More Sports:

June 06, 2017

Mike Schmidt cites language barrier as a reason Phillies can’t build around Odubel Herrera (and then apologizes)

Like almost all of the Phillies, Odubel Herrera has been maddeningly frustrating through the first couple of months. Despite absolutely raking the last few days, “El Torito” is still slashing a very poor .234/.276/.373 on the season.

After showing some very promising flashes his first couple of years in Philly, Herrera was rewarded with a  five-year, $30.5 million contract extension this past offseason. So, the Phillies front office certainly felt that he was a player worth building around.

On the 94 WIP Morning Show earlier today, Angelo Cataldi posed that exact question directly to Phillies broadcaster and Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt: Can you build around Odubel Herrera?

Here is what Schmidt had to say via The Good Phight, who jumped on the heavy-duty transcribing:

“My honest answer to that would be no because of a couple of things,” Schmidt said. "First of all, it’s a language barrier. Because of that, I think he can’t be a guy that would sort of sit in a circle with four, five American players and talk about the game, or try and learn about the game or discuss the inner workings of the game. Or come over to a guy and say, ‘Man, you gotta run that ball out.’ It just can’t be, because of the language barrier, that kind of a player.

“Odubel can be — you see what he’s doing the last three days and we saw the inconsistency that dropped his batting average all the way down to the low .200’s prior to the last three games, and that’s really the first time we’ve seen that kind of inconsistency from him. However, he’s more of a sort of, play the game, allow his exuberance for the game to kind of spread around the team. I think the fans love him. He’s not afraid to do things that sort of irk the other team if you will, and you know what that is. I probably would hate him if I played against him because of his antics on the field, but he’s not afraid. He’s not afraid to do that. He’s learning to play a really good centerfield. They haven’t figured out where he needs to hit in the batting order yet.

“To answer your question, those are the reasons that I don’t think you can build a team around him. Now, I truly think he can hit second or first on a championship team. There’s no question about that. But to build a team around a guy, he has to sprint every ball out like Chase Utley used to do, he has to be more of a say, friend — not that he’s not a friend, it’s hard to describe what I mean. The language barrier means a lot because his communication with his teammates is limited. So I don’t think I’m disrespecting him by any means.

“But when you say ‘build a team around somebody,’ you’re generally talking about a Roy Halladay as a pitcher, Cliff Lee, you’re talking about a Mike Trout kind of player, players that are automatic all-stars every year. I think an Aaron Altherr can become that kind of guy, I think as Tommy Joseph learns and gets better and become a 30-HR, 100-RBI player, we got some guys in the minor leagues eventually that can become those kind of players.

Mike Schmidt is the greatest third baseman of all-time and has forgotten more than I will ever know about baseball, but that was a bad answer. There are plenty of legitimate on-field reasons to be bearish about Herrera’s prospects moving forward, but his grasp of the English language isn’t one of them.

After the Phillies and Schmidt became aware of the firestorm his early morning comments had created, they sent out a statement from Schmidt on Tuesday afternoon in an effort to clarify his comments:

“It's been made known to me that my answer on a radio interview this morning to the question, ‘can the Phillies build a team around Odubel Herrera’ was disrespectful to Herrera and Latin players in general.  I'm very sorry that this misrepresentation of my answer occurred and may have offended someone.  I assure everyone I had no intention of that.  Odubel is a dynamo on the field, and as he becomes more comfortable with the language, his leadership skills will improve, and no doubt he will be a centerpiece in the Phillies future.”

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

Like the new PhillyVoice Sports page on Facebook