Allentown Morning Call - March 10, 1980

Okay, Mike, P-O-W-E-R away


John Kunda, Executive Sports Editor


CLEARWATER, Fla. – “If someone paid me NOT to hit home runs, I'd be a .300 hitter. I have as much potential to hit for high average as anyone, but that's not my style.” 


That was Mike Schmidt speaking. 


Schmidt's style is spelled P-O-W-E-R. Nobody has hit more home runs in the last six years than the Phillies' third baseman did – 216, which averages out to 36 a year. 


But home-run hitters have this tendency to become yo-yos – the heroes of the crowd one day, the bums the next day. Schmidt's been on that route like the rest of them. 


For a three-week stretch last summer, Schmidt hit well over .350. They loved him at the Vet. A little later, he went one-lor-27. They were ready to bury him.


The "real'' Mike Schmidt is somewhere in the middle. "Even Pete Rose will go one-tor-20," said Schmidt, "but he's more apt to go on a long hitting streak. His style is suited for that. I'll never set a streak record, but once I hit in 18 straight games." 


Schmidt hit .253 a year ago, two points lower than his major league average, but he did bang out 45 home runs, which set a club record for most homers in a season. 


Schmidt could care less about .300. He does care, however, about .250. "I belong in the .270-.280 range," he said. "I'd be happy with that." 


Like all big hitters, in baseball as well as in golf, Schmidt finds himself "trying to produce too much power." He pushes smoothness aside, and, as a result, "I'll pop it up." 


He adds: "My average may go down, but my power statistics stay up. 


If Schmidt isn't hitting, he still gets on base. "I've been on base almost as much as Keith Hernandez (the Cards' batting champion)," Schmidt said. "Pitchers pitch around me… I walk a lot." 


That's an understatement. Schmidt walked 120 times last year, tops in the National League. 


Schmidt can point to a number of batting categories and get a good deal of satisfaction to ease the frustration of a .253 season. Of the nine batting categories Schmidt's names pops up five of them. 


His 45 home runs were second to the 48 that Dave Kingman hit: his 114 runs batted in were third to Dave Winfield and Kingman: he ranked eighth in total bases; fifth in runs scored, and the 160 games he played in ranks him among the top in that category.


Those 160 games points up the fact that Schmidt went through an injury-free season, He did pull up lame with a groin injury, which, he says, "slowed me down in the home run race (with Kingman)." 


The injury was minor, and, for that, Schmidt was thankful. "Groin injuries seem to be a popular thing with athletes these days," he said. "Look what happened with some of the football players (Don) Pastorini and (Earl) Campbell.  They were setback seriously. Mine was minor compared to what happened to some other guys." 


Schmidt could go on forever talking about injuries of 1979. "Our club was hit the hardest," he said, "It's a fact, not an excuse. I can't imagine a team having as many injuries as we did. But, that is something you don't control." 


There is a plan, though, to guard against injuries, according to Schmidt. "My whole offseason program is built around conditioning." he said. "On the offseason. I'm not working on how to hit more home runs, or how to field balls, but on how to prevent injuries. 


"I work on all the equipment, especially on the groin machine. My goal during the winter is to strengthen up to play 162 games. I want to come down here in the best possible condition. I feel I'm at that point right now." 


All Schmidt has to do to get in the right frame of mind on the conditioning kick is to look back at the 1974 season, his most productive in every department.


"That year I didn't have anything. not even a hang nail," he said. "It was the best year for me." 


In 1974. Schmidt hit .282. with a league-leading 36 home runs, along with 116 RBIs. "Very productive," he said. 


If ‘74 was a dream, '78 was a nightmare. That was the year the fans got on him – he got a taste of what the Vet boo-bird set is all about. 


He smiles about it now. "Last year," he said. "I got called out of the dugout five times for standing ovations. I've been at the bottom and at the top. You can't let it get to you. It's part of the game nobody understands." 


Schmidt felt sorry for Greg Luzinski last year. "They picked on him," said Schmidt. "I sympathized with him. But they (the fans) always switch to somebody." 


Schmidt doesn't think the pressure is on the Phillies this year as it had been in the past. He says. "We're not being built up like we were last spring, and maybe that's good." 


He says, too, that if anything, this spring, it's "more team orientated." Last year, he pointed out. the big story was Pete Rose. "The team concept was overlooked. he said.


He made one interesting observation. "If we get to the World Series, all the individual stats will show up. They'll know how we got there.”


Okay, Mike, hit away. Make that "power" away.