Interview with Mike Schmidt: On Booing, Pat Jordan, Mustaches, and Wine Pairings

Interview with Mike Schmidt: On Booing, Pat Jordan, Mustaches, and Wine Pairings

We had the chance to speak with Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt for ten minutes this morning as part of Michael Jack's starring in a Field of Dreams-esque commercial by the official soft drinking sponsor of MLB, Pepsi Max. We only touched on soda briefly, and not in anyway Schmidty was expecting, but we did ask him about the Phillies hot start in 2011, their attempt at small ball, Pat Jordan's New York Times Magazine article on the Four Aces, Mike's legendary mustache, what to pair with his personalized wine, and some other fun stuff.

Our first question to Mike was about him winning our Greatest Philly Athlete of the last 30 years March Madness tournament. You can see his answer to that here.

Enrico: In spring training you mentioned you'd like to see a little bit more small ball out Jimmy Rollins and the Phillies. How would you assess their first 14 games? They haven't exactly been living off the long ball, playing a bit of small ball along the way. How would you assess their start?

Mike Schmidt: They're 10-4. That's good considering who they're missing with Utley and Brad Lidge, and Ben Francisco has sort of assumed the role of Jayson Werth in the lineup, behind Howard and in front of Ibanez. I think everybody should be quite happy. We haven't thrown a shutout every game, obviously there have been a couple rough outings, but for the most part the big three, big four guys have shut down a potential losing streak -- just nip that in the bud real quick. I believe Halladay did that over in Washington. They had lost the Blanton game, and Halladay and Lee went ahead and won two close ballgames for them. That's why they're paid the big bucks. That's why they call them stoppers.

Yes, we've been getting on base and moving some runners around, hitting some sacrifice flies. We've been hitting a few home runs, but haven't relied on the home runs. It'd be nice to think that they can go in this fashion, winning 10 of 14 games, win at that rate the entire season. It'd be nice. They're are going to run into some down times for sure, and they're going to get hot, they're going to get hot and win 10, 11, 12 in row a couple of times during the season.

Right now things are good. Seeing them a lot on national television. I'm getting to see them in Florida quite a bit. We gotta get some people healed up and then we can really put the peddle to the metal.

Cole Hamels had a real rough outing a couple of weeks ago at Citizens Bank Park and got showered with some boos as he walked off the field. Now in my opinion, not all boos are created equally. Booing a guy on a particular day doesn't mean you think he's a bad ballplayer, it's more of a disappointment in his performance that day.

You've heard your fair share of boos over the years in Philadelphia and you were arguably the best third basemen ever. What's your perspective on the booing argument? Is booing that big of a deal?

Schmidt: I don't know anything about that particular incident.

How about fans booing a player in general? Does a player just brush it off?

Schmidt: Unless you have ear-plugs, then you can't hear it. You just have to absorb it and react to it in the simplest form that you can and realize that the people care. It's sort of an old tradition in Philly, if you will. Maybe "tradition" is the best way to describe it. Disappointment in a performance or disappointment in an outcome of a ball game -- basketball, football, baseball, hockey -- in Philly will lead to a chorus of that sort of sound in the stadium. In most cases, it's not directed directly at a person for any personality issue. It's just general fan disappointment in Philadelphia. I think it'd be taken with a grain of salt by the player, knowing that the next time he goes out and throws a good ball game there will be a standing ovation. There won't be any boos.

One of the more interesting articles I've read recently was the New York Times piece by Pat Jordan on the Four Aces. Did you read that?

Schmidt: No.

Basically Jordan quoted you as saying that none of the Phillies four aces are the kind of guys that scare you like the Bob Gibsons of old. Does that ring a bell?

Schmidt: I was on a show with Larry Bowa recently and he referenced that. I didn't read the article. I don't even know what was said, if it was taken out of context, I don't know. But the way you just stated it, I don't have a problem with that. I think it's a pretty normal description of what goes on when you face the Phillies starters. With the exception if you're a left handed hitter facing Hamels or Cliff Lee, you might find it a little uncomfortable with those guys throwing 95, they've got their sharp breaking pitches. Could get a little uncomfortable in that regard. For the most part, right handed hitters with Halladay, who I would consider sort of Tom Seaver-like. He gets you out. He strikes you out. He doesn't need to knock you down. He doesn't need to be what we would say 'mean.' That doesn't mean he isn't. He's just not an uncomfortable pitcher. He makes you go to home plate and he gets you out. At the end of the day you're 0-3 or 0-4, and you had a couple of pitches you think you shoulda hit line drives, but you grounded them out to shortstop. You go, you take your shower, the same thing happens to you the next day against Cliff Lee and you leave town and you're 0-12. All you did was break four bats and strikeout six times.

Now on to some more oddball/fun stuff. You're in a new commercial for Pepsi Max, is that correct?

Schmidt: Yes, it's being released tomorrow.

You also made a notable soda ad back in the day that ended up appearing in Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'… have you seen that? Anyone ever point that out to you?

[Ed. note: 6:45 into 'The Wall' here]

Schmidt: No. Don't forget who you're talking to now, I'm 61.

There's a brief moment where they show a giant billboard with your face on it about 6:00 minutes in promoting a soda brand. I was just curious if you've ever seen that.

Schmidt: No. I may try to find it now I guess.

Okay then. Have you seen the Nike t-shirt that features the outline of your mustache on the powdered blue background with maroon cap? Have you seen that?

Schmidt: No, I haven't?

They have a nice line of t-shirts featuring some of the greatest mustaches in baseball history. They have you, they have Rollie Fingers, they have a couple of other guys…

Schmidt: Really? I don't know. Mine sure doesn't stand out. It's funny you mention that, Fingers is sitting right across the table from me right now and we were talking about mustaches earlier today.

How about guys in the game today? Best facial hair in the game today? Jayson Werth's beard?

Schmidt: Off the charts.

Anyone else stand out to you?

Schmidt: No. Sometimes I get a little taken back by some of the things I see: earrings, tattoos, hair, stuff like that. Then my wife has to remind me, 'take a look at yourself back in the 80's.' Imagine some of the stuff we had going. I had a beard. I played with a beard. I played with curly hair. I played with a permanent. We used to all get our hair curled back then so we used to just shake our heads and walk out of the shower. I don't want to throw any stones at anybody today because if you take me back to my youth, I made some of the same decisions.

You've got your own wine, Mike Schmidt 548 Zinfandel, what should this wine be paired with?

Schmidt: That's a good question. It's probably better with some nice cheeses and fruits on a tray as sort of an appetizer, a 4:00-5:00 pm snack. As a just a drink of wine rather than a wine to go with dinner. It's not what I would consider a full-bodied dinner wine. It's more of a drinkable Zinfandel. It's actually a Red Zin, so it's more of a drinkable wine with cheese and fruit.

Finally, our site is called The700Level.com, named after the infamous section of Veterans Stadium. Do you have one lasting memory of the Vet or the fans up in the 700 Level that stands out to you?

Schmidt: That's a tough one for me because I could write a book about my experiences at Vet Stadium. I would say in '80 when I jumped on Tug McGraw and I looked around and there were policemen on horseback keeping the fans in the stands. The whole celebration after that first world championship.

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

Versatile Brock Stassi making his pitch to win a spot on the Phillies’ roster

TAMPA -- When Phillies camp opened earlier this month, Brock Stassi was considering mentioning his ability to play the outfield to manager Pete Mackanin.

Though he’s played mostly first base during his six seasons in the Phillies' system, Stassi has been used occasionally in left field. He’s also played the position in winter ball in Latin America. Even going back to high school, Stassi played center field.

As it turned out, Stassi didn’t need to have that conversation with Mackanin. The manager actually approached the player early in camp and told him he planned to get him some time in the outfield as well as at first base.

Mackanin and the Phillies' front office value versatility and they want to have it on their bench. Stassi has come to his second big-league camp as a serious candidate to win a job on the bench. His left-handed bat -- which he showed off with a solo homer in Friday’s 9-4 Grapefruit League loss to the Yankees -- would be attractive to the Phils. So would his versatility.

And if the ability to play first base and outfield isn’t enough versatility, Stassi can actually offer something else.

He can pitch.

In fact, the Cleveland Indians drafted him as a pitcher after his junior year at the University of Nevada in 2010.

Stassi returned to school for his senior year in 2011 and was a two-way player. The Phillies selected him in the 33rd round of the draft that year as a hitter, even though on draft day there was some confusion.

“Initially, I was announced as a left-handed pitcher then they changed it to outfielder,” Stassi said. “Then I got to Williamsport (the Phillies’ New York-Penn League team) and had a first baseman’s mitt in my bag, and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go. You’re going to be playing first.’”

Stassi’s minor-league managers in the Phillies' system have always been aware of his pitching background. He has made nine pitching appearances during his time in pro ball, including four with Triple A Lehigh Valley last year. All were in relief in long extra-innings games.

“I got a win and a loss,” Stassi said.

He recalled the loss with a big laugh.

“I shook off Logan,” he said, referring to catcher Logan Moore, another candidate pushing for a spot on the Phillies’ bench. “I shook to the fastball against a lefty. It wasn’t the right move and Logan won’t let me forget that. The guy hit a triple. Then I got hit with a comeback one-hopper right on the butt. It was like a 14-inning game.”

Stassi throws a fastball, curveball and changeup.

“My fastball is like 84,” he said with a laugh.

Many position players in a big-league clubhouse were pitchers at some point in the baseball journey. Roman Quinn, who broke into pro ball as a shortstop and is now a centerfielder, was used as a closer in high school and hit 94 mph on the radar gun.

“I believe it,” Stassi said. “That guy’s got a cannon. I had to catch him when he was playing shortstop. He’d come charging in on a close play and he’d let one loose and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And even from the outfield he’s got a cannon.”

Stassi’s arm doesn’t bounce back the way it used to when he pitched in college.

“Every time I have to pitch now I’m hanging for like two weeks,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t grab the baseball and gut out an inning if Mackanin ever needed it.

“Hey, if that’s what it takes,” he said.

Figuring out the Phillies’ bench at this point of camp is a little like solving a Rubik’s Cube. There are many possible combinations. Infielder Andres Blanco is a sure thing and outfielder Aaron Altherr seems like a good bet. So does outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Andrew Knapp, Ryan Hanigan, Bryan Holaday and Moore are the candidates for backup catcher. Knapp can also play first base. And it’s not out of the question that the Phils would carry three catchers.

They could fill the perceived final spot on the bench with an infielder such as Pedro Florimon or another outfielder such as Daniel Nava, Andrew Pullin or Cameron Perkins. Or it could be Stassi, whose versatility is a plus.

“There’s a lot I like about Stassi,” Mackanin said.

Stassi comes from a baseball family. His brother, Max, is a catcher with the Houston Astros. They played for their dad, Jim, at Yuba City High School near Sacramento, California. Jim was a catcher who reached Triple A during his playing days in the Giants system.

“My dad always talked about the value of versatility in high school,” Brock said. “He preached it to the whole team. You might have two second basemen and they’re pretty equal, but you want both bats in the lineup so you might have to play outfield. It’s good to be able to do it. Don’t take it as a knock that you’re not at your normal position -- you’re in the lineup.”

In addition to wearing several different gloves, Stassi can swing the bat. He was Eastern League MVP in 2015 when he hit .300 with 15 homers, 90 RBIs and a .863 OPS for Double A Reading. He hit .267 with 12 homers, 58 RBIs and a .806 OPS at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season.

Stassi has been described as “a grinder” by members of the Phillies’ player-development staff, and that’s a compliment. More than one thousand players were selected ahead of him in the 2011 draft. His signing bonus was just $1,000. He’s never appeared on one of those Top 10 prospect lists and never been on a 40-man roster, never mind appeared in a big-league game. But he’s continually moved up the ladder and now, at age 27, is under serious consideration to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench.

And maybe -- if needed in a pinch -- in the bullpen, too.

“Oh, man, it would be a dream come true,” Stassi said. “Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Just the path that I’ve taken -- I've had to earn everything, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. It would be really awesome to make this team.”

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

Yankees 9, Phillies 4: Cameron Perkins comes out swinging

TAMPA -- The Phillies’ bats were slow getting started in the Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon. The Phils did not have a baserunner through the first six innings in a 9-4 loss to the New York Yankees at Steinbrenner Field.

“First game, I’m just happy we got at-bats because the pitching is always ahead of the hitting this early,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said afterward.

Outfielder Cameron Perkins had the Phillies’ first hit, a single up the middle in the seventh inning. He added a solo homer in the ninth inning.

Perkins, 26, was the Phillies’ sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University. He graduated from Southport High School in Indianapolis, the same school that produced Phillies great and Hall of Famer Chuck Klein.

A right-hander hitter who eschews batting gloves, Perkins hit .292 with eight homers and 47 RBIs at Triple A Lehigh Valley last season. He is not on the 40-man roster but was invited to camp for a look-see. He is considered a longshot to win a spot on the Phillies’ bench, but will certainly improve his chances if he keeps swinging it like he did Friday.

“I don’t think about it,” Perkins said of his bid to make the club. “All I can do is what I did today -- get my opportunity and make the most of it.”

Brock Stassi, another candidate for a job on the Phillies’ bench, also homered.

On the pitching side
Right-hander Alec Asher, who projects to open in the Triple A rotation, started for the Phils. He pitched two innings, allowed a home run to Didi Gregorius and struck out two.

Asher made big strides with his sinker last season. He’s added a cutter now.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta debuted with two scoreless innings. He gave up a hit, walked one and struck out three. The Phillies acquired Pivetta from Washington from Jonathan Papelbon in July 2015. He projects to open in the Triple A rotation, but first will pitch for Team Canada in the WBC in March.

“It’s a lifelong dream for me, right up there with whenever it is that I get my first start with the Phillies,” Pivetta said.

The bullpen
Mackanin has said he’d like to have two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. The Phillies have just one -- Joely Rodriguez -- on their 40-man roster, although it’s possible that Adam Morgan could be shifted from starter to reliever later in camp.

The Phils have brought two veteran lefties -- Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos -- into camp on minor-league deals to compete for a job. Burnett made his debut Friday and gave up a triple, a sacrifice fly and a home run in his inning of work.

Luis Garcia was tagged for four hits and three runs in his spring debut.

Up next
The Phillies host the Yankees in Clearwater on Saturday afternoon. Morgan will start for the Phils against right-hander Adam Warren.