Tommy Pham has been freed. He’s in the lineup everyday as if it was as automatic as hitting the brew button on your morning coffee machine. The 27 year old “rookie” is swinging a hot bat and by hot I mean white crispy burning special.
On the Cardinals last road trip, he managed to crank three home runs in three straight at bats, something that hadn’t been done by a Cards rookie in quite some time. Ask Tim Trokey for the details. I’ll just tell you what the juicy part of this steak looks like. Each home run was a 2 run game changing blast. Each one was a no doubter. These aren’t Yankees Stadium cheap shot right field corner goners. These are Keanu Reeves’ like waves of baseball euphoria.
Pham hit a two run home run in Milwaukee that was so stunning that Fox Sports Midwest play by play guy Dan McClaughlin could only manage 3-4 “wow’s” in his reaction.
Pham has been a curious case this summer for the Redbirds. He started the year brilliantly in spring training, hitting everything but the beach down in Florida. Then he injured his quadriceps and went missing for months. He returned to Memphis in June and started hitting everything but a blues guitar down there in Tennessee. I didn’t heart any tornado warnings down here in Arkansas but it was apparent Pham was tired of being the “what if” guy who couldn’t stay healthy.
When the Cards were in a rough patch in early July, Pham was called up to face the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium, right around the Fourth of July. Pham created some fireworks that weekend. On Saturday, he collected a double, stole third base and scored the game winning run on a sac fly. On Sunday, Pham smashed a two run home run and an RBI double to provide all three runs for the Cards. In a weekend series win, Pham played a part in every single run the Cardinals scored. That’s a game changing player.
Pham cooled off in the next 10 games, going 5-33 and striking out a bit against the Cubs, Pirates and Mets. After being sent back down to Memphis, where baseballs were surely not happy to see him back in town, Pham was called back up on August 17th. After a quiet 1-9 in San Francisco, Pham went off in San Diego and Arizona, going 11-26 with a double and two triples. When Pham is on, he shoots the ball all over the field. After collecting hits in the next couple games, Pham would only start twice in the next week. With the return of Jon Jay, Pham’s time was unfortunately limited.
After a game in Milwaukee, speaking to FSM reporter Pat Parris, Pham said he had many dreams growing up and this was only one of them. The man isn’t a young spring legged outfielder anymore, but he sure is playing like one. Pham will be 28 years old in March, isn’t arbitration eligible until 2018 and can’t be a free agent until 2021. This is only the beginning.
In his last 15 games, Pham is hitting .342 with an OBP of .366 and a .868 slug(.500 is pretty damn good). He’s 13-38 in that span with 4 home runs and 12 RBI. In the month of September, 9 of Pham’s 15 hits have gone for extra bases. Over the last three wins, the rookie has played a part in every game deciding play. He drove in the tying and go ahead run in last night’s 3-1 win. He’s white hot right now and can’t be moved.
So here is the Pham plan. He plays. No matter what. Pham can take over a game with his versatile set of skills and that comes in the field and at the plate. Randal Grichuk and Matt Holliday need to be 100% before they bump Pham off the starting lineup. Jay hasn’t hit all year, and is only 8 for his last 41 at the plate. Jay is not as good as Pham defensively and his bat isn’t even close. Pham has now risen above Peter Bourjos and Jay on the need to play now depth chart, and Mike Matheny has to understand that.
This is no time to get guys like Jay going. This is a time to play the hot bats. With 17 games left and the Pirate and Cubs refusing to go away, guys like Pham are needed in an offense that can go stagnant. When the time comes, Grichuk and Holliday will get their at bats and that’s fair. As long as it doesn’t diminish the Pham effect, the Cards will keep riding high. He hasn’t just played himself onto the 2016 team. Pham has played himself into consideration for the postseason roster. If you are in doubt, go back and watch the San Diego series at Busch, or the games in San Diego, Arizona, Cincinnati or Milwaukee. He’s a force to reckon with. You don’t sit that down on the bench.
The Tommy Pham Plan is simple. Play him until he, not rehabbing players, gives you a reason not to.