We enjoyed talking with Cooperstown-enshrined third baseman Mike Schmidt so much the first time, there was no way we were going to pass up the chance to chat again. And that is¬†precisely what went down this morning¬†when the best the hot corner has ever produced took a few minutes from his busy schedule to talk baseball.
Among the topics touched upon:¬†Philly’s collective Roy Halladay panic, who reminds him of Pete Rose, the status of the game in Florida, sabermetric stats and whether there’s any pitcher he’d like to face in his Field of Dreams scenario.
To you, the loyal and learned B&C reader, we once again proudly present Michael Jack Schmidt:
What’s your response to fatalistic media and fans who act as though the sky is falling when a team gets out of the gate slow, such as with Toronto following R.A. Dickey’s first two starts?
I think it’s pretty typical of fans to overreact to something like that early on. In our case in Philly, there’s some concern, not so much about Cole Hamels, who seems to be healthy, though he got lit up his first two games, but Roy Halladay is a big concern in Philadelphia right now. The team being 2-5, two weeks from now we could be 11-6 , that’s just the way the game goes, they’ll heat up. But for someone who is looking as uncomfortable as Roy Halladay is right now, if there is something wrong with Roy, could have some long-range effect on the club. Some things are pertinent and some aren’t.
(Laughs) That’s a good question. Can they compete? There’s an extra playoff spot, but I don’t think right now is the time to start out playing for that last wild card spot (laughs), I sure think we can compete. It’s funny in baseball, you’re never as good as you look when you’re good and you’re never as bad as you look when you’re bad. It’s just a long, drawn-out grind for six, seven months and I just think you need to watch the games now and not overreact to so much media out there right now. The pundits in the sport have to say something about the teams, they have to have an opinion, and there are so many opinions right now that if a team is playing good they’re going to have over-exaggerated good things to say, and bad they’re going to have the opposite.
Speaking of the Nats, what do you see when you watch Bryce Harper on the diamond?
I felt Bryce got a little bit of an overblown build-up when he came into the game based upon the mystique that he created for himself as a minor league player, and then when I got to watch him play in the big leagues and how he handled situations, one for example was when Cole Hamels did a crazy thing and hit him in the back and said “Welcome to the big leagues.” I thought that was very childish on Hamels’ part, very out of character for him, but then Harper handled it (chuckles), I think any player would have liked to have handled it the way he did. He handled it very maturely and ended up stealing home in that trip around the bases after being hit by that pitch, and that was really sweet to watch from a fan’s standpoint, and that’s what I am now, a fan. I just like what I see, he just has this Pete Rose sort of mentality the way he plays the game, he plays it hard. When people talk about guys playing the game hard now, the first name that comes up is Bryce Harper. He’s really not afraid of anything, he got out of the chute good this year, he hit home runs in his first two at-bats, so if he can stay healthy, and he looks like the kind of guy who can stay healthy, I think he has a chance to be a candidate for MVP as the year goes on.
How great is it to see Chase Utley healthy?
Chase is out of the chute pretty good, I believe he’s in a free-agent year if I’m not mistaken, I think he’s at the end of a contract with the Phillies. But it sure is good, he’s a lot like Harper, or I should say that Harper is a lot like Utley in the way they play the game. They play it hard, they play it right and they’ve got great baseball sense. They’re throwback players, both of them could play in any era.
The “old reliable” stats of the past —¬†batting average, home runs, RBI¬†— have lost ground to¬†On-base plus Slugging ¬†and Win Above Replacement. As a former player, what are your thoughts on those “new age” categories, and do you feel there are intangibles that truly leads to wins and losses that can’t be measured by a percentage?
Some of these new stats…if I knew what they were I could tell you if they had any relevance. I’m always sort of like an on-base percentage guy, an RBI guy based upon where the player plays on the field and where he hits in the batting order, what his role is and determine what stats are important. Ballparks have a lot to do with where a player stacks up with some of the new stats, and you know there’s a different sort of breed of young, professional people making decisions and running teams nowadays, the young general managers probably put more of a credence and attention into what the computers spit out. I think Moneyball the movie led us to understand that side of the game now, and it’s one that I’m not familiar with being 63 years old. I can watch a guy play, and not care what his OPS¬†is or his WAR or whatever these things are, I can tell you whether I think the guy can hit just by watching him in the batting cage. That’s the way it used to be in the old days, but we’re in a new time now and I have respect for the young people who make those decisions and use those stats.
With the Marlins’ repeated fire sales and the Rays averaging just 15,000 in attendance¬†for non-Opening Day or Saturday games,¬† should there be major league baseball in the state of Florida?
Well, I think if you took the stadium they built for the Marlins and put it over where the Rays play, I think you’d have I think you’d have a good situation for baseball in Florida (laughs). Maybe one team in central Florida would work. The Marlins situation is not good, I’m one of the guys who don’t like the way they’ve handled things down there. I personally don’t have any interest in watching that team, and I’m probably typical of baseball fans in Florida. I know (Giancarlo) Stanton is a great player and they’ve got a couple good, young players on that team, but I just don’t know how they could do what they did and then build the stadium. I guess they made some bad player personnel decisions, maybe Ozzie Guillen wasn’t the right guy to put in that role, that was probably a big, poor decision by the Marlins staff. It’s just sad, it’ll be interesting to watch how it plays out.
If you had your Field of Dreams moment, who would be the one pitcher, from any era other than your own, that you’d like an at-bat against?
That I’d like to bat against?!
Well, that you’d like the challenge of having an at-bat against, maybe you wouldn’t enjoy it so much.
(Laughs) That’s a tough one. I can tell you who I don’t like to bat against, but I don’t want to say who I would like to bat against because that might get back to that pitcher (laughs). I used to have some good success against some good pitchers, but for the most part I always say I’m glad I’m not playing anymore and have to face a Bob Gibson or a Nolan Ryan or a Tom Seaver. I’m lucky, now they’re friends and in the Hall of Fame.
Tell us about your involvement with Pepsi Max and the Field of Dreams promotion.
We’re having a really fun day in Rochester, New York on May 18 at Frontier Field where the American League stars from the Pepsi Max campaign are going to play against the National League stars. I’ll be there, (Johnny) Bench, Ozzie Smith, Trevor Hoffman, Fred McGriff, and the American League is going to have Pedro Martinez, (Wade) Boggs, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Frank Thomas. And we’re all going to be in a game with the two winners, a young man by the name of Johnny Perotti from Rochester, and Stephen Catchmark from the Washington, D.C. area. Fans can go to mlb.com/pepsimax for game information and it’s going to be a fun day, I think everybody has seen the Pepsi promotions over the last couple of years and it’s culminated in this contest where this big Field of Dreams game is going to be played.