This is part two of my attempt to find a true “It” factor on the Cincinnati Reds 40 man roster. Each article in the series will be posted on Sunday and Wednesday nights during the off-season, starting with the most ‘secure’ players as to avoid writing an article about a potential trade victim, retiree, or free agent.
I don’t claim to be an expert on a lot of things. I’m not an expert on sports, baseball, or even the Reds for that matter. However, I doubt a lot of you reading this claim to be experts either. I’m a fan, driven by emotion. Anticipation for a season and it’s ultimate pay-off, good or bad, is a yearly thing for anyone even a little bit invested in a sports team. Teams are driven by the performances of their players, who in turn extract emotions from their fan base.
There are a couple of Reds who can easily extract emotions from their fan base, and Brandon Phillips is one of them. Dat Dude is the longest tenured position player, and is second tenured overall behind Bronson Arroyo. As his time as a Red, he has easily impressed the most with his glove. His insane amount of ‘web gems’ have wowed us on an almost nightly basis. Brandon can seemingly get to any ball, and fortunately for him, any ball to his left that might be just out of his reach is probably an easy play for Joey Votto. Together these two make up quite possibly the best right half of an infield in the league.
In this series I’m searching for “it”. But what is “it”? “It” is unexplainable. “It” sells tickets, draws a crowd, and makes everyone in the stadium watch the field. It’s the pure evolution of the emotion that the game of baseball invokes. As fans we hang all of our hopes for a season on a handful of players, hoping that “it” will shine through and give us something to talk about as we win night in and night out. “It” might not be the reason we win ball games, but “it” is certainly a factor in a championship team.
Does Brandon Phillips have “it”? Unfortunately he doesn’t. He’s a hard worker, a genuinely lovable guy, and a defensive phenom. But BP’s defense, as great and awesome as it is, isn’t enough to give this team a little extra “oomph” it needs to win a ring.
This series of articles will tend to underplay a lot of the achievements this team has racked up in the past couple of seasons. Don’t let anything I say fool you: this is a team of really, really good players. In fact, most of them are some of my favorite players in the league (obviously). They’ve gone to the playoffs twice in the past three years, something a lot of teams can’t say. Brandon Phillips is one of the best players on this team and is a crucial cog in this new Big Red Machine. My point in this article is that the “it” factor was almost vacant on last year’s team. I’m looking for where it went, and how to make it grow.
I think Brandon Phillips has an opportunity to be one of the many sources of “it” the 2013 Cincinnati Reds has. Not with his glove, but with his bat. As we all know, the 1 and 2 hitters in 2011 were downright awful. I’m not going to repeat the statistics, because we all know they were low enough to be he worst in baseball. In my opinion, Brandon Phillips is the number 2 hitter on this team without a leadoff hitter. Can he hit in he leadoff position? Sure. He can hit anywhere. But I believe a huge “it” factor for 2013 will be a combination 1-2-3 “get him on, get him over, get him in” with a shiny new leadoff hitter, Votto in the 3 hole, and good ole’ DatDudeBP right in the middle.
This team is scary with a legitimate top of the order threat. We made the playoffs (and almost the second round) with a 1-2 punch that was the absolute worst in the league. The ASTROS had a better top of the order than we did. By quite a large margin. The Astros, as we all know, didn’t even sniff the post season.
My list of things that can give this team a true “it” factor is relatively short. Get a decent (middle of the pack, even) top of the lineup, and get Aroldis Chapman in the rotation. If the Reds can put up a crooked number in the top of the first in a game in which the Cuban Missile is on the mound, the Reds will win a lot of those games.
Of course, this all comes down to performance. On paper, a Stubbs-Phillips-Votto top 3 looked very good. But, as we all know, it wasn’t. We need not only the names, but the production. If everything comes together next season and all players, including Brandon Phillips, plays to expectation, you can expect the Reds to be right back into the mix.
So, if not “it”, what does Brandon bring to the table? Well, these are pretty obvious.
Brandon is an exciting player to watch in the field. Maybe one of the most exciting players to watch in baseball. He’s never known a ball he couldn’t reach, and even if it’s out of his massiv range, he’ll dive for it anyway. I think maybe some times his theatrics are a bit over the top, and maybe his fielding percentage would be even higher if he weren’t so flashy, but I’m not going to try to fix what isn’t broken. He wasn’t the best second baseman statistically this season, but he was certainly up there in the level of awesomeness.
As I mentioned briefly before, this guy can hit anywhere. I believe on any middle-of-the-pack team, BP would be hitting in the three spot. And indeed, when Votto went down, we saw Brandon hitting third for a lot of games. He doesn’t really look more or less comfortable in any of the 1-4 spots, but maybe that’s because he always looks confident when he’s up at the plate. He’s got some pop, but he’s never been a consistant 20 HR guy. He can do it, but don’t be expecting it. He hits for a pretty decent average, and he gets on base enough. He’s pretty reliable from a fan’s standpoint.
I had the misfortune of being about 60 feet away from third base when Brandon Phillips came sliding into it way late in game 3 of the NLDS this season. Yes, I was also right there when Rolen bobbled the ball. It was a tough pill to swallow, and I am starting to think that maybe some of these mistakes aren’t mistakes, but should be thought of as a side-effect of BP’s all out play. Had he been safe at third in that game 3, I would be willing to bet he’d have scored and the Reds would have swept the Giants. Who knows where they could have gone from there. I’ll take the occasiona mishap on the base paths if it means some big time momentum plays.
BP is very vocal. Whether it be on Twitter or against other teams, it’s safe to say that Brandon Phillips has an opinion on a situation. So far he hasn’t gotten into any real drama (possibly with the exception of the Cardinals situation a few years back), and trust me, that’s a good thing. Athletes that are overly-vocal (think Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson) are cancerous. While baseball has way fewer athletes of that personality type than basketball or football, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Fortunately for us, I don’t believe Brandon will ever be that type of player. For the most part his words are very positive, and the things he’s done for the Cincinnati community in the past really say a lot about the kind of man he is. Definitely a guy we want on this team.
Well, there you have it. We all know the first few entries in this series will be sparing on the negative points. The first couple of entries will be written about stars. Bruce, Chapman, Cueto, and Latos are pegged to be written about next. Which of these has that “it” factor? Sound off in the comments.