In his short time in St. Louis, outfielder Tommy Pham has built a reputation as a man who speaks his mind.
Pham, the Cardinals’ most valuable player this season as he batted .306 with 23 home runs, 73 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in 128 games, didn’t mince words last week when asked about the team’s inability to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
“It’s a familiar thing now if it’s back-to-back years,” Pham said. “It’s not unfamiliar anymore because it’s back-to-back seasons.”
John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ director of baseball operations, was not pleased about Pham’s comments.
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“I guess it’s too bad he was never with us those previous five years,” Mozeliak said Tuesday at Busch Stadium, referring to the Cardinals’ postseason berths from 2011 to 2015. “And I don’t want him to be our spokesperson.
“Look, we do not find this acceptable. We certainly understand the expectations of our city, of our region, what they expect of this organization. All of us know there’s pressure (with) that. Ultimately, it’s our responsibility to get ourselves back (in the playoffs).”
The Cardinals finished 83-79, in third place in the NL Central. They were nine games behind first-place Chicago and three games behind second-place Milwaukee. St. Louis was a combined 13-25 against the Cubs and Brewers.
I guess it’s too bad he was never with us those previous five years. And I don’t want him to be our spokesperson.
John Mozeliak on Tommy Pham
Pham said “a lot has to happen” for the Cardinals to get back to the playoffs.
“We have to find ways individually and as a team to get better and be more well-rounded,” he said. “Nowadays, you look at these teams that are clinching, they’re very well-rounded. They’re doing everything now. Great defense, they hit the ball, they hit the ball for power and they run the bases well.”
Although Pham enjoyed his first long-term success at the major-league level, he said 2017 “was just a frustrating, disappointing season as a team.”
“When it’s all said and done,” he said, “everyone has to really self-evaluate and find ways to get better for next season.”
Pham, 29, could enter next season as the Cardinals’ starting center fielder, with Dexter Fowler, 31, possibly moving to left field.
Pham’s trade value, however, might never be higher. Until this season, he never had played in more than 78 games at the big-league level, and that was last year when he batted .226 with nine homers and 17 RBIs.
Pham did not make the Cardinals out of spring training this year, but was promoted in early May and batted .387 (12 for 31) with four doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs in his first eight games. Doctors also were able to help Pham work through his keratoconus, a rare eye disorder that causes frequent vision issues.
Pham finished as one of just five players with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. The others were the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout, the Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve, the Texas Rangers’ Elvis Andrus and the Boston Red Sox’s Mookie Betts.
Pham was the first Cardinals player with at least 20 homers and 20 steals since Reggie Sanders in 2004.
When it comes to his statistics, Pham said he doesn’t need to discuss them.
“This is a game where your numbers do your talking for you,” Pham said. “I know what my numbers say and I know what they compare to within the league. With that said, I know I’ll be able to play somewhere.”
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm