Why Is WFAN Giving Steve Phillips Another Chance, Anyway?
Six months after being fired from ESPN for treating the workplace like a farm system for his sexual desires, Steve Phillips has gotten a new job. WFAN host Mike Francesa announced Monday that the former Mets GM will be talking baseball with him weekly on the “Mike’d Up: Francesa on the FAN” show.
Isn’t that just great? Phillips is back on the airwaves, on the most popular show on the biggest sports radio station in the country, just in time for baseball season. He didn’t even have to do any penance at a lesser job to earn back his credibility. What a wonderful message WFAN is sending to its female employees – and its female listeners.
Don’t forget that Phillips is known for a long history of inappropriate relationships in the workplace; his dalliance with female staffer Brooke Hundley was just the best known. Phillips had to take a leave of absence from his job with the New York Mets in the 1990s after a female subordinate filed a sexual harassment complaint against him; the case was later settled out of court, after Phillips admitted to that relationship and other extramarital affairs.
He continued his randy ways at ESPN, until he was fired this fall after his affair with production assistant Hundley – who he initially accused of stalking him – became public knowledge. The Worldwide Leader said in a statement at the time that “his ability to be an effective representative for ESPN has been significantly and irreparably damaged.”
After he was fired, Phillips claimed to be a sex addict, and underwent treatment for sex addiction at the same Mississippi clinic that reportedly treated Tiger Woods. When he left the clinic this winter, he went on a contrition tour that was really more of a rationalization tour. He first appeared on the Today Show, and then spent two hours talking with Mike Francesa last month (where he blamed the Mets for not diagnosing his sexual addiction earlier!)
Phillips didn’t explain why he would be a good risk in the workplace, but spent much time talking about the state of his marriage, something that should be between him and his wife. Come to think of it, his affairs wouldn’t have affected his job status, if it weren’t for the fact that he seemed to have confused the workplace with cheating website Ashley Madison.
Ever since he re-entered the public eye, I was worried that somebody would think Phillips deserved a second – make that a third – chance without having to work his way back to the high-profile jobs. And that’s exactly what happened.
Here’s the thing that irks me the most about Phillips getting yet another chance so quickly, even if this one is only a part-time gig. All too often, he didn’t show the same compassion for other troubled ballplayers that he is now asking for himself. In fact, Phillips was one of the most judgmental – and least compassionate – voices in baseball broadcasting.
I wonder if that’s why ESPN used him so much. It certainly wasn’t for his baseball savvy. Phillips, who infamously traded for Mo Vaughn, certainly wasn’t known for superior baseball smarts. He is the guy who once tried to trade David Wright for Jose Cruz, Jr. after all, and who attempted to include Jose Reyes in the Roberto Alomar deal.
But you can always count on Phillips to deliver the snark. Like insinuating that the great player Carlos Beltran was soft and mentally weak. His Beltran snipes on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” last season were were so over the top that even co-host Joe Morgan felt compelled to defend the Met player.
Phillips also made a cottage industry of bashing Alex Rodriguez ever since that “24 and 1″ story when Rodriguez considered signing with the Mets. In 2006, Phillips said A-Rod’s career in New York was “over” after he made three errors in a 2006 game, and suggested that the Yankees needed to trade him. And in 2007, Phillips self-righteously proclaimed on Michael Kay’s ESPN radio show that A-Rod was a “bad role model” for Phillips’ son because A-Rod cheated on his wife. That may well be true, Steve, but what does that make you?
That’s the thing with Phillips. He’s not a brilliant broadcaster with a messed-up personal life the way Marv Albert was. No, Phillips is a failed GM whose last good days in the job happened in the Clinton administration. Yet, with so many truly knowledgeable baseball voices in New York, WFAN chooses to hire Phillips. Why? Who, exactly, has been clamoring for his return to the airwaves?
I’m not saying Phillips should be blacklisted from baseball. I just think he should have to do a better job of proving that he’s turned his life around before he gets to be on the biggest radio station in the country. You know, the way he fonce elt that Josh Hamilton should have to prove himself more before getting a second chance at the majors, writing a 2007 column decrying the Cincinnati Reds for trading for Hamilton, a Rule 5 pick. While he did praise Hamilton for getting clean after a drug problem, he also wrote:
Every decision made by an organization impacts every other decision. Every decision makes a statement about that organization and what it believes in. Every decision sets a precedent for the next decision. On a daily basis, minor league players are instructed, developed, cultivated and directed on how to become major league players. They are told to work hard, stay committed to their careers, make good decisions, be professional, be a good teammate, etc.
The decision to acquire Hamilton and give him a chance to be a major league player without doing anything to earn it over the past four seasons makes a statement to current Reds major leaguers and especially to the organization’s minor league players. This one decision contradicts everything the organization claims is important.
Isn’t that rich?
Phillips would be better served acquiring some more baseball knowledge – and some compassion, while he’s at it – and laying low at a lesser job. Starting his comeback at the top radio station in the country is a heck of a lot more outrageous than the Reds giving Hamilton another chance.
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