Sunday, November 3, 2019

Review of "Clearing the Bases," by Mike Schmidt

Review of

Clearing the Bases, by Mike Schmidt ISBN 9780060854997

Four out of five stars

 This book by a Hall-of-fame baseball player is part autobiography and part his philosophy about the history and mystique of baseball. The sections about his life and career are interesting, but not as riveting as his comments about Pete Rose and the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in baseball.

 Schmidt provides some real insight into the issue of whether or not Pete Rose should be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. There is no question that his performance on the field more than warrants the honor. However, his betting on his own team and his failure to admit it has so far doomed his chances. Schmidt was one of the intermediaries between Pete Rose and the Commissioner’s office, so his knowledge is firsthand. He explains that there are members enshrined in the Hall of Fame that are adamant that Rose be denied enshrinement for violating the rules about betting on baseball.

 Schmidt also says a great deal about the problem of PED use in baseball, specifically the use of steroids. While he does mention possibilities and accusations and describes how “some players” dropped a great deal of weight that was muscle mass after the crackdown on steroids took place, Schmidt never specifically accuses a player of taking them that has not admitted to doing so. He is also adamant that records are what they are and should never be subject to an asterisk based on other factors such as PED use.

 Schmidt puts forward a proposal to deal with the most complex of issues facing baseball at the time of writing and in the future. He proposes the formation of an Otsego Committee, which would be a small group selected from the current living members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. This group would serve as an arbiter of issues such as Pete Rose’s entry in the Hall of Fame and serve as an arbiter of major labor conflicts such as drug testing and pension issues.  It is a proposal that has merit, for there are some obvious flaws in the current system where decisions are made.

  This is a book where Schmidt is honest about his opinions, even about himself. He is open in relating to how his ego was often a bit fragile and he suffered from insecurities, even when he was leading the league in homers and runs batted in. Throughout though, he expresses his reverence for baseball.

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