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Dan Shaughnessy

A mound of questions for Schilling

Email|Print| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / February 17, 2008

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Let me see if I have this straight:

Curt Schilling shows up in spring training of 2007 and goes on the radio to announce to his bosses that the 2007 season will not be his final year in the big leagues. Even though he's looking more like John Candy than John Candelaria, Schill contradicts everything he'd been saying for years and announces that he's going to pitch beyond 2007.

Schill says he wants to negotiate with the Red Sox, but they decline the offer. Schill says, "No hard feelings," then goes out and pitches for his next contract. Things are going pretty well until midseason, when he goes on the shelf for seven weeks with shoulder woes. He comes back at the end of the year, can't break a pane of glass, but manages to win three postseason games on the strength of his smarts, his location, and his indomitable will.

In November, the Sox offer him a one-year deal worth $8 million (plus incentives for making weight). It's a lowball offer, given the market for starting pitchers. Schill surprises the Sox by grabbing the deal, then he submits to a physical and an MRI. The Red Sox medical people caution baseball ops that it might be a risky signing. The Sox sign him anyway, figuring they can get 120 quality innings from the 41-year-old righty.

Three months later, after Schill has been seen shaking hands with politicians, wearing his Tedy Bruschi jersey to Patriots games, and cutting ribbons at just about every supermarket opening in New England, the big lug can't throw a baseball across the infield.

He and his doctor say he needs surgery. The Sox figure he's done for the year if he gets surgery, so they recommend a plan of rest and rehab. Schill's doctor goes on the radio and says the team's plan has a "zero percent" chance of success. The Sox look into voiding the contract, but realize they've been suckered. They had been unable to get insurance for the deal. It looks like $8 million down the drain - unless, of course, Schill can ride in on his high horse in August and prove his own doctor wrong by giving the Sox quality innings down the stretch.

Now Schill shows up in Florida with the rest of the pitchers and catchers and uncharacteristically refuses media requests each day. It becomes a routine. Beleaguered Sox publicist John Blake approaches Schilling, asks if he'll submit to a press conference, and waits till later in the day when Schilling finally says no or just bolts without saying anything.

Perhaps Schill will explain it all on his blog one of these days. That's supposed to be his way of communicating directly with fans - although he didn't tell his sycophants anything about the arm injury until after it leaked in the media.

Then again, maybe he's waiting to go on his friendly paid radio gig to explain everything. (I know, I know, the money goes to charity, but Schilling wouldn't be a WEEI regular if there weren't money changing hands, and he knows he won't be asked any hard questions by the beholden hosts.)

One way or another, we know we'll hear from the big guy at some point, and here are some questions fans might want answered:

  • Is he angry with the Red Sox? Schilling brushed past general manager Theo Epstein without saying a word during Friday's workout. Might this get truly ugly between Schill and his employers?

  • How did he hurt his shoulder? What happened between the end of the World Series and the first week of February? What happened between the November physical and last week's announcement? Did he hurt it throwing a baseball? Blogging with too much exuberance? Reaching for a doughnut?

  • Did his fear of shoulder deterioration contribute to his quick acceptance of the Sox' low-ball offer?

  • If the Sox' plan for him has "zero percent" chance of success, why is he here?

  • If it becomes apparent that he cannot pitch this season, will he retire?

  • If he can't pitch all season, does he have any guilt about cashing $8 million in paychecks? Schill always has been a stand-up guy in this area. Isn't he a little embarrassed to have lobbied and bullied his way into this contract, only to turn up lame and possibly collect a full salary when he can't contribute? Keith Foulke "retired" from the Indians last spring when he knew he wouldn't be able to pitch. Foulke forfeited $5 million.

  • Will he work to earn the extra $2 million in weight clauses even if he's not pitching?

  • WWSD? (What Will Schill Do?)

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

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