The Cubs aren’t playing for anything – unless you count that “avoid-100-losses thing” – but at least one interesting subplot is on display this week as the top two second basemen in the National League wage a three-day, head-to-head case for a National League Gold Glove.
Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips is going for his third straight and fourth overall. Barney is going for his first.
For Barney, this matchup may have begun during a brief conversation he and Phillips had during a spring training game in 2011.
Both stood near second base as the inning ended, and Barney said, “Hey, man, I saw you last year turning some double plays when you were coming back from being hurt. I’m making the move to second base and I don’t feel very comfortable turning double plays. What can you tell me?”
Phillips took a few minutes to share his thoughts and offer tips to Barney – who earned the starter’s job that spring and this year might unseat Phillips for the top-defender award.
“From then on, I’ve had a lot of respect for him – not about how he plays the game or anything, but just for who he is, the kind of guy he was to me,” Barney said. “Not every guy who’s the best in the game defensively is going to stop and talk to a guy that’s got a couple months in the big leagues. That meant a lot to me at the time.”
Phillips said he remembered the talk.
“I don’t really know how he’s been doing,” he said. “The only thing I know is I just worry about myself and worry about the team. And whenever a guy wants to know something and they ask me a question about anything, I let them know what I think about it.”
So does Phillips consider Barney a threat to his Gold Glove run?
“To tell you the truth, I don’t pay attention to things like that,” Phillips said. “I’m too busy winning. That’s what I worry about. I just worry about winning, and I let everybody else worry about that kind of stuff.”