It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week.
The latest changes have inspired current and former players to speak out. In a piece for the Associated Press on Sunday titled “Frisk the Pitcher,” Phillies legend Mike Schmidt said what most fans have been saying all week: that the new rules are – to borrow a phrase from Wayne’s World – both bogus and lame.
Of course, Schmidt actually knows what he’s talking about, because he lived it.
"“I know first-hand that pitchers used every possible scuff, scratch, spit, pine tar and sweat, with a little dab of rosin bag, to get hitters out. It’s been in baseball forever. There were many who flaunted it, many known for it, one is a Hall of Fame member. So let’s don’t act like this is something new.” – Mike Schmidt"
In the piece, Schmidt calls out MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, sabermetrics and other baseball analytics, and hitters. He basically says that punishing the pitchers for poor hitting is misplaced blame, given that pitchers have always used something extra. Leaving the pitchers who go to extremes and use Spider Tack aside, if everyone’s been using the same substances for a while, then maybe pitching isn’t the problem.
Schmidt, almost universally acknowledged as the greatest Phillie of all time and one of the greatest third basemen in the history of the game, has quite a strong leg to stand on when it comes to talking about how the game has changed and what’s wrong with it.
"“Most would consider me a successful and knowledgeable hitter — it is my opinion the decline of hitting today lies directly in the hitters’ inability to hit the high fastball and the lack of accountability for striking out.” – Schmidt"
Schmidt finished his career with 2,234 hits, 548 home runs, and 1,595 RBI in 8,352 at-bats. He averaged 102 walks per 162 games and only 127 strikeouts. By comparison, three players on the Phillies this season have played in 70+ games this season; each has struck out at least 66 times.
Here’s a powerful stat for you: 75 games into the 2021 season, no one on the Phillies roster has more than 42 walks. In the 16 years of his 18-year career that Schmidt played in more than 43 games, he always walked at least 49 times. He had 100+ walks in seven seasons.
Over his 18-year career – all of which was spent with the Phillies – Schmidt was a 12-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, six-time Silver Slugger, three-time NL MVP, who led the National League in home runs eight times and in RBI four times. He is one of three Phillies to hit four home runs in a single game, and no one has done it since. He also led the Phillies to their first-ever World Series championship in 1980, of which he was the MVP.
Unsurprisingly, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot, with 96.5% of the vote.
At the end of the day, MLB needs to level the playing field for pitchers and hitters. But as usual, they’ve approached the problem from the wrong angle, and somehow managed to make an even bigger mess.
Schmidt said it best:
"“The charade on the field that began Monday may have been designed to scare the pitchers straight, but it seemed to me to be more of an embarrassment to baseball, as well as an excuse for poor hitting.”"