Major League Baseball's Fan Cave on West Fourth St. and Broadway has become a venue to showcase the league's current stars as well as greats from past eras, such as ex-Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt. The 1995 Hall of Fame inductee, who was on hand Monday to help debut a Pepsi Max commercial, shared his baseball thoughts with amNewYork.
What do you think of Fan Cave?
It's a pretty cool place. There's a little bit of everything here — played some pool, played some air hockey, watched TV. There's catering, food everywhere. It's a great interactive place for entertainment. It's totally different than anything I anticipated seeing before we came here.
Yeah, and it's a great way for current players to become more well known. Is it a promotional tool you would have liked to have had during your playing days?
Well, I don't know that I would've rushed over here [when I played]. I can't speak for players. Players are a little bit more sensitive to marketing nowadays. It's a bigger part of their lives, existing in this age compared to when I played. I'm not saying it was the Dark Ages when I played, but we didn't have these kinds of opportunities for media. When we got an opportunity, it was maybe when we came to New York. [Laughs.] But there certainly wasn't a lot of it and we weren't used to it. I would say we probably shied away from it more than players do today. I've seen a lot of pictures today of guys who've stopped by in the past and had some fun with it. Players are more media-savvy now; they're more interested in being out in front of people than we were.
Let's talk baseball. What topic from the start of this season has intrigued you?
Not a lot has caught my eye outside of Philadelphia. I follow [the Phillies] quite seriously; I watch all their games. I try to know all that's going on there. Other than that, I know the Red Sox are off to a little bit of a rough start. I guess the Rockies and Tulowitzki and those guys out there are having a pretty good time of it, so far. It's still too early to see any trends. I'm a Red Sox fan because my kids live in Boston, and I spend a lot of time in Boston. I'd love to see them get there to have an opportunity to have a Red Sox-Phillies World Series.
The Phillies have impressed me getting to a 10-4 record. I wouldn't call it a makeshift lineup with [Chase] Utley out and [Jimmy] Rollins hitting third. It has kind of forced guys into different roles — roles they aren't normally used to. Ben Francisco has come on strong in replacing Jayson Werth. That's a real plus. [They] don't have Brad Lidge in the bullpen for a couple months. [They] got a guy named [Jose] Contreras acting as their temporary closer, and he's got three saves so far. They're making due with what they have. It's easy to say make due – I use that term loosely. We still do have [Roy] Halladay and [Roy] Oswalt and [Cliff] Lee and [Cole] Hamels every four days, not to mention Joe Blanton on the fifth day. So, we don't have a lot to complain about in Philly.
Does an early-season losing streak have a notable effect on a team's psyche for the rest of the season?
It really depends on where they end up. If they end up a game or two out, they end up missing by a game, if they don't end up getting to the postseason, if they get a bad matchup in the postseason – it all depends on how things shake out in the end. If the putt goes in, you don't look back at the spike marks that kicked it off line if it kicks it in the hole. But if it kicks it out of the hole and doesn't go in, then you blame it on the spike mark. It's hindsight. If you miss getting into the postseason by one game at the end of the year, you're going to go, 'God, we lost this whole thing in the first 10 games of the year.' If you get in the postseason, then you don't ever remember having a bad start [to the season].
Have you watched the Mets this year?
Yeah, they just don't look like somebody, to me, that's going to the World Series this year.
What do you think is missing on the team – defense, pitching, offense?
Probably those three. [Laughs.]
Right, but what do you think is the most glaring weakness?
Let's start with pitching, because that's what you got to have. [Johan] Santana is out and [Mike] Pelfrey is their No. 1 guy, their stopper. You know, I couldn't even tell you who their starters are after it, and that's not a good thing when you don't know who the starters are.
Did you consider the Mets to be your biggest rival when you played?
Oh, yeah ... well, no, I actually shouldn't say that. When I played mid-70s to almost 1990, the rivalry was with the Reds early on, then it was the Pirates — ’79, they won a world championship — then it was the Expos in the early ’80s for awhile, then we kind of faded out of the picture. We played in a World Series in ’83, but our biggest rivalry of all was probably the Pirates.
Do you consider the Mets to be the Phillies' biggest rival now, or is it the Braves or another team?
Oh no, I would think by far it would be the Braves. Obviously, if the Mets had everybody healthy and on the field and they were cranking on all cylinders — postseason-bound ball club — yes, the Phillies-Mets would be a major rivalry. But with the Mets struggling as they are, I think it's Phillies-Braves.
I was looking at your career split stats and it was only in [Pittsburgh's] Three Rivers Stadium where you had a lower career batting average and OPS than you had at Shea Stadium. What made it so difficult to hit at Shea?
Tough place to hit; not many people hit good there. Generally, good pitching, let's start with that. I went through the [Tom] Seaver-[Jon] Matlack era there for a while, then I went through the [Dwight] Gooden era, then I went through the Gooden-[David] Cone-[Ron] Darling-[Sid] Fernandez era. That doesn't do a lot for stats.
Where was your favorite ballpark to hit?
Well, on the road I had pretty good success at Wrigley Field. I did okay out in San Diego and L.A.; not too well in San Francisco. I picked my spots. I had a few good places.
Is it easier to play third base now that the type of artificial turf you played on at Veterans Stadiums in Philly has been eliminated from current ballparks?
No, not at all. I think artificial turf provided a fairly easy way to play defense. In fact, it made you a little bit lazy. You didn't have to move your feet as much. You didn't have to worry so much about bad hops. Even though today the natural grass fields are almost artificial – they're manicured so perfectly. But, no, I think I got away with murder on artificial turf.
Which third baseman reminds you more of yourself: Alex Rodriguez or David Wright?
I like to say I had a blend of both of them. The energy and excitement that David plays the game with and, although I never had 50-home run, .330-batting average ability as maybe A-Rod has in the past, but offensively I see some of myself in him.
Should Barry Bonds and others from the Steroid Era be allowed into the Hall of Fame?
Well, I really don't have an opinion on that right now. I'm spending some time pondering that question. I really don't know where I stand on that right now. I think I need more facts. I think members of the Hall of Fame need more facts. I think we need more of an education about the era. None of us really know what these enhancements did to players, or for players. We really don't know anything. All we know is we hear what people say. We hear opinions, and I don't want to disrespect a total generation of players based upon hearsay.