Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds

Brandon Phillips is a very good baseball player and has been for a long time. There is no way to proceed on this topic without first making that statement clear. He is a very good hitter and defender with the flare for the dramatic and/or spectacular.

Brandon Phillips is not the best player on the Cincinnati Reds. He isn’t now and I don’t know that he has ever been during his tenure in the Queen City. Maybe in 2007 but that was a bad team so what does it matter?

Brandon Phillips is a very good player currently playing on a very, very good team. Only one team in baseball has more wins than the Cincinnati Reds, which makes the columnists looking for talking points seem even more pathetic.

Worse than desperate trying to conjure up controversy, this SI piece from Friday frames the “Joey Votto isn’t doing what he needs to do” in an incredibly dated stats/scouts context, featuring an exchange which I don’t actually believe took place. Grizzled scout dipping, young executive asking where you got your economics degree as they argue over the validity of Joey Votto’s patient approach? Bullshit. I call bullshit.

Brandon Phillips is the benefit of the odd antipathy towards Joey Votto’s walking ways. Votto, a number three hitter, should “expand his zone” with runners on base because the option of “not making an out” isn’t one worth entertaining, apparently.

Expanding the zone has never been a problem for Brandon Phillips, who tends to dominate in the back of the baseball card stats which many fans love. It is with no small assist to Votto (and leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo) that Brandon Phillips is one of the best RBI men in baseball, as no hitter in baseball has come to the plate with runneres on base more than Brandon Phillips.

Because he’s very good, Phillips does a terrific job of converting this runners. For whatever other reason, this opportunistic hitting makes Brandon Phillips a MVP candidate and Joey Votto a disappointment? The author of the SI piece, Paul Daugherty, expands on his pre-column thoughts in a rambling blog post for the Cincinnati Enquirer. After professing his ignorance and hostility towards advanced stats, Daugherty continues to wonder about Votto’s run-producing acumen as a number three hitter. (Tellingly, this column is couched in all kinds of selective end point goodness.)

The run production debate is a tired one. It is equally valuable to drive in runs as it is to be in position to be driven in. Brandon Phillips is a good hitter given more than ample opportunities to hit with runners on base. That’s good for the Reds. Should Joey Votto have such a “low” RBI total considering his status the Reds number 3 hitter? Maybe he should hit second, solving an entire world of problems.

This argument is not restricted to the current Reds roster. Brandon Phillips, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, is now inviting comparisons to Joe Morgan, the second baseman for the Big Red Machine of the 1970s. Which is fun if not totally crazy.

Venerable baseball writer Hal McCoy twists himself into all manner of gymnastic positions to put Brandon Phillips into the class of Joe Morgan, a place BP simply does not belong as Bill Baer of Hardball Talk points out, as gently as possible. Again: Brandon Phillips is a very good player! There is no need to over-inflate his tires trying to compare him to one of three most dangerous hitters in the game today and the very best second baseman to ever play the game!

Let Dat Dude be Dat Dude. He’s great, he’s a Red for a long, long time and he and Joey Votto will continue making beautiful music together. Stop trying to pit them against each others as lame strawmen in a boring game of old school versus new school. And please spare Brandon Phillips the indignity of putting him side-by-side with an inner circle Hall of Famer. He’s a good to great player on his own merit, celebrate Brandon Phillips accordingly.