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June 27, 2017

Odubel Herrera is the poster child of the losing-is-accepted Phillies

The Phillies’ 2017 season has been abducted by Odubel Herrera and once a game starts, he might as well lock manager Pete Mackanin in a locker.

Mackanin and the Phillies organization are being held hostage by the high-end potential of Herrera, and the low-end probability that he will ever become a more intelligent player.

In any sport, there is a concept of sports IQ. Doesn’t matter if it’s football IQ or Basketball IQ or even bowling IQ, there is a required ability to understand and read the game. A great athlete can get by on pure athleticism to a degree, but there will be moments when every player has to think the game.

There are players who are off-the-charts in terms of thinking the game, players such as Pedro Martinez who was always a pitch or two ahead of everyone else, or Chase Utley, who uses his understanding of the game to get the maximum out of his ability.

Nobody expected much from the Phillies this season, but there was never a sense that things could go so far south so quickly. The good news is that the Phils are currently about as far away from Philadelphia as you can get as they engage in a series at Seattle, but the bad news is that they will eventually come back home.

And when they get home the questions will remain as to whether or not Mackanin will still be the manager for the remainder of the season – and whether or not Herrera Is still in their long-term plans.

The situation with Herrera gets worse on a series-by-series basis, and it truly got messy in Arizona where he hit for the cycle on dumb baseball with mistake after mistake after mistake on the basepaths, in the field and in just about every situation.

Mackanin made it public that he fined Herrera for a bad decision to try and steal a base at a bad time, but the situation with Herrera has gone well beyond fines. Herrera has made so many mistakes that just having him on the field sends a bad message to the rest of the team, and it undermines the manager’s ability to control the culture of the locker room.

Herrera is one of those maddening players who can get an organization drunk on his raw ability. Even in this downward spiral of a season, Herrera can light up a fantasy league when he belts double after double, or he makes a great catch in the outfield.

Is it time to dismiss the thought that Herrera is a big part of the future? Actually, you have to wonder if he is any part of the future.

If you take the top 10 catches in baseball over any two-week period, you are likely to see Herrera making a 10-bell save with his glove, or you will see him land on second base with yet another two-base hit.

And then you realize you have to live with Herrera caught napping on third base, or first base. You have to live with Herrera not running out of the batter’s box, or live with Herrera misplaying what should be a routine fly ball into a three-base error.

The question is do you really have to live with it or is it time to dismiss the thought that Herrera is a big part of the future? Actually, you have to wonder if he is any part of the future.

Maybe the Phillies really think Herrera’s talent level is so high they can live with some mental lapses. But not at the present level. And it's pretty clear that Herrera is not getting mentally tougher under the direction of Mackanin.

Perhaps the manager is under the direction of general manager Matt Klentak to keep writing Herrera’s name on the lineup card. Perhaps the club’s management is trying to pump up some offensive numbers so it can trade Herrera and his contract.

One way or another, this is not going to work in a locker room where shortstop Freddy Galvis lost his cool after the series in Arizona and again popped off that the Phillies were simply not playing the right way. Galvis has done this before, and the situation is not getting better.

The Phillies have what appears to be a bright future with a minor-league system packed with highly regarded prospects. They have finally made the move to bring Scott Kingery to Triple-A, and before very long the Philadelphia locker room will be getting an influx of young talent.

The Phillies should be concerned that the remainder of this year is a season wasted in more areas than just wins and losses. The Phillies should be concerned that the climate of losing has become accepted in the organization and that the team has accepted the shoddy play of Herrera as acceptable.