Let's hope he's serious.
That's not to spell any anticipated end to his brief yet storied Red Sox career, but if Curt Schilling is indeed heartfelt about some interest in playing for the - wait for it - Tampa Bay Devil Rays, well then I can't possibly think of a better situation.
Arguably the worst franchise in all of major league baseball (Hello, Pittsburgh), the joke that is the Tampa Major League Baseball franchise is destined for yet another last-place season, another 100-loss campaign a distinct possibility. And the truth is, it really shouldn't be this way.
Well, at least not THIS bad. Not to channel Lou Brown, but there are six or seven potential All-Stars in there. Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Delmon Young, Scott Kazmir, and the Renaissance that is Carlos Pena form a nucleus that most general managers in the game today certainly wouldn't mind having as their own. And yet, here they are once again, the laughingstock of a league that can always depend, year after year, on beating up the sad sacks from St. Pete. You too, KC.
In case you hadn't noticed, Schilling likes to fancy himself as a savior of sorts, a role he perfected in 2004 by helping to lead the Red Sox to their first title in 86 seasons, a once-thought improbable feat. And now, he might have his sights set on the impossible.
During his weekly WEEI stint with [insert inferior replacements here] yesterday, Schilling talked about how much he liked the Devil Rays talent, even pushing the envelope by explaining he enjoyed playing in Tropicana Field. Would he close out his career in the mostly forgettable way that Wade Boggs finished out his?
"It's one of those situations you'd certainly look at,” he said. “Knowing that I'm probably going to spend one more year playing, if circumstances happen and things happen and they made some moves that were positive, I'd love nothing more than to finish my career working on a pitching staff where I know that there are young guys that were going to be positively impacted by me being around (after) I was gone."
Schilling to the rescue of the D-Rays? Oh, please say it is so.
Despite any personal opinions on how he feels he can still help the franchise in 2008, Schilling has to look around and see Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, and Justin Masterson milling about on the range and realize that his days playing in this city are indeed waning. He's been shaky since coming off the disabled list, allowing nine earned runs in his last 18 innings on the hill, and those are not the sort of performances that the Red Sox are going to rush out and devote $10 million to. They only do that with overrated outfielders.
The man is no rookie. He sees the writing on the wall, which is why he's begun his personal auction a bit early. Brilliant.
Schilling told the Globe's Nick Cafardo not to read too much into his comments, but, well, that's what we all do. And if anyone can give the Rays a swift kick in the rear, perhaps it is he to do so.
As much as his drooling chroniclers like to classify him as “the coolest” manager in the game, it's quite clear that Joe Maddon certainly isn't among the best, and perhaps Schilling alluded to as much when he said, “you wonder who is the everyday presence on that club that leads.” As nice a job as folks think Maddon has done with the Rays, he still has more talent than in recent seasons, and still has the Rays among the dregs of baseball. It takes more.
Schilling could be that fiery presence that kicks a start into a historically awful pitching staff. He could be the guy who gets in the face of a young outfielder who fails to hustle after a ball. He could be the guy who, potentially, gets the Rays out of last place. Contention? Please, we're not talking miracles here. Baby steps.
Of course, the most naïve of Red Sox fans wouldn't want to hear it, only wishing to continue to watch their team pad their record by demolishing the poor ol' Rays. But the bottom line is, the more this continues, the worse it is for the game of baseball. As provincial as we all love to be around these parts, there sometimes is a greater good. And as it stands, the Rays contribute to that overall goal about…OK, not at all. Not one bit.
Of baseball's four expansion teams over the last 14 years, only the Devil Rays have not yet even sniffed the postseason. Of the four, only the Rays and Colorado Rockies have not won the World Series. The Rockies are vying for their second-ever playoff appearance this year, 2 ½ games out of the wild card. The Devil Rays? Same as it ever was.
Parity in the NFL has brought the game, quite simply, to new heights, and it's doing the same in baseball, where never in recent memory have we had so many close races hurtling toward September. Then there are those pathetic franchises, the Pittsburghs and Devil Rays of the world, who either have run themselves into dreariness by either lame management or the disdain of spending dollars. Schilling will cost about $10 million of the latter, a commitment that the Rays might haggle over, but willingly dole out if it's for more than just Schilling's line, which based on 2007 might not be all that special.
But if he can help revive the team and help unlock their potential, that's more important for the franchise now than any decreasing velocity he might have on his pitches. As for the fastballs that escape his lips, they don't show any sign of slowing down anytime soon. Those are the ones that the Devil Rays might be more desperate for.