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Dan Shaughnessy

Good deal all around

Email|Print| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / November 6, 2007

You didn't expect him to leave on the eve of an election year, did you?

Curt Schilling will be back with the Red Sox in 2008. He should be able to get down to Fort Myers right after the Iowa caucuses.

While I suck on a lemon, I've got to admit I'm happy about this development. Let's face it: Love him or hate him, things are a lot more interesting and fun with the Big Blowhard around. Without Schill, we'd miss the blog, the nonstop promotion of his new company, the hard-hitting interviews/infomercials on WEEI, the butting into everyone else's business, the retraction of statements made about other people, and the eight or nine wins he's brought to the table in two of the last three seasons.

Seriously, this is a good thing for the Red Sox, and for Schilling. It's the rarest of rare: a contract signing that makes sense for both parties even though it might not necessarily involve the most money for the ballplayer.

According to 38Pitches.com (it should be on your "favorites" list if it's not already), Schilling came to terms with the Red Sox late Monday night and passed an MRI today. Schilling informed us that he will pitch in 2008 for a base salary of $8 million with another $2 million to be made if he doesn't show up looking like Vince Wilfork, and an additional $3 million possible if he meets all his innings incentives - which would mean less time on the disabled list than he's spent in two of the last three years. In the ultimate full disclosure, he even told us he gets $1 million for a single Cy Young vote (an outrageous clause that should put a stop to all Baseball Writers Association of America members voting on postseason awards). Schilling turns 41 next week.

Count the Red Sox among those stunned by this development. They tendered an offer they believed Schilling would reject. The Big Lug, you might remember, last spring stunned them when he went on the radio and announced he'd like a contract extension for 2008. He said he'd pitch one more year for the same money he was making in 2007 ($13 million). Taking a look at his age, injury history, and obvious lack of offseason conditioning, the Sox said "no thanks" and took the weight-and-see approach.

Schilling did about what they expected. He won nine games, lost his fastball, and spent a huge chunk of the season on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Then he went into Greg Maddux overdrive in October, winning three games in four posteason starts, cementing his reputation as a New England sports god and one of the great postseason pitchers of all time.

In the afterglow of the World Series, while Schill was writing goodbye notes to his teammates and friends (mine must have gotten lost in the mail), the Sox sent him a lowball offer. They knew he'd get more than $8 million guaranteed on the open market. They figured he'd do the typical athlete-ego thing and go to the team that offered him the most guaranteed dough. And if Schilling had a bloodsucking agent like Scott Boras, that's exactly what would have happened.

But Schill, God bless him, doesn't have an agent. In addition to being a 216-game winner, a latter-day Bob Gibson of October, a tireless fund-raiser, a father of four, a blogger extraordinaire, an online fantasy role-playing gamer, a GOP warrior, a part-time pitching coach, and a badge-carrying member of the Medfield auxiliary police department (how did Al Gore beat him out for the Nobel?), Schill is his own agent. And this means Schill acted in the best interest of himself and his family. And he knows they belong here and nowhere else, not while he is still pitching in the big leagues.

So the Red Sox get a savvy veteran who remade himself at the end of 2007 and got hitters out on sheer smarts and location. They get a guy who can be a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, a guy who could win 10-15 games. And they got him on their terms. They played hardball and they won. They are only on the hook for $8 million, which is the going rate for veteran eight- to 10-game winners. They only pay more if Schill delivers the goods. And if they get to the postseason again, Schill is probably good for a World Series no-hitter.

As for Schilling, it's great for him. This is where he and his wife are universally worshipped. This is where they can be stars off the field, community pillars, everyday people in Names and the Inside Track. This is where they can do the most good for the Shade Foundation and ALS research. This is where they will forever be loved and honored by the people who live in their neighborhood. Sorry, but that simply can't be replicated if you play out your final innings in the aquarium in St. Petersburg.

Devil Ray Nation? Too small for Schill's Big Love.

Let's give him credit for recognizing this. Schilling's smarts got the better of his ego. Too many professional athletes equate guaranteed money with respect. Despite financial independence, they leave happy situations because another team offers a few more bucks. It's stupid. And Schilling is anything but stupid. He has done the best thing for himself and his family, even if it meant a little less dough.

It's your basic win-win-win situation.

The Sox win. Schilling wins. And those of us who get to write and talk about it . . . we win, too.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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