State of the Schmidt
Mike Schmidt is in camp this week as a guest instructor, and he spoke for nearly 30 minutes this morning at Bright House Field.
He had plenty to say, especially about the Phillies’ offense.
Here are the highlights:
Q: What do you think about this year’s additions to the Phillies?
A: Maybe the best ever. A lot of this has already been said, but winning baseball is about pitching and defense and offense is sort of secondary. If a team is built around something and can be built around the four greatest starters maybe ever assembled on one team, you feel like you’ve really got a chance, a strong chance of having a great year. Probably deep enough to be able to withstand an injury here and there. If the pitching staff stays healthy all year and Brad (Lidge) and the guys in the middle of the bullpen are healthy and are good, it’s going to be an exciting team to watch. Maybe more exciting than any team they’ve had and they’ve sure had some exciting ones the last couple years. I’m excited being around here in camp. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Roy Halladay yet or Cliff Lee or actually any of them. Cole (Hamels) and I live in the same place and we chatted this morning. I drafted Cliff Lee first in the golf tournament (Friday). I look forward to a day with Cliff Lee. He’s got to be able to play golf, doesn’t he? Slick left-hander like that? He’s got to have some golf game. I feel blessed that I still have a role, though it’s bit of a minor role with the team, more of a marketing role now. My relationship with the Phillies right now is as strong as it’s ever been. And that part of my life is really good. I’m a very happy man.
Q: How about the offense? They’ve been overlooked because guys had some down years.
A: I think the five-hole hitter, the right-handed presence in the middle of the batting order is very important. Very important. I think Jayson Werth fulfilled that role for us, even though the offense was what I would consider inconsistent last year. I think there was a lot of underachieving on the offensive side of this club last year. I think they would all admit that. (Placido) Polanco had a fine year. Ryan Howard‘s numbers ended up being pretty Ryan Howard-like. Other guys were injured, but for the most part when they played all of those guys would agree they underachieved as hitters last year. The team I think offensively underachieved. It’s like Tiger Woods can win a golf tournament or used to be able to win a golf tournament without playing well. Well, the Phillies seemed to prove to me last year they can win the division without really playing well, without clicking on all cylinders all year. Other teams have toughened up in the division. Whether they can do that this year remains to be seen, but they need to get better offensively. There’s no doubt about it. I think they all know that. I think to the man they all feel the same way about themselves. I think a lot of them feel like they underachieved last year. I look for big years out of all those guys that feel that. I go right to (Jimmy) Rollins and (Shane) Victorino and (Chase) Utley. Not so much (Carlos) Ruiz. I think he had a fantastic year. Ryan was all right. (Raul) Ibanez had a good second half, but a very poor start overall. His year was OK, but not as good as it could be. We have a combination of great things going here. We’ve got a fantastic starting staff, a good bullpen, always a great defense and a whole bunch of hungry hitters.
Q: Can the offensive struggles relate to these guys behind over 30?
A: I don’t see age when I look at this team at all. … I don’t think age is anywhere near a factor. I think these guys are all in their prime.
Q: What’s the best starting rotation you played with?
A: Gosh, you know the ’79. ’80, ’81 years, I’d have to say were the best. … I never played on a team with a starting staff like this one where, gosh, you hit a home run the first inning or hit a double, get him over, get him in, that has a chance to be a factor in almost every game. A 1-0 lead, a 2-0 lead, is going to win a lot of ballgames for the Phillies. It’s great for an offense to have that mindset where we don’t need to score eight. We just need to play small ball, little ball, move them. We need to be good at the kind of thing that we’re not necessarily known for being good at. I think that’s the mantra in the spring here with the hitters and the coaches. If we do our job with our bunts and our advancing runners and our walks and getting on base and turn two or three runs over to Hamels and Lee and Halladay and (Joe) Blanton and (Roy) Oswalt, our goal should be 100 wins for sure.
Q: What do you think about the annual decline of votes for (Mark) McGwire?
A: That just gives me the sense they have a thing about the old association with steroids. Any association with steroids will make it tough. If you had an association with the steroid era. There are a lot of degrees with association, but if you’re one of those guys you’re going to have a tough time getting into the Hall of Fame.
Q: Are you curious to see what happens with (Roger) Clemens and (Barry) Bonds?
A: I’m as curious as anybody. I don’t have anything to do with it and I don’t feel like going into my opinion about it because there are so many things and so many levels and cases that it wouldn’t make any sense for me to comment on those. We’re kind of out of that era in the sport. I really see a turn back now back to pitching and defense and speed. The numbers are down. The guy in Toronto with the home runs, that was weird wasn’t it? Baseball is kind of getting grounded again.
Q: Do the Phillies have it in them to play more small ball?
A: That’s a good question. They need to be accountable for themselves a little bit more in that regard. By that, I mean the game rewards you if you go out on the field every day and you do what your required to do to win the game in your role, whether you’re the leadoff hitter, two-hole hitter, cleanup or eight-hole hitter. You know how the golf gods reward you in golf, if you punch out the golf gods are watching you and if you go against them, they’ll take care of you before that round of golf is over. Well, baseball it’s the same thing. The baseball gods will reward you if go on the field every day and you say, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about what I can do for the team that day.’ Utley and Victorino and Polanco, those guys are geared into one thing, getting on base and setting the table, creating havoc and stealing bases. You can’t maximize that part of your game if you’re hitting a lot of fly ball outs, hitting a lot of 1-0 fastballs and flying out, thinking that you’re a home run hitter. You have to be a get-on base guy and face it and that’s what is going to make the team go. They need to be accountable for they are. Victorino is not a power hitter. I told you they are sensing the accountability and they all feel like they under performed last year as individuals except for a couple of guys. I look for a Rollins to push a 200-hit year. I look for Victorino to have a 200-hit year and we’re talking in those terms: 100 walks, 200 hits. They’re sort of out there for goals with those guys that you haven’t seen in the last few years. They are part of a winning team, don’t get me wrong, but I still think they are underachieving as players. Jimmy Rollins can’t do what Pete Rose did? Just take a year. I mean Pete Rose got 200 hits 10 straight years and Jimmy is faster. I just think Pete understood more what his role was. Jimmy needs to be more Pete Rose-like in his approach to the game and more accountable for getting on base. Offensively, he’s about running and getting on base and getting hits and leading the league in hitting. He wants to look at the USA Today every day or the Inquirer and see his name right up there in the top three of hitting. It should be, right? Same with Victorino and I know they feel that way.
Q: How do you know they feel that way?
A: Talking to them.