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Brandon Phillips: “we choked”

Oct 2, 2013, 6:52 AM EDT

Wild Card Game - Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates Getty Images

The guy tells it like it is. Sometimes when he shouldn’t. But you can pretty much expect him to go beyond the cliches before most guys do, and he did so last night after the Reds’ loss to the Pirates:

“We choked. I don’t care how my teammates feel about what I am saying now, because it’s truth. Either you win or you go home. And I’m going home. The last place I want to be is on my couch … I choked,” Phillips added. “I didn’t do [anything] to make the team win.”

I tend to be dismissive of people who claim that ballplayers “choked” as it implies some mental or emotional component to athletic failure that is never fair or reasonable for fans — who know next to nothing of what goes on in an athlete’s head — to assume. Baseball is a game which consists of an awful lot of failure. It isn’t necessarily something new or different just when it happens to come at the most inopportune times.

That said: when Phillips says it of himself? Well, OK, I’m willing to take his word for it. He and Joey Votto went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and, after a couple of home runs put Johnny Cueto in a hole, the entire Reds lineup seemed to be trying to hit three-run homers with every swing. Even Votto was out of his usual game of plate patience. In his first two plate appearances he saw four pitches and swung at them all, grounding out on the first one and then striking out on three pitches.

If Brandon Phillips says he choked, I’m inclined to believe him. Especially after seeing how rattled Cueto and some of the other Reds reacted to the extremely hostile Pirates crowd.

  1. dondada10 - Oct 2, 2013 at 7:13 AM

    The better team won, Brandon. Enjoy your couch.

  2. stoutfiles - Oct 2, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    The Reds choked all year…anytime they got within a sniff of 1st place they’d go on a three game losing streak.

    This starts and ends with Dusty. He can’t get this team to wake up and play like every game matters. He over relies on veterans, usually ones past their prime. And he thinks the best way to wake up players is to bat them 2nd for months.

    Our last three playoff appearances (Phillies, Giants, Pirates) are all the same, crumbling under pressure. Something needs to change.

    Anyways, congrats Pirates. Will be rooting for you from here on out.

    • drewy44 - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:17 AM

      Which player on the current Reds team would you consider “past their prime”? If anything, the Reds have a younger core. Ludwick might be your only argument. For once, I’m not putting this on Dusty. He didn’t kill any arms this season. Starting Cueto was a bad idea, I would have started Bailey in that situation, and would have never put Ondrusek into the game. The NL Central was tough this year.

      • stoutfiles - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:29 AM

        Ryan Ludwick
        Todd Frazier (27 but getting worse)
        Zack Cozart (28 but getting worse)
        Johnny Cueto (can’t throw 3 games without getting injured)

        You would start Bailey there? No hitters aside, he’s a complete coin flip. He’ll either be great or a disaster, and the PNC crowd would have eaten him alive. Latos was the only real option, and even though Arroyo got hammered Saturday, with extra rest he would have been okay there as well. I would have even picked Leake at this point. But I would have picked anyone over Cueto, he can’t be trusted to do anything right now.

      • paperlions - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:17 AM

        Phillips is most certainly past his prime, and Votto is at the end of his….they don’t have a lot of obvious offensive weapons close to the majors, but they have some really impressive looking pitching prospects. Stephenson looks like a stud.

      • drewy44 - Oct 2, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Right a 2nd baseman who is usually featured on Top Plays at least twice a week, 32 years old, and hits 103 RBIs on the season. Totally past his prime.

        Also, a first baseman who is a career .300 hitter, usually in the MVP conversation (although has slipped defensively this year). Frazier and Cozart are still very young in MLB terms. Frazier just replacing Rolen and Cozart getting the full time gig. I can’t defend Cueto this year or last, but most teams have that one guy made of glass.

        I still stand by my Bailey comment. He pitched a no hitter in PNC, and had been pitching just as well as anyone else. Latos had a bone spur and hadn’t been pitching great. Arroyo is a crap shoot with his soft tossing in the playoffs, and I don’t think Leake is a big game pitcher. So tell me who isn’t a coin flip here?

      • paperlions - Oct 2, 2013 at 12:55 PM

        Yes, a 32 yr old 2B is past his prime. I didn’t say he was useless or sucked, but he is clearly not as good as he used to be…..especially when you have to appeal to the quality of his team mates to support an argument, his RBI total has everything to do with Votto and Choo being on base all the time and little to do with Phillips’ skills.

        Phillips D is still great…but in a hitters park he put up a .310 OBP, .396 SLG, 91 wRC+, which are career lows.

    • thomas844 - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:53 AM

      They also need a new hitting coach. Last night’s game revealed what they have been struggling with all year: no patience at the plate. Votto and Choo are the only guys on the team willing to take a walk and even they succumbed to a lack of patience yesterday. They have so many talented hitters who consistently fall into slumps longer than they should.

      • moogro - Oct 2, 2013 at 12:55 PM

        It’s hard to tease out how much they are ordered to do. But if there was guidance, the game plan did seem weird. Frankie throwing junk gets a lot more predictable in pitches 3-5, but Reds hitters didn’t stick around to see it.

  3. Stiller43 - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:00 AM

    How about the better team just won?

    • stoutfiles - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:10 AM

      We had a ,500 record against the Pirates before we lost 4 in a row to them, as well as two losses previous to the hapless Mets. Looking at it all (and the rest of the season, and past playoff appearances) and it’s obvious they choked.

    • jm91rs - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:51 AM

      The team playing better won. On the year these teams were about as even as possible, up until last Friday night that is.

      • stoutfiles - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:33 AM

        Couldn’t you say that about any game, ever? “The team playing better won.” “The team that scored more runs won.”

        I’m not dissing the Pirates. They’re a great team. Every team that makes the playoffs in MLB is a good, if not great team. But the fact is, the Reds put up certain numbers all season, and then in big games they put up awful numbers that pale in comparison to their averages. Either the Pirates really stepped it up, and everyone the Reds play in big games really step it up, or the Reds are just choke artists. It is probably a mixture of both, but you’re not going to convince me that the Reds haven’t choked when you consider their last three playoff appearances. This year, the playoffs technically began on Friday when you consider what was at stake, and they went 0-4.

      • jm91rs - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:47 AM

        I’m referring to the Reds being in a major slump, not the fact that they were just outplayed last night.

  4. aceshigh11 - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    Congrats to the Pirates. Awesome comeback story…I hope they go deep into the playoffs.

  5. alexo0 - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    I heard the crowd was actually quite tame. Unless you happened to bring your wife or grandmother to the game…

  6. apkyletexas - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    Give the Bucs a little credit here – they played their a$$es off, and Liriano was on fire. I doubt that any team in baseball was going to walk into that rocking stadium and beat that pitcher last night.

  7. jm91rs - Oct 2, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    A guy choking is normal, an entire team choking is not. Dusty Baker is such a “players” manager that he is unable to get the team fired up for big games. He said the other day there is no big game until it’s an elimination game. Well that means all year they treated no game as a big game and that worked well for 90 wins, but maybe if they put some extra importance on a game here or there they would have been able to handle the nerves that come with a must win game. The Pirates were absolutely ready for the moment and the Reds looked shell shocked. If I’m Castellini I’m taking a few weeks to let the emotions cool down before I decide what to do, but I’d be pretty disappointed that after such a huge payroll increase the team fell flat once again.

    • stoutfiles - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      Every Reds fan has to agree with this statement. The people who don’t are Pirates fans who think we’re downplaying their victory.

      Look, Pirates fans. You have a great team. Congrats. But realize that the Reds have been doing this crap year in and year out, falling apart in big games. At some point you finanly have enough data to start trending, and there’s a pattern of failure here. It’s not just this game, or even this season, but the whole Dusty era we have to look at.

      • apkyletexas - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:48 AM

        We don’t believe you, because we just watched your Reds march into Pittsburgh and yank 2 out of 3 from us in a crucial series just a week-and-a-half ago. The Reds have won a lot of big games the last few seasons. I haven’t seen anything from the team or players that indicates they can’t play in a big game.

  8. jarathen - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    I don’t think Country Joe West’s strike zone helped, especially with Votto. He was calling lots of outside pitches to left-handed hitters strikes (to be fair, this seemed consistent throughout), and once Votto realized that he had to dig at something no lefty could get to, it was all over.

    • tridecagon - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:25 AM

      I don’t think I’d ever defend Joe West’s umpiring, but if Votto swung at the first four pitches he saw, I don’t see how he learned what the strike zone was. Players aren’t watching the game on TV. If he got it in his head that everything was a strike, without ever taking a pitch… well, that’s just not good baseball.

      • jarathen - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:29 AM

        If he saw what Choo was getting he probably could’ve seen what was going on, and Morneau got the same treatment, so the next time Votto came up he had a good idea as to what was going on.

  9. thevauntedchris - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Dusty baker is not a good in-game manager. his lineup construction is laughable. it’s tough to argue against that. I would not employ him for those reasons.

    however, the game last night was a one game playoff, which is a ridiculous idea in the first place for baseball. a coin flip game. historically awful teams win 60 times a year. nothing about last night should have anything to do with baker’s job security.

    • stoutfiles - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:39 AM

      The playoffs began for the Reds last Friday. Even if you ignore them losing two games to the Mets previous to the final series with the Pirates, they needed to win 2 of 3 at home. They won 0. I’m sure Dusty told them that none of this mattered if they went to Pitt and won just won game, but you had to face a pumped up team that had ALL the momentum, with a home crowd that hasn’t seen a playoff game in ~20 years. Good luck.

      Dusty dropped the ball on getting this team to do anything. He’s been dropping the ball his whole tenure there.

  10. ebrownwareagle - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    REDS FANs!!! The Years before Dusty Baker, if I recall correctly That TEAM was A JOKE! Dusty comes in team turns into a Playoff caliber team . Now all of a Sudden lets dump on Dusty, because he can’t Coach! Hilarious!!

    • stoutfiles - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:47 AM

      That TEAM was completely different. We continued to be awful for two more years (74-88) (78-84) until our young players were able to develop and start helping us win games. And even then, it took Dusty a lot of convincing to stop playing players like Corey Patterson, even though his numbers were always awful.

    • jm91rs - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      Dusty is what he is. He’s a 85-90 win manager. His chill attitude seems to work day to day, but he can’t step on the gas when he really needs to. I’m not advocating for his firing, but I do think this team seemed too tight whenever it got close to 1st place.
      And the team is constructed in a way that anyone could win 80+ games with them. Before Dusty was before Catellini started spending money, so he does not get all the credit here.

  11. thomas844 - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    I agree with Brandon, something needed to be said. In 2010, they got no-hit in game one, coughed up a lead due to 3 quick errors in game 2, and shut out in their own park in game three. Last year, they had the Giants on the ropes but couldn’t even win 1 out of 3 in their own park. And now this year, they go into the playoffs losing three in a row to the Pirates and then a fourth in the Wild Card game.

    Credit to the Pirates for being a great team, they deserve to move on, but the Reds are much more talented than they have shown and I’m glad someone finally spoke up about their inability to perform come playoff time.

  12. stlouis1baseball - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    The Mouth strikes again.
    As previously posted…if I am Todd Frazier I am punching in him “the mouth.”
    Choke? Look…you can be very blunt in the criticism of yourself.
    But when you say “we choked” and “I don’t care how my teammates feel about it”…you are a bad teammate. No way else to put it.
    Dude just runs his trap, runs his trap and runs his trap some more.
    Frazier should drill him. Cause’ Todd Frazier damn sure didn’t “choke.”

    • jm91rs - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      Todd Frazier said “We didn’t play well the last 6 games, the pirates came out here and beat us”. Might as well have admitted to choking, same thing. A leader speaks for the team sometimes. Brandon is not exactly who I think should be leading this team, but no one else seems to be doing it. It’s nice to hear someone on the team saying they sucked last night in the big moment.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:05 AM

        Yep. And Todd Frazier said it best (like a professional). He didn’t throw anyone under the bus. It’s a one game playoff in which anything can happen. He gave credit to the Pirates…after bringing his ‘A’ game no less. How many hits did Ludwick get? How about Bruce and that RBI? As I mentioned…it is admirable (as much as it pangs me to admit) to have a very honest assessment of your OWN game. But to say “we” choked and “I don’t care how my teammates feel about it?” Dude needs to speak for himself. Frazier handled it like a professional. The Mouth? Same ole’ shit.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      Is this like one of those Chuck Norris jokes? Todd Frazier doesn’t sleep; he waits. Todd Frazier doesn’t hit home runs; the ball flees the park in fear.

      Really I ask because 1-4 with a double and a K doesn’t scream “don’t worry, I got this!”

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:15 AM

        Todd Frazier played his ass off C.C. He was all over the field defensively. Damn near doubled up McCutchen at one point. Catching balls in the dugout…taking good swings (the one k aside). How about Choo? Did he “choke?” Ludwick? How many hits did he get? Again…Jay Bruce? Did he have any ribbies?
        The Mouth needs to speak for himself cause’ he isn’t a team leader.
        As much as he thinks he is. He isn’t. Dude has diarrhea of “The Mouth.”

  13. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    Liriano has a home ERA of 1.72 this season. ERA doesn’t mean everything, but any other metric you look at shows that he has been pretty good at home as well.

    Liriano has allowed the following batting line against lefties this year: .131/.175/.146. That is a .321 OPS (!!) my friends. Lets just agree that Choo, Votto and Bruce were going to have a tough time factoring into this one. Those are the Reds 3 best hitters.

    That basically left this game up to Phillips, Frazier and Ludwick. Ludwick never got into a groove this year. Frazier and Phillips are nice guys to have around and put up offense numbers on the high end of replacement level or low end of average.

    So yeah, the Reds have three above-average hitters who ran into the worst-case scenario by facing Liriano and facing him at home. The rest of the team didn’t really stand a chance.

    • emdash01 - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      Exactly – whatever happened in previous years, this year didn’t seem like choking so much as a very poor matchup for the Reds in a pitcher who had a historically dominant season against left-handed hitters.

  14. ebrownwareagle - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Again I reiterate: REDS FANs!!! The Years before Dusty Baker, if I recall correctly That TEAM was A JOKE! Dusty comes in team turns into a Playoff caliber team . Now all of a Sudden lets dump on Dusty, because he can’t Coach! Players play. Coaches Coach. Can’t coach up hits on game night. Either they do or they don’t. And they didn’t.

  15. kevjones75 - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    “In Dusty we Trusty”

    • ptfu - Oct 2, 2013 at 11:04 AM

      “Abandon the Brandon: Phillips’ Head Isn’t Screwed On Straight”

  16. scdocal - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    Does he take himself off of his all swag team now. He has mad choke swag

  17. sportsdrenched - Oct 2, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Am I the only one who noticed the Reds were the 3rd place team in their division? Choked? Thier season pretty much ended where it should have.

    Now, had they won. I would expect Dat Dude to come out and say: “Man, we had a serious case of playoutofourassitis tonight.”

  18. lpd1964 - Oct 2, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    There is plenty of blame to go around, but why was Ludwick batting 2nd? Why would you bring in Marshall ? Marshall hasn’t pitched practically all year, you expect the guy to be sharp? How about playing Meseraco over Hanigan, pretty easy to predict Hanigan usually grounds out to either 3rd or short. All of the above you can put on Baker. The rest is a combo of the Pirates are much more evenly balanced and the Reds flat out can’t hit.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 2, 2013 at 5:23 PM

      Ludwick had 3 hits…if I am not mistaken. Putting him in the 2 hole (and hitting in front of Joey) allowed him to see far better pitches.

  19. joewilliesshnoz - Oct 2, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    While Brandon and his buddies were choking, the Pirates were kicking their asses.

  20. dutchman45 - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:16 PM

    Dusty choked as well as the players. He choked over that tooth pick that is always in his mouth!

  21. don444 - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:43 AM

    How is it choking to lose a one-game playoff on the road against one of the best starters in baseball in 2013 while playing a team who was 11-8 against you in the regular season? No, the Reds meltdown after grabbing the first two games of the series on the road in the 2012 NLDS versus the Giants can much more accuraltely be described as a “choke.” Phillips is a great player, one of the best infielders in all of baseball, but he’s never been someone who needs to be pressed for a comment, regardless of topic, and you can simply add this to the pile of relatively dumb things uttered by Dat Dude over the years.

  22. don444 - Oct 4, 2013 at 5:08 AM

    Whoever came in and marked my comment down is a complete idiot as everything I said there, like it or not, is perfectly true.

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