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Odubel Herrera was benched for a lack of hustle last night

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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:

[mlbvideo id=”731691183″ width=”600″ height=”336″ /]

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.

Blake Snell becomes client of Boras Corporation

Blake Snell
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Ken Rosenthal and Josh Tolentino of The Athletic report that Rays starter Blake Snell has switched agencies, going from Apex Baseball to Boras Corporation. Snell is currently signed to a five-year, $50 million contract and will be under contract through 2023.

Snell found himself in hot water two weeks ago when he said on his Twitch stream that he wouldn’t risk his life to play baseball during a pandemic while receiving significantly reduced pay. Some described Snell as tone deaf for saying, “I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, okay?”

Boras represents many of baseball’s highest-paid players, including Gerrit Cole and Bryce Harper. Snell is not likely to win over any of the people he recently irritated by appearing to go after more money by hiring the highest-profile agent. What often goes unsaid is that players have a very limited window in which to use their elite athletic skills to make money.

Snell won the 2018 AL Cy Young Award, going 21-5 with a 1.89 ERA and a 221/64 K/BB ratio over 180 2/3 innings. He did not have nearly the same success last year, going 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA and a 147/40 K/BB ratio in 107 innings.