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Dan Shaughnessy

If Schilling's done, it won't be as much fun

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / June 24, 2008

A few leftover words about our guy Schill . . .

There are so many good things to say about the Big Lug. Curt Schilling came to town and delivered like no performer in the history of Boston sports. He signed with the Red Sox, said, "I guess I hate the Yankees now," and immediately appeared in a commercial claiming he was here to break an 86-year curse. And then he did it. In spectacular fashion.

He goes down in baseball history as one of the top postseason pitchers of all time. Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in the tournament. He pitched when he was hurt. Brilliantly. Talk to the Yankees about 2001. Talk to the Cardinals about 2004. Talk to the Rockies about last year. Schilling had little more than a high school fastball in October '07, but he was still able to win on smarts and location.

He was an absolute strike machine, compiling the best strikeout/walk ratio (4.38 K's per walk) of all pitchers with at least 1,500 innings since 1900. It's my favorite Schill stat.

He was unafraid to call out those who did not live up to his personal and professional standards - including titans like Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Roger Clemens.

I'm told he even ripped into a couple of media people. No problem. We often complain about athletes who serve up party-line quotes ("stay within myself," "I just want to help the team"). Not Schill. You always knew where the Big Guy stood. I mean, how many other devout Christians do you know who constantly talk about "bad people"?

Schilling had shoulder surgery in Wilmington, Del., yesterday and we wish him well. Surgery is no fun for anyone. And it has to be tough when you are 41 years old and as competitive as Schilling. It's possible he'll never pitch again, which would be an unfortunate way to close the curtain on a great career.

Without telling his bosses ($8 million for not pitching doesn't buy loyalty the way it used to), Schilling last Friday broke the news of his upcoming surgery on his paid radio gig (yes, the money goes to charity, but Schilling would not be talking to WEEI if the financial arrangement didn't exist, and he knows there will be no tough questions). He later posted a few words on the increasingly hilarious 38Pitches.com. He was at Fenway Saturday and did not speak to reporters.

I hate to offend the fragile psyches of Schill-o-phants, blog-boys, and others who worship at the altar of Curt, but there are a few indelicate points that might be made about all this. Let's start with the money. The Red Sox could have said goodbye to Schilling last winter and not been on the hook for $8 million this year. It's quite the gold watch, is it not?

If the Sox are feeling a tad snookered, they won't show it.

"We are sorry it played out as it did," CEO Larry Lucchino said yesterday during a break in a ceremony in which Sox employees were given their 2007 championship rings (thanks, again, Schill). "He was a major contributor to our success. I do not think we would have been as successful in 2004 or 2007 without the monumental contributions of Curt Schilling."

Great, Larry. But you already had the rings, and Curt was a free agent. Was it really necessary to bring back a 41-year-old pitcher with a bad shoulder for a guaranteed $8 million - knowing there was a risk that he was all done?

"Today is not a day for regret," said Lucchino. "Today is a day for acknowledgement and best wishes for Curt's surgery and recovery."

Swell.

I tried John Henry.

What about it, John? Any quarrel with forking over $8 million for a guy who never threw a pitch this year?

"He has been one of the greatest pitchers of all time," was Henry's down-the-middle e-mail response.

OK. I guess the Sox are looking at this as payroll averaging. Lump the $8 million in with all the money Schilling earned in his four years of performance, and you have two championship rings. A bargain at any price.

It looks to me as if the Sox thought they were low-balling Schilling last winter, then were stunned when he accepted their offer. Probably, he knew no other team would guarantee large money based on his age and the state of his shoulder.

Finally, we have Schill's Hall of Fame prospects. There's been a rush to enshrine him in some quarters, but it might be wise to put the brakes on Schilling's Cooperstown reservations.

Assuming he never pitches again (not a stretch, according to 38Pitches), Schilling finishes with a won-lost record of 216-146. Sorry, that just doesn't cut it - not unless Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris go in first. Blyleven won 287 games. Morris won 254. Schilling was superb in the postseason, but modern October numbers are somewhat artificial. There are three rounds of playoffs. There used to be the World Series and nothing more. Bernie Williams hit 22 postseason homers - more than any other player except Manny Ramírez (24).

Does that make Bernie better than Mickey Mantle, who hit 18, all in the World Series? Andy Pettitte has three more postseason wins than Schilling. Pettitte is no Hall of Famer.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to miss Schill. Say what you want about him - and I have. He was never boring.

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

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