There is no more reason to continue discussing the competition for the starting center fielder’s job as if it is up for grabs. With the early injury to Adam Haseley, the strange nonplaying of Mickey Moniak and the poor play of Scott Kingery, the job has been won. Sure, Joe Girardi will continue saying that it’s still anyone’s job to lose, but let’s not kid ourselves.
Odubel Herrera is more than likely going to be the starting center fielder on Opening Day.
Now, if we are basing that decision purely on baseball acumen, then yes, Herrera has won the job with his play on the field. Through Monday’s game, in 23 plate appearance, Herrera has slashed .261/.261/.522 with two home runs and two RBI. His lack of desire to take a walk is a problem, but the team wasn’t really counting on the center field position to be a bastion of offense anyway. Providing that pop would be something that makes the lineup even deeper than it already projects to be. His play in the outfield has, from all accounts, not hurt his chances of making the team as he’s made the plays he’s needed to plus a little extra. He was given the opportunity to win the job by being a non-roster invitee, seized that chance and run with it. Again, basing it purely on his play between the lines, Herrera has earned the job.
Of course, when a player earns the job, it’s more than likely that others who were supposed to compete have faltered in their own journey. Haseley has of course been hurt, wiping out his chances of winning it even if he was the leader in the clubhouse when spring training began. Moniak has played extremely well, but it’s likely that the team would rather he see regular playing time in Lehigh Valley rather than split time with someone in the major leagues. Kingery has been perhaps the most disappointing player in camp, posting a .465 OPS in 25 at bats this spring. Roman Quinn has quietly been hitting well, but has never really felt a part of the conversation to start for the team, no matter Girardi’s affinity for his skillset. Small sample sizes all, but position battles are won or lost during the spring on these small sample sizes. Thus, Herrera is probably the winner of the job.
Now, we come to the uncomfortable part of the conversation, the one that cannot be avoided.
Odubel Herrera was accused of, and investigated for, domestic violence. This is not disputable. His then girlfriend decided not to pursue the charges. That is also not disputable. Even with all the counseling in the world that Herrera has reportedly undergone, there is still the need to make sure that the victim of that charge is not glossed over as lengthy screeds are written about second chances and forgiveness. Too often, with people in high profile positions, people are always going to be on the lookout for how someone can make their comeback or get back to what they do best when in fact the act that was committed should not ever be forgotten. It is a stain on their permanent record, a stain that is deserved and warranted.
I am not here to tell you how to feel about Odubel Herrera and the increasing likelihood that he will be on the opening roster. You are your own person with your own moral compass and your own justifications with whether or not you feel you can cheer for him. There are those that believe in second chances in anything one does for a profession, whether it be as a professional athlete or an accountant. Should there be genuine responsibility taken for the actions and pain that that person has caused and you as a reader feel you can feel alright with cheering this particular person, by all means. Help yourself.
Where I fall on this position is different. As a person who covers the Phillies, I feel that it is my duty to cover Herrera in a fair and critical way. If he hits a game winning home run, I will respond as is needed. If he runs into a TOOTBLAN, I will respond as is needed. But when it comes to a personal feeling, I cannot in good conscience cheer for Odubel Herrera. My seven year old twins, my son in particular, adores baseball and the Phillies with his whole heart. He is very conscious of the reputation that Philadelphia fans have where they will boo players even on their own team. When Herrera comes to the plate, now that there are fans in the stands, there will be boos.
How do I explain to him why they are booing? How do I explain to him that he’s on the Phillies even after he did what he did? What if he asks what he should do, whether he should cheer or boo him (as much as a seven year old can boo)? I cannot condone what Herrera did and still see him as deserving of a roster spot.
That is why I cannot cheer for Odubel Herrera. I cannot condone a man laying his hands on a woman and somehow still being rewarded for it via contractual obligations. I’m all for second chances, but to me, Odubel’s second chance comes in the form of not sitting in a jail cell.
As I said before, when it comes to coverage of him on this site, it will be as normal as possible. We cover the Phillies and will always give fair, balanced takes on the team. I have more or less asked the people who contribute to the site to voice their own opinions on Herrera since they are just that: their own opinions. On an individual level, I have no desire to see him on the team.
Can something still happen in the next few days? Sure. Should Herrera tank and one of the other options suddenly catch fire, it would make the job easier on management because they wouldn’t have to open a 40-man roster spot. There is the issue of Herrera’s salary sitting there like the elephant in the room, but they have shown that that salary not being utilized on the field doesn’t really matter to them. But it really does look like this competition is over.