Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Time To Move On

Not all harbingers of Spring are welcome. Some, like Mike Schmidt’s annual public self-loathing, are tiresome. In the questionably therapeutic admonishment that is Dr. Phil’s stock and trade, “get over it”, Mike.

Next to Dallas Green skewering some player(s) publicly, we Phillies fans have grown accustomed to another annual rite of Spring, listening to the Hall of Fame third baseman repeat for the umpteenth time how much it hurt for him to hear the boos in Philadelphia during his long career. Nearly as predictable is Schmidt’s criticism of some current player who “reminds him of himself”, and the subsequent backtracking and public recanting that follows.

I guess by this point the Phillies are committed in perpetuity to bringing Schmidt into camp for a few days of tutelage and advice. The question is, who listens? This year’s target of Schmidt’s criticism and follow-up apology is Pat Burrell, who claims he is unaffected by Mike’s public scolding and who, from all accounts, isn’t interested in pursuing the matter further, including, apparently, the reason for all the consternation in the first place, his strikeout rate. Schmidt ranks in the top ten in major league history for strikeouts and does not want to see Burrell, who is on a pace to join him on that dubious list, continue down that road.

Meanwhile, writers remark on how complex Mike’s personality is as if that explains his dwelling on the treatment he received throughout a career that ended nearly twenty years ago. I have news for you, Mike, the fans have been cheering you for a very long time now. Try and enjoy it.


RickSchuBlues said...

I understand your position on Schmidt, but I am not similarly inclined. I appreciate his candidness, and find him to be one of the most refreshingly honest and genuinely interesting athletes to ever speak into a microphone. Whereas you (and many others) see his comments as mere sour grapes, I find his introspective revelations to be admirable and often fascinating. So if the question is, who listens? - I do, for one.

Too many athletes, including Schmidt the player, defer to the umbrella of 'professionalism' in attempting to create this stoic, above-it-all appearance wherein the public and media has no bearing on his performance or impact on his life. What Schmidt is doing now is recanting, revising that image, coming out and saying, look, it's all bullshit, I'm human and it hurt me as a person and changed me as a player, I wish I could have done things differently and I hate to see it happen to another guy all over again. I think this kind of commentary should not be taken lightly. Few people want to comprehend what it's like to be in the shoes of a professional athlete who has failed, the psychological pressure to not let it break them. This is what I am forced to consider when I hear Mike Schmidt talk. It is an aspect of the game - which is played by actual people, after all - that spills into the realm of the human condition. Look at how more marginal players are referred to even on blogs, or at the ballparks. How easy it is for people to say a player is an 'ass clown' because he can't hit .200 in the big leagues, how common it is to hear 'you suck' emanating from the bleachers. When I read Schmidt's comment "I wanted to fight every guy in that stands that was booing me", I found it very moving and it stopped me dead cold. The fans may have been cheering a long time now, but Schmidt clearly will never forget what it felt like to have been vocally scrutinized and criticized by thousands for years on end. I'd say that's understandable.

I will agree that Schmidt appears to be projecting to a large extent when he compares his travails to those of Burrell, who is plainly dumbfounded by it all. But the again, it's somewhat difficult to blame Schmidt, who sees the stoic facade, the confusion, the pressing, and thinks, my god, that's my career all over again.

Tom Durso said...

I say this as someone who enjoyed watching Schmitty play and never once booed him: Does it seem as if he enjoys anything, TG?

Tom Goodman said...

RSB: I agree with your analysis. What I was responding to was the repetitive wallowing Schmidt performs in public on an annual basis. I do not for one moment discount the wounds to his ego, but nearly four decades after he started his career, three decades since the boos rained down hard and two decades since he retired, his is no longer a compelling story.