Also considered: George Brett, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson
The 80’s were tough. A bunch of really good players, but none that overwhelm you. Not talking about careers here. The careers of George Brett, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, and Mike Schmidt were all fantastic. It just didn’t seem as though any of the elite players had their peak seasons all fall within the time-frame of the 80’s. Three out of Brett’s five best seasons came in the 70’s. Boggs didn’t make his debut until ’82. And Henderson won his lone MVP in ’90.
But let’s get something straight here, Mike ‘Jack’ Schmidt didn’t win my Player of the Decade by default. The man was good; really good:
- Six Gold Gloves
- Eight All Star selections
- Five HR titles
- Eight 30+ HR seasons
- Five 100+ RBI seasons
- Six OPS+ Titles
- Eight .900+ OPS seasons (.925/season)
- Averaged 93 RBI’s a season
- Three NL MVP’s
- One World Series (’80 WS MVP)
(.277/.385/.540, 1,287 H, 313 HR, 929 RBI, 832 R)
*These numbers only reflect the seasons between 1980-89*
The absolute craziness of this all is that of Schmidt’s best seasons, only TWO of the seven fell within the decade. Yet all three of his MVP’s were. This propels the sentiment that the 80’s were dominated by parity (both teams and elite players).
There was one thing Schmidt possessed greater than any other player of his time. Power. Schmidt’s raw power at the plate was unequivocally in a league of it’s own. His five home run titles boat-raced the competition and struck fear in the hearts of all opposing pitchers. Which ultimately led to 158 intentionally walks throughout the decade.
“There are things as a coach you can teach, but natural ability like the raw power [Schmidt] had is a rare gift you see maybe once in a lifetime. ” -Bob Wren, Schmidt’s Ohio University coach
But it wasn’t just power that made Mike Schmidt elite. He was exceptional in the “hot corner.” His ten career gold glove rank second to to Baltimore’s Brooks Robinson for most all-time at third base. And if you have anyone you can talk to about watching Brooks Robinson play defense, I highly encourage you to do so. Schmidt was one of those guys that just made everything look good. He was smooth, and would devour one-hop shots down the third base line with the utmost ease.
So Mike Schmidt, with his combination of power and defense, comes in as the ninth selection to my Player of the Decade team. Continue to check back in as I will continue revealing my choice of players each day. Tomorrow will be the 1990’s.