Mike Schmidt Says Phillies Can’t Build a Team Around a Spanish-Speaking Player

The Phillies legend's comments on WIP remind us of controversial Geno's Steaks founder Joey Vento.

Photo by AP/Derik Hamilton.

As arguably the greatest Phillie of all time, Mike Schmidt’s opinion on the current state of the franchise is so valued that the team allows him to sit in on weekend broadcasts to provide insights into today’s game.

Schmitty’s takes are usually welcome, but on Tuesday the former slugger showed his age and put his foot in his mouth during an appearance on WIP’s morning show, dropping quotes that can’t help but remind us of Joey Vento, the controversial late founder and former owner of Geno’s Steaks.

“My honest answer to that would be no,” Schmidt replied when host Angelo Cataldi asked whether All Star centerfielder Odubel Herrera is a player that the Phillies can build around. “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.’”

Yeesh. Talk about some old-school backward thinking. Yes, Herrera has frequently used an interpreter in interviews with the media and shows no signs of fully grasping the English language. But this is now a global league, and the Phillies have shown a strong commitment to developing talent in Spanish-speaking countries.

Things are different now than they were when Schmidt played in Philadelphia, but it’s not like Schmitty was in his prime during the Stone Age. There were six players on the 40-man roster for the 1980 World Champion Phillies that were born in either South America or Puerto Rico.

If you can play, you can play – as has been the case since Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Ethnicity or language has no bearing on skill, which is more likely at the heart of Schmidt’s misfire on Herrera.

Odubel was voted to his first All Star team last season and had high hopes of winning the National League’s batting crown in 2017. So far this season, the 25-year-old is hitting just .243 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 53 games. Talks of sending Herrera to the minors have dissipated for now with his recent stretch of good play, however the idea that such a move was legitimately on the table sends a clear message about the Phillies’ thoughts on the third-year player.

Schmidt went on to say that Herrera is “almost the exact opposite” from himself as a player while qualifying that he believes the Venezuelan could still hit “second or first” on a championship team without question. So he’s got that going for him, I guess.

You can listen to Schmidt’s full interview on WIP below:

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