The Big Schill To Be A Phil Again?

Opening day at the new ballpark. You've had a walk through Ashburn Alley and devoured a plate of Bull's BBQ. As you settle in, Dan Baker, the PA announcer starts going through the starting line-ups. Finally, he gets to the pitchers spot and enthusiastically bellows "And batting ninth and pitching for the Phillies, Currrt Schillllllling"! Wait a minute, you ask yourself. How did he end up back in this town? Don't count out the fact that Curt Schilling may be a Phillie again fans.

In July of 2000, Curt Schilling was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Travis Lee, Nelson Figueroa, Vicente Padilla and Omar Daal. That season was a tumultuous one for Phillies fans. Almost every day when you picked up a local newspaper or turned on the TV, you heard something about how badly Curt wanted out of Philly. You heard how much he wanted to go to a contending ballclub. Quite frankly, it got old. Phillies General Manager, Ed Wade even got into the verbal sparring matches with Schilling via the media. "Much of what Curt says is irresponsible and his comments are not based upon facts", Wade stated. "Every fifth day, Curt has the opportunity to go out and be a horse on the mound. Unfortunately, on the other four days, he tends to say things which are detrimental to the club and clearly self-serving".

Curt went to Arizona and got what he so desperately wanted, a World Series ring. Meanwhile he teamed up with left hander Randy Johnson to form one of the best one-two punches as far as starting pitching goes. Despite that success out in the desert, it appears that he is ready to finish up his career in the town that still loves him. The marriage between Schilling and the Phillies wasn't always the greatest, but he harbors no ill will towards the organization and certainly not toward its fans.

In several interviews, Curt seemed to be toying with the idea of returning to the Philadelphia area. Much of it has to do with his wife, Shonda. She was diagnosed with melanoma and the environment out in Arizona isn't the best for one who has that type of illness. While he hasn't actually come out and said that he wants to definitely return to Philly, he did say this during spring training. "I've missed Philly because it's such a different atmosphere. But I have a contract here for this year and next. So in that sense the only way I won't be back is if Jerry Colangelo doesn't feel I should be pitching here. There's a funny spin on all this speculation about me going back to Philly. One, they might not want me. Two, they might not need me. In a perfect world, I'd finish my contract here and then go back and pitch for the Phillies. I said that, but people misconstrued it. I love it here. I also miss Philadelphia. The Phillies are poised to be there at the end. I hope they play us in the NLCS."

Let's assume that the Phillies do want Curt Schilling back. Does that mean that current number one starter Kevin Millwood isn't re-signed? Millwood inked a one year, $9.9 million dollar deal after joining the team. Rumor has it that Millwood's agent, the daft Scott Boras, will be looking for a long term contract in the neighborhood of $65 million dollars. Can the Phillies take on Schilling's ten-million dollar salary and sign Kevin Millwood to a long-term deal? Can the Phillies persuade the Diamondbacks to pay half of Schilling's salary for next year? Or would it be better to pursue him on the open market? He is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2004 season, when he'll be 37 years old. Is it worth the risk to invest in an aging pitcher who relies on power to get hitters out?

If the Diamondbacks were to put Schilling up for grabs, what would they seek in return? Perhaps they would ask for promising rookie shortstop Anderson Machado along with pitcher Brandon Duckworth and an additional minor league prospect like outfielder Eric Valent. Would you be willing to see the Phillies part with those players to lure "Schill" back to the city of brotherly love? A rotation consisting of Kevin Millwood, Curt Schilling, Vicente Padilla, Brett Myers and Randy Wolf would be absolutely dominating.

The current situation in Phoenix seems to suggest that the D-Backs are going to have to unload salary very soon. Their financial woes have become quite a problem and their roster isn't blessed with very many young players. They just re-signed Randy Johnson to a large contract extension and one would think that it means the end is near for Schilling. If the trading deadline is approaching and the Diamondbacks aren't able to close the large gap that separates them from the first place Giants, does Jerry Colangelo start unloading players and begin the rebuilding process?

Expect this rumor to gain momentum should the Phillies stay competitive in the standings and have the need for another starting pitcher or if the Diamondbacks fall further out of contention in the NL West. Curt Schilling seems to be taking the appropriate steps to mend the broken relationship between himself and Phillies management. "I look back on my relationship with Ed Wade and the front office. I feel badly about that," he said. "The comment he made about me being a horse every fifth day and a horse's ass the other four days, in some ways he was right. But I look back at the innings I pitched and the number of pitches I threw because the bullpen [stunk] year after year. Every year we'd have six or seven relievers and two of them belonged in the big leagues. So I had to throw 140 pitches some games and I took that personally. Right or wrong, that's how I took it. Last winter, they spent a lot of money. I believe they had this money all along. What they did, waiting until now to spend it, makes total business sense. But as a player, you don't care about business sense. You care about winning games."

This is something worth watching throughout the summer. Will we see the return of Curt Schilling? Only time will tell. Until then, let's hope that the Phils can stay a top the NL East. If they're in need of another horse in the rotation to aid them through the playoffs and into the Fall Classic, Curt Schilling may be an option worth pursuing.

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