Brandon Phillips is a strange guy, and I don't necessarily mean that as an insult. He's great to fans, and not just in the superficial way that some athletes are "great" to fans when the cameras are on, but not so great when the cameras are somewhere else. Behind the scenes Phillips does great work with fans around Cincinnati, helping causes that nobody hears about, because that's what he wants to do.
Don't get me wrong here: I'm not attacking Brandon Phillips' character.
But he's a strange guy. He doesn't like the media, and while that in itself doesn't make him strange -- hell, that makes him smart -- it's the way he doesn't like the media, the way he invents reasons to dislike us ...
The latest was his profane explosion Wednesday at a Reds beat writer who dared to tweet out Phillips' on-base percentage. Phillips poked fun at the writer's physique -- which, coming from a professional athlete, is a tiny thing to do.
Phillips has taken issue with me twice over the years, and I've been in the Reds' clubhouse only eight or 10 times. And both times it was ... strange.
Look, athletes take issue with me all the time. And most of the time, I deserve it. I had a (bad) radio show in Cincinnati, and I was honest brutal in my assessment of Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey, and those guys didn't like me. When I was in the clubhouse they threw bottles of water at walls near where I stood. Dunn once put a ball in a sock and swung it menacingly near me and asked why, on the radio that week, I had compared his outfield play to a dog chasing a Frisbee.
Dunn and Griffey didn't like me? I get it.
Phillips didn't like me for two misunderstandings in 2007 that were completely his own making. The first time, after he had made a great play the night before -- he knocked down a hard grounder, picked it up between his legs and shoveled it to second for the force out -- I asked him if he had played basketball in high school. I said that looked like a basketball move. I was being complimentary. This is how the conversation went:
Phillips: Sure, I played basketball.
Me: Were you any good?
Phillips: I could dunk on you.
A few months later, during a bad season for the Reds, I wanted to talk to Phillips about the All-Star Game. I mentioned that he was having a great season, but the Reds' record might leave them as one of the teams that gets just one All-Star, and was he nervous about that?
Not a positive topic, no, but I wasn't being mean about it. It was an honest issue, and I asked him an honest question. And he gave me a decent answer, as I recall. But the interesting thing happened a few hours later, in the press box. One of the Reds public relations people asked me why I'd said what I said to Phillips.
Me: What did I say?
PR guy: He said you told him, "You're not going to make the All-Star team because the Reds suck."
So anyway, he's a strange guy. His latest explosion at a reporter was another example, but the media can take care of itself. Meantime, Phillips does wonderful things for the fans. I started this story that way, and I'll end it that way.