People have been murmuring it for months: among Odubel Herrera’s more endearing qualities is his reflex to point at a pitch’s location, looking to the umpire for mere confirmation.
Odubel and the ump have a difference in opinion pic.twitter.com/wVDMxEgdzj— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) April 19, 2017
Of course, what is “endearing” to us about a player might be infuriating and rude to others. For existence, Asdrubal Cabrera flipping his bat during a walk-off win last season probably excited a lot of Mets fans, but didn’t do a lot for me. I think we can all agree that Edubray Ramos, the reliever off whom Cabrera’s hit came, was perfectly in the right to very sanely hold onto his anger for several months and bring it back with him to 2017, a season in which he threw at Cabrera’s head in suspected retaliation.
Who’s to say who is right in that situation (EDIT: The guy throwing a baseball at a man’s head is not right), these deep moral quandaries are the fabric of the modern sport of baseball (EDIT: They are not). The point is, perspective is a hell of a drug. And if you think opposing pitchers probably don’t appreciate Herrera pointing at an outside pitch, think of the even less emotionally stable guys on the field: The umpires.
We live in a world in which CB Bucknor is for some reason granted free access to baseball, a sport he has disgraced time and time again. Just last night, his strike zone during a Jayson Werth at-bat indicated he was spending most of the evening checking his phone. Werth was so understandably incited by the incompetence on display that he chased Bucknor down after the Nationals had secured the win - the win, mind you - and screamed some critiques through a wall of hair.
Jayson Werth letting CB Bucknor have it after the game pic.twitter.com/sELuQix4sB— Danny (@recordsANDradio) April 19, 2017
If the Bucknor’s of the world are allowed the authority to call ball games as detached from reality as they are, it’s pretty incredible Herrera hasn’t earned the ire of one of them by attempting to take their job.
By now, I’ve stopped myself to wonder, “Wait, am I complaining about something Odubel Herrera does?” And the answer, thankfully, is “Of course not.” I hope Herrera keeps pointing. I hope he does whatever he wants, all the time. He is cool. I’m just in awe that this hasn’t resulted in exactly what you’d think it would result in, especially when Herrera starts coming at the umps from another direction: questioning balls and strikes.
As far as I can remember, Herrera has never gotten the axe as a member of the Phillies. In fact, the only ejection of his I could find in a brief search occurred in 2014 as a member of the Frisco RoughRiders, the AA affiliate of the Rangers. In the ninth inning of the season’s third-to-last game, the opposing Midland RockHounds loaded the bases and started bunting in runs somehow, pulling ahead in a 3-3 game they had tied in the sixth. Other highlights in the rally were a wild pitch and multiple walks, so the defense’s tension was mounting. Frisco managed to get two outs, only for second base umpire Clay Park to call a balk, which was enough for Herrera, playing second base, and his manager Jason Wood to both take off for the evening. (Also in the lineup for Frisco that night: Jorge Alfaro and Nick Williams, and on the mound, Jerad Eickhoff; weeee, the future!)
Herrera hit his first home run of the season last night, sparking a 2-for-5 night with a BB that was not without his trademark bat flipping, the most prolific of which occurred during the walk. Again, why Herrera seems immune to the pitchers’ feelings and unwritten rule violations in this goofy sport is beyond me - also again, I fully support him, and hope his free pass continues until Brian McCann, watching on a television in an empty garage under a single swinging light bulb, explodes. If Herrera played for another team, he would drive me nuts. Which is what makes him such an incredible player to have on the Phillies. That and the fact that he’s reached base in every game he’s appeared except for April 16, when he went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter.
Baseball is a physical sport, bubbling with emotions. Even Herrera’s own team has had stronger reactions to his frustrations at times than opposing pitchers and incorrect umpires. A player like him is fun to watch and breaks up the monotony of getting slaughtered by the Mets every three or four days (but not last night!). We see a lot of ridiculous occurrences on the diamond every year, a lot of which spawn from misconceptions, brain farts, wayward pitches, misguided revenge, and stubborn old men. Herrera has been being himself for two seasons, now entering his third, and as his quest to never let a bat hit the ground and to make umps’ calls on close pitches be more of a committee decision, it seems like perhaps there is a reckoning on its way.
Which again, is fine. El Torito’s got a fire that’s tough to put out. And no one remembers Clay Park anyway.