Can you do it again, Tommy Pham?
I like Pham more every time I hear him speak to the media. He's a guy who lays it all out on the table, hides little, and wants to back it up. He's like Lance Lynn coming out for an encore after his usual postgame, but with more words and better facial hair included.
When Paul DeJong was extended for six years and $26 million on Monday morning, many St. Louis Cardinals fans wondered why Pham wouldn't be extended-or how much would he get?
After all, Pham put together an amazing season last year, take or leave the pre-existing story line that only made the sweet even sweeter. If you want sabermetrics, how about a 5.9 fWAR with a 193 wRC+ (100 is considered average in the Majors)? If you like baseball card bubble gum stats, how about 23 home runs and a .411 on base percentage?
Pham hit National League pitchers with an atom bomb in 2017, and they never saw it coming. He got on base over 40% of the time and slugged the baseball for extra bases more than 52% of the time. He didn't let up for six months and threw in some fine defense in the outfield. Did I mention this is a guy who didn't make the opening day roster in 2017 and also didn't arrive until May?
Pham languished in the minor leagues for ten years, a man tormented by his body, eye sight, and opportunity. A concoction that swallows many young baseball players whole spit out a wicked blend in Pham, a Las Vegas native who likes to play high stakes poker with his career, especially when he's not even close to proving his worth.
Before agreeing to a one year deal worth less than a million dollars, Pham turned down a two year offer from the Cardinals. Why would he sign a two year deal after accumulating nearly $48 million dollars in player worth for the team? As the Joker once told a room full of gangsters, if you are good at something, never do it for free-or for less than the service is worth.
Pham betting on himself is gold on the ceiling for the Cardinals. You have a guy who has eaten breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but still sits at the table hungrier than ever. Pham knows there is no time to waste. He turns 30 years old tomorrow and can hear the clock ticking. The popular narrative around baseball is that a player edges closer to the clearance rack upon entering his 30's, but conventional sports wisdom isn't on Pham's mind. He wants to earn that contract.
Here is a guy who was told by more than one doctor that he may never see again out of his left eye. Pham took that diagnosis and assaulted baseballs all season. He's seeing and believing in himself.
Pham is partially responsible for the departure of Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. The way he hit made those two guys expendable. The Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler to be their starting center fielder, but Pham put on a clinic out there, signaling a change for this spring. Matt Carpenter has been the Cardinals leadoff guy for years, but he might lose that spot to Pham this year.
Pham is the player you create on MLB The Show. He has power, speed, smarts, and swagger on and off the baseball field. He says what he means and does what he says. All the time. It's beautiful. He reads Fangraphs and creates unique workout methods (try running backwards on a treadmill super fast) to improve.
If there's a not messing around crew in Major League Baseball, Pham is the captain.
The Cardinals need Pham's attitude. Adam Wainwright talked about the locker room presence that Pham displayed last year. When he would speak up after a rough loss, some teammates looked to Wainwright to put the younger player in his place, but Waino loved it, so he did nothing. Imagine that if you are Pham. The most trusted Cardinal loving your ability to speak up during a time of need. Enthusiasm and swagger shouldn't be contained; it is something that should spread like a virus around a room, energizing everyone in it.
The Cardinals are in dire need of confidence, swagger, and a presence that screams perfection. A quietly classy organization can use a talker who can back it up.
I'm glad Pham turned down the two year deal. This will make him a hungry man on a team that desperately needs that hunger to spread throughout the roster.
Pham is his own biggest fan, but he's also his harshest critic. That dynamic should pay off well for the Cardinals in 2018, and hopefully beyond. He's taking all the risk in betting on himself. If he succeeds, the big contract will be his. If he fails, the Cardinals have all the power in negotiations this coming winter. All of this stacks up as an exciting subplot for the season.
Play that song again, Pham. Please.