Sport World - August 1980

The Hidden Value of Mike Schmidt


Everybody talks about his 45 homers, 25 doubles and four triples. His glove is the best. Still there’s one more statistic.


by Mac Huffman


Mike Schmidt was talking about hitting. “I get just as much satisfaction from hitting a single up the middle with the bases loaded as I do blasting a home run with nobody on,” the Philadelphia Philly star said.


Mike is a sincere man and he obviously meant it. But did he know that he made more extra base hits than he did singles last year and also that his percentage of home runs versus singles was better than 70 percent? He had 45 homers, 25 doubles, four triples, and 63 singles.


Because of his power and also because of his slick fielding glove, Mike gets the call at third base for the Nationals this summer. Opposition is sure to develop from such brilliant ballplayers as Bob Horner of the Atlanta Braves, Ray Knight of the Cincinnati Reds, Bill Madlock of the Pirates, Ron Cey of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Larry Parrish of Montreal.


Schmidt hit .253 for the Phils last season, as they skidded to fourth place in the National League East after winning the division crown three years in a row. His home run total of 45 was a career high and three less than the league-leading Dave Kingman of the Cubs. Mike had led the circuit in home runs three times previously.


He drove in 114 runs, only four less than the N.L. leader, Dave Winfield of San Diego. Schmidt was second to Kingman in slugging percentage with a mark of .564. He was his usual efficient self in the field, posting a .954 average but making .361 assists, only eight behind the leader, Darrell Evans of the Giants, who had 369.


One area that never should be overlooked is bases on balls. Mike led the league in walks with 120.


Mike heard nothing but cheers from the noisy fans in Philadelphia last season after catching a lot of boos the previous season. Like any ballplayer, Mike would rather receive applause. “It can be crazy,” Mike said. “In 1978, a poor home run season for me with only 21, I heard so much booing, I hated to go out to the on-deck circle. Last season, I got standing ovations. It was fun to go to the ball park again.”


Bob Horner of the Atlanta Braves heard some booing also when he got into a hot contract dispute with the front office. Bob wanted a tremendous contract after only three months in major league ball, the second half of the 1978 season. He had few supporters as a poll taken by an Atlanta paper showed.  About 95 percent of those voting sided with the Braves. Five percent voted for Horner.


The matter was finally resolved, as ever by a compromise worked out by an arbitrator. Horner, who wanted better than$300,000 a year, played for $146,000 last season. He missed some games because of an injury and then settled down to playing baseball.


This is a gifted young man, this 23-year-old from Arizona State. After batting .266 with 23 homers in 89 games in 1978, he clicked for a .314 average with 33 homers in 121 games in 1979. He was fifth in slugging with a .552 percentage but something less than a star in the field. Bob fielded .930 and made 15 errors in the 82 games he played at the hot corner. He also played 45 games at first base, which looks like a future home for him. But the Braves went ahead and dealt for Chris Chambliss just the same.


Horner has admirers all over the National League and included in that number is the foxy Tug McGraw, the southpaw reliever of the Phillies, who has been facing the top hitters in the National League for more than a decade.


“Horner is an outstanding ballplayer with an excellent swing,” McGraw said. “I still haven’t been able to figure out how to pitch to him. I don’t know if I ever will. He looks like the kind of hitter you must constantly make adjustments on.”


Ray Knight, who took over at third when Pete Rose jumped from the Cincinnati Reds to the Phillies, surprised the baseball world by his performance last season. Ray hit a very solid .318 with ten homers and 79 RBI’s. “There weren’t ten people in the state of Ohio who thought I could play every day and replace Rose,” Knight said after the season.


His batting average was the third best in the league. At the start of spring training this year, Knight said: “Last season I would have been happy to hit .265.  If that’s what I finish with this year, I will be disappointed.” Nobody in Montreal was disappointed last year with Larry Parrish who hit a nifty .307 with 30 home runs.


Bill Madlock of the world champion Pittsburgh club is a two-time National League batting champion. He began the 1979 season with San Francisco, which had been trying for a couple of years to make a second baseman out of him. Madlock was not happy at the keystone. When he was traded to the Pirates, he was stationed at his old position, third base, and loved it. Bill did not reach .300 last year but came close at .298. He is likely to punish some pitchers this year and could challenge for another league batting crown.


Ron Cey of Los Angeles is never a challenger for a batting title but he is still a tough man with the wood. Ron had a typical year in 1979, a .281 average with 28 homers and 81 RBI’s. A valuable man.