Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera has been described by Kevin Cooney of Calkins Media as “the straw that stirs the Phillies.” He has drawn comparisons to former Phillie Shane Victorino for his high-energy style of play that can motivate a team and give it momentum. So it was a bit shocking to hear that Herrera had been removed from Monday’s game against the Tigers for a lack of hustle.
Herrera started the game with a 14-pitch at-bat against Mike Pelfrey and wound up singling in each of his first three at-bats. In the seventh, Herrera faced lefty reliever Justin Wilson with a runner on second base and no outs. He hit a tapper back to Wilson, who looked Peter Bourjos back to second base, then lobbed to first base for the out. Wilson wasn’t quick to get the ball to first base, but Herrera was only lightly jogging so it didn’t matter. Manager Pete Mackanin removed him from the game and put David Lough in center field.
Here’s video of Herrera’s jog:
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Breen confirmed the reason for Herrera exiting the game. Herrera said after the Phillies’ 5-4 loss, “I know I did wrong,” per CSN Philly’s John Clark. Herrera said, “I was frustrated,” and added, “It won’t happen again.”
After the benching, while the game was still going on, I was also told by several of my Twitter followers who were watching the game that the CSN broadcast showed Herrera pointing to his back while speaking with the team trainer. He did not play on May 18 against the Marlins due to back discomfort, as Matt Gelb of the Inquirer reported.
Making a point to your team about hustle is understandable, particularly for a young team like the Phillies. Jumping on a player with a bad back is not the best way to make that point, however. Herrera might have been slow up the line because his back was bothering him and he might not have said anything about it because baseball culture (and masculinity in general) tells players to play through pain. He might not have wanted to argue with Mackanin about it either, since he is only in his second season as a major leaguer. Mackanin is then essentially telling his team to play through injuries and give max effort even when it might be a detriment.
I’ve argued before about how it’s actually a bad idea to run full throttle on weak pop-ups and ground outs. They’re outs 99 percent of the time. Yes, if you run hard, you might get a single or a double that one time, but it’s also a way to get injured. That’s especially true if a player already has a nagging injury like a bad back.
Work smarter, not harder.