Phillies legend Mike Schmidt isn’t a big fan of Odubel Herrera.
During an appearance on 94.1 WIP’s morning show on Tuesday, the Phillies broadcaster and Hall of Famer offered his unvarnished opinion about Herrera, noting that the bat-flipping outfielder was “almost the exact opposite” the type of player he was during his 18-year career.
“He’s not afraid to do things that sort of irk the other team if you will, and you know what that is,” Schmidt told Angelo Cataldi. “I probably would hate him if I played against him because of his antics on the field, but he’s not afraid.”
Herrera has had a disappointing season so far for the Phillies, considering the $30.5 million contract he signed last year. He has a .234 batting average and a .276 on-base percentage in 53 games, and has struck out a team-high 51 times. But he was the team’s lone all-star last season, batting .286 with a .361 on-base percentage in his second major-league season. And he is coming off three big games for the Phillies.
So does Schmidt think Herrera is a player the Phillies can build their team around?
“My honest answer to that would be no,” Schmidt said. “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.’ ”
Schmidt then said again that Herrera, a native of Venezuela who has used an interpreter at times for on-camera interviews, “just can’t be — because of the language barrier — that kind of a player.”
It didn’t take long for sports writers to call out Schmidt for his comments.
“Remember when Hideki Matsui accepted his 2009 World Series MVP trophy with his translator by his side? Mike Schmidt does not,” wrote ESPN the Magazine writer Kavitha A. Davidson.
Jon Tayler, MLB editor at Sports Illustrated, called Schmidt’s remarks “casually racist,” noting that the Phillies have nine Spanish-speaking players on their roster. Tayler added that Schmidt’s opinion is “the kind of lazy and stupid racism that you should expect when you ask baseball’s crustier old men to bloviate about a sport they haven’t played in decades.”
My colleague, columnist Mike Sielski, also jumped on Twitter to offer his take on Schmidt’s comments.
Listen to the full interview:
Staff writer Jonathan Tannenwald contributed to this report.