Brandon Phillips, the Cincinnati Reds star second baseman, signed a six-year, $72.5 million contract with the team in 2012, a nice hunk of cash, no doubt.
But in a new interview with Cincinnati magazine — in which Phillips is given the title "the most entertaining player in baseball" — he reveals that to him the contract is a "slap in the face" compared to the 10-years, $225 million the Reds gave fellow star Joey Votto just five days earlier in 2012.
Here's what Phillips said:
“I just feel like they didn’t have to sign Joey (Votto) to that contract (10-year, $225-million extension). He still had two more years on his. And for (the front office) to go out there and sign him before they sign me, and they knew I was going to be a free agent?” Phillips shakes his head. “I understand Joey’s a good player. He’s one of the best players in this game. But I feel like I am too. I told them that this is where I wanted to be. I begged them. I told everybody I want to finish my career here. And then they give someone a contract who didn’t ask for nothing?”
“To this day, I’m still hurt. Well, I don’t wanna say hurt. I’ll say scarred. I’m still scarred. It just sucks that it happened,” he says. “For (Castellini) to sign somebody for $200 million, there must be a new vegetable or fruit coming out that we don’t know about. For him to do something like that and tell me they didn’t have any more money, that’s a lie. But what can I do? I just feel like it was a slap in my face … But how can someone slap you in the face with all that money. It’s a nice slap in the face.”
A nice slap in the face? At least he admits that. There are a large number of Reds ticket-buyers to whom a million dollars, let alone $72 million, is not a slap in the face. In fact, some people will probably say calling that type of contract a slap in the face is the actual slap in the face.
Probably sensing this was a story that could easily be twisted into a feud and become a distraction, Votto responded with tact, saying Phillips' reaction was "totally human," then praised his teammate for being honest. This, from C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
“I haven’t read the article and I’d heard snippets of it, but from what I gathered, Brandon’s reaction was totally human. It’s a feeling I’ve felt before, it’s a feeling most people have felt before.
“Brandon’s a teammate I’ve played with six, seven years now and I love playing with him. I really have an immense amount of respect for him. Those comments have nothing to do with me. It doesn’t change a single thing, it makes me like him more, to be honest with you. Not many players are very honest, usually they give catch phrases, similar to what I’m doing right now. He’s a refreshing guy because he is honest and he does tell people how he feels. You can tell how he feels in that given moment and that’s a great thing. It’s great playing with someone like that. Variety is the spice of life and I love playing with Brandon.
“The smiles and the high-fives and everything we share on the field are genuine. That’s how we feel about each other. That’s how it’s going to be going forward. We play together for this city, we’re tied together because of our contracts, because of the uniform we wear and because of the championship we’re trying to seek out for Cincinnati. I know Brandon feels that way and I feel that way also. That’s really all that matters.”
There's one reason why Joey Votto got that big contract, aside from his consistency and prowess at the plate: He understands how to (try to) put out a potential fire. Votto makes face-of-the-franchise money, and this shows why.
Phillips, on the other hand, sounded a bit defensive when asked by reporters Friday if he stood behind his comments from the Cincinnati Magazine interview. Again, from the Cincinnati Enquirer:
"What did I say wrong? Please tell me, what did I say wrong? I want to know what I said wrong. Please tell me. I want everyone to tell me exactly did I say that was so wrong?"
“I haven’t paid attention to what people are saying. When someone wants to do a story about you and they want to ask questions, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about people asking questions and you don’t back down from any questions and you tell them how you really feel. I don’t feel like I said anything wrong, I didn’t disrespect nobody, if I did, it’s someone in the front office. The thing is, they know what happened, so I don’t understand why everything’s a big deal. And fans, I didn’t say anything, I love this city, I love Cincinnati, I’m happy to be here, I’m happy with the contract that I got. I’m happy for Joey. 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.
“Do I feel like they lied to me? If someone tells me they don’t have no money and you find $200 million somewhere, what does that sound like? You tell me."
So what have we learned today? Brandon Phillips is happy for Joey Votto. Votto likes Phillips more now. They're both capable of far more than five-word answers to questions. And getting slapped in the face with $72.5 million is nice. Thanks, guys.