Brandon Phillips, peddled to Cin cinnati because he had no future with the dysfunctional Indians, sat in the visitors' dugout Friday. He still wishes it was the other one.
Many fans feel the same way.
Phillips, hitting .313 with seven home runs, 43 RBI and 14 steals, is just another mistake in a season of mistakes - on the field, in the bush leagues of suburban Sheffield, and in the front office.
Phillips was once considered the key player in the big Bartolo Colon trade. Now Grady Sizemore is.
The Phillips deal isn't the Rocky Colavito trade, but it is always good to see how you match up to giants.
It is worse than the worst move of General Manager Mark Shapiro's predecessor, John Hart, which was to trade a regular with pop in his bat, Brian Giles, for a left-handed matchup reliever, Ricky Rincon. Rincon wasn't very good, but Jeff Stevens, a Class A pitcher, is what the Tribe got for Phillips.
Manager Eric Wedge kept Phillips, a fine defensive player, in the lineup too long, although he was hitting next to nothing. Phillips was better at coming in on the ball than even Roberto Alomar, and he certainly was better than Ronnie Belliard. The latter plays the right-field rover position Carlos Baerga made popular when he couldn't get to balls in the hole any other way.
Maybe the lack of a rebuke by the manager made Phillips think he was untouchable. He no more paid for failure to produce than anyone else had paid for lack of urgency or sense until Friday. Wedge finally gave the hook to first baseman Ben Broussard and moved Victor Martinez there from behind the plate.
"Everybody doesn't start out like [Albert] Pujols," Phillips said. "I did rookie things and took things for granted. Then they signed Belliard and I went to the back burner."
He also went to the batting cage. Wedge and Shapiro are a "partnership," but with Phillips they were more Rowan and Martin than Rodgers and Hammerstein. Phillips spent three weeks with the Indians last summer, taking batting practice but seldom appearing in games.
After laughing about it, Phillips said, "I needed to work on leg kick and use my bottom half more."
The Indians' interesting view was that he needed to learn that stuff at the major-league level, which told the staff in Buffalo they couldn't be trusted.
"It really hurt after spring training," Phillips said, after Ramon Vazquez won the utility infielder's job. "But it made me stronger."
The Indians believed Phillips would not have been happy as a spare part. "I wanted to play every day, but tell me what player does not," he said.
He has made the most of his second chance. It would be no surprise if Phillips made the National League All-Star team.
Every time Jhonny Peralta doesn't get to a ball that Omar Vizquel would have snapped up while making the glove optional, the thought occurs that Phillips could play shortstop, too.
Belliard is in the last year of his contract and will not be around next year. Because of their own short-sightedness, the Indians have no one in waiting. "I thought it would be me," Phillips said. "I thought they would keep me for a long time."
In the elevators at Jacobs Field, a metal plaque explains the Indians' mission of building a consistent winner in a culture of excellence. It is called "Our vision."
But they can't make out the big "E" on an eye chart. For error.
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