Brandon Phillips: “we choked”

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The guy tells it like it is. Sometimes when he shouldn’t. But you can pretty much expect him to go beyond the cliches before most guys do, and he did so last night after the Reds’ loss to the Pirates:

“We choked. I don’t care how my teammates feel about what I am saying now, because it’s truth. Either you win or you go home. And I’m going home. The last place I want to be is on my couch … I choked,” Phillips added. “I didn’t do [anything] to make the team win.”

I tend to be dismissive of people who claim that ballplayers “choked” as it implies some mental or emotional component to athletic failure that is never fair or reasonable for fans — who know next to nothing of what goes on in an athlete’s head — to assume. Baseball is a game which consists of an awful lot of failure. It isn’t necessarily something new or different just when it happens to come at the most inopportune times.

That said: when Phillips says it of himself? Well, OK, I’m willing to take his word for it. He and Joey Votto went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and, after a couple of home runs put Johnny Cueto in a hole, the entire Reds lineup seemed to be trying to hit three-run homers with every swing. Even Votto was out of his usual game of plate patience. In his first two plate appearances he saw four pitches and swung at them all, grounding out on the first one and then striking out on three pitches.

If Brandon Phillips says he choked, I’m inclined to believe him. Especially after seeing how rattled Cueto and some of the other Reds reacted to the extremely hostile Pirates crowd.

Cubs sign sinkerballer Steve Cishek

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Cubs have signed reliever Steve Cishek. No details about the deal are known yet. For what it’s worth, most relievers are signing two-year deals so far this winter and Cishek’s last deal was a two-year pact.

Cishek, 31-year-old sidearmer who throws a surprisingly fast sinkerball, posted a 2.01 ERA and a 41/14 K/BB ratio and allowed just 26 hits in 44.2 innings between the Mariners and Rays last season. He saved 25 games for the M’s in 2016. Last year he missed the first month and a half of the season following hip surgery, but seemed pretty healthy later in the year.

A nice pickup for Chicago.