Reds and what I can still do. I’m just going out there and playing the game the best way I know how.
“Everybody says it’s a business. The thing is there’s a lot of loyalty. I stay loyal to the city. I still stay here in Fort Thomas. I have a place in Covington also. I’m still in the city.
“I’m still Mr. Cincinnati, regardless of what anybody says. I still run this piece. I’m just here to get as many wins as I can as possible against the Redlegs.”
Phillips closed with this:
“Another thing, though, I still can’t believe that No. 4, is… someone is wearing my number. I think that’s a slap in my face, too. But it is what it is. Man, people have their own opinions and I’m going to have mine. Whether they respect it or not, I’m going to be myself regardless. Like I said, I’m wearing Cincinnati on my chest and I’m always going to be Mr. Cincinnati.”
It should be noted that Jay Bruce’s and Johnny Cueto’s numbers were given away shortly after they departed as well.
They, like Phillips, were unquestionably popular with the fans. But the franchise had to move on from them like it had to move on from Phillips.
In Phillips’ case there were number of reasons: 1. he was in the last year of his contract; 2. he wasn’t going be around post-rebuild; 3. he would have likely been a distraction given his view on a lesser role; 4. the Reds needed to find out about Jose Peraza.
Phillips had a great career here. He hit .279 with 191 home runs and 851 over 11 seasons. He won four Gold Gloves. He made three All-Star teams. And he signed a million autographs.
The fans acknowledged that Friday night with a nice standing ovation. Phillips acknowledged the fans by tipping his helmet. The Reds showed video highlights of him on the big board and flashed “Thank You.”
Despite what Phillips said, he should be happy the Reds traded him. He’s playing for his hometown team.
And there comes point in nearly every player’s career when the team has to move on from him.
The loyalty thing is laughable. When this year is over, the Reds will have paid him roughly $97 million, including $13 million his season.
He showed his loyalty to the guy who writes the checks, owner Bob Castellini, by saying his $72.5 million contract was a “slap in the face” and accusing then-general manager Walt Jocketty and Castellini of lying to him in a Cincinnati Magazine story in 2012.
The trade to Braves showed that Phillips was no longer a $14 million player when they parted ways with him. The Reds got nothing in terms of prospects for him and yet they had to pay all but $1 million of his salary to get the Braves to take him.
Phillips is having a decent year this year. He came in hitting .294/.343/.413 with a three home runs and 16 RBI. But Phillips is no longer an elite defender. Fangraphs.com rates him as the 17th best defensive second baseman in the majors, a tick above Peraza.
The Reds gave Phillips a chance to play in his hometown this year.
He should be grateful for that — not bitter about how it ended in Cincinnati.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.