Phillips carries A-past
For the better part of a month, Steve Phillips has urged Brian Cashman to trade Alex Rodriguez. Of all the commentary concerning the fragile Yankees third baseman, and his funk, Phillips, the former Mets GM, has provided the most provocative.
This is why ESPN suits are paying Phillips. With powerhouse national vehicles like ESPN Radio, ESPN "SportsCenter," and ESPN "Baseball Tonight," at his disposal, Phillips' "trade A-Rod" message has received maximum exposure without even reaching its crescendo.
Judging by the way he's flogged this line, Phillips has several more choruses to sing. This is his greatest hit album. Stevie One Note is a man on a mission. No, make that a crusade.
Is it personal?
Or is Phillips offering legitimate bias-free analysis?
The longer he continues to push for an A-Rod trade, the more recognition Phillips gets as a TV personality. This will help to further distance him from his halcyon days of Mo Vaughn and Roger Cedeņo.
On Sunday's edition of "Baseball Tonight," Phillips was at it again. It only takes a blink of an eye, and the letter "A" rolling out of someone's mouth, to set him off.
"Ultimately, they are going to have to trade him and they can trade him if the time is right," Phillips said. "It's become the thing to do in New York to boo Alex Rodriguez. ... When that happens in New York, it doesn't stop. Now we see it impacting his performance. I don't see how he gets out of this rut. The Yankees have to move him and cut their losses now because it can get to the point where they can't move him."
Phillips was so persuasive, his colleague Harold Reynolds agreed A-Rod should be moved. John Kruk dissented. Reynolds and Kruk argued. This was wonderful TV inspired by Phillips.
Still, there is a bigger issue here. Former athletes, coaches and even general managers go into broadcasting with different agendas. For guys like Bill Parcells, Pat Riley and now Lou Piniella, the goal is to avoid controversy. They purposely pull punches because they want to return to coaching or managing. They don't want to criticize players or coaches they eventually will have to deal with.
Phillips does not have that problem. His candid commentary reveals a man whose immediate and distant future is in television. And yet, Phillips does carry baggage - his past. In a business where perception is reality, the intensity and frequency with which he has called for A-Rod to be traded is evidence enough to suggest this is all personal and not just a controversial piece of analysis.
Turn the clock back to 2000, when the Mets made a wee bit of noise about wanting to sign Rodriguez, then a free agent. It was Phillips who said that in order to sign with the Mets, Rodriguez wanted billboards, an office suite, a chartered jet, a merchandising tent and a separate PR staff.
"I have serious reservations about a structure in which you have a 24-plus-one man roster," Phillips said at the time. "I don't think it can work."
When Phillips now calls for the Yankees to trade A-Rod, is he simply reiterating his position of six years ago? Reiterating it with an agenda of ultimately being able to show everyone how right he was? With Rodriguez now a media and fan lightning rod, with all his self-analysis and verbal flagellation, have the Yankees actually become the "24-plus-one man roster" Phillips talked about in 2000?
Also, there was bad blood between Phillips and Rodriguez. Guys with big egos never forget this stuff. Immediately after A-Rod signed with Texas, he ripped Phillips for what he considered an unfair characterization.
"All I can say is, I wish I could play against Steve Phillips' team and lead 24 guys to beat 'em up," Rodriguez said in 2000. "I don't know Steve personally, but obviously he has an agenda against me. ... Now everyone thinks I'm selfish."
Phillips countered Rodriguez's remarks, saying: "I think he doth protest too much for someone who just received a $250 million contract. We wish him the best with his new team. It doesn't make sense to get into a response mode."
Maybe not then, but now Phillips may be making up for lost time. By calling for the Yankees to trade A-Rod, Phillips is saying Rodriguez does not have the mental capacity, or the physical wherewithal, to deal with the pressure of playing in New York. And he's saying it on ESPN, which is seen in 90 million households.
Yep, that's a big get-even stick Phillips is carrying.
Then again, maybe his motives are pure.
After all, last season Phillips urged the Mets to trade Jose Reyes.