Outfielder Tommy Pham was the best player on the Cardinals last season—and by a significant margin—but he still started the season in the minor leagues. It was the 12 season in the minors for the then 29-year-old, but he knew he deserved an opportunity in the big leagues.
As he told Sports Illustrated’s Jack Dickey in a new profile, he was fed up with the lack of opportunities afforded to him by the Cardinals, especially when St. Louis’s outfielders were struggling.
“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 f---? When are they gonna call me up? And then we’re three weeks in. The guys are still struggling, [Randal] Grichuk, Dex [Dexter Fowler], [Stephen] Piscotty. And I’m still balling! So finally I said, They’re not gonna f-----’ call me up, f--- it, and I zoned out in Triple A. Every day I was just like, F--- this. I’ve made it to the big leagues, f--- it.”
Pham stopped giving maximum effort, angling for a trade to another MLB team or perhaps a move to Japan. But a pair of friends—including veteran pitcher Edwin Jackson—told him be patient. In the first week of May, after an injury to Piscotty, Pham was called up to the majors and never looked back. He hit .306 with a .931 OPS and was worth 6.2 WAR by Baseball Reference’s calculation.