Just How Important is “Dat Dude”?


Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 season will mark a new era in Reds baseball history as pitching coach turned manager, Bryan Price, will be at the helm, taking over for the much maligned Dusty Baker.

However, these certainly will not be the only changes occurring as both Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo command hefty price tags in order to stick around.  The infusion of excitement that will come with the youthful exuberance of Billy Hamilton and Tony Cingrani in a more permanent role is sure to give the team a different identity that the clubs that have come up short in the Postseason two out of the last three years, have not had.

It is completely plausible to believe that Brandon Phillips was not only the MVP of his team this past season, but the one before as well.  The concept that Brandon Phillips had a “down” year is a convenient cop-out for fans that are either intimidated or fed up with the superstar second baseman’s personality.  While Phillips’ batting average and on-base percentage may have been career lows, his 103 RBI’s were a career high and while sabermatricians try to shove the stat on the back burner, they have yet to prove the clutch gene does not exist.  Knowing Brandon’s personality and demeanor, does anyone not actually think he takes his game to the next level in crucial situations?

Phillips had as good of a season as one could have up to June 1st when he was drilled on the forearm by Tony Watson at PNC Park and his numbers subsequently took a nosedive.  Over the past seven seasons, Phillips has played through constant nicks and bruises and anyone who questions his toughness clearly has not been tuned into the Reds that much.  There is no question that Phillips was affected by an injury that he described when it happened as thinking he, “broke his arm.”  Plenty of players, and specifically second baseman, would have sat out for an extended period of time with such an injury, yet Brandon played through.  While his bat may have taken some time to come around, his defense never swayed.

If Brandon is ultimately dealt, the Reds would not only lose the most versatile hitter in their lineup, but also their best defensive player.  It is alluded to on the television broadcast all the time that the situation with “DatDude” is similar to “you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.”  If Phillips doesn’t man second base, anyone else is going to pale in comparison to the 3-time gold glove winner.

The proposed trades have ranged from being sent to Detroit, to his home state of Atlanta, and the most talked about deal would involve the Reds acquiring former All-Star, Dan Uggla.  While the powerfully built Uggla would fit in well in the center of the Redlegs lineup, the defensive fallout might be too severe.  Even if Uggla is not slated to be the next Reds second baseman, anyone else will be a disappointment after watching Phillips man the position so admirably over the past seven years.

Let me point out that I am in fact, a huge fan of Phillips and think that indeed; he is a vital asset to this organization.  This story may have played out differently had Ryan Ludwick not gone down on Opening Day, forcing Brandon to the cleanup spot for the majority of the season.  Hitting between Choo and Votto would have greatly benefitted a fastball hitter like Phillips who would have had constant protection, as well as a steady diet of on men on base in front of him.

It would be naïve to think that the acquisition of Brandon Phillips was not one of the best trades that ever happened in Reds history.  Jeff Stevens was never a significant factor in the bigs and to this point; the Reds have gotten to call an all-star second baseman theirs for the past seven years.  If Phillips wants out, the Reds should attempt to accommodate his request; but if he wants in, the organization and the fans alike should in no way be attempting to shove him out a door he doesn’t want to exit.  Brandon seems to love the city and more importantly, his teammates, and in an age of team chemistry being a deciding factor, Phillips’ value has never been higher.