Beth, for some unfathomable reason, has buggered off to New Jersey for a few days and has left the keys to C2F in the hands of a bunch of
dodgy reprobates guest bloggers. And I ask you: who better to blog on baseball than a British guy living in France?
I've never done any blog-sitting for anyone before, so I have no real frame of reference, but I have to say that the conditions are pretty good. I've done some house-sitting from time to time for friends, and there always seems to be a twelve-page booklet of what to do and when: complicated plant-watering and cat-feeding schedules, long lists of which neighbours you can talk to and which you should *never, ever* under any circumstances engage in conversation, etc. The list from Beth simply said: "guest post." No instructions, no desperate pleas to not drink all the beer in the fridge, no "please don't's." Just a post, in English (damn, that would have been fun - a kind of retro, Expos-style post in French) and on baseball (double damn - you don't know how close you came to getting an in-depth study of the relative merits of baseball and cricket).
So what have I got for you? Curt Schilling, that's what, whose win last night made him the Red Sox' second 13-game winner of the season. I know that Schilling is not beloved of all of the members of Red Sox Nation, but like him or loathe him, ever since he put on the Red Sox uniform, he has done what he said he would do. He helped bring a championship to Boston for the first time in 86 years, and he has anchored a pitching staff which right now is starting look like it could be very good for a very long time.
Schilling' pitching speaks for itself, but what I find fascinating is his mentoring of the younger pitchers on the Red Sox roster. He surely has in mind the famous pep-talk (read: "serious chewing out of ass") he got many moons ago from Roger Clemens, who basically told him that he was wasting the huge talent he had. He subsequently got his act together, and the World Series rings he has are a testament to the power of that particular conversation. Schilling clearly now sees it as his job to be there for the young arms the Red Sox have. You only need to read what he had to say about last night's win:
"It means that [Beckett's] got to keep his mouth shut for another four days," quipped Schilling. "I've made 22 starts and we're 17-5. I'm proud of that. There's nights like tonight, when it's a lot more offense than it is you, but you take them any way you can get them."
to see what kind of relationship is growing there. On the days they're not pitching, Schilling and Beckett are like a pair of Siamese twins on the top step of the dugout, and that kind of relationship can only be good for the ballclub - not just the macho "anything you can do, I can do better" challenge, but the opportunity it affords Schilling to pass on what he has learned over the years.
The relationship Schilling has with the younger pitchers is clearly not limited to Beckett. He had this to say about Manny Delcarmen's effort last night:
"That's huge. It's a one-run game. He made some big pitches in big situations, but I've come to expect that from him."
The key to that quote is the "I" - that speaking in the name of the whole club is exactly the kind of thing that rubs people up the wrong way, but it is also precisely what makes Schilling so valuable. He sees his role as the leader and mentor of the rotation, and the "I" is fully coherent with that. He's saying to anyone who will listen: "These are my guys, and you'd better watch your ass..."
Yesterday' Herald had a piece on Schilling and his projected retirement after the end of next season, in which he said that there will be no discussions about extra years beyond that:
Schilling, however, doesn't need more money or more years. He also doesn't need to reserve the right to change his mind. His mind has long been made up.
After next season, it's time for his family. It's time to be more of a full-time father with the kids.
End of fantasy.
End of discussion.
"No, I won't revisit the decision," Schilling said emphatically when asked about being tempted to extend the contract. "Ending it next year has nothing to do with baseball. It has nothing to do with on the field. It centers around my family, missing the stuff I'm missing. It's wearing on me big-time . . . all (the stuff) I don't get a chance to see it again."
And you know what? That's fine with me. The man has done what he said he would do. And what he is doing right now with this staff is just as valuable as an extra year on the mound. One day in 2009 or 2013 Lester or Papelbon or Manny Delcarmen is going to stand in front of a microphone and thank Curt Schilling for changing his career back in 2006, and we'll all be sat in front of the TV saying, "Man - I always loved that number 38..."