Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips caused quite a stir this weekend with quotes about his contract extension negotiations attributed to him in the August issue of Cincinnati Magazine, and in his response to questions about them.
Phillips has refused to back away from criticism of the Reds front office during that process, and does not understand why his statements are such a big deal.
In the Cincinnati Magazine article, Phillips says he was lied to by Reds owner Bob Castellini and general manager Walt Jocketty. He was told that Cincinnati did not have any money to sign long-term deals, but then turned around shortly thereafter and inked first baseman Joey Votto to a 10-year, $225 million extension. A week later, Phillips agreed to a six-year, $72.5 million extension of his own.
According to Phillips, Castellini and Jocketty told him they didn’t have money, only to turn around and give Votto a monstrously rich offer. In Phillips’ eyes, that was dishonesty at its core.
“To this day, I’m still hurt. Well, I don’t want to say hurt. I’ll say scarred. I’m still scarred,” Phillips is quoted as saying about the way he was told one thing about the team’s financial situation just before the club went out and handed Votto a boatload of money.
“For him to do something like that and tell me they didn’t have any more money, that’s a lie,” Phillips continued. “But what can I do? I just feel like it was a slap in my face.”
This last line is what the sports media took and ran with. The headlines over the weekend alleging that Phillips was calling his contract a “slap in the face” were misleading, wrong and simply unprofessional.
According to the actual quotes made in the article, it is not the number of years or the amount of money that disappointed Phillips. It was the lack of respect he felt from the Reds top brass who was not completely forthcoming with him during the negotiation process.
And personally, I can’t blame him for feeling the way he does about it. He’s represented Cincinnati with pride since his arrival in 2006, and has provided irreplaceable service. He’s a three-time All-Star (2010, 2011, 2013), a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2008, 2010, 2011) and has picked up a Silver Slugger Award (2011) during his time with the Reds.
He’s been one of the main cogs in the new Reds machine that has been to the postseason twice in the last three seasons.
And he has openly and consistently professed his love for the city of Cincinnati, it’s baseball fan base and the organization, along with his desire to finish his career there.
You would think after that kind of dedication, he would warrant the dignity of honesty.
And I don’t understand why Castellini and Jocketty might believe telling the full, open, honest truth could negatively impact negotiations with a player who has maintained such loyalty to the franchise.
The Reds second baseman is a smart guy. He understands the importance of Joey Votto to the future success of the Cincinnati franchise and supports Votto’s new contract.
What the Reds should have done is told Phillips the truth. That the club had a certain amount of money set aside for an extension for Votto, and that only left a certain amount of money remaining for Phillips. He wouldn’t have been offended by that.
But instead, management was not forthcoming with the whole truth about the team’s finances, and Phillips honestly admitted that felt like a slap in his face. And in doing so, he doesn’t think he said anything wrong.
“I’m happy for Joey,” Phillips said in response to the controversy. “I talked to Joey about it, Joey doesn’t really care about what they say. He understands. He respects what I said. I say things people, other people, won’t say. That’s the type of person I am. What I said, I didn’t say anything wrong. If I said something wrong, tell me what I said wrong.”
Votto didn’t think Phillips said anything wrong.
“Brandon is always totally honest,” Votto said. “He’s been my teammate for six or seven years now, and I love playing with him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.
“What he said has nothing to do with me, but what he had to say makes me like him even more. He’s honest. Most players stick to using catchphrases — like I’m doing now — but he will tell you how he feels at that moment.”
I don’t think Phillips said anything wrong, either.