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Lawyer made one great case

Epstein quite persuasive to Schilling

It started with Curt Schilling listing two teams for which he would waive his no-trade clause: the Yankees and Phillies. No mention of Boston. In fact, in the weeks leading up to The Deal, Schilling stated that he wasn't suited for Fenway Park because he was a fly-ball pitcher. Despite all that, general manager Theo Epstein wound up pulling off an amazing deal that gives the Red Sox an All-Star rotation and Red Sox Nation a wave of hope following the debacle of Game 7 of the ALCS vs. the Yankees.

How did he do it? First and foremost, do not discount the other big player, Larry Lucchino, whose experience as a negotiator and his gift for schmoozing certainly had to help. Don't discount the ownership aspect, either. Without the money -- almost $26 million -- there was no reason to even discuss the other issues to make the five-player deal.

But still, what a moment this was for Epstein.

His background and training as a lawyer came into play, mainly his ability to be persuasive and make a case with empirical evidence.

For every issue Schilling had, Epstein seemed to be right there to counter.

In addition to his concerns about pitching in Fenway, Schilling had concerns about relocating his family to the Boston area. While he longed for Eastern baseball, his family still owns a home in the Philadelphia suburbs and the Yankees, with all due respect to the Red Sox, are the greatest sports franchise of all time.

Schilling needed evidence that the Sox weren't the division's weak sister, that there was a commitment to toppling the Evil Empire. Schilling needed to hear that with all of the potential free agents on the Sox, he wouldn't be part of a rebuilding process after this season. He needed to know that the Sox are making strides in their scouting and rebuilding their farm system, despite having to use prospects to land Schilling. He needed to know that the tiny Fenway clubhouse was at least workable, a place where he could comfortably watch video.

So Epstein called a midnight meeting with ownership in which, in Schilling's words, he "put himself on the line," and got an extension from major league baseball. It all happened so incredibly fast and with amazing efficiency.

"I think Theo and I competed for about 72 hours, with a quick break for Thanksgiving dinner," Schilling said. "It was impressive. I was impressed because I'd been in the room with general managers before in negotiations and discussions, and I've never been as bowled over by the preparation he put into this, by the desire they showed in wanting me to be a Red Sock on a consistent basis.

"Had this not worked out and had this deal not gotten done, it would not have been for lack of effort on either side, and there would have been zero hard feelings, I know, on our end because of the amount of effort they put in in trying to get this done."

In the end, Schilling came to this conclusion about pitching in Fenway: "Pedro Martinez deals with it, so I can deal with it."

Epstein convinced Schilling that the Sox can compete with the Yankees because they'll spend up to the $122.5 million luxury tax threshold. He explained that revenue streams are improving with new seating in right field and NESN is flourishing.

In Terry Francona, the Sox will have a progressive young manager who knows how to handle Schilling from their days together in Philadelphia.

Epstein convinced Schilling that they're trying to do more. Who knows if they can pull off Alex Rodriguez-for-Manny Ramirez, a new contract (or a trade with a West Coast team) for Nomar Garciaparra, or the signing of reliever Keith Foulke? Who knows whether the Sox still are in the Andy Pettitte sweepstakes?

Whatever was said, and promised, the Sox negotiating team, led by Epstein, did one of the great recruiting jobs in club history.

Reason for optimism

On the other end of the spectrum from the Red Sox are the Indians, who are trying to build with their young players and super farm system. Manager Eric Wedge, who maintains his Boston connection as owner of the "Strike One" baseball facility in Danvers, said he learned a lot from his first year of major league managing. He felt he accomplished 90-95 percent of his goals, none greater than the incorporation of a bevy of younger players and rookies into the lineup.

"With all of the new players we had, we were in all but five or six games we played," said Wedge, who also rubber-stamped the hiring last week of former Indians manager Mike Hargrove as a senior adviser of baseball operations. "It was probably an easier transition than we expected. We had 25 rookies come through our team and we were playing six or seven rookies a night. I think we came along nicely."

Wedge said the Indians will be limited financially to picking up relief help and an infielder, but he believes if the team is competitive by the All-Star break, ownership will allow general manager Mark Shapiro to acquire a significant veteran or two.

Wedge said Indians fans are beginning to buy into management's plan because "we've never tried to hide what we're trying to do here. We've been open and honest about everything we've done, and we'll continue to be that way."

Wedge has made a "12-month, 24-7" commitment to the Indians and has decided to make his home in Cleveland. He thought his "fair but firm" style and delegation of duties to a veteran staff that includes Joel Skinner, Eddie Murray, and Buddy Bell worked well with younger players.

"I expect a lot. I expect them to work hard," Wedge said. "I want to turn the clock back and play baseball the way it used to be played."

Wedge had two simple rules for his players: (1) "Never disrespect the game or the uniform" and (2) "I'll handle things behind closed doors. I'll never embarrass you."

And with that comes small rewards. He remembers when Jody Gerut, a .320 hitter in Triple A, came to him and asked, "How can I hit for more power?" Wedge and Gerut spoke at length, and Gerut, as a rookie, hit 22 homers last season for the big club.

"Those are the things that really excite you as a manager," Wedge said. "You have a plan, the player executes it, and he achieves a goal. I think that's what we're all about there."

Making commitment

From a guest at the Garciaparra-Mia Hamm wedding in Santa Barbara, Calif., last weekend: "The buzz around the place was that Nomar really wants to stay in Boston. They're trying to work it out right now. Nomar certainly doesn't like the media attention, but he loves playing baseball in Boston." The guest also said that the couple were married on a pristine day on a mountaintop overlooking the Pacific. The wedding party included Lou Merloni and Jay Payton. Other teammates on hand included Bill Mueller and Trot Nixon, as well as ex-Sox first baseman Tony Clark . . . If, as expected, Francona is named the Sox skipper this week, he'll begin the process of naming a coaching staff. One interesting dilemma may concern his pitching coach. Dave Wallace is in place, but Tony Cloninger, who started and finished with the team but missed time during the season while undergoing cancer treatment, said he has been told he will be back with the team at the major league level. Cloninger, who just completed three "maintenance treatments" near his home in North Carolina, said he was interviewed for the Phillies' pitching coach job by Francona in 1997. "I had the job and Terry told me at the time he wasn't going to interview anyone else," said Cloninger, "but the Yankees at the time gave me a small window to pursue it and I wound up staying with the Yankees." Wallace could go into the Sox front office if he does not remain on the field . . . In remembering former Milwaukee Braves teammate Warren Spahn, who died at 82 last week, Cloninger said, "I was a kid at the time and he took me under his wing. He taught me to keep my head up, no matter what. The thing I remember is the hitters always expecting that fastball when he was behind on the count, and he'd throw that screwball and mess them all up." . . . Red Sox executive vice president of public affairs Dr. Charles Steinberg is certainly up for public debate on changing the guidelines for retiring Boston numbers (currently it's Hall of Fame status and 10 years with the Red Sox). The biggest issues at the moment are the retiring of No. 25 in honor of the late Tony Conigliaro and No. 6 in honor of the long and meritorious service of Johnny Pesky.

Quite a character

When Jose Canseco is finally free from house arrest (scheduled for March, though there is movement to have him released sooner), he plans to pursue acting. While he was incarcerated at a Miami prison for 2 1/2 months for violating his probation with a positive test for steroids (which prosecutors later dismissed), Canseco said he had to turn down a three-movie deal worth $10 million. Canseco, a black belt in kung fu, hopes to become the next Bruce Lee. "I've studied the martial arts for several years," Canseco said. "There's life after baseball. It's been a tough few months, but we're going to work through this." . . . Schilling played for arguably the worst New Britain team ever, in 1988 (though he wasn't there the entire season). Those BritSox, who later became the New Britain Rock Cats, went 47-90. Schilling was traded along with Brady Anderson to the Orioles on July 29, 1988, -- in the midst of Morgan Magic -- for righthander Mike Boddicker. On that day, the Sox, who went on to an 89-73 record and first place in AL East, swept a doubleheader from the Milwaukee Brewers with Bruce Hurst winning the first game to improve to 11-4. Dennis Lamp won the nightcap. Ah, memories . . . According to a source close to Pettitte, the best offers he has received are from the Astros and Red Sox. But the Astros have denied that they've made an offer, and the Red Sox have been quiet on Pettitte since their pursuit of Schilling began . . . It looks as if Gold Glover Luis Castillo -- a second baseman high on the Red Sox' wish list -- is closing in on a three-year, $15.5 million deal to remain with the Marlins. It was the Marlins' ability to dump Derrek Lee's projected $7.5 million deal that enabled them to retain Castillo, and likely third baseman Mike Lowell. The Marlins would like to get Pudge Rodriguez back in the fold if the price could be in the $10 million-a-year range. The lure of returning to Texas is also a factor with Rodriguez.

Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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