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Schmidt on fence over A-Rod's use

Schmidt on fence over A-Rod's use

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Mike Schmidt isn't upset with Alex Rodriguez.

Schmidt isn't worried A-Rod has passed him on the all-time home run list.

"I'd welcome him if he got elected to the Hall of Fame," Schmidt said Wednesday just outside Bright House Field. "I always seem to walk down the middle of the fence. I understand the old hard-line guys that use the words, 'He cheated. He cheated.' And the other guys that go, 'It was a culture thing back then.' If you played then, you would have been tempted, too. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. I don't want to get that wrong. We've all got some things in our closet."

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Would Schmidt have gotten caught up in the steroid culture had he played in that era?

"Most likely," Schmidt said. "Why not?"

Schmidt said he has been glued to the TV and radio as news about Rodriguez's use of performance-enhancing drugs has come out.

"A term I think that has been overused a lot, and definitely by Alex, is 'culture' -- culture of the era that you played in," Schmidt said. "We had a culture when I played and a culture in the years when Babe Ruth played. In the '60s, there was a culture. It's that way in life. In hearing everybody, that was the culture of the mid-'90s and early 2000s and the temptation had to be tremendous for young men playing Major League Baseball back then. It's part of the evolution of the sport of baseball. It's unfortunate now.

"I look more at the psychological side of it -- how sports fans choose their heroes, how our heroes always seem to let us down. Rather than having an Alex Rodriguez as your hero or Roger Clemens as your hero, how about having someone fighting in the war in Iraq or a heart surgeon or [President] Barack Obama? Let's focus more on people that really matter in this world. We tend to build these sports heroes up to a point where they're always going to let us down."

Every time Schmidt is asked about steroids, he inevitably is asked if he minds dropping on the all-time home run list as suspected or confirmed steroid users pass him.

Schmidt hit 548 home runs in his Hall of Fame career. He currently ranks 13th all-time, five home runs behind Rodriguez.

"Doesn't matter," Schmidt said. "It doesn't matter if I'm 14th. I'm going to be 30th someday. I'm tired of that whole discussion."

Schmidt seems to empathize with Rodriguez, although he doesn't necessarily agree that Rodriguez's defense of being young and immature works when talking about using illegal substances.

"Young and stupid may be better at 12, 13, 14, as opposed to 23, 24, 25, 26," Schmidt said.

But maybe Schmidt empathizes with Rodriguez because he recalls how the home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 brought baseball back from the strike in '94.

"I was sort of brought back to baseball by McGwire and Sosa, by the home run chase there," Schmidt said. "I really got reenergized myself by the whole thing. I can't say I was watching them going, 'These guys are juiced.' But I was thinking, 'These guys are amazing.' Not only are they great hitters -- great home run hitters -- they're great entertainers. That was the point in my mind where the persona of the player totally changed. They were Ruthian-type entertainers. These guys played to the TV."

Now they're explaining themselves on TV at news conferences like the one Rodriguez held Tuesday in Tampa, Fla.

But should Rodriquez be elected into the Hall of Fame one day, at least he knows Schmidt will greet him warmly.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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