Phillies Hall of Famer and current weekend broadcaster Mike Schmidt said Tuesday that he thinks the Phillies shouldn’t build around Odubel Herrera and Hispanic players.
Schmidt, speaking during an interview on 94WIP Tuesday, said Herrera – the only player in the organization signed to a professional contract past 2018 – was “almost exact opposite” the player he was, and that he wasn’t the kind of player the Phillies (or any baseball team) shouldn’t build around. Here’s what Schmidt said:
“My honest answer to that would be no because of a couple of things. 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.’ Just can’t be — because of the language barrier — that kind of a player.”
Schmidt’s comments are not only problematic, but are toxic and prejudiced.
Herrera is a Venezuelan-born player. He speaks Spanish primarily. Yes, it would be difficult for him to speak with a cadre of American-born, English-speaking players. Also, it would be difficult for those American-born, English-speaking players to speak with him, unless they speak his primary language. Baseball is supposed to be a global game, a beautiful mix of cultures and viewpoints, not some American-born, English-speaking autocracy.
Schmidt continued, saying he felt Herrera could be a role player, the kind of guy who could hit first or second in a batting order. Why? Schmidt:
“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.”
According to Schmidt, the Venezuelan-born, Spanish-speaking player can be a role player because he has “exuberance” and can “irk” the other team. Also he has “antics on the field.” But he can’t be “that kind of player” because he can’t tell someone to “run that ball out.”
Again, toxic and prejudiced. Why can’t a Spanish-speaking player lead a baseball team? Does every leader on every baseball team automatically have to be an English-speaking American-born guy? And his “antics”? Why does the Spanish-speaking player have to be the role player who gets on everyone’s nerves? And is he mad about Herrera flipping a bat? Is that it? The thing that “irks” a number of American-born, English-speaking players?
Baseball has a culture problem, in that it has failed at truly accepting other cultures as not just part of the game, but as the game itself. Now, someone paid by the Phillies to talk about the Phillies every weekend, a guy who is supposed to represent what the Phillies are as an organization, and a guy who – for just about everyone ever – thinks of as the greatest Phillie to ever play baseball, has put himself front and center in the problem. And he’s making it difficult for Herrera (the one player this organization has so far chosen to build with), his teammates, and the organization at large, to concentrate on actually playing baseball.
It’s time the Phillies move on from Schmidt and denounce his antiquated views, which yes, are problematic, toxic and prejudiced.
It’s time for the Phillies to make a stand that baseball is welcoming and appreciative of all people.