Next up in our never-ending conscientious stream of thought concerning the 2014 Cincinnati Reds is arguably the team’s most popular player, Brandon Phillips.
Brandon Phillips – Second Baseman
Whether or not Brandon Phillips had a successful season is completely up to individual interpretation. He fell just a single at-bat shy of 500 plate appearances on the year; the first time that has ever happened to him in his Major League career as a full-time player.
There was the thumb injury. There was the media blackout. There was #ImGlovinIt. There were tweets about “Debbies.” There was a career-low in on-base percentage. There were Gold Glove moments. There was really, just another year in the life of Brandon Phillips.
Without question, Phillips is the Reds’ most enigmatic player. His personality is not only unlike anything inside the Cincinnati locker room, but there may not be another player who has as much fun playing the game with the level of flair that he does, as Brandon Phillips.
And to think, how quickly it all may have changed.
Trades that “almost” happen are often lost in the shuffle. Who will really ever know just how many blockbuster trades “almost” happened over the history of baseball? The one deal we do know that was on the cusp of changing the complexion of Reds baseball for the near future happened last winter.
The deal—as best as we understand it—was simply Brandon Phillips to the New York Yankees for Brett Gardner. The Yankees had a surplus of outfielders (Carlos Beltran, Ichiro Suzuki, Jacoby Ellsbury and Gardner) and were looking to fill the void at second base left by Robinson Cano when he signed a mega-deal with the Seattle Mariners.
Again, to the best of our knowledge, the Yankees accepted this trade, as did the Reds. Before the paperwork was finalized, Phillips wanted to get an increase in pay. The exact figures never became public knowledge, but Phillips has made it known ever since teammate Joey Votto signed a $240 million extension that he was unhappy with his “measly” $52 million deal.
In Phillips’ line of thinking, this was a great move. What organization would be willing to give a player more money than the New York Yankees? He had them by the hook, considering they were going to accept the deal, but it all backfired when they feigned interest in upping his dollar signs.
Who would have played second base for the Cincinnati Reds in the immediate future is anybody’s best guess, but it was tremendously close to not being Brandon Phillips.
Guaranteed to go down still as one of the best players in Reds history, Phillips will now have the opportunity to continue to improve upon that legacy as his current deal runs through the 2017 season.
The torn ligaments that he suffered on a diving attempt against the Chicago Cubs on July 9 derailed his season. Much in the same way that the hit by pitch he suffered in 2013 may not have kept him out for long, Phillips harkens back to an older breed of player who played so long as their bodies allowed them. Logically, his numbers dipped.
Phillips’ 2014 Stat Line:
.266/.306/.372, 462 AB, 25 2B, 8 HR, 51 RBI, 23 BB-74 K, a career-low 1.1 oWAR
Top Brandon Phillips Moment:
A large part of what makes Brandon Phillips so versatile is his ability to bat nearly anywhere in the order. Not only does Phillips help plug holes when needed; he thrives.
The top Brandon Phillips moment will go to the sole game that he batted in the leadoff spot for the Reds during 2014. On September 25, with the Reds long out of the running, Phillips continued to trudge on with his non-surgically repaired thumb still dragging him down.
“Dat Dude” would go on to finish the day 2-for-5 with two runs scored, but he would also club a two-run home run that would prove the difference in what was a 5-3 win for Cincinnati. This was no ordinary home run though—this two-run blast off Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo was Phillips’s first–and only–home run post-thumb injury.
Low-Point of the Season for Brandon Phillips:
There are certain moments as a fan when you just know your favorite team is done for. Having lost Joey Votto was already a flesh wound to the heart, but once Brandon Phillips dove in the hole on July 9 and had his entire body roll over his glove, it was over.
Just before the club could get to the All-Star break with their health, they lost arguably their most indispensible player. Things went so south, so quickly once Phillips went down, that he forced himself to come back much sooner than any doctor could recommend, playing just 40 days later.
The comparison to 2013 becomes an unfortunate one. While he would still drive in over 100 runs for the first time in his career that season, he played at a level offensively that was much less productive than what Reds fans have accustomed to.
Final Grade: C+
There is no question that Phillips is still among the game’s elite defensively, it now simply comes down to a matter of his health and just how much he can provide to an offense that was historically bad in 2014.