SI: Why did youwrite the book?
Schmidt: I wantedpeople to get a clearer perspective on why baseball went through that periodwith substance abuse and to defend the players. There has always been pressureat the professional level of sports, and players are vulnerable to thatpressure. I'm not making excuses, but I wanted to paint a realistic picture ofwhat was going on in baseball.
SI: How rampantwere steroids in your era [1972-89]?
Schmidt: Nonethat I know of, and I don't think I'm naive. Surely steroids existed, but Ithink more in professional wrestling and weightlifting.
SI: In the bookyou write that Barry Bonds is a friend. Can you be objective when it comes tohis accomplishments?
Schmidt: Whilewhat's written in [the book Game of Shadows] sounds incriminating, I still givehim the benefit of the doubt until there is an admission or until there's apositive test. So as a fellow athlete and a friend, I'm going to give Barry thebenefit of the doubt and say he just worked hard. Mechanically, he has becomethe greatest hitter in the history of the sport.
SI: Is thesteroid era in baseball over?
Schmidt: Withouta doubt. It's not to say something else won't surface. But I think for the nextcouple of years we're going to see a very clean ball game. A few cups of coffeemight be the only thing that players take the field with.
SI: You've beenan advocate for Pete Rose. Is there anything he can do for reinstatement?
Schmidt: Theproblem is he is hanging out there in limbo. The commissioner, for some reason,is unwilling to act either way. They have decided the thing they can do is tonot do anything. If they truly believe Pete doesn't belong back in baseball,they need to make that call. But they are unwilling to make any call at all.Baseball purgatory, that's where Pete Rose is.
• For more fromMike Schmidt, go to SI.com/scorecard.