St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham broke out in the big way in 2017. After being thought of as a part-time player, the 30-year-old Pham turned himself into an MVP candidate in the National League.
Pham’s rise was among the most entertaining storylines in Major League Baseball last season … and it came dangerously close to never happening.
Pham didn’t make his season debut in the majors until May after being sent to Triple-A to begin the year. After not being called up early, Pham decided to he would just stop trying so that the team would trade him, he told Jack Dickey of Sports Illustrated.
“We’re two weeks in, and I’m raking,” he says. “I’m hitting like .400. The big league team was 3–9, and all three outfielders were hitting .200. They tried [Matt] Adams out there, and he’s a great hitter, but he just couldn’t play the outfield. So I’m like, They’re getting the reports every day, they know I’m raking. What the [expletive]? When are they gonna call me up? And then we’re three weeks in. The guys are still struggling, Grichuk, Dex [Dexter Fowler], Piscotty. And I’m still balling! So finally I said, They’re not gonna [expletive] call me up, [expletive] it, and I zoned out in Triple A. Every day I was just like, [expletive] this. I’ve made it to the big leagues, [expletive] it.”
Pham was encouraged to keep going by one of his best friends from home and veteran pitcher Edwin Jackson. He finally got his opportunity in early May, after an injury prompted the Cardinals to finally make the call. Once in the majors, Pham did not disappoint.
From May 5 until the end of the season, Pham hit .306/.411/.520, with 23 home runs and 25 stolen bases. He finished 11th in MVP voting.
It’s cliché to say Pham has a chip on his shoulder, but it’s accurate. It might even be an understatement. Throughout that article, Pham is pretty open with his thoughts, using a fair amount of expletives to get his point across. He doesn’t hold back on the Cardinals, either.
Now that Pham has turned himself into a star, the next task will be proving he can remain at — or even exceed — that level. While that might prove to be tough, Pham definitely won’t be lacking motivation as he tries to make that happen.
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