I am usually the lone defender of the WIP Morning show here at Crossing Broad. Maybe it’s my age as compared to my compatriots. Maybe it’s because I know what goes into putting on that show every day and the real work that Angelo Cataldi and company put into it. Whatever.
But today, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go along with the narrative that was being pushed.
The Phillies won another game in dramatic fashion Thursday afternoon, 4-3 in extra innings on a walk-off hit by Jean Segura that plated two runs, including Odubel Herrera, who doubled.
But, if you listened to the morning show, you would have thought Herrera and Segura cost the Phillies a win, not helped secure it.
There was a complaint that it took Herrera too long to score. There was a complaint that Segura wasn’t hustling out of the box after he hit the ball. There was a complaint that these players don’t know how to play within the fundamentals of baseball.
The reality was that neither one did anything wrong.
Now, I know both players have been whipping boys for the Morning Show in the past, and not without justification.
Segura has been a lazy player at times, and deserving of criticism. Herrera has made baserunning blunders in the past and was deserving of criticism. And if you are in the camp that Herrera shouldn’t have been given a second chance with the Phillies after his domestic abuse situation, much like the Morning Show was, that too, is a fair argument.
But in the context of what happened on the winning play Thursday, neither player did anything wrong.
Let’s set up the situation:
Alec Bohm is on third base and Herrera is on second following his double. There are no outs and the Phillies trail by a run.
First, let’s point out that BOTH Bohm and Herrera reached base on opposite field hits with two strikes. They each took a “fundamental” approach with two strikes, took something off their swings, and hit the balls where they were pitched.
It’s something that Angelo and crew are right about on a broad scale – these kinds of little things have gone by the boards in professional baseball. The sport needs to get back to this kind of approach instead of the home run or strikeout swing-for-it-all. Approaching hitting like Bohm and Herrera did is far more exciting.
But, I digress. Back to the game.
When Segura comes up and hits a deep fly ball to centerfield. Here is each player’s thinking and responsibility:
- Stand on third base and wait to see if the ball is caught or not.
- Once you know, take off for home.
Alec had the easiest job of the three, and did what he was supposed to do and scored the tying run.
- When the ball is initially hit in the air, go halfway toward third base.
- If it is going to be caught, because of how deep it was hit, get back to the bag to tag up because you want to be at 3rd base with less than two outs.
- If it’s not going to be caught, bust your ass to score the winning run.
This is exactly what Herrera did. His primary responsibility on that fly ball is to get to third base. Anything else is a bonus. That’s why he went back to second base bag. It wasn’t known until it hit the fence that it wasn’t going to be caught, at which point Herrera takes off, full speed, and slides into home to be certain he scores. If it were caught, he would have been able to easily tag up and head to third, setting up a situation where either Bryce Harper or Rhys Hoskins (if Harper was walked intentionally) could have gotten him home on another fly ball. This was perfectly executed baserunning by Herrera.
- Get to first base.
That’s all Segura had to do. There’s no need to be busting it out of the box there. Either the ball is going to be caught, and he’s going to be out, having tied the game with a sacrifice fly, or the ball is not going to be caught and he wins the game with his hit.
Did he think he hit a homer? Yeah, maybe that’s why he was watching it. But, he was at first base as the throw was coming in, and if for some reason Herrera stumbled, or was thrown out at home, Segura was on his way to second and would have been there easily.
To complain about either on this play, to me, is continued bias against players you don’t particularly like and not a true adjudication of their actual play on the field.
That’s where the guys on the Morning Show lost me.
They also criticized Joe Girardi for putting Rafael Marchan into the game to catch Jose Alvarado. But they didn’t explain why Girardi did it.
He pinch ran in the ninth inning for Andrew Knapp, who walked. Because it was the winning run, Girardi felt he had to go for the win and Travis Jankowski, despite his blunder last week against Washington, is an infinitely better baserunner than Knapp.
You have to try to score that run there to win the game. It’s the right move since you have a catcher on the bench in Marchan. It didn’t work out, but you go for the win when you can. Girardi did that correctly.
If there was a criticism for Girardi, it’s that he should have put Marchan in the No. 8 hole after Brad Miller made the last out in the ninth inning, and let the pitcher, in this case Alvarado, go into the seven spot.
That way, Luke Williams, not Marchan, would have been the ghost runner on second in the bottom of the 10th. Girardi got caught up in making sure the pitcher was the furthest spot away, but in reality, you still had a bench bat in Matt Joyce available, so, it really wasn’t that imperative to have the pitcher nine spots away instead of eight spots away, especially since extra inning games don’t tend to take as long since the ghost runner was employed.
That’s a fair criticism. If you needed that run to win or tie the game, Williams was a far better alternative than Marchan. It didn’t matter though, because Marchan wasn’t the winning or tying run, he moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Bohm’s single, but that was a place Girardi could have been better.
Marchan being in the game was a perfectly legitimate substitution. Alvarado needs to be better there, not Marchan, and not the manager.
As I pointed out, Angelo and his team aren’t fond of the way Herrera and Segura have played in the past. And I don’t disagree with that. But, it’s also true that they have been two of the Phillies’ better players this season and are a big reason as to why they are in second place right now and not plummeting toward the basement.
For all his faults, Herrera has been a stabilizing player in a center field black hole and has even improved the lineup leading off after Andrew McCutchen had an extended skid at the top of the lineup. Odubel is hitting .275 with a .786 OPS. Hard to balk at that production.
And if you want to criticize him and say he should have robbed Freddie Freeman of the game-tying homer in the top of the ninth, I will tell you to go try and run back blindly toward a fence and try to catch a fly ball you have to leap for in a swirling wind. Was it possible to make the catch? Sure. Should he have made it? That’s a whole different animal. In perfect conditions, maybe. And Thursday was not perfect conditions. Again, the blame is in the wrong spot. Hector Neris can’t throw that pitch to Freeman in that spot. That’s on the pitcher, not the centerfielder needing to make a highlight play and missing.
Segura has been a borderline All-Star not just at the plate, where he is hitting .323 and is in the top five in the National League, but he has played really strong defense at second base, which is important because the Phillies are a woeful defensive team overall.
These guys have been sparkplugs for a sometimes listless Phillies offense. Today was not the day to hammer Herrera or Segura. Angelo should know better.