These days, Curt Schilling is not quiet about his baseball fandom. Shunning Mystique and Aura, he spits in the faces of the Yankees — and most notably Alex Rodriguez — whenever he can, and he worships the insufferable altar of Theo Epstein. Don’t make the mistake of today confusing him for a Yankee fan or else the public reaction will be swift and merciless. Just ask Martha Coakley.
But Schilling, many in Massachusetts seem to forget, wasn’t always a Boston supporter. A product of Anchorage, Alaska, Schilling was drafted by the Red Sox and traded to Baltimore before making his Major League debut. Along the way, he picked up an appreciation for baseball history and grew to idolize Lou Gehrig so much that he named his son Gehrig.
Love the history, hate the team? I don’t know about that.
These days, of course, Curt Schilling hates the Yankees. At his introductory press conference in 2003, he set the stage by proclaiming to a room full of Red Sox reporters, “I guess I hate the Yankees now.” I’ve heard of bandwagon fans, but Schilling must be one of the most prominent bandwagons haters. I guess.
For some illuminating material, let’s revisit the Schilling trade to the Red Sox. He was, after all, nearly a Yankee. Benjamin Kabak covered the tortured history of the Schilling deal last March when Curt announced his retirement from baseball. At the time, he wrote:
[In mid-November, Jack] Curry uncovers an early price tag: The Diamondbacks would swap Schilling and Junior Spivey for Alfonso Soriano, Nick Johnson and two top tier prospects. Today, that doesn’t seem like quite a high price, but five and a half years ago, it did to the Yankees. (Of note: The Sox gave up Casey “Toss the ball up with that wet noodle of an arm” Fossum, Brandon Lyon and his career ERA of 4 plus, Jorge De La Rosa and his career ERA of 5 plus and Michael “never made it to the bigs” Goss. No wonder the GM in ‘Zona lost his job two years later. )
By Friday, the Yankees had moved on to Javier Vazquez. The Yankees would not, according to Curry, “trade their four best young players for Schilling because they feel the monetary relief they would be giving Arizona eliminates the need for them to trade equal talent.” At that point, Schilling also expressed his desire to go to only the Yankees or the Phillies. Brian Cashman left the GM meetings with the team feeling insulted by the Diamondbacks’ offers.
That would, of course, be the end of it. The Yanks refused to budget; the Diamondbacks refused to budge. Despite Schilling’s public desire to play in New York, the two sides could not work out a deal, and when Theo Epstein turned on the Thanksgiving charm, the Boston/New York rivalry would never be the same.
There’s more to it than that. Jayson Stark spoke with Schilling about the trade rumors as they swirled, and Curt pushed for an East Coast return. “I can stay here and pitch the last year of my contract in Arizona, and then walk. Or I can talk about possibly getting a three-year extension to go to New York and have a chance to win a world championship. If those are my choices, why wouldn’t I at least agree to listen?” Schilling said.
Schilling added, “There are two teams the Diamondbacks know I’ll talk with if they try to make a trade with them. That’s the Yankees and Phillies. Other than that, there are no hidden factors, no hidden agendas.”
For two weeks, until Theo Epstein landed in Arizona for a Thanksgiving dinner, Curt Schilling lobbied hard to join the Yanks. As Stark wrote, Curt wanted to be Roger Clemens, and landing in the Bronx to replace the then-retired Rocket would have been his dream.
Up in Massachusetts, Martha Coakley lost an election a few days after calling Curt Schilling a Yankee fan. In 2010, we know she’s as wrong as wrong could be. Curt’s socks are a deep, dark shade of red. But she indirectly reminded us — Yankee fans and Red Sox fans both who are in denial over Curt’s backstory — that Schilling wasn’t always a Boston Booster.
For three weeks in November and for years before that, he admired the Yankees and their storied history. Had he landed in the Bronx, he would have been as big a Yankee fan as anyone you or I know today.
But, to be frank, should we expect anything less from such a phony fuck as Schilling?
Remember when he came out railing against Arod after the news of his using steroids broke? Now, in his defense he did (very correctly) assert that all 104 of the names should be rolled out so Arod wasn’t the only one taking the public relations hit for the thing.
But then he went on (and on and on and on) about how all of Arod’s personal accomplishments were discredited, they needed to be tossed out and Arod should never get anywhere near the Hall of Fame. I absolutely agree with every single one of those sentiments. He can play out his career as clean as a whistle and it just won’t change what he did.
But when it comes to his good ol’ pals Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, both of whom were revealed to be on that list, the mouth that roared suddenly has a different take on things. “That’s for you to decide. It seems to be an area of immense debate, but I am not sure how this should be resolved.”
Where was that uncertainty when it came to someone not wearing a Red Sox jersey?
When the chicken suddenly comes home to roost and threatens to taint his world series wins in both Arizona and Boston suddenly Curt asks us all to use reason and not be so quick to judge:
“Innocent until proven guilty”……..
Are we at the point now where that has morphed into, “I hope he didn’t,” or, “I’m sure he did,” and both sentiments carry as much validity and weight as the initial belief? I’d sure as heck love to think not, but what possible defense could I offer up that would carry an ounce of weight?
Oh and before going any further, please spare me the “That taints your two World Series with the Sox!!!” emails. A larger load of crap I have yet to hear.
Because if you honestly think that in the last 10 years one team for even one season had NO PLAYERS using Steroids or HGH you’re kidding yourself. As horrifying and pathetic as it sounds, players cheated their way to a level playing field of a different sort. Please save the, “Oh but this guy only did it for one year,” and, “No one knows how long he was doing it.” Save that.
It sure is interesting how the story flips for you, Curt! When it was ARod and Clemens, you screamed to take away MVPs (two of which occurred after ARod claims he was clean, so innoncent until proven guilty right?) and Cy Youngs, but when the rumors surround guys like Manny, Ortiz, Varitek, Luis Gonzalez, Millar, Mueller, and Trot Nixon, you scream that we need to look at this in the context of innocent until proven guilty and that the wins aren’t tainted.
All of this despite the fact that the two big heroes of the ’04 team are known juicers and that they and Luis Gonzalez were the main forces behind your other two World Series wins as well.
Never let consistency get in your way, old boy!
I guess none of us should be surprised that the Boston Red Sox hype machine/cheerleading squad out of Bristol has published yet another piece claiming that Derek Jeter is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
That group of tools lost any sense of objectivity on the matter many, many years ago.
Once the Red Sox captured the title in 2004, it was like any and all sense of a need to be impartial was ripped away, and they have done nothing but sit there in the background screaming, “Get him a body bag Johnny!!” ever since.
So today’s latest salvo on that front finds Mark Simon of ESPN New York lamenting on the future Hall of Famer’s “penchant for making outs” and his lack of a respectable offensive winning percentage.
First, let me deal with the former before I touch on the latter.
Undoubtedly, Derek Jeter is having an off-year by his standards. That cannot be denied. But to paint a picture like all he does is “make outs” is laughable, if not borderline criminal from someone that claims to be a sportswriter.
A .260 average, over 100 runs scored, 15-plus steals and 70ish RBI is nothing to sneeze at out of the leadoff spot. The man has contributed and contributed greatly to his team’s record, which is, by the way, the best in baseball.
I would strongly suspect that his prolific pace for recording outs has more to do with the fact that he shows up every day, plays in a lineup that turns over at a far greater rate than any other lineup in baseball (leading to Jeter having almost 100 more ABs than your average MLB leadoff hitter) and has seen his average/OBP decline from the norm.
Throw in the fact that Major League Baseball is having somewhat of a pitching renaissence and, my friends, you have yourself a recipe for racking up a large number of outs in a season.
Because of his age, we should all be realistic and understand that he is not the player he once was. But does that mean he is a bum that has no place on a team, let alone a winning one?
The second “layer” to this thinly veiled, pathetic attempt at a hatchet piece involves yet another Bill James “stat du jour,” known as offensive winning percentage (OWP).
That stat estimates what the win percentage of a player’s team would be if that player occupied every spot in the lineup, and the team had league-average pitching and defensive skill.
Now, in an effort to be as impartial and objective as I can possibly be (something Mr. Simon failed at miserably), I must first declare that I am a stat geek through and through. Always have been, always will be.
But statistics can at times be inaccurate and, more often, be misconstrued.
The only offensive winning percentages that should be deemed important when looking at Mr. Jeter’s should be those of his peers. More specifically those who play his position.
Since Mr. Simon was either too lazy or too stupid to provide that information, I figured I would take a stab at it.
I chased down the OWP of the shortstops for every American League team (and a couple National League teams, to boot) in playoff contention:
Derek Jeter, NYY, .460
Jason Bartlett, TB, .418
Marco Scutaro, Bos, .450
Alexei Ramirez, CHW, .467
Elvis Andrus, Tex, ..443
J.J. Hardy, Min, .427
Jimmy Rollins, Phi, .449
Orlando Cabrera, Cin, .372
Miguel Tejada, SD, .432
Juan Uribe, SF, .448
Akex Gonzalez, Atl, .503
One quick look shows that his numbers have been far from out of line for his position. In fact, the only SS that even remotely pulled away from the pack was Mr. Gonzalez, thanks in large part to the 17 home runs he mashed prior to the All-Star break.
He has since fallen back to earth and only hit four dingers, as his OWP has plummeted in the second half by some forty points already.
I won’t argue that Jeter is the player he once was. I would be a fool to do so. But he is STILL in the top five in every major category for shortstops across the league. Average, on-base-percentage, homeruns, runs, runs-batted-in, stolen bases.
Every other one of his peers is deficient in at least one of these categories, failing to join him in that “top five” club.
I won’t get dragged into a debate over how much money he is worth in his new contract, because it is a moot point. The Yankees will pay him, and that will be that.
They can afford to, and he is the face of the franchise. Unlike with other organizations, that means something to the Yankees, and they are willing to open the checkbook for it. They won’t give him a deal like his last one, and they may even play hardball along the way. But in the end this deal will get done.
But I will sit here and tell you that the man is still a viable alternative at SS on a winning team.
One day that will change.
But that day is not today.