Glen Macnow: Can Good Odubel Herrera silence Bad Odubel Herrera?

Glen Macnow, Can, good, Odubel Herrera

As every Phillies fan knows, there are two Odubel Herreras.

There’s Good Odubel. His quick hands lash doubles into the alley. He chases down sinking line drives. He beats out infield grounders.

And there’s Bad Odubel. He loses focus. He takes erratic routes to the ball. He fails to run out a dropped third strike.

In his first three seasons, Herrera alternated between thrilling and infuriating.Each time fans came to believe he had matured into a star, Herrera would do something maddening, like flip his bat and coast after hitting a deep fly – turning an extra-base hit into a 400-foot single. (Just for the record, I’m no opponent of a well-executed bat flip, as long as the ball has already left the park.)

For many, if not a majority of fans, Bad Odubel was the one who left his mark. The truism in Philadelphia is that no sin is larger than lack of hustle. So it’s hard to recall a player on any of our teams with so much talent and so little public affection. 

Ah, but this season things are different. Herrera’s .360 batting average leads the NL. He’s been safely on base in 38 straight games – 41 dating back to last year. His 2.0 WAR is third among NL hitters and his .995 OPS is fifth.

There’s more. Herrera has reached base 79 times this season. According to stat guru @theaceofspaeder, the last Phillie to top that through the team’s first 39 games was Buzz Arlett (81) in 1931. And his 38-game on-base streak to start the season is the third-longest of this century, topped only by Matt Holiday (44, 2015) and Albert Pujols (41, 2008). 

Pretty heady company – well, except for Arlett, who lasted just one season in the Majors because he was too fat to play defense at even a passable level.

Anyway, part of me believes that occasional brain farts by Bad Odubel are part of the price we pay for the regular brilliance of Good Odubel. If that’s the case, I can live with it. I’ve never joined the chorus wanting to trade him after each of his blunders.

But maybe there’s more. The hope here is that Herrera, entering his prime at age 26, has grown, as a hitter and as a professional. Over the years, teammates questioned his attitude. Former manager Pete Mackanin benched or fined him several times for loafing. Has he matured?

A significant moment came last month, after a game against Atlanta when Herrera got tagged out at second because he didn’t slide, and also failed to take charge on a fly ball, leading to a Braves run. In the past, Bad Odubel would have shrugged or laughed off his misplays. This time he apologized to teammates and vowed not to do it again.

He hasn’t had a mental gaffe since – although I’ll concede that a month isn’t much to go on. 

The Phils have a winning record, a 3.47 ERA and the fourth-most-productive offense in the NL. As the youngsters gain confidence, they have a chance to contend for the playoffs.

And Herrera has a chance to become the first Phillie in 60 years to lead the league in hitting. More importantly, he can be a leader and MVP for a franchise that hasn’t had a winning record since 2011.

If that occurs, Bad Odubel will be only a distant memory.

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