Sunday, June 22, 2008

Trading Brandon Phillips
Eric Wedge has proven he can manage a certain type of player.

Guys like Grady Sizemore, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll get on well with the Indians manager, and have played well under him.

But being a good manager also means dealing with egos and personalities different from your own.

Which, brings us to Brandon Phillips.

We all have heard the story 100 times by now. Wedge clashes with the flashy, talented player, demotes him to AAA in 2003 and keeps him there until the Indians are forced to trade him.

The short story is that the Indians got rid of Phillips to keep Ramon Vasquez. As Phillips blossomed into one of the best second basemen in the league the last two seasons, the Indians have two holes -- second and third base -- to fill.

The trade of Phillips in April of 2006 tp Cincinnati for a single A pitcher was not really a bad move in itself.

Imagine if Phillips had been kept on the 2006 roster. He would have been that year's version of Andy Marte -- a highly-touted prospect who was with the team because the organization didn't want to give up on him, but who was almost never used.

Phillips might have seen time as a pinch runner, or as a defensive replacement. He might have received a start a week. And, he probably would have hit .100.

For all the credit Wedge has received for bringing along his "young" club, he seems to favor veterans. He also seems to like hard-working players with marginal talent over top prospects with attitude.

Wedge's one great prospect he helped mature into a star is Grady Sizemore. And even Sizemore, for all his SportCenter catches and occasional hot streaks, seems misused.

Phillips, Marte, Josh Barfield were all top prospects who did not perform under Wedge. Franklin Gutierrez sat in Buffalo forever in 2007 before being brought up to replace Trot Nixon. Ben Francisco was sent down to keep the aging and average Jason Michaels. Even now, Wedge continues to stick with David Dellucci more than he should.

Some have suggested Phillips had attitude problems, and maybe the Indians were right to rid themselves of him.

It's true, Brandon is egotistical. He stands at the plate when he gets singles, sometimes dances after hits, and even grins on the rare occasion he makes an error.

But it's a small price to pay for a guy who had 30 homers and 30 steals last year. You can't build a championship caliber club strictly on "grind it out" guys. In the early 1990s, what would have happened if Mike Hargrove had said "that Kenny Lofton is too much of a showboat," or "don't you think Carlos Baerga goofs off too much?"

That the Indians want to build an organization of great, team-first guys is admirable. It's also somewhat unrealistic. Yes, the Indians had an excellent 2007. But who knows what would have happened had Shapiro not brought back Lofton, a player who hardly fit the Indians mantra.

This season has shown the Indians seem to hop-scotch through successful seasons, stressing depth and hard work.

It sounds great when C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona are making hitters look stupid and certain hitters are having career years.

But when things don't fall into place, can fans depend on Wedge to nurture the next round of minor leaguers that will replenish the roster? Or will he lose some, simply because he can't get through to them?



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