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Pham: ‘driven, determined, hungry’

Pham [Lou Countryman photo]

If you liked what Tommy Pham did in 2017, get ready. With 23 homers and 25 stolen bases in 128 games last year, Pham has distinguished himself as one of six players in franchise history to reach the 20-20 benchmark. But he’s not satisfied.

“I’m very excited … to continue to develop as a player,” said Pham, who will play in center field this year as Dexter Fowler moves to right.

He wants to play 150 games and elevate his game defensively by improving his speed. He also sees a 30-30 season in his future – something never before accomplished by a Cardinal in home runs and stolen bases in the same season.

“I want to contribute in all aspects of the game,” Pham said. “People only look at hitting, [but] you still have to play defense and you have to run the bases. … I believe that I could be a really special player … I just need time to show it.”

In 2017, Pham became the Cardinals best offensive player, hitting .306/.411/.520 with 23 home runs and 25 steals in his first full big league season.

“You can say what you want about me, but this is … an industry based off production. My production always said I belonged in the big leagues. I don’t care what anyone said, the numbers backed it up. I was one of three players that had that season,” Pham said.

By “that season,” Pham means a year in which he was one of three players in the majors to post a slash line of at least .300/.400/.500 with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Joining him were American League MVP Award winner José Altuve and two-time AL MVP Award winner Mike Trout. That’s impressive company.

The icing on the cake is that Pham is the only player in Cardinals history to reach all of those plateaus in a single season.

“Personally, I think I’m a 30-30 player,” Pham said about hitting home runs and stealing bases in one season. “I probably would have gotten it [in 2017] if I was up all year. I had more than 30 bases if you count Triple A and the big leagues. I fell maybe a couple home runs shy of it.

No player in the Cardinals 126-year history with the National League has had 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in the same season. In 1998, Ray Lankford had 31 homers but came four steals shy of 30-30. Pham is working to make it happen.

“I’m focusing on my speed to really elevate my game defensively,” Pham said. “If I’m faster, I’ll catch more balls. If I catch more balls, I’ll save more runs for the team. That’s the name of the game – preventing runs and scoring runs.”

Pham is not afraid of letting the world know what he wants to accomplish.

“I feel like a lot of people don’t believe anything I say,” Pham said. “After I do it, it’s easier for me to be like ‘I told you so.’ I told [Pro/Spur owner] John Hartwig I was a 20-20 player in 2012 when I was hurt after my right labrum surgery. I said I could have an over 900 OPS in the big leagues. I did that. He wrote it down. I wrote it down. No one else would have believed it but he did and Vuch [John Vuch, Cardinals director of operations] did.”

Setting goals is important, Pham said. He said Hartwig and some of his teammates told him “if you write something down, you’re 30 percent more likely to achieve it.”

“I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but my mindset is always the same. I’m very driven, determined and hungry,” Pham said. “We missed the playoffs the last two seasons and it’s something we’re all trying to get back to. We love to play baseball in October. It doesn’t feel the same without us in it.”

Although he was a relative newcomer last season, Pham became a clubhouse leader – a vocal one according to pitcher Adam Wainwright.

“Tommy stood up in the middle of the clubhouse and started yelling at folks,” Wainwright said. “Guys were looking at me like, ‘Are you going to do something to stop him?’ I was like, ‘Man, absolutely not.’ I love that about this guy. He brings an attitude to our team that we need.”

Luke Weaver says Pham “means business.”

“The way he dresses. The way he talks. The way he walks. That’s Tommy Pham,” Weaver said. “Yadier [Molina] is the godfather but Pham is following closely down that road. He’s just a great guy to have around. There’s always something to take away from what he’s doing.”

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