Brandon 'Boo' Phillips: Is He the Missing Link for the Cardinals' Infield?

Lake CruiseAnalyst IApril 29, 2011

Will Cincinnati Reds' third baseman Brandon “Boo” Phillips legally change his name like Chad Ochocinco did?  It wouldn’t surprise me—social media rules the world.

Over Easter weekend, the social Phillips announced to the St. Louis media that he’d changed his name to “Boo” Phillips.  He also made a point to say the Cards were a great organization.

Organized Cardinals fans had been showering him with boos since last season.  He arrived in town on the Thursday night before this year’s first meeting between the division rivals.  He got more of the same treatment, and he thrives on it. 

After he started Tweeting before Friday’s game—the first of the series—the booing continued every time he stepped in a mall or to the plate. 

He had the crowd eaten up after he hit a home run Friday night—his second of the season—and sprinted around the bases like Scott Rolen.  Nursing a bum shoulder, Rolen—a former Cardinal—was on the bench for the weekend series in St. Louis. 

Redbirds fans would like to run that bum Brandon—newly named “Boo”—out of town.

Or would they?  Yes, they would—most of them.  In general, they’d like to run him out of Cincinnati and have him land in St. Louis.  “Boo” would be the most talented second baseman the Cardinals have had in a long time—maybe ever.

I’d have to put him in the categories with Tom Herr, Red Shoendienst and, forgive me old timers, Frankie Frisch, the “Fordham Flash.”

Phillips is a flashy and fun-loving player most of the time.  He only partakes in melees after insulting the opposition and getting fronted by a certain catcher, who happens to be as strong as an ox.

I thought it was an oxymoron for Phillips to call the Cardinals what he did, when he plays on a team from the Queen City.

This type of moxy reminds me of a guy like Kevin Garnett or Dennis Rodman.  You dislike them when they’re the opposition, but you love them when they’re on your team.

The current Cardinals haven’t had a teammate like Phillips—a second baseman who can hit with power and steal bases.  Phillips turns 30 years old on June 28 and has been in the Majors since 2002, starting with the Indians.

Cardinals starting second baseman Skip Schumaker turned 31 years old in February and went on the 15-day disabled list on April 16 with a hyper-extended right elbow.

Joining the Redbirds in 2005 as an outfielder, Skip played on the 2006 World Series championship team; he had 54 at-bats and batted .185 in 2006.  In 1,857 career at-bats, he’s a .291 hitter, but he’s not a power threat. 

Schumaker has never hit over eight home runs in a season and has only stolen 19 bases in his career.  Phillips has stolen than many in one season on several different occasions. 

So when “Boo” comes to town, he has a significant swagger.  He swivels his hips and looks at reporters with a grin.  He talks trash and backs it up.

Neither backup second basemen Nick Punto or Felipé Lopez—before he was booted off the team—can match Phillips’ offensive production.

This season he’s batting .349 through Week 4.  He’s not a typical leadoff hitter, yet he’s scored 20 runs already.  He strikes out more than he walks, but so do most players who aren’t named Albert Pujols.

“Boo” drove in 98 runs in 2009 and 94 in 2004—showing he can bat anywhere in the lineup.  The Cardinals haven’t really had a true leadoff hitter since Vince Coleman.  Fernando Viña was adequate but not prototypical.

Ricky Henderson is the model for leadoff men in the Majors, and Phillips has similar talent without the gaudy numbers Ricky put up.  Henderson played in an era when the stolen base was an essential part of the game.

The game Phillips has at least five more years of top-notch status in the Majors.  He won his second Gold Glove last season and made his first All-Star team.  He seems to be a pleasant, fun-loving individual in the no-fun league—Major League Baseball.

As mentioned, it’s only after a certain team’s starting catcher, who happens to be as strong as an ox, steps up that Phillips partakes in melees.  Last season after Phillips called the Cardinals an insulting name, a brawl ensued in Cincinnati.

The top spot in the division was being hotly contested, but nobody got stolen in the jaw during the fight.  The Reds stole Phillips, though, from the Cleveland Indians in 2006. 

They traded him for a player to be named later—a right-handed pitcher named Jeff Stevens, who debuted with the Cubs in 2009.  Unlike the Chicago Cubs-St. Louis Cardinals rivalry, there weren’t many Cincinnati Reds fans in town over the Easter weekend in the Gateway City. 

They must have known something I didn’t.

Busch Stadium’s attendees were moved to cover during the lightning and strong storms with a tornado ripping through the Greater St. Louis area on Good Friday night.  The good Lord allowed the game to take place that night, and the Cardinals won it.

The Redbirds also won the series 2-1, but Phillips made an impact both on and off the field.  On Sunday night, he was shown on local television in St. Louis saying he’d changed his name to “Boo” Phillips because of the boos the fans showered him with.

Also on Easter Sunday night, a tongue-in-cheek sportscaster on the local FOX affiliate in St. Louis mockingly suggested Cardinals fans throw Lunchables onto the field to get creative in their display of animosity for Phillips.

The sportscaster said he didn’t hate Phillips.  No, he likes Brandon because the second baseman wasn’t afraid to deviate from the norm in the world of usually stiff baseball players—stiff while they’re talking to him, or through the media.

The normally articulate “Boo” had tweeted this message on Thursday from St. Louis: “My teammates ask me if I knew where some good places 2 eat at in St. Louis.  I said, ‘Yeah, come with me 2 the store 2 get some lunchables!”

Phillips is an avid Twitter user and enjoys taunting fans in St. Louis.  I believe it’s because he really wants to play for the Cardinals—and vice versa.  As loquacious as they come in the Majors, he could be posturing for a reality show like Ochocinco, or for a broadcasting career after he's done playing baseball.

In the article by News-Democrat writer David Wilhelm live from St. Louis Easter weekend, the Queen City’s slugger basically acknowledged he was a hype: “A lot of people took pictures with me,”  he said.  “Then after that, they were like, ‘Boo!’

“All you have to do is follow me on Twitter and you’ll know what type of person I really am.  I say a lot of jokes.  I like to get on people’s nerves a little bit, especially the fans.”

Phillips added this: “I love the fans.  St. Louis fans have their team’s back.  That’s one thing about it that’s real nice.  Other than that, man, I’m going to keep on Tweeting and acting a fool like I always do.”

Everybody plays the fool—sometimes.  Don’t believe the hype. 

Getting Phillips in the birds on the bat uniform—all things being equal—would annually make the Cardinals the No. 1 or No. 2 contender for the NL pennant.  He is the missing link on the infield.


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