, seen here in happier times during spring training. (Paul Sancya/AP)
It's been a week of anger for All-Star second basemen. Back on Tuesday, Detroit's Ian Kinsler put Rangers general manager Jon Daniels on blast, calling him "a sleazeball" in an ESPN The Magazine profile. Today, it's the Reds' Brandon Phillips who has some less-than-kind words for the Cincinnati media. In an interview with MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince, Phillips explained why he's decided not to talk to the local media this season. Spoiler alert: They apparently wrote some things about him he didn't like.
"I don't have nothing to say to those cats," Phillips said of the Cincinnati media. "They know what the deal is. They just talk about how I was falling off and declining. How the [expletive] am I declining? I had 100 ... ribbies [RBI] last year. And I did that with one ... hand. And I won a Gold Glove? So how the [expletive] am I declining? Come on, man."
Leaving aside the weirdness of Phillips going to the national media to talk about why he won't talk to the local media (and Phillips' double-negative), the Cincinnati beatwriters aren't exactly wrong. Phillips' RBI total aside, last season was one of the worst in his career. His .310 OBP and .396 slugging percentage were his worst full-season marks in those categories, and he also saw a marked decline in stolen bases and rise in strikeouts. By Baseball-Reference's WAR, Phillips was worth just 1.7 wins in 2013, his lowest mark since 2008; by FanGraphs' measure, he clocked in at 2.6 WAR, or 13th of the 17 qualified second basement in that figure. At 32, Phillips is likely entering the downslope of his career, and the Reds' beatwriters would've been remiss not to point out his struggles in last season's coverage.
On top of that, Phillips' RBI total really isn't much to write home about. Hitting in the cleanup spot for most of the season, Phillips got 505 at-bats behind the on-base machines that were Shin-Soo Choo (.423 OBP in 2013) at leadoff and Joey Votto (an eye-popping .435) in the third spot. Though Phillips did hit a solid .338/.404/.469 with runners in scoring position last season, almost any competent major league hitter could have put up gaudy RBI totals with Choo and Votto constantly on base in front of him.
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It's not just the Cincinnati writers with whom Phillips has a bone to pick, though.
No matter what they say publicly now, it's no secret in the industry that the Reds explored trade possibilities for Phillips, two years after signing him to a six-year, $72.5 million extension. That exploration bore no fruit.
So now Phillips is here, still wearing the uniform he wanted and expected to wear all along, but wearing it with a different outlook.
"This offseason, I really found out that baseball is a business," Phillips said. "I had never looked at it as a business. I thought it was just a game to play, to have fun, make a lot of money to take care of your family and your kids and your kids' kids. It was a game of just having fun and being an entertainer.
"But this offseason, it was more of a business. Did it [hurt]? Yeah, it [hurt]. I did as much as I can for this organization when it comes to social media or caravans or Reds Fest. I did it all because I wanted to do it. Not because they asked me to do it; because I wanted to do it."
Castrovince also notes that ex-manager Dusty Baker, whom the Reds fired in the offseason, was one of Phillips' biggest supporters on the team.
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Phillips will go into the season batting second, but if his numbers keep sliding backward, he probably won't stay in that spot for long. And at that point, new Reds manager Bryan Price can probably expect to see his name added to Phillips' grudge list.