Hold on to your butts: baseball season must be approaching, because someone's saying dumb things about the value of getting on base. And, surprise, it's a guy who doesn't do it very often.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale spoke to the Reds' Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, who could not be more different as people or as hitters. The talk came down to their approaches at the plate—Votto is patient, Phillips is a free swinger—and the Cincinnati second baseman caviled at OBP, which he inexplicably treats like some newfangled, impenatrable formula.
"I don't do that MLB Network on-base percentage (stuff),'' Phillips told USA TODAY Sports. "I think that's messing up baseball. I think people now are just worried about getting paid and worrying about on-base percentage instead of just winning the game.
"That's the new thing now. I feel like all of these stats and all of these geeks upstairs, they're messing up baseball, they're just changing the game. It's all about on-base percentage. If you don't get on base, then you suck. That's basically what they're saying. People don't care about RBI or scoring runs, it's all about getting on base.
"Why we changing the game after all of this time? If we all just took our walks, nobody would be scoring runs. Nobody would be driving anybody in or getting anybody over. How you going to play the game like that? People don't look at doing the things the right way and doing things to help your team win."
If this rant didn't exist, Fire Joe Morgan would have to invent it just to fisk it.
Except, the reaction has been muted so far. No anger. No frustration that the game's dinosaurs can't comprehend basic concepts. Just some eye-rolling at Phillips's comments, and knowing glances at each other, because there's nothing to be argued here: he's wrong, and most everyone knows it, and that's okay.
(It appears Phillips will hit third this season, right behind Votto. I wonder if Phillips will mind how Votto got on base when he's knocking in his teammate.)
There's a more generous reading of Phillips's comments. Despite his gripes about "all of these stats and all of these geeks," maybe he's just talking about batting styles, and the undesirability of trying to turn a hitter into something he's not. And what's more—Phillips is 33, and probably not about to radically change his approach—it's about the lack of control an older player can feel when he's seen the definition of value change around him.
"I remember back in the day you hit .230, you suck. Nowadays, you hit .230 with a .400 on-base percentage, you're one of the best players in the game. That's amazing. I've never seen (stuff) like that. Times have changed. It's totally different now."
He's absolutely right, and the change has been remarkable, and got to be unsettling for a player who has found himself on the wrong side of the equation. But it's not Phillips's job to accept it, and no one should care if Phillips thinks Joey Votto's not maximizing his talent. The only thing that might matter is if Reds coaches and front office personnel were inexplicably trying to change Votto. Well, still trying to change him.