Schmidt on Phillies offense
They know it, management knows it, the fans know it and even the best player in the history of the organization knows it.
Mike Schmidt arrived in Clearwater Tuesday and, on Wednesday, spoke to the media for a half hour. One of the issues that came up? The offense and how it can get back to being as productive as it was in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Here's some of what Schmidt had to say on the offense.
Q: How about the offense?
Schmidt: I think the five-hole hitter, the right-handed presence in the middle of the batting order is very important. Very important. I think Jayson Werth fulfilled that role for us, even though the offense was what I would consider inconsistent last year. I think there was a lot of underachieving on the offensive side of this club last year. I think they would all admit that. Polanco had a fine year. Ryan Howard's numbers ended up being pretty Ryan Howard-like. Other guys were injured, but for the most part when they played all of those would agree they underachieved as hitters last year. The team I think offensively underachieved. It's like Tiger Woods can win a golf tournament or used to be able to win a golf tournament without playing well. Well, the Phillies seemed to prove to me last year they can win the division without really playing well, without clicking on all cylinders all year. Other teams have toughened up in the division. Whether they can do that this year remains to be seen, but they need to get better offensively. There's no doubt about it. I think they all know that. I think to the man they all feel the same way about themselves. I think a lot of them feel like they underachieved last year. I look for big years out of all those guys that feel that. I go right to Rollins and Victorino and Utley. Not so much Ruiz. I think he had a fantastic year. Ryan was all right. Ibanez had a good second half, but a very poor start overall. His year was OK, but not as good as it could be. We have a combination of great things going here. We've got a fantastic starting staff, a good bullpen, always a great defense and a whole bunch of hungry hitters.
Q: Can the offensive struggles relate to aging, everyone but whoever is in right field is 30 or older?
Schmidt: I didn't even know that. I don't see age when I look at this team at all. I don't see any ... maybe with Raul Ibanez. Obviously he's sort of the senior statesman on the offensive side, but I don't think age is anywhere near a factor. I think these guys are all in their prime.
Q: Are you surprised Polly played well at third base last year?
Schmidt: Not at all. I think he's very comfortable over there. he knows the game, plays the game. They all know how the game should be played. But Polanco is the one guy who is willing to play it all the time. He's geared in to that being sort of his game. His game is playing it right. He can play on any team anywhere at any time.
Q: Do the Phillies have it in them to play more small ball?
Schmidt: That's a good question. They need to be accountable for themselves a little bit more in that regard. By that, I mean the game rewards you if you go out on the field every day and you do what your required to do to win the game in your role, whether you're the leadoff hitter, two-hole hitter, cleanup or eight-hole hitter.
You know how the golf gods reward you in golf, if you punch out the golf gods are watching you and if you go against them, they'll take care of you before that round of golf is over. Well, baseball it's the same thing. The baseball gods will reward you if go on the field every day and you say, 'It's not about me, it's about what I can do for the team that day.'
Utley and Victorino and Polanco, those guys are geared into one thing, getting on base and setting the table, creating havoc and stealing bases. You can't maximize that part of your game if you're hitting a lot of fly ball outs, hitting a lot of 1-0 fastballs and flying out, thinking that you're a home run hitter. You have to be a get-on base guy and face it and that's what is going to make the team go. They need to be accountable for they are. Victorino is not a power hitter. I told you they are sensing the accountability and they all feel like they under performed last year as individuals except for a couple of guys.
I look for a Rollins to push a 200-hit year. I look for Victorino to have a 200-hit year and we're talking in those terms: 100 walks, 200 hits. They're sort of out there for goals with those guys that you haven't seen in the last few years. They are part of a winning team, don't get me wrong, but I still think they are underachieving as players.
Jimmy Rollins can't do what Pete Rose did? Just take a year. I mean Pete Rose got 200 hits 10 straight years and Jimmy is faster. I just think Pete understood more what his role was. Jimmy needs to be more Pete Rose-like in his approach to the game and more accountable for getting on base. Offensively, he's about running and getting on base and getting hits and leading the league in hitting. He wants to look at the USA Today every day or the Inquirer and see his name right up there in the top three of hitting. It should be, right? Same with Victorino and I know they feel that way.
Q: How do you know they feel that way?
Schmidt: Talking to them.