Curt's Contradictions Speak Volumes

Curt Schilling is a great pitcher. He has made himself into one of the best in the game and will deserve definite consideration when his turn for Hall of Fame election comes around, although, he probably needs a couple more very good seasons to gain entry. Curt Schilling has also done amazing work on behalf of the ALS Society and deserves all the recognition he gets for what he has "given back". Unfortunately, Curt Schilling can also be, well…Curt Schilling.

So now, the big rumor is Boston as a destination for Curt Schilling. For the Red Sox, adding a guy like Schilling is a huge addition. You have to figure that a Pedro Martinez / Curt Schilling combination is just as dangerous and intimidating as the Randy Johnson / Curt Schilling duo that led Arizona to a World Series victory not too long ago. Plus, for the Red Sox, it's a strike at the "Evil Empire" that dwells in New York City. After all, the Yankees were a former hot rumor destination for Schilling.

Oh yeah, the Phillies were a rumored destination, but it appears that they weren't too hot of a rumor. As late as last week, there were broadcast reports in Philadelphia that a deal to bring Schilling back to Philadelphia was "a couple days away". Now, depending who you believe, the Phillies were either "never a factor" or inquired, but didn't like the price tag and walked out of the Diamondbacks Boutique, looking for better values.

If there is one thing that has marked the off-season foray of Curt Schilling and the Diamondbacks, it's contradiction and they've mainly been thanks to Mr. Schilling.

First, it was that Philadelphia was the only place that he wanted to go. That made us all think that our conquering hero was coming home. Then, it was the Phillies and Yankees, which made us all cringe a little, but Curt said he would only need a one year extension from the Phillies but would demand a three year deal with the Yankees. Again, we were elated, especially when the Yankees said that the combination of the prospects that it would take to get Schilling and the price of his extension were too rich for even the Yankees and they were backing out. For a minute, the Red Sox were interested, but Schilling said there was "no way" he would go to Boston. After all, he's a fly ball pitcher and he didn't want to pitch in Fenway Park. It looked like all we had to do was agree to give up a sizeable package of young players and Schilling would be ours.

What changed? That's where "being Curt Schilling" came into play. The one thing bigger than Schilling's mound presence is his ego. He needs to be in control. He needs to have things conform to his way of thinking and his way of thinking can change at a moment's notice.

Schilling seemed like a man who wanted badly to return to the city where he had shaped himself into one of the best pitchers in the land. He talked longinly about Philadelphia and the fans. He at one point, actually said that he "never wanted to leave". What? This is a man who practically wrote his own ticket out of town after a stretch of losing seasons for the Phillies. He ripped the front office and made it clear that when his contract was up, there would be no way he would re-sign in Philadelphia, which basically meant that if the Phillies wanted anything in return, they had to deal him elsewhere. This is a man who prided himself on being a team leader, but placed a towel over his face when Mitch Williams came on to pitch in 1993. Leaders don't do that.

Early in the off-season, Philadelphia was the only place, besides Arizona, that Schilling wanted to be. Well, we're all seeing that play out a little differently aren't we? And originally, Boston was one place that Schilling "wouldn't even consider". Schilling spoke of how Fenway Park wouldn't be conducive to his style of pitching. Now, he points out that Bank One Ballpark is more of a homerun hitter's paradise than Fenway has been. Since there haven't been any homeruns hit in either park since Schilling's original comment, you have to assume that the dynamics of the two ballparks haven't changed. Only Schilling's outlook has changed. "This is not about me going to make my stats look good the next couple years. This is about me being able to win a World Series over the next couple years", said Schilling on Monday. That sounds a lot like it could have come from an interview during Schilling's final days in Philadelphia.

Schilling had talked about giving the Phillies a deal and only requiring a one year extension to come back to Philly. Suddenly, he says "I've been clear about this. I want to sign this as my final contract and play until I'm 40 and then walk away." Of all of his statements, this is the one that makes it seem that Schilling was never completely serious about coming back to Philadelphia, although, I'm sure that somewhere in his mind, he would have enjoyed a run with the Phillies. After all, he could have been to the 2004 Phillies what Pete Rose was to the 1980 Phillies; The guy who put them over the top. Had Schilling accepted that one year extension, you better believe that it would have been an issue constantly. Schilling would have talked openly about how he had cut the Phillies a break, so they better make it worth his while in the long run.

In a broadcast interview on Monday, Schilling even contradicted himself in the same interview. First, he told Daily News Live that he wouldn't be specific about what it would take for him to waive his no-trade clause and go to Boston. Later he said that if the Red Sox wanted him, they had to give him a three year extension and Terry Francona had to be the manager.

As for Francona, he deserves another shot to manage. He is a great baseball guy, who wasn't quite prepared for his first managerial run and didn't have the team that he would have needed to be successful. Francona is also the perfect manager for Schilling because he does let his veteran players make many of the decisions. If Schilling wants to throw 138 pitches as he did shortly after suffering an arm problem while with the Phillies, Francona will let him. Can you imagine what the relationship between Schilling and Larry Bowa would have been like? Can you say "oil and water"? Can you say "George Bush and Saddam Hussein"? That could have been very, very ugly.

Look, Curt Schilling truly is a great pitcher. In fact, he may go down in history as the guy who helped break the Curse of the Bambino. Curt Schilling not returning to Philadelphia isn't the worst news of the off-season though. He wanted out, which was his right. Many of the things that he said about the Phillies front office were true, but he also didn't look at the big picture that included a new stadium – and with it, new revenue streams - on the horizon. The Phillies accomodated Schilling and he went on to win a World Series. The Schilling / Phillie Bridge wasn't completely burned, but it was badly damaged and hasn't been fully repaired.

Why is it that Schilling spoke out against the front office and we love him, while Scott Rolen spoke out against the front office and we hate him? The difference, ironically, is Terry Francona. It was easier to rail against the Phillies when Francona was here, because he wasn't a hero. In his days with the Phillies, Curt Schilling was the hero. He had helped to guide this team to the World Series in 1993 and had made himself our hero. Scott Rolen railed against Larry Bowa, who was part of our team of heroes from 1980. Rolen spoke of a front office that didn't have a commitment to winning, just as Schilling did. Rolen said he "wanted the chance to explore free agency when his contract was up". Schilling basically told us he was a goner when his contract ended if the Phillies didn't trade him before then. Neither handled their situation well, but somehow, Rolen has been villified much more than Schilling ever will be by fans in Philadelphia.

The cost of bringing Schilling "home" would have been high. It would have cost us in terms of true, solid prospects that may have included some combination of Cole Hamels, Gavin Floyd, Ryan Howard and perhaps, even Chase Utley or Brett Myers. It would have cost us in money. If Schilling would have taken a one year deal, rest assured that it wouldn't have included a discount on the dollar figure and he would have again used pending free agency as a silver hammer. It likely would have cost us in terms of clubhouse chemistry too, since the relationship between Schilling and Bowa would have been tenuous at best.

Now, Phillies fans can debate what they want to see when the two teams meet at Fenway Park next summer. One side will want to see Schilling slice his way through the Phillies lineup like a red-hot knife through butter. Others will watch for Jim Thome or perhaps, even Pat Burrell to take Schilling deep to beat the Sox. Maybe, you can go home again, but Curt Schilling isn't going to go home again.

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