Reds' Phillips somehow left off 2008 NL All-Star team
Sometime players need a change of scenery; such was the case for Brandon Phillips. The biggest name at the time in the Bartolo Colon deal where the Cleveland Indians received Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee along with Phillips, he never seemed to fit in with the Cleveland organization. His big chance came when Phillips was dealt for a bag of peanuts from the Indians to their in-state rival Cincinnati Reds just a few games into the 2006 season. After a hot start with the Reds in April of 2006, Phillips has proven to not only be an every day player and the Reds starting second baseman, but he has put up All-Star numbers as well.
It is the numbers and the intangibles that made me scratch my head when I heard that Brandon Phillips was left off the 2008 NL All-Star team earlier today. Last season, while Phillips was on his way to 30 home runs, 94 RBI, 107 runs scored, 32 stolen bases and a .288 batting average, he was largely ignored as a NL All-Star candidate. Even worse, after this MVP-caliber season (if the Reds were contenders, of course) in 2007, Phillips is putting up very similar number in 2008 and somehow did not finish in the top 8 in All-Star voting for NL second basemen.
Top top things off, in recent years Major League Baseball has institued a fan ballot for the 32nd and final All-Star spot for both he national and American Leagues. This pretty much indicates players #32-36 on the All-Star depth charts for both leagues, and yet again, Brandon Phillips is overlooked as even a serious NL All-Star candidate.
So what more can a player do to prove they are an All-Star? Is batting cleanup in a lineup that also features Adam Dunn (averaging 41 HR and 100 RBI in past 4 seasons) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (604 career HR, 6th on all-time list) enough? I guess not. How about being a team leader and clutch performer? Do you think the Washington Nationals think Phillips should be an NL All-Star? All he did was connect for the game-winning RBI in two of the four games against Washington in this past weekend series. In that series Phillips went 7-14 with 5 RBI in just 4 games in a series deemed by one Reds fan as a necessary sweep. That's clutch, but that's apparently not All-Star worthy. Obviously his season stats of 2007 did not open enough eyes despite his dual 30-30 bobblehead that was given away at a Reds games in May. Phillips is on pace to yet another fantastic season in 2008 as he leads the Reds in batting average (.292), runs scored (51) and RBI (56) while hitting 14 HR and stealing 18 bases in 85 games played.
Add to all of this Phillips' fielding numbers. In 2007 Brandon Phillips had a .990 fielding percentage as he had just 8 errors in 156 games played. 2008 has been even better as the Reds' 2B has just 1 error in 85 games played for an unbelievable .998 fielding percentage. So I guess playing Gold Glove-caliber defense is not enough either.
So at the end of the day I guess the vote is up to the fans, and I can cry about who deserves to be an All-Star and who does not all I want and it will not matter. The fans of Cincinnati should back Phillips up and step it up in voting in future years to ensure he has a better chance of being noticed, and the team should market themselves around young stars like Phillips, Edinson Volquez, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and others. But for now, Brandon Phillips is (technically) not an All-Star, but if he keeps playing like this there's no doubt in my mind that he will be many times in the future.
By Michael Shull
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