© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
11/05/08 6:20 PM EST
Phillips picks up first Gold Glove Award
NL-leading fielding percentage, 78-game errorless streak highlight season
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Brandon Phillips' defense is overlooked no more. Phillips, the Reds second baseman, was named a recipient of a National League Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence on Wednesday."I'm surprised about many things that have happened in my career, and this is one of them," Phillips said on a conference call with reporters. "Being one of the best defensive second basemen in the Major Leagues is a blessing. I work hard at it." For the second consecutive season, Phillips led NL second basemen in fielding percentage (.990). He committed seven errors over 706 total chances. However, this is the 27-year-old's first Gold Glove. In both 2006 and '07, the D-backs' Orlando Hudson was the winner. Although he considers Hudson a friend, the slight angered Phillips. "To tell you the truth, when I didn't win it last year, it really hurt me a little bit," Phillips said. "Then after that, I was like, 'If I win one, I win one. If I don't, it wouldn't really bother me.' But it's different when you win one now. Now it feels great to finally get recognized and win the award. I think a lot of people are starting to recognize what type of player that I am. I play defense first before anything. Defense wins games. It's just a beautiful thing to finally win this award. I hope there are many more to come." Displaying the fielding intangibles that often don't appear in statistics -- range, athleticism -- Phillips often executed some spectacular plays and made it easier for him to be noticed by the league's managers and coaches that vote for the award. Phillips was also a steady hand in the field for a Reds team that ranked 14th out of 16 NL teams in fielding percentage. From April 10-July 8, Phillips held a 78-game errorless streak that was the second longest streak among second basemen this season behind the 82-game streak by Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez. "I talked to him and boy, I've never heard a happier voice in my life," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It was like he couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that he couldn't believe it, because this guy has worked so hard. He never sits down. He's always working taking balls off the bat. He's catching popups over his head, which I've never seen anyone do at practice. He practices like he plays, and it's paid off." Last week, Phillips received Bill James Handbook's Fielding Bible Award as the best defensive second basemen in the Major Leagues. In its "Best Tools" issue, Baseball America rated Phillips the second-best NL second baseman -- behind Hudson, a three-time Gold Glover that missed most of the past season's final two months with an injury. Phillips is the first Reds player to win a Rawlings Gold Glove since second baseman Pokey Reese in 2000. "That first Gold Glove is the hardest one," Baker said. "I told him you just have to keep working and see how many more you can get." As a hitter, Phillips batted .261 with 21 home runs, 78 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. He missed the final 17 games of the season with a broken right index finger. Wednesday's announcement is the latest personal triumph for Phillips, who came to Cincinnati in an April 2006 trade from the Indians after his status as a prospect faded. The deal only cost the Reds a Minor League pitcher named Jeff Stevens. In his first season with the Reds, Phillips led the team in hits and multi-hit games and became a breakout star. In a superb all-around 2007 season, he committed just eight errors and had a .990 fielding percentage. Offensively, he joined Alfonso Soriano as the only two second basemen in history that produced at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. In February, Phillips signed a four-year, $27 million contract with a $12 million club option for 2012. "This is more important than 30-30. Defense wins games," Phillips said. "A lot of players out there can do the 30-30 or 40-40 or be the MVP and never win the Gold Glove. I really think was the best thing that ever happened to me. I really take pride in my defense. It's my passion and I love doing it."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.