boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe
ON BASEBALL

Francona calls for more zip from Schilling

TORONTO -- It was a development that was expected -- eventually.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who has known Curt Schilling a long time, finally stepped in yesterday and not only had a meeting with his veteran pitcher concerning his recent comments about Barry Bonds, but told him to "zip it a little," both in his radio appearance on WEEI and to the media before last night's game against the Blue Jays. Schilling later apologized on his website, 38pitches.com.

Such a conversation normally occurs between a manager and a young player. I remember many of them between John McNamara or Joe Morgan and Mike Greenwell because Greenwell spoke his mind. When you say things honestly and with conviction, as Schilling does, you will go overboard occasionally.

Reporters like athletes who talk. It would be hypocritical to say we wanted a gag order on Schilling, because his responses are thoughtful and enlightening, and cause for great fodder.

But what I enjoy most about him is the way he pitches. I respect his talent and believe he should be in the Hall of Fame someday. But if you're Francona or general manager Theo Epstein, you have to draw the line somewhere.

After all, we have never seen a player who puts himself in the media as often as Schilling, through his blog, radio appearances, and comments. There's no correct way to manage what he says or writes. He has no editor or filter. So when his blog appears or when he's on the radio, who knows what might come out?

The Red Sox don't want to slap their players on the hands and say, "Don't say that." They don't want to inhibit free speech. But there's protocol, a decorum that you follow if you're a player.

You don't want to say something derogatory about another team or player, regardless of your feelings. Leave that to the fans and sportswriters.

Schilling had said Bonds cheated on baseball, his wife, and his taxes. Strong words, especially since it has never been proven that Bonds has used steroids, and he has never been convicted of tax evasion.

"I am far from perfect and make more than my share of mistakes, which is something I have no problem with because that's part of being a human being," Schilling wrote on his website. "However, when mistakes adversely affect other people's lives, that's a big deal. It was a callous, reckless, and irresponsible thing to say and for that I apologize to Barry, Barry's family, Barry's friends, and the Giants organization, my teammates and the Red Sox organization, as well as anyone else that may have been offended by the comments I made."

It would be like Tom Brady calling out Shawne Merriman for his steroid use and suspension. He wouldn't do that because it's bulletin-board material and it's reckless. While this applies more in football, it can in baseball as well. The last thing you want as an organization is to have the opposition extra pumped to face you. The game is hard enough. And this is a player vying for the sacred home run record, who may be close to it when the Giants arrive in Boston for a three-game series starting June 15.

While Francona is the one who met with Schilling, the Sox organization would rather he didn't blog or appear on radio, but is not going to stop him. The organization realizes nothing positive comes out of too much exposure for one player.

The players who come through the Sox organization are taught that playing the game is the most important thing. They are taught to be courteous and cooperative with the media and to allow their personalities to come through in interviews, but not to compromise themselves or the organization.

It's too bad. Schilling is pitching wonderfully. His outings have to be the top priority. It's not that a pitcher can't execute a number of tasks, but outside distractions aren't good for anyone.

That's why you're not going to see a groundswell of athletes starting blogs like Schilling's. I jokingly asked Tim Wakefield yesterday when we'd see his blog, and he said, "You'll never see that from me." Sure, this is the 21st century and communication has come a long way. Mainstream media doesn't have to be the only way to get the message across. Fans enjoy hearing things directly from the athlete. There's no spin. Of course, there's no objectivity, either.

Organizations are finding out how dangerous unedited blogs can be. Agents also understand. General managers I've talked with are against them, feeling the attention they get isn't worth it.

Francona claims he's never read Schilling's blog, but he's heard enough about it.

"You know what? I don't have that much energy," he said. "I get tired of answering things that are not baseball, but I guess that's my responsibility, too. I don't care if he does it, but just stay away from certain things. If he wants to run for office someday and tackle the world's problems, fine, but not while I'm the manager. I just think there are issues you stay away from. Listen, I've known Schill a long time and I think the world of this guy. I just told him to ease off on the gas pedal, and he will."

The attention was coming from everywhere yesterday, which is why when Epstein was asked to comment, he said, quite appropriately, "No comment."

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES