National Columnist

Brandon Phillips: Great guy to some, if not all

CINCINNATI -- I'm not calling Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips a liar. He had his dust-up with Pirates pitcher Jared Hughes on Monday, a he-said, he-said deal where Phillips accused Hughes of saying something racial -- which Hughes has strongly denied.

I'm not calling Phillips a liar. But I am saying, from experience, that he sort of hears ... what he wants.

He did it with me -- he did it to me -- in 2007.

This was June, and Phillips was a reserve candidate for the National League All-Star team. I was in the clubhouse before a game when I struck up a conversation with Phillips. That summer I co-hosted a radio show in Cincinnati, and I was awfully hard on two Reds in particular -- Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn -- and to balance the scales I made it a point to be as pleasant as possible to everyone else when I visited the clubhouse.

And so it was that I asked Phillips, in the nicest possible way, something along the lines of, "As far as being picked to the NL All-Star team, are you concerned that it will be held against you that the Reds are in last place in the division?"

A few hours later, a Reds spokesman pulled me aside in the press box and wanted to know why'd I told Phillips, "You're not going to make the All-Star team because the Reds suck."

Seriously.

That's not even close to what I said, but that's apparently what Phillips heard.

He's a strange guy, Brandon Phillips. He's incredibly charismatic and giving to fans. He's probably the most popular player on the Reds, maybe their most popular player in years. He connects with fans on Twitter and he visits schools and he's always smiling as he chats with kids.

There's a side of Brandon Phillips that is a great, great guy.

And then there's the side I saw in 2007. Did Pirates pitcher Jared Hughes see it a few days ago? Maybe, maybe not. Hughes obviously said something after hitting Phillips with a pitch, but I don't know what Phillips heard.

I can't help but wonder if Brandon Phillips knows what Brandon Phillips heard.



Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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