It is a generally accepted principle that baseball players tend to do some foolish things. Take San Francisco Giants’ closer Brian Wilson, who took out the frustrations of a second straight blown save on the team’s water coolers and dugout walls and came out lucky to avoid any injury.
But the Cincinnati Reds’ Brandon Phillips did something on May 25 that allowed the Philadelphia Phillies – and more specifically utility infielder Wilson Valdez – to re-write the record books. You may remember that was the game where the Reds and Phillies played for over six hours and having run out of pitchers, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel turned to Valdez to pitch the 19th inning.
Valdez hurled a scoreless frame and ended up earning the win when Raul Ibanez’s sacrifice fly finally ended the madness. That point should never have been reached, but because of Phillips’ absentmindedness it was.
In the top of the 11th with the game tied at 4, Phillips became distracted by a “conversation about base-stealing” he was having with pal and Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. He was picked off easily by JC Romero for the second out of the inning. That would prove costly because with a runner already on first Romero proceeded to then walk the next two batters, which would have forced in the decisive run.
A year after they were humiliated and overmatched by the Phillies in the playoffs, the Reds had a chance to show that they belonged in the same class. After all, they have the reigning MVP and added the reigning World Series MVP to their roster this offseason. But Phillips provided glaring proof that this was not the case.
It is an unwritten rule of baseball not to use petty tactics like distracting the baserunner to gain a leg up. The Phillies are likely no more guilty of this than anyone else, but it doesn’t make it right. However, the real issue here is Phillips, not Rollins. Phillips has a history of falling asleep at the wheel, and were this game not into extra innings and players weren’t at a premium, Dusty Baker should have benched Phillips and made an example out of him.
That didn’t happen, and karma served the Reds cruelly eight innings later. If the Atlanta Braves end up a game behind the Phillies for the NL East title at the end of the year, they can thank Brandon Phillips for that. The Phillies will likely send an invitation to their championship parade to Phillips, assuming he doesn’t get lost on his way there.
Look, getting picked off is one thing. Baserunners want to steal bases and that is one of the liabilities of doing so. But it is completely another to be clowning around, especially with the score tied in extra innings in a playoff-type atmosphere like Philadelphia.
At least this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given Phillips’ antics a year ago when he incited what has now become a bitter rivalry with the St. Louis Cardinals. Phillips acted with virtually no class in expressing his hatred for the Cardinals, who in 2011 appear to be the better of the two teams.