Brandon Phillips is probably on the way out of Cincinnati

50 Comments

The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s John Fay — a very professional beat reporter who doesn’t dabble in nonsense — reported last week that the Reds will likely shop second baseman Brandon Phillips this winter. Which makes sense in a lot of ways. Phillips is owed $50 million over the next four seasons and posted a weak .706 OPS (92 OPS+) in 151 games this year — his lofty RBI total a product of Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo. Phillips is still an elite defensive second baseman, but he’s turning 33 next June and some of that athleticism will inevitably fade.

Phillips also rubbed many in the organization the wrong way this summer with his multiple off-field incidents. There was the ugly dust-up with Enquirer baseball writer C. Trent Rosecrans and the article in Cincinnati Magazine where Phillips complained about Votto being the first to have his contract extended. Here’s a new column on the coming trade talks from Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, who says there is a “For Sale sign on Phillips’ neck” …

While Phillips is popular with fans through his Twitter account and his willingness to sign autographs, he is not so popular in the clubhouse and is thought of as a self-promoter.

Said one man who is in the clubhouse every day, “You can’t tell by Brandon’s face whether we won or lost, but you can tell if he went 0 for 4 or 2 for 4 no matter if we won or lost.”

AND IT DID PHILLIPS no good when he disappeared in September — 18 for 95 (.175), four RBI, one home run, three doubles as his team collapsed into the rubbish pile.

There’s plenty more where that came from — so much of so that it’s difficult to envision Phillips suiting up for the Reds next March. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution hears the Braves have interest.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
28 Comments

We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.