Curt Schilling has a new contract and role at ESPN. The network announced Monday that the former Red Sox pitcher has agreed to a multi-year contract extension and been added to its Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team, joining Dan Shulman and John Kruk, a former teammate with the Phillies.
"I'm excited to join an already outstanding team," said Schilling in a statement. "I would like to bring a perspective that will help fans get inside the head of the guy on the mound, and behind the plate, while also helping fans to better understand the work and preparation that goes into pitching in the big leagues."
Schilling, who has been a Baseball Tonight studio analyst since 2010, replaces Orel Hershiser, who is expected to join the Los Angeles Dodgers broadcast team in a prominent role. He follows former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who left ESPN last week to join the Dodgers' new regional sports network, SportsNet LA.
Schilling, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2004 to 2007, winning two World Series titles, has never been shy about sharing an opinion. And controversy has found him away from the field -- his now-defunct 38 Studios video game company defaulted on a $75 million loan from the state of Rhode Island in May 2012. He lost much of his personal fortune in the failed business.
Schilling has proven an articulate and insightful analyst in the studio, though ESPN executive producer Jed Drake's suggestion that he's a broadcaster who will draw viewers who want to hear what he has to say seems a bit ambitious.
"Curt is one of the most unique announcers we have ever had on baseball, or any other sport, for that matter,'' said Drake. "He speaks his mind, and when he does, it is almost always fascinating, insightful and quite often, provocative. People will watch Sunday Night Baseball because of what Curt might say -- that's a rare gift. And, did I mention that he was a ferocious competitor, who has three World Series rings? Enough said."
The NFL is structured for television better than any other sport. But sometimes this visceral noise of the game is lost when watching from the couch.
Those always enjoyable miked-up segments and the insider's majesty long provided by NFL Films clue us in to the sounds that accompany the fury. But if you don't remind yourself of what's actually going on out there, an NFL game can seem -- and sound -- to a viewer like the players are brutalizing each other in relative aural peace.
The true, vicious context of what's happening during every single play -- the barking, cursing, and trash-talking, the groans and roars as players crash their rattled skeletons into each other again and again -- isn't always apparent on television.
Oh, we see the vicious ferocity of the game, in between Cialis commercials and the announcers' gaffes and guffaws. But we don't always hear it.
Don't you wish we had never heard it Sunday?
Oh, hell, there was plenty of visual evidence that Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots' force-of-nature tight end, was seriously injured after being chopped down at the knees by Browns safety T.J. Ward after a 21-yard reception in the third quarter of the Patriots' come-from-behind 27-26 victory Sunday.
It wasn't that he didn't get up, though that was alarming enough. It's that he barely moved, his legs outstretched and immobile while both hands gripped his right knee.
But the most jarring confirmation came in the middle of all that, when a microphone -- perhaps one CBS planted along the sideline, perhaps that of an official, perhaps one taken away from Steve Tasker by an annoyed viewer -- picked up Gronkowski's screams of agony as the trainers and doctors arrived on the scene.
"My [expletive] knee!'' he wailed in a voice so unfamiliar from his usual goofy affability.
And then, a moment later, before Matt Mulligan hoisted him on to the cart:
"I [expletive] can't!"
We saw how Gronk was injured, and the late-night reports that he has a torn anterior cruciate ligament -- season-ending, if so -- hardly came as a surprise.
We heard just how injured he was, and it was so disconcerting to hear Hulk-tough, happy-go-lucky Gronk scream in pain that I've burned my first couple of hundred words here talking about this rather than what we'd prefer to take away from Sunday -- the appreciation of another thrilling comeback, which according to ESPN Stats and Info made them the first team since the 1993 Philadelphia Eagles to win three straight games in which they trailed by double-digits in the second half.
This was an incredible victory, with two touchdowns in the final 61 seconds bookmarked around a recovered onside kick. Sure, there were self-inflicted degrees of difficulty against a Browns team that entered at 4-8, but even the best teams win ugly now and then. The Patriots have now won at least 10 games in 11 straight years, which considering the landscape of the NFL is as extraordinary a feat as anything Bill Belichick has accomplished.
The Patriots deserve to celebrate this one. I just don't know how they can.
"It was like you are in a bad dream,'' said special teams ace Matt Slater, describing the immediate aftermath of Gronkowski's injury. "You’re hoping you wake up and it isn’t really happening because that kid has been through so much and he’s worked his butt off to overcome a lot of different things at a young age.
“He means so much to this football team. Not only what he does on the field, but his locker room, his presence. He brings a child-like joy to the locker room. You see him out there on the field in pain. It was a tough pill to swallow.”
There was some irony to be found in that the Patriots' offense came to life after Gronkowski's injury. After all, he is the second-most important member of the unit, his presence changing everything.
He missed the first six games of this season after offseason forearm and back surgery. In the five games he played, he caught 37 passes for 560 yards. It was not coincidence that the offense scored roughly 11 points per game more with Gronkowski than without.
There's a temptation to suggest that the attrition is now insurmountable, Gronkowski's injury serving as the death knell on this team's hopes of winning its first Super Bowl since 2004. I'm not ready to do that. The AFC is weak, and this Patriots team, tattered though it is, remains tough. Let it play out before proceeding with the postmortems.
"We’ve sustained some pretty big injuries this year with really important, critical players, so we’ve got to just keep bouncing back,'' said Brady. "No one feels sorry for the Patriots. I think we all feel sorry for Rob, but I don’t think anyone feels sorry for the Patriots."
It's pretty clear they're not going to feel sorry for themselves. But as we watch Gronkowski fall, a sixth surgery since last November seeming rather likely, it's hard to avoid feeling bad for the guy, who really is the goodhearted, approachable bro next door.
Sadly, the potential Greatest Tight End Ever has yet another what-if tagged to his potential legacy -- if only Gronk had been healthy, how more Super Bowls would the Patriots have won?
For all of these stirring comebacks the Patriots have made lately, the one comeback we desperately want to see probably won't happen until sometime next season. Until that return, Gronk, be well. We know what you went through. While we can't feel your pain, we'll never forget hearing it.
I suppose Robinson Cano's departure from the Empire State to the Emerald City really is as simple it seems. The Mariners offered him 10 years and $240 million dollars, or three years and $65 million more than the Yankees did. So he took it.
While he's the first prime-of-career Yankees star I can recall to ditch the Bronx as a free agent, the news did not cause earth did not screech to a halt on its axis.
It did, however, lead to one immediate suggestion in the New York tabloids that the stratospheric salary won't prevent Cano from having second thoughts -- and soon.
This, from Joel Sherman's Saturday column in the Post:
"Doesn't it feel like you will have the first despondent player on the way to his introductory press conference?" [an NL] executive said. "He had to take the $240 million, but you know he didn't want to leave for a bad ballpark with the worst travel in the league. You are always on a plane when you play for the Mariners. He went from the center of the universe to Pluto, and how soon will it be before he wants to get off of Pluto?"
To be fair to Seattle, Pluto is much colder and doesn't have nearly as many good seafood restaurants. Seattle is a great city, one of my four or five favorites, and it's a fine sports town as well, as proven by every ear-splitting crowd at a Seahawks game.
There's probably some East Coast arrogance in the he'll-regret-leaving-us mind set. Heck, I searched for evidence to confirm my suspicion -- that the Yankees underestimated Cano and his representation and thought he'd come back at their price, even if the margin was tens of millions of dollars between their offer and the highest elsewhere.
But the search for evidence seems to confirm the opposite -- the Yankees knew he would take the highest offer, even if it came from a place northwest of Pluto, where he'd have to settle for being a ludicrously well-compensated faraway star.
It doesn't sound like he made the decision on a whim, so I doubt he'll regret it, at least until he reads up on the people for whom he'll be working.
Let's take a wild hack at an all-Hot Stove edition of ...
This was in relation to a chat question asking whether McCann and Ellsbury will equal or surpass Cano in value to the Yankees. I replied that Ellsbury and Granderson were "pretty much a wash,'' more as a reminder that Granderson is also out of the equation there than anything else. But the answer Mark's question specifically, Curtis Granderson last stole 50 bases as a junior at Lansing Fractional South High School in Lansing, Illinois in 1998. He stole 53. No, I made that up. (Though that is where he went to high school.) Granderson has never stolen 50 bases, at least in the big leagues. But he did lead the majors in home runs over the 2011-12 seasons with 84, led the league in runs and RBIs in 2011, and over his four years with the Yankees contributed 14 wins above replacement, which is only slightly less than Ellsbury's 14.8 over the same span. I'd take a healthy Ellsbury over a healthy Granderson -- younger, faster, better outfielder. But there is room for debate there.
He is not a positional replacement nor an exact skill set match, but in my mind the man who smoothly replaces the talent presence of Jacoby Ellsbury on the Red Sox is Xander Bogaerts. Your thoughts?
That's a really great point, Luke. If Stephen Drew doesn't come back -- and I still think he does, though it will probably require the Red Sox to trade a pricey pitcher in the interim to keep them below the $189 million threshold -- and Bogaerts starts at short, then I think it's entirely possible to expect the Bogaerts/Bradley combination to produce similar numbers (minus the stolen bases) to what Ellsbury/Drew totaled last year. Don't know if you guys happened to see them, but FanGraphs posted Dan Szymborskiï¿½s ZiPS projections for the 2014 Red Sox a few days ago. They tend to be a little more conservative than the Bill James projections, and yet they have Bogaerts at a perfectly fine .267/.331/.429 with 16 homers and 48 extra-base hits in '14. And his top comp? Troy Tulowitzki. I think he ends up being the Red Sox' third-best offensive player next year.
No one gets the Yankees first-round pick. With the new CBA it disappears. Atlanta and Boston both get picks in between the first and second round.
Yeah, messed this up in the chat the other day, and Chris was the first of many of you to help me see the error of my ways. Wrote that the Braves got the Yankees' No. 1 pick for signing McCann, with the Sox getting a comp pick for losing Ellsbury.
Does this offseason feel a little like 2005 where we said good-bye to some key guys, tried to replace them and then had a miserable year? Personally, I'd be happy to have this be the rebuilding year and unload John Lackey, Jake Peavy, etc. for some high-ceiling prospects. I mean...wasn't last year supposed to be the one that stunk?
Sheesh, this has to be the first time in history someone has longed for a bridge year after winning the World Series. It got lost a little bit because the Sox were a damned good team all year, but it actually was a bridge year. Jackie Bradley Jr. made it to the big leagues. Xander Bogaerts, who began the year in Double A, was an October star. Brandon Workman, the Sea Dogs' opening day starter, got huge outs in Game 6. And several other prospects took huge steps forward. It was a bridge year in the sense of how Theo Epstein originally meant it, that the next generation of prospects would arrive. It just happened to be one in which the major league team didn't stink. As for the part about 2005, well, I never wanted Derek Lowe to leave. Letting Pedro Martinez go was the right move. But replacing both with David Wells, Matt Clement, and Wade Miller was fairly uninspired. That season wasn't miserable, though -- they did win 95 games and make the playoffs before running into that A.J. Pierzynski buzz saw known as the future champion White Sox.
Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.
Thirty-three years ago today, Howard Cosell told us during a Patriots-Dolphins Monday night game that John Lennon was dead.
I was in fifth grade and didn't understand the magnitude until the next morning, when my mom, ironing our clothes for another day of school, began sobbing as she heard the news on "The Today Show." She was nine years younger then than I am now, from a generation that had already shed so many tears because of horrifyingly abrupt endings. I don't need Cosell's words to remember that day. My mom's heaving sadness told me all I needed to know about what John Lennon meant.
Pretty fine day for the Red Sox. Pretty fine offseason so far too, I'd say.
Friday's staggering baseball news arrived in the morning, when Robinson Cano, the Yankees second baseman who seemed to treasure New York City as if his hip-hop impresario/agent Jay Z wrote that song for him, instead departed the Bronx for the wonderful city but recently irrelevant baseball port of Seattle.
Cano had $240,000,000 reasons to go, and it's a riot that his agent, who claims to have made famous the Yankee hat more than the Yankees did, is the one who delivered him there. Maybe he'll make the Mariners hat more famous than, I don't know, Don Wakamatsu did.
The Mariners needed to do this. But I can't believe the Yankees thought Cano would actually do it.
As for the Red Sox, who watched him put up these numbers against them through his nine years in the Bronx ...
... they must be thrilled that he's out of the No. 3 spot in the Yankees batting order, not to mention the AL East altogether. The Yankees salvaged their day to a small degree later, signing Carlos Beltran to a three-year, $45 million deal (and destroying the hope that he'd reunite with the Royals). Beltran is a fine pickup. But the Cano vacancy will remain a gaping one. I suppose we should all be on Brandon Phillips-To-The-Bronx Watch now.
But enough about the Yankees. Taking schadenfreude out of it, the best baseball news of the day around here is a move the Red Sox made.
Mike Napoli, the bearded basher and occasional merry shirtless wanderer, is sticking around after all. I imagine we're in consensus with a certain lefthander on this particular transaction:
The terms of the Napoli deal -- two years, $32 million -- just sound right. It's a high average annual value, which he absolutely deserves, but a short deal that allows the Red Sox to retain roster flexibility.
Including the $13 million he made with the Red Sox in 2013, he's now set up to make $45 million here over three years. You probably know the math already: That's $6 million more than he would have had in the original three-year, $39 million deal the sides agreed upon this time last year before some medical issues with Napoli's hip led to the reduction of the deal to one year.
Given what he meant to the Red Sox last season, with his knack for hitting important home runs off top-notch pitchers as well as his value in the clubhouse, it's nice to see it all work out for the best for him.
And we all learned our lesson this year, right? When he goes into one of his trademark six-week slumps where he looks like he couldn't bat seventh for your over-35 slow-pitch softball team, be patient and remember that the payoff when he goes on a tear makes it all worth it. He's at his best in September (.298/.403/.631 with 39 homers in 519 career plate appearances), and he's not shabby in October either (.801 career postseason OPS, seven homers).
While it's been disappointing to some degree to see likable mainstays Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia move on before the duck boat engines have barely cooled, it's been an encouraging offseason so far for the Red Sox.
A.J. Pierzynski will fit here, because his motivation comes from the same place as so many of his new teammates: he'll do what it takes to win, even, in his case, if that means annoying the hell out of everyone in both dugouts.
Edward Mujica, brilliant for five months in St. Louis last season before wearing down and crumbling in September, should be a tremendous complement to Koji Uehara in the bullpen. Get this: Uehara, Mujica and Junichi Tazawa pitched a combined 207.2 innings last year. They walked 26 and struck out 219. Yeah, that could get you through the night. Or at least the last three innings.
Now Napoli is sticking around, and the right pieces are all falling into place.
I say bring back Stephen Drew, add another secondary arm or two and some specifically skilled bench guys, and maybe even surprise us with an out-of-nowhere blockbuster.
And that should about do it for roster alterations during this fledgling winter.
Then, before you know it, the gang will be assembling in Fort Myers again, built to defend a championship with a few new faces and, thankfully, a couple of familiar bearded ones.
Welcome to Season 2, Episode 13 of the Unconventional Preview, a serious-but-lighthearted, nostalgia-tinted look at the Patriots' weekly matchup that runs right here every Friday around noon. The 8-3 Patriots, coming off a 34-31 victory over the Houston Texans, visit
Otto Graham, Frank Ryan, Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar QB To Be Determined By Gametime and the 4-8 Cleveland Browns. Kick it off, Gostkowski, and let's get this thing started already ...
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.