Editorial: In recent history, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had certain opponents who always seem to perform well against them. Well, one of those nemeses is no longer in their division.
Late Saturday night, it was reported Brandon Phillips was being traded to the Atlanta Braves. Although he is a shell of his former self, Phillips has had a long career of success against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Phillips, who has played for the Reds since 2006, has been the subject of trade speculation for the better part of the last year.
Finally, the Reds were able to work a trade to get him out of the Pittsburgh Pirates division. With that, he still is the National League, but he will not be playing the Pirates as much. The Reds traded him, and most of his contract, in exchange for two aging minor league pitchers in Andrew McKirahan (27) and Carlos Portuondo (29). Neither is expected to make much of an impact at the big league level, but Portuondo did defect from Cuba and 2016 was his first season in the States.
Phillips Long Time Rival
Many Pittsburgh Pirates fans should be relieved to see Phillips leave a Cincinnati uniform. He was one of the main parts of their team for a long time. He was a key cog in their lineup in the 2013 Wild Card matchup between these two clubs.
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He also historically posted strong numbers against the Bucs. In his career, Phillips played in 170 games against the Bucs. This is over a full season of games! In that “season,” he posted an impressive slash line of .308/.350/.478, numbers that give him an OPS well over .800. This was his fifth highest OPS against opposing teams, and the teams ahead of the Pirates faced Phillips in fewer games. The Giants were the next closest in games, with 71. Phillips also has his highest home run totals against the Pirates at 26. In general, Phillips has had his best all-around numbers of his career against the Bucs.
Other than the numbers, there was a lot of other reason Pittsburgh Pirates fans did not appreciate Phillips’ time as a Red. Many fans hated how animated he was, and his often arrogant gestures toward Pirate players. He was part of many controversial incidents, including many in the Dusty Baker years.
Phillips and Hughes
The biggest incident he was a part of, however, was directly with Jared Hughes. Hughes, who is known as an intense competitor, but a very polite person, seems like the Bucco that would have had an issue with Phillips. On September 10th, during the 2012 season, Jared Hughes was facing Brandon Phillips in the eighth inning of a tie game. Hughes, who was finishing up his first full season, was known for throwing his low 90s sinker ball. During the at-bat, Hughes sinker ran in on Phillips and plunked him. On his way out of the box, Phillips picked up the ball and tossed it back toward the mound. Hughes was a little surprised by Phillips reaction, and the two exchanged words. Both benches were warned immediately after.
The real surprise came when Phillips claimed Hughes made a racial comment toward him. Later, the two said they talked and cleared the air. Still, this is the first incident that pops in many Pittsburgh Pirates fan when thinking of Brandon Phillips.
Brandon Phillips has been a thorn in the Pittsburgh Pirates side for a long time. Whether it was him making above average plays at second, coming up with big hits, or being in the middle of controversy, he was not a player Pirates fans liked to see. Though he will no longer be in a Reds uniform, the Bucs will still see he him plenty, with Phillips being in Atlanta. Still, it will not nearly be the same as it was in those dog days of summer at Great American Ball Park or PNC Park battling for playoff position. Love him or hate him, Brandon Phillips was a very good baseball player, and although he is regressing now, he will always be a true Pittsburgh Pirates nemesis.