The Curious Case of Odubel Herrera
Since Odubel Herrera was taken from the Texas Rangers in the 2014 Rule 5 draft, he has been a polarizing figure in the city of Philadelphia. You either loved him, or you hated him. Up until the beginning of this week, I was firmly in the loving group. After the events this past Monday in Atlantic City, I don’t think there should be any love left in the city of brotherly love for #37.
Atlantic City police charging Herrera with simple assault in a domestic violence dispute with his 20 year-old girlfriend has landed him on administrative leave, and it could be the last time that he will be seen wearing the red pinstripes.
The 27 year-old Venezuelan who boasts a career .276 average ruffled some feathers with his style of play. He was known for his bat flips, his erratic play in the outfield, and for not running out every single groundout. For these “problems”, I have some answers. The bat-flipping comes from where he learned the game, and I personally have no qualms about it at all. If you don’t want the player to flip his bat, don’t let him hit a home run. His play in the outfield was erratic because he was learning how to play that position on the fly. He was drafted by the Rangers as an infielder and only switched as he was taken by the Phillies because of the clearer path to playing time. And as far as running out every ground ball goes, pulling a hamstring in a game when you’re down by 7 runs doesn’t seem like the brightest play in the world. It seemed to me that some of the fans were harder on Herrera than they were on other players. I’m not entirely sure why that was. Not everyone can be Chase Utley.
Odubel’s career with the Phillies was mired by inconsistency. Flashes of brilliance, followed by dullness of slumps. One of his defining plays in the outfield was an amalgamation of what it was to ride the El Torito roller coaster. (hyperlink the previous sentence with this youtube video https://youtu.be/F2HMMbUJ4-U ) On a sunny Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field in 2015, Herrera made the final catch in Cole Hamels’ last start with the Phillies: a 13K, 129 pitch no-hitter of the Cubs. Kris Bryant blasted a 3-2 curve ball deep to center field. Odubel drifted back onto the warning track and almost got lost in the ivy. His feet get tangled up and he realizes he’s over run the ball. He falls down in the dirt, making the catch diving back towards the field of play. Then he gets up slowly, and pounds his fist into his glove before running in to celebrate with the rest of the team. Both infuriating, and captivating.
When he was going well, he could be one of the best hitters in the league. Last year in March and April, Herrera hit .343 and rode that hot start to a first half which included 100 hits and a .275 average with 16 HR and 52 RBI. Then he went sub-zero cold after the All-Star break. In August he hit just .205 and in September and October combined he hit a putrid .171 with 3 HR and 13 RBI. You will not win many games with production like that from your 2 or 3 hole hitter. This is part of the reason I believed that the acquisitions in the off-season would help Odubel the most. He no longer had to be the middle of the line up guy. He could be a 7 or 8 hitter and get some of the pressure taken off of him. It just didn’t come together this year.
I do not regret being a supporter of Odubel Herrera on the field. I stand by every defense of his play that I have ever thought of or expressed. There is NO defense for what he is accused of doing to his girlfriend. There is no place for him on this team if this story is proven to be true. I like to think that this organization is above keeping someone who abuses women around because of their potential to help the team. It just never seemed to fully click for Odubel as a Phillie. After the charges brought against him earlier this week, I doubt it ever will.
Ben Longenecker / Contributor / @LongeneckerBen
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