Mike Schmidt released a statement late Tuesday afternoon after a firestorm resulted from his assertion that a language barrier precludes Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera from being a franchise cornerstone.
The remarks came Tuesday morning on 94WIP's morning show. Asked by host Angelo Cataldi whether Herrera could be a player a team can build around, Schmidt not only detailed the centerfielder's on-field strengths and weaknesses but cited the language barrier that could hinder his relationship with teammates.
Herrera is Venezuelan and his first language is Spanish. He uses an interpreter when speaking with the media.
Schmidt, who serves as a part-time game analyst for CSN, released the following statement:
"It's been made known to me that my answer on a radio interview this morning to the question, 'Can the Phillies build a team around Odubel Herrera?' was disrespectful to Herrera and Latin players in general. I'm very sorry that this misrepresentation of my answer occurred and may have offended someone. I assure everyone I had no intention of that. Odubel is a dynamo on the field, and as he becomes more comfortable with the language, his leadership skills will improve, and no doubt he will be a centerpiece in the Phillies future."
Schmidt also called Herrera to apologize for the remarks (see story).
During the radio show, Schmidt discussed his partnership with the Richard David Kahn Melanoma Foundation — he battled skin cancer a few years ago — and his approach to broadcasting before being asked whether Herrera is a player to build a team around.
Here's his response:
"My honest answer to that would be no because of a couple of things. 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.' Just can't be — because of the language barrier — that kind of a player.
"Odubel can be — you see what he's doing the last three days — and we saw the inconsistency that dropped his batting average all the way down to the low .200s prior to the last three games. And that's really the first time we've seen that kind of inconsistency from him.
"However, he's more of a sort of a play the game, allow his exuberance for the game to kind of spread around the team. I think the fans love him. He's not afraid to do things that sort of irk the other team if you will, and you know what that is. I probably would hate him if I played against him because of his antics on the field, but he's not afraid. He's not afraid to do that, and he's learning to play a really good center field. They haven't figured out where he needs to hit in the batting order yet.
"But to answer your question, those are the reasons that I don't think you can build a team around him. Now, I truly think he can hit second or first on a championship team. There's no question about that, but to build a team around a guy, he has to sprint every ball out like Chase Utley used to do. He has to be more of a friend — not that he's not a friend — it's hard to describe what I mean.
"The language barrier means a lot because his communication with his teammates is limited. So I don't think I'm disrespecting him by any means, but when you say build a team around somebody, you're generally talking about a Roy Halladay as a pitcher, Cliff Lee, you're talking about a Mike Trout kind of player — players that are automatic All-Stars every year. I think an Aaron Altherr can become that kind of guy. I think as Tommy Joseph learns and gets better and can become a 30-home run, 100-RBI player. We've got some young players in the minor leagues eventually that can become those kind of players."