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At the end of last season, perhaps Curt Schilling thought he saw the writing on the wall.
Schilling told the Providence Journal that his house in Medfield was going on the market, signaling that he figured his days in Boston were numbered. For what it was worth, Schilling wanted to finish his career with the team that drafted him.
“Boston would be my first choice, but we have to be ready in case that happens. We have to prepare for the alternatives.”
As it turned out, he didn’t need any alternatives. The Red Sox offered him a one-year deal worth $8 million, plus incentives. But there were reasons for concern, reasons to believe that such an offer was a mistake.
Over the previous three seasons, Schilling was 31-23 -- an average of 10-8 each year. And in that span his ERA was 4.54. He was clearly in decline.
In fact, Schilling’s last six regular season starts in 2007 resulted an 2-3 record. But his 2.79 ERA over that span, combined with strong October performances, persuaded the Red Sox to make their bid.
But for Schilling, pitching in 2008 was not to be.
As I wrote back in March when his shoulder injury was announced, I thought Schilling had thrown his last pitch. Having an understanding of the shoulder structure, I felt then - as I do now - that the number, level and severity of his injuries (damaged biceps tendon, torn labrum and rotator cuff) meant the end of his great career. So, if his playing days are indeed over, I’m not the least bit surprised.
But I”ll always remember what Schilling meant to the Red Sox over four wonderful and winning seasons. And I’ll always be grateful for his numerous contributions to the team I love.
The recent report on the damage to his shoulder goes to show that he was pitching on fumes last October. He got by on will, guile, and craft. He’s one tough, committed dude, and he was a central figure on two Red Sox World Series teams.
Over the course of his 20-year career, Schilling compiled the best strikeout/walk ratio (4.38 K’s per walk) of all pitchers with at least 1,500 innings since 1900. He was a 20-game winner three-times. He had three 300-strikeout seasons. And he also had 3,116 Ks in his career—good enough for 14th all time.
Though Schilling may fall short of the Hall of Fame (due to his 216 wins), his .597 winning percentage and 3.46 career ERA are truly impressive.
Plus, the 41-year-old righty was 11-2 in 19 postseason starts, with a 1.93 ERA. He’s been a World Series MVP. He’s started a Game 7 in the World Series. He’s won elimination games and series clinchers. He will forever be remembered for the bloody sock and—especially to Sox fans—for helping to defeat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, and then the Cardinals for the team’s first World Series victory in 86 years. For all of that, Red Sox Nation thanks you, Curt. And we’ll be forever grateful.
Lastly, I decided to compare how Schilling stacks up to Roger Clemens, arguably the greatest pitcher of the modern era.
Clemens had to leave Game 3 of last year’s ALDS, down 3-0 after 2 1/3 innings. It was hardly surprising. He has a history of such things. Remember Game 7, Yankees vs. Red Sox, in the 2003 ALCS? Clemens lasted just three-plus innings and exited down 4-0.
In fact, with his team facing elimination, Clemens had just one win in seven chances, and a 5.28 ERA. When was that? Oct. 15, 1986.
So, why would anyone in their right mind call him a “Big-Game Pitcher”? Who knows? He simply wasn’t.
October 10th will mark the 18th anniversary of the day he got tossed in the second inning against Oakland. Of course, that was an elimination game, too. I remember it all too well. Thanks, Roger.
The difference between Schilling and Clemens is that Schilling consistently showed up when it counted—in the post-season—and Clemens didn’t.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.