Book Review: Clearing The Bases

Clearing the Bases

by Mike Schmidt with Glen Waggoner (HarperCollins, $24.95)

Mike Schmidt was paid more than $2 million a year, the highest in baseball ‘" and as he points out in his book, “Clearing the Bases”, today, that would get you a backup infielder. Yes, much has changed since Schmidt, probably the game’s greatest third baseman, retired.

Obviously distressed at the topics listed in the book’s subtitle, “Juiced Players, Monster Salaries, Sham Records and a Hall of Famers Search for the Soul of Baseball,” he offers advice on what baseball can to do regain or restore its luster, from the perspective of a passionate fan and someone who devoted his life to the sport. There are some thoughtful insights and observations, even a few interesting and even feasible suggestions made by Schmidt, with the help of sportswriter Glen Waggoner.  

The trouble is “Clearing” is several books in one: a mini-biography/memoir, an examination of the damage steroids has done to baseball and how the problem can be solved, and an examination of two of the greatest hitters ever, one banned from the sport and the other facing punitive action, Pete Rose and Barry Bonds.

Schmidt was at the first meeting between Rose, a close friend, and Bud Selig, when the pair discussed Rose’s banishment. Schmidt was hopeful, until he realized that Rose, while offering apologies, was never repentant for his deeds. This, Schmidt says, might be why Rose won’t be reinstated and will never make it to the Hall of Fame, an honor Schmidt thinks he deserves.

He’s also friends with Bonds, who he says probably took steroids but is the greatest hitter in the game’s history and should be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Well, if Bonds became the greatest hitter by using illegal substances, how do you reconcile that? Schmidt doesn’t.

One of the most interesting chapters details his season as a manager for the Phillies high Class A Clearwater club. Schmidt was intrigued with the idea of becoming a major league manager, and went to Clearwater to find out if he could cut it. He lasted one season.

There were at most four or five players who were legitimate prospects. The club finished at 51-85. He had the joy of informing a pitcher he was going to the show, and the agony of telling a player he was being released (as his wife was about to deliver their first child). As for what it takes to be a manager, Schmidt lists several qualities that are a must, such as communication, respecting his ballplayers, and even love. (As a Phillies fan, I had to wonder why Schmidt took the Phils to task for firing his good friend Larry Bowa, when it’s obvious Bowa has none of the qualities Schmidt thinks are essential to being a good manager!)