Is the following quotation from a book review that will eventually be written about the events that finally led to Manny Ramirez’s brilliant Red Sox career ending in a ball of flames?
“The story examines the variations a mistruth can go through when filtered through person after person and illustrates how different people can have multiple perceptions and interpretations of the same event. The various points of view the reader sees provide insight into the story that none of the individual characters possesses.”
No, this is an excerpt from a review of the book, Nothing But The Truth, by Avi, which is one of the books I read with my class when I was a 9th grade English teacher. But the lessons of this profound book apply directly to this whole Manny Ramirez situation. All of you who have read this book understand that there is NOT “one truth” in the drama that has played out over the last week — and over the last eight years. There’s Manny’s truth. There’s Manny’s wife’s truth. There’s John Henry’s truth. There’s Theo’s truth. There’s Francona’s truth. There’s each teammate’s truth. There’s Dan Shaughnessy’s truth. There’s Jerry Remy’s truth. There’s the stat-man’s truth. And there’s YOUR truth, based on everything you have read, heard, and seen — and the mindset you bring to this situation.
The book reminds us that everything you hear from a second-hand source has been distorted in some way, often a small way and and often unintentionally. It reminds us that two people can witness the same scene and describe it totally differently — and both descriptions can be accurate. It reminds us that all reporters, players, and fans perceive the things Manny does and says — and the things that are said about him — through the lenses of their own prejudgments and cultural values, so all reporters, fans, and players see and hear different things. It reminds us that we almost NEVER know the true context of the quotations we read and the actions we witness, and that reporters can tell you the complete truth — and mangle it at the same time. It reminds us that a small misunderstanding can snowball into an out-of-control mess when one warped interpretation leads to multiple responses that are even more off-base, and the original players in the drama react to these responses in ways that make the situation even worse, and on and on it goes, the downward spiral of miscommunication and misinterpretations compounding in a horrific way.
Ultimately, it’s futile for reporters (and fans) to state unequivocally what’s going on in this Manny Ramirez situation — BUT because it’s their job (and because they’re programmed to think their version of the truth is “the right” one), that’s what they do. And this often takes us even further from “the real truth.”
We should be careful about judging people based on shreds of information (from second-hand sources in the media) that barely scratch the surface of a complex scenario. (For example, Manny Ramirez and Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick have worked together for eight years — there’s a history there that we know nothing about.) The press is paid to tell us what happened — but only the BEST reporters dig below the surface to find the REAL STORY. There are conversations that have taken place that we don’t know about (Scott Boras?) and factors at play that we can’t comprehend (culture differences?) that, if we were aware of them, would shift whatever opinion we currently have about Manny Ramirez and others who have played a role in this saga.
Tom Caron stated the truth he perceives on last night’s post-game show: “Manny has acted and spoken his way right out of this clubhouse.”
Or, maybe WE’VE acted and spoken Manny right out of this clubhouse by our tainted and sensationalized reporting of “the truth” and our lack of understanding about a unique personality who, through it all, drives in runs with a smile on his face. That’s certainly Manny’s truth. He said last night, “Mental peace has no price and I don’t have peace here.” When I put myself in his shoes, that’s a truth that’s easy to see.
The Yankees are in town for a weekend showdown, and Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen has written a well-timed article
making a case for the forced extinction of the chant, “Yankees Suck!” I
couldn’t agree more with Kevin, and his article reminded me of a piece
I wrote in March, 2008 for the Sox and Pinstripes blog, about why Red Sox fans actually love the Yankees more than we hate them. Here’s an excerpt from that article:
I’m Vice President of Red Sox Nation, and I love the New York
Yankees. Are you a Red Sox fan who’s shocked by this statement? Guess
what, you love them, too. In fact, the longer you’ve been a Red Sox
fan, the greater your love is for them.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a world without the
Yankees. Imagine there’s no rivalry between the Boston and New York
baseball teams; in fact, there’s no legitimate “rivalry” between the
Red Sox and any other team. Goose Gossage was never a nemesis and David
Ortiz never hit those dramatic
Mariano Rivera played for the Reds so we hardly knew
him, and George Steinbrenner owned the Phillies so his name merely
rings a bell. 1978 never happened, but neither did 2004.
Do you find this vision enticing? Nah. Like me, you appreciate the
way things have turned out so far (the painful times made the jubilant
times more jubilant), and you’re dying of anticipation as you think
ahead to future seasons of the greatest rivalry in all of sports.
You’ll never root for the Yanks, but you’ll be happiest when they’re a
top-notch team that buys whatever superstar they want…. then loses to
the Red Sox in games that really count. And you’ll give Derek Jeter a
“standing-O” in his last at-bat at Fenway Park because, like me, you
deeply appreciate what he has contributed to your enjoyment of The Game
– as a Yankee.
To read the article from Sox and Pinstripes in its entirety, click here.
No, the Vice President of Red Sox Nation did not get a ticket to the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Old friend Hank Steinbrenner never called. Neither did any of my other pals in New York. And as the day of the game approached, I dreaded the possibility of sitting on my couch and experiencing another baseball game on TV with the third grade-level commentary of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck. (Why doesn’t Remy ever get these national gigs, like he should? And doesn’t it make you laugh the way Joe Buck looks at the camera and smiles in precise 6-second intervals when McCarver is speaking?)
But my prospects brightened when I received an email from my son’s summer day camp: “Come watch the All-Star Game on an eight-foot screen under the stars — 7:00pm Kids’ Candy Ball, 7:30pm Kids’ Home Run Derby, 8:30pm Game Time. Popcorn, hot dogs, watermelon, and lemonade will be served. $5 per person.” Frankly, this sounded even better than a long trip to and from New York. And with all due respect to The House That Ruth Built, I’d have paid more for this “camp” baseball experience than for a front row ticket to Yankee Stadium from a scalper.
When I arrived at the All-Star event with my nine and six year-old sons, about 40 kids had gathered on the field for a game of “Candy Ball” — a game I had never heard of until then, which is odd because it’s just about the most enticing game for kids that’s ever been invented. The way this works is, one adult holds a tennis racket and whacks a tennis ball high into the air above a crowd of kids. All the kids gather under the ball as it dives towards Earth, smiles on their faces, then they all leap at the same moment to try to catch the ball. The player who DOES catch the ball (before it bounces) runs in and digs a piece of candy out of a big white bucket. (It’s a fabulous game for tall kids, and a really demoralizing one for short ones.)
Then came the Home Run Derby. With visions of Josh Hamilton in their heads, all kids got to take seven swings at slow lobs, and while most didn’t come close to hitting a baseball over the stone wall (perhaps 100 feet to the left and right field poles, and 150 feet to center), a few hit one to two dingers. My favorite moment was when my six year-old son took his whacks. He was (by far) the youngest kid there, but he stood up there and swung a heavy aluminum bat with all his might, and on his fifth swing he hit a line drive right back at the pitcher’s head (see photo). Pride and dignity swept over his face after that frozen rope.
The All-Star Game itself, the main event, was pretty cool. The kids and their parents gathered on a small grassy hill that looked down on a soccer goal, onto which a huge white sheet had been duct taped. A small silver box projected the game onto the sheet, and as the sky got darker and darker, the image on the sheet became sharper and sharper. A crowd of kids gathered at the very front and cheered loudly when Sox players were introduced. Of course, Yankees players were booed vociferously.
Three moments from the player introductions stand out. After the boos for Derek Jeter died down, I overheard one child wearing an Ortiz t-shirt say to the kid sitting next to him, “He’s
my favorite Yankee, and I still hate him.” And when Kevin Youkilis was introduced, the whole crowd on the hill howled “YOOOOOOOOUK!” (What a stroke of luck for a player when he has a name that rhymes with “boo.” Remember the way we cheered for Lou Merloni? And when the fans ARE booing you, you can remain happily ignorant.) The most surprising moment during the team introductions was when Terry Francona trotted out of the Yankee Stadium dugout. He got the loudest cheers from the kids and adults assembled there — louder than Manny’s, louder than Youk’s, louder than Pedroia’s. The man is a true rock star.
Yeah, it would have been amazing to be in Yankee Stadium for all the farewell fanfare, to cheer for our hometown guys, and to see a great all-star game in person. But I was even happier being right where I should have been — with my kids, along with a herd of young Sox fans and their parents, sitting on a blanket about two miles from Fenway Park, under the full moon, watching the game on a bedsheet while munching on popcorn and watermelon, after a game of Candy Ball and a Home Run Derby.
“Is this Heaven?” Kevin Costner’s character asks his father in Field of Dreams. “No…. it’s Red Sox Nation. The heart of Red Sox Nation.”
To download the songs, “I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation” and “Opening Day” for free, please visit my other blog, Crawdaddy Cove.
All of us have read or heard about Josh Hamilton’s incredible story,
and last night, many of us were lucky enough to witness on TV his
stunning home run exhibition in the first round of the Home Run Derby
(in which he hit an amazing 28 home runs, a record).
Personally, I’m deeply inspired by Josh
Hamilton’s comeback from drug and alcohol addiction (as is Peter
Gammons, who writes so eloquently about the meaning of Hamilton
in his blog) and I’m rooting hard for his continued success. I only
wish he were on the Red Sox, so I could watch him play and cheer for
him every day.
But what I want to write about tonight is
the impact that Hamilton has had on my 9 year-old son. This kid is a
fiercely loyal Red Sox fan, and in his four years as an “aware” fan of
the game, Josh Hamilton is only the third non-Red Sox player he has
rooted for with passion (the others are Pedro Martinez and Nomar
Garciaparra). Why does he like Josh Hamilton so much? Two reasons:
On Patriots Day, April 22, I took my two sons and a friend of theirs to
the Red Sox-Rangers game. Afterwards, they spotted a Rangers player
signing autographs near the Rangers dugout. “Daddy, can we run over
there and get his autograph?” Sure, you can try, I replied. I
hadn’t seen a player sign autographs after a game at Fenway Park since
I was a kid, in the late ’70s or early ’80s, and I could feel their
excitement about scoring a major leaguer’s autograph. They were at the
back of a large line of people, but the unknown Rangers player signed
and signed and posed for photos with anyone who was interested. By the
time my oldest son and his friend reached the front of the line, the
player had been signing for perhaps ten minutes, and he seemed to be in
no hurry to go take a shower.
He signed my son’s hat, then politely and calmly posed for a photo with my son and his friend. What do you say, I whispered. “Thank you,” my son said. You’re welcome, buddy, the player replied.
As we walked away, the player continued to sign autographs and pose for
photos. “Who was that?” I asked my son. “Josh Hamilton, see?” he
replied, showing me the autograph on the white brim of his Red Sox cap.
The kids glowed all the way home, their Fenway experience having ended in a magical way.
2. Last night, Hamilton won our hearts
forever with monumental shot after monumental shot, his 71 year-old
former high school baseball coach pitching to him, and his proclamation
to FOX sportscaster Erin Andrews that he had dreamed the exact scene,
including being interviewed by her. “Mommy, come in here if you want to
see history being made!” my son yelled after HR number 25. He was
mesmerized. So was I. (Weren’t you??)
Today at my son’s day camp, the kids were
given t-shirts and invited to decorate them with
markers. When I picked him up in the late afternoon,
he was wearing a homemade all-star team replica shirt with the word
“American” scrawled across the front and the name “Hamilton” written in
block letters across the top of the back of the shirt. (Oops, Hamilton
isn’t #21, he’s #32…. details…) He wore the t-shirt
the rest of the
day, even while we watched seven Red Sox players compete in the
Hamilton’s improbable transformation makes
him a fascinating figure to the media and all of us adult fans, but
that side of the player means almost nothing to young baseball fans out
there. They love the guy for simple reasons — he’s a phenomenal,
graceful, exciting ballplayer, and he takes time to talk with them,
sign an autograph, and pose for a photo. With 750 major leaguers, it’s
remarkable that so few comprehend the profound influence they can have
on young people in this way.
To download the songs, “I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation” and “Opening Day” for free, please visit my other blog, Crawdaddy Cove.
I found out that the Sox have seven all-stars in the Monday morning Boston Globe,
which I had to drive six miles to buy. And I heard Manny Ramirez tie
the game in the 8th inning with a home run on Tuesday night via a
small, black transistor radio, the AM station maddeningly fading in and
out during the most crucial pitches of the game.
vacation deep in the woods of Northern New England in a non-winterized
cabin that has a section 25 sign hanging from the rafters
(commemorating my family’s favorite standing-room-only location).
Without Internet, cell phone, or TV access, following the
Red Sox is a whole different ball game up here. Down in Boston, it’s
all about NESN and your
couch. You watch the pre-game show, you watch
the game with Remy and Orsillo, and you fall asleep either during or
right after the post-game show. The sports sections in the morning
papers are read more out of habit than anything else, and few new
nuggets show up there that weren’t shared by Tom Caron, Eck, Lou
Merloni, or Kathryn Tappen on Sportsdesk after the game.
But up here
in the woods, following the Sox is all about two things: 1) Getting
good reception on your radio (and having a backup station that carries
the Sox in case your #1 choice fades out), and 2) Driving to the
nearest gas station soon after waking up in the morning to buy the
Boston papers, and hoping they’ve been delivered to the gas station
before you get there, and then hoping that the late scores made it into the local editions.
When I’m in a
remote place like this, it seems like a miracle when I can find the
game on the radio. There’s something about hearing the familiar voice
of Joe Castiglione crackling over the airwaves that gives me goosebumps
and plasters a big old smile on my face. And I get the feeling that Joe
KNOWS he’s broadcasting all the way up here to my distant location, that
he KNOWS how important his responsibility is: to bring the pictures of
the game to life for all of us fans who are stranded miles and miles
from Fenway Park (or even from a town with a stop light).
And reading The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald
sports sections takes on a whole new meaning when I’m up here. Driving
to the nearest gas station at dawn to buy the newspapers
is as much a
part of my morning routine as a cup of coffee. It’s pure joy when I see
the pile of crisp Globes and Heralds sitting there next
to the counter as I walk in the gas station convenience store’s door.
The cash register lady charges me a buck-fifty for the pair, and I’m
grateful that she has no idea she could charge me twenty bucks. Sitting
in my car in front of the gas station reading about the Red Sox, and
the box scores of other games, is truly one of the day’s highlights.
I do love
this “information era,” where news comes at us moments after it has
occurred and we can follow every baseball game simultaneously on Baseball Tonight,
ESPN.com, or MLBtv. I mean, I REALLY love the information era. But for
this Boston baseball fan, there’s a singular pleasure that comes from
getting away from TV and the Internet (and the chattering
argumentativeness of our sports radio talk shows) and being a baseball
fan in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees at the end of a
mile-long dirt road.
I guess it forces me to become an even more active
fan. Listening to the games on the radio requires more attention and
involvement that watching the TV. Every three minutes, the radio voice
of Castiglione or O’Brien or Arnold rises in excitement and we all yell
Shhhhhhhhh! and lean our heads towards the radio, holding our
breath, “seeing” the game in our heads and hanging on the announcer’s
every word. Likewise, gleaning information and analysis from the
NESN pre-game and post-game shows – or from the newspaper sitting on your
front step — is passive compared to the deliberate act of driving six miles to the newspaper store and the active process of reading Masserotti’s and Shaughnessy’s and Ryan’s columns – I mean, really reading and savoring them, in the same way one would savor a hot meal cooked over a campfire after hiking 20 miles in the rain.
like I came all the way up to this cabin in the woods to enjoy the
sublime experience of following the Red Sox in the “old school” way.
did I post this blog article if I’m disconnected in the north woods?
The public library across the street from the local gas station has
wireless Internet access…. as I write this, it’s nighttime and the
library is closed… I’m parked on the street in front of the library,
listening to the Diamondbacks-Nationals game on the radio, heading into
the 11th inning…. it’s an off-night for the Red Sox, and the A.M.
signal from D.C. is strong ….)
To download the songs, “I’m A Member of Red Sox Nation” and “Opening Day” for free, please visit my other blog, Crawdaddy Cove.
When I first heard that Schill would be out for the season because of shoulder surgery, I felt a cold shiver go down my spine. Deep down, I was expecting him to return just in time for the playoffs and play a key role – even if it meant pitching one important inning in the ALCS. Curt Schilling in the postseason is like Michael Jordan in the Finals and Tiger Woods in the Majors. Think that’s an exaggeration? Check the stats (or just trust me, he’s MONEY when the games are big — even when his body is broken).
Over the last two weeks, there have been several opinions expressed about Schilling’s case to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. My gut tells me he’s Hall-worthy, but one of the main lessons of Michael Lewis’s excellent book, Moneyball, is that you can’t always trust your gut — you’ve got to do the analysis. So, I did the analysis and now it’s obvious to me that my gut isn’t lying to me — Schilling belongs in the Hall of Fame. So, here are my rebuttals to the three most common arguments against Curt Schilling’s candidacy:
The Bert Blyleven Argument: Several writers and commentators have pointed to Bert Blyleven’s failure to garner 75% of the vote, reasoning that since Blyleven isn’t in the Hall, Schilling shouldn’t be in the Hall either. But an in-depth look at Blyleven’s career makes it clear that he, too, belongs in the Hall of Fame and that the sportswriters who vote have really blown it by not electing Blyleven. Only Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens have more career strikeouts, and when he retired, Blyleven was third all-time in this category. All-time! Can you imagine if the guy who’s #5 in career hits wasn’t in the Hall yet? (That’s former Red Sox star outfielder, Tris Speaker, with 3,514 hits). It would devalue the Hall to leave out Tris Speaker (who, like Schilling won three World Series, two of them with the Red Sox). Blyleven’s also top-ten all-time in career starts, and his 60 career shutouts rank 9th on the all-time list. Every other pitcher among the top-20 in shutouts is in the Hall. Why not Blyleven? Beats me. He’s 13th all-time in innings pitched (4,970) and all twelve of the pitchers ahead of him in this category are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, as well. And while he didn’t have 300 career wins (which seems to provide a ticket to the Hall), he came damn close with 287. Plus, Blyleven was excellent in the postseason too — in three postseasons, he was 5-1 with an E.R.A. of 2.47, and his teams won the World Series TWICE. Both Blyleven AND Schilling belong in the Hall of Fame. So let’s stop using Blyleven as a barrier to Schilling.
And anyway, it’s just as easy to find players whose inclusion in the Hall of Fame support Schilling’s case — Phil Rizzutto (in 13 seasons, his lifetime B.A. was .273, but he won 7 World Series with the Yankees), Ozzie Smith (.262 lifetime B.A. and 94th all-time with 2,460 hits, but won 13 Gold Gloves and played in 3 World Series, winning one of them); Tony Perez (in 23 years his lifetime B.A. was .279 and he had 2,732 hits, which places his 50th on the all-time list; but his real claim to fame is that he played in five World Series and won two of them as an integral member of the Big Red Machine). I believe that all three of these guys belong in the Hall of Fame, but none of them has a case that’s stronger than Curt Schilling’s.
I know, those are hitters and you want to compare Schilling’s career to other pitchers who are in the Hall, right? OK. Here are four great comparisons: Hal Newhouser, Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, and Catfish Hunter.
Hal Newhouser won only 207 games in his 17-season career (with an E.R.A. of 3.06), but during the seven year span of 1944 to 1950, he was dominant, going 151-80. He won the MVP award in 1944 and 1945 (the only pitcher in history to win the award in consecutive years), and he was second in MVP voting in 1946 (this was before the dawning of the Cy Young Award, in 1956). For his career, Newhouser pitched 212 complete games, and during his dominant seven years, he completed 136 of the 240 games he started (57%). Newhouser pitched in two World Series, winning one of them, but his performance wasn’t Newhouser-esque — he went 2-1 with an E.R.A. of 6.53 in 20.2 innings. And during his long career with the Tigers, he had a winning record in only seven of his 17 seasons. Take away those seven winning years, and his record during the other ten seasons was a mediocre 56-70. Still, all baseball historians know that Hal Newhouser belongs in the Hall of Fame. And if Newhouser’s a Hall of Famer, then so is Curt Schilling.
Jim Bunning was 224-184 with an E.R.A. of 3.27 during his 17-year career. He won 20 games only once, never won a Cy Young Award (though he did place second in the voting once), and he never pitched in the postseason. He did play on nine all-star teams, and he led the league in strikeouts three times (he’s 17th on the all-time K list with 2,855, which is 261 less than Schilling, who is 14th on the career list with 3,116, one shy of Bob Gibson’s 3,117). Jim Bunning belongs in the Hall of Fame, but his stats reveal that he was a lot like Curt Schilling – without the rings. So if Bunning’s a Hall of Famer, then so is Curt Schilling.
Don Drysdale was 209-166 during his 14-year career. He won 20 games twice, won the Cy Young Award once, and like Schilling, played in five postseasons, winning the World Series three of those times (he, too, was a winner). During his five World Series, Drysdale was 3-3 with an E.R.A. that mirrored his career E.R.A. of 2.95. He played on eight all-star teams and led the league in strikeouts three times (his 2,486 career strikeouts place him 30th all-time). Drysdale’s career was relatively short, so his career numbers don’t rank him among the all-time leaders in any category. But he was GREAT during the period he did play, and he played a major role on THREE World Series-winning teams. Does Don Drysdale belong in the Hall of Fame? Yes. And his inclusion means Schilling belongs in the Hall, as well.
Jim “Catfish” Hunter was the ace pitcher of the A’s dynasty, compiling a career won-lost record of 224-166, with an E.R.A. of 3.26 in fifteen seasons. His 2,012 strikeouts place him 60th on the all-time list. He won 20 games five times (in consecutive years, 1971-1975), was an all-star eight times, and he pitched in SIX World Series, winning FIVE of them (three as a member of the A’s, and two as a Yankee). His World Series record was 5-3, with an E.R.A. of 3.29, and his overall postseason stats are 9-6, 3.26. Hunter won one Cy Young Award and placed second in the voting once, third once, and fourth once. He pitched one of only 15 9-inning perfect games (ever, including Don Larsen’s WS perfect game) on May 8, 1968. And even with fellow Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage as his team’s closers, Hunter still completed 181 games, or 38% of the games he started. Schilling’s Hall of Fame case is very similar to Hunter’s — their collection of World Series rings and their individual impact on these teams lead their resumes, and when their career stats are added to their postseason success, you just can’t keep them out of the Hall.
Here’s a summary of how Schilling compares with these four pitchers, plus Bert Blyleven, in various statistical categories:
1. Bert Blyleven – 287 (27th all-time)
2. Jim Bunning – 224 (67th all-time)
2. Catfish Hunter – 224 (67th all-time)
4. Curt Schilling – 216 (79th all-time)
5. Don Drysdale – 209 (95th all-time)
6. Hal Newhouser – 207 (99th all-time)
1. Curt Schilling – .597
2. Hal Newhouser – .580
3. Catfish Hunter – .574
4. Don Drysdale – .557
5. Jim Bunning – .549
6. Bert Blyleven – .534
Postseason Record and E.R.A.
1. Curt Schilling – 11-2, 2.23
2. Bert Blyleven – 5-1, 2.47
3. Catfish Hunter – 9-6, 3.26
4. Don Drysdale – 3-3, 2.95
5. Hal Newhouser – 2-1, 6.53
6. Jim Bunning (no postseason appearances)
World Series Championships
1. Catfish Hunter – 5
2. Don Drysdale – 3
2. Curt Schilling – 3
4. Bert Blyleven -2
5. Hal Newhouser – 1
6. Jim Bunning – 0
1. Bert Blyleven – 3,701 (5th all-time)
2. Curt Schilling – 3,116 (14th all-time)
3. Jim Bunning – 2,855 (17th all-time)
4. Don Drysdale – 2,486 (30th all-time)
5. Catfish Hunter – 2,012 (60th all-time)
6. Hal Newhouser – 1,796 (95th all-time)
1. Catfish Hunter – 5
2. Hal Newhouser – 4
3. Curt Schilling – 3
4. Don Drysdale – 2
5. Jim Bunning -1
6. Bert Blyleven – 1
Placing Top-5 in Cy Young Award Voting, and Cy Young Awards
1. Catfish Hunter – 4 (1)
1. Curt Schilling – 4 (0)
1. Bert Blyleven – 4 (0)
4. Hal Newhouser – 3 times top-5 in MVP voting (2 MVPs)
5. Don Drysdale – 1 (1)
6. Jim Bunning – 1 (0)
1. Don Drysdale – 8
1. Catfish Hunter – 8
3. Hal Newhouser – 7
3. Jim Bunning – 7
5. Curt Schilling – 6
6. Bert Blyleven – 2
1. Bert Blyleven – 16
2. Jim Bunning – 13
3. Don Drysdale – 12
4. Catfish Hunter – 10
5. Curt Schilling – 9
6. Hal Newhouser – 7
Strikeout to Walk Ratio
1. Curt Schilling – 4.38 (2nd all-time, behind Tommy Bond, who pitched from 1874-1884)
2. Don Drysdale – 2.91 (39th all-time)
3. Jim Bunning – 2.86 (43rd all-time)
4. Bert Blyleven – 2.80 (47th all-time)
5. Catfish Hunter – 2.11 (200th all-time)
6. Hal Newhouser – 1.44 (643rd all-time)
Walks and Hits Per Inning Pitched (WHIP)
1. Catfish Hunter – 1.13 (42nd all-time)
2. Curt Schilling – 1.14 (44th all-time)
3. Don Drysdale – 1.15 (59th all-time)
4. Jim Bunning – 1.18 (92nd all-time)
5. Bert Blyleven – 1.20 (125th all-time)
6. Hal Newhouser, 1.31 (488th all-time)
The “He Was Never a Dominant Pitcher of his Era” Argument: This is the most frustrating argument of all, because Schilling has been a dominant pitcher during his era. True, he has never won a Cy Young Award, but he has placed second in the voting three times (in 2004 he placed second behind Johan Santana, and in 2002 and 2001 he placed second behind future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. In 1997, he placed fourth in the voting behind Pedro Martinez of the Expos, Greg Maddux, and Denny Neagle). Schilling has been selected to six All-Star Teams (1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004) and has had three 20-win seasons (2001, 2002, 2004). His career ERA of 3.46 is better than that of Tom Glavine (3.53, and Hall-worthy), Roy Halladay (3.58, and on-track for the Hall), and Josh Beckett (3.75, and on-track for the Hall). He’s 13th all-time in strikeouts (one behind Bob Gibson) and his strikeout to walk ratio (4.38) is the lowest of any pitcher since 1900! And, of course, Schilling is one of the most dominant pitchers in postseason history… more about that below.
The “216 Wins Isn’t Enough” Argument: Now I understand this argument, and taken all by itself, it does have some merit. Schilling is 79th all-time in wins, and there are 30 pitchers with more wins who are Hall-eligible and have not gained enshrinement. These include Tommy John (288), Bert Blyleven (287), Jim Kaat (283), Jack Morris (254), Frank Tanana (240), Luis Tiant (229), Jerry Koosman (222), Joe Niekro (221), and Mickey Lolich (217). There are several active pitchers who are in the same zone as Schilling: Jamie Moyer (237), Kenny Rogers (215), Pedro Martinez (211, and Hall-worthy), John Smoltz (210, and Hall-worthy), Andy Pettitte (209). Like I said, if career wins was the sole indicator of Hall worthiness, Schilling probably wouldn’t make it.
But it surprises me when writers say, “He needs one more 15-win season to make it,” or, “Forty more wins, and he’d have my vote.” Why does this surprise me? Because I would expect educated sportswriters and historians of the game to understand that two more 15-win seasons wouldn’t change the monumental impact of Schilling’s career. Yes, they would help him compare more favorably with other greats on a list of career statistics, but that’s all. All the things that make Schilling a Hall of Famer have already occurred in his career. Anything he does from now until he retires is just stat-piling (unless, of course, he wins another World Series — which is possible). Some guys are in the Hall because their longevity and consistency helped them amass amazing career stats. And some guys are in the Hall because of the undeniable impact of their careers on Major League Baseball (Newhouser, Drysdale, and Hunter are the best examples among pitchers). If Schilling heals and pitches a couple more seasons, he’ll rise in the “longevity” category, but he’s already an elite force in the “impact” category.
The Greatness Factor: The evidence that pushes Schilling into Hall of Fame territory is the key role he played on three World Series-winning teams. THREE. It’s not an exaggeration to say that, without Schilling on those three rosters (2001 Diamondbacks, 2004 Red Sox, 2007 Red Sox), NONE of those teams would have won it all. We all know about his clutch performance in the “bloody sock” game – the critical sixth game of the ALCS in Yankee Stadium, when he pitched with fresh sutures holding together his ankle. But let’s not forget that Schilling was the co-MVP of the 2001 World Series (as a Diamondback), in which he pitched 21.1 innings, striking out 26 Yankees and walking only two. His World Series E.R.A. that year was 1.69. All in all, during the 2001 postseason, Schilling was 4-0 with a 1.12 E.R.A., and he had 56 strikeouts and 6 walks in 48.1 innings.
“So that’s only one postseason,” you say. “Lots of guys get hot in one postseason. That doesn’t make you a Hall of Famer.” Fine. So let’s look at Schilling’s performance on the 2004 and 2007 World Championship Red Sox teams. During these two postseasons combined, Schilling went 6-1 with an E.R.A. of 3.20. He won the critical sixth game of BOTH ALCS series (2004 vs. Yanks, 2007 vs. Indians) with the Sox facing elimination, and in BOTH games he won with heart more than velocity. In the 2004 and 2007 World Series combined, Schilling started two games (remember, both series were four-game sweeps) and went 2-0 with an E.R.A. of 0.79. In total, Schilling’s postseason record is 11-2 with an E.R.A. of 2.23. He played in the postseason five times, and his team won the World Series in three of those appearances (amazing, given that in the Wild Card era, each playoff team should have a one-in-eight chance of winning it all).
Curt Schilling is one of the greatest “winners” in the history of Major League Baseball. Sure, he won less than half as many regular season games as Cy Young won (512), but he’s among the elite in terms of winning BIG games. And when it comes right down to it, isn’t winning BIG games what it’s all about? Isn’t winning the World Series what it’s all about? Pitching greatness has several forms, and not all of them include 300 career wins. Hall of Fame members would be diminished by the omission of Curt Schilling. Not everyone loves the guy’s schtick (personally, I love his honesty and his determination to be himself), but no one can deny that he pitched his guts out every start, that he was among the most prepared and cerebral pitchers in the game’s history (who else returns to the dugout and immediately takes notes on the inning he just pitched?) and that he was one of the all-time greats when the pressure was most intense and the stakes were highest.
So, baseball writers, do your job and cast a Hall of Fame vote for Curt Schilling. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to put a check next to Bert Blyleven’s name, too.
Curt Schilling spent eight years as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies (1993-2000), and it was as a pitcher for this team that he showed the first signs of greatness. For a Philadelphia Enquirer writer’s take on why Schill belongs in the Hall of Fame, click here.
“Tonight, you need to take your son to his summer league baseball tryouts, OK?” my wife said to me on a recent Sunday morning. No problem, I replied. I assumed that every child would be placed on a team appropriate for his level of skill, and that my baseball-loving son would simply be auditioning to show coaches which team he belonged on. What is it that they say about assumptions?
56 kids showed up for the tryout at a field with four diamonds. Each checked in at a table and received two stickers with a number — one for the front of the shirt, one for the back of the shirt. Then, they all found a partner and started to warm up their arms. What a sight: 28 pairs of 8 year-olds playing catch, each with visions in their heads of making a summer travel team, hitting .400, and eventually playing for the Boston Red Sox. Even the ones who can’t catch and can’t throw.
Parents toting thermoses set up their lawn chairs at one end of the field to watch. I struck up a conversation with a friendly looking dad, and it was then that I learned that only 26 of these children would make a team — that there would be an “American” team and a “National” team (each consisting of 13 players) and that 30 kids would be cut. Those 30 kids would have NO team to play on this summer. (“The spring league is for participation,” the other dad told me. “The summer league is for development and competition.”)
I was stunned. In my own baseball experience, I didn’t face do-or-die tryouts until sophomore year in high school (I still remember Coach Cohen reading my name at the end of that tryout, indicating I had barely made Brookline High’s JV team. In fact, the stick I picked up off the ground and held in my hands as he read my name sits on my dresser, the only good luck charm I’ve ever had.) Thinking from the point of view of an 8 year-old ballplayer, I was stunned at the harshness of it. And I was bewildered by the idea of 30 moms and dads consoling their third graders about not having a team to play on this summer. What would I say to my son if he were cut? Honestly, I couldn’t even begin to imagine that conversation. The kid lives for baseball. It would be devastating. I decided to cross that bridge if I came to it, and hope for the best.
The children were split into four groups of 14, and they cycled through four stations (hitting, ground balls, fly balls, and live infield situations) where they were evaluated by two to three coaches, each scribbling away on his clipboard after every play. Suddenly, it dawned on me that the skills my son had developed during those endless hours of wiffle ball in our backyard, and the thousands of ground balls and fly balls we had practiced in our front yard, and the two seasons of coach-pitch little league were being evaluated right now. It occurred to me that if I’d known the cut-throat nature of our town’s summer league tryouts, I’d have practiced a lot more with my son over the last year. Then it occurred to me that it was probably good that I didn’t know this, since it might have brought out the the “crazy over-coaching dad” that’s probably inside of me somewhere, which definitely would have killed my son’s passion for the game. His wiffle ball experience will have to carry him, I reasoned.
My heart sank every time he swung and missed. I wanted to bellow some encouragement to him, but with all the other parents silently rooting against my son, it didn’t feel right. Then he connected. I was surprised at my pride. Then a line drive, and another one. A couple of foul balls, a miss, then a weak grounder to third. “NEXT!” yelled the evaluator, and he was back in the field. Was that good enough? I asked myself.
He looked solid on the grounders – got in front of every ball, kept his butt down, used two hands, made some crisp throws to first base. For a moment, I deluded myself into believing I’d taught him his technique — the truth is, he was simply imitating his favorite player, Nomar Garciaparra.
At the end of the tryout, the coaches called the kids in and had them get down on one knee at home plate. Then one of the coaches brought over a gigantic trophy and explained to the youngsters that last year’s 8 year-old team from our town had gone undefeated and had won that trophy, and that the tryout group couldn’t touch it until they had won the right to have their own team’s name engraved on it. Nice. 30 of these kids are going to get bad news in a few days, and now that news will be even more painful to receive. I assure you, none of those 56 kids was in a state of mind to be inspired by the trophy – they just wanted to earn the chance to wear a town uniform!
Part II of the tryout continued one week later. The kids were obviously grouped by ability this time, and I was relieved to see that my son was in a group of somewhat capable players. I just wanted him to make a team — any team! I hadn’t begun to compose my “Michael Jordan didn’t make his high school JV team” speech, and I really didn’t want to. 30 of us parents were going to have to come up with something to ease their pain, though. I dreaded that, for all of us.
In the final twenty minutes, the coaches had the players line up at home plate and they timed them running from home to first, then again from home to second. As the kids crossed the base, the timer yelled out the results for all to hear, and another guy with a clipboard wrote down the times. I felt like I was at the NFL pre-draft combine. Then, the five fastest kids raced, then they narrowed it to two, and those two raced…. and we have a WINNER! And everyone cheered for the fastest boy. (The point of this, other than pure enjoyment for the adults running the tryout, completely eludes me.)
On the way home, my son spoke with total self-confidence. He was sure he had made one of the teams. I suspected all 56 of the young men felt the same way. “If you do make a team, do you care which team you’re on?” I asked. Nah, he said, I just want to play. I was about 43 times more nervous for him than he was for himself. So, this is what it’s like being the parent of an aspiring athlete, I thought. (Butterflies, and a total lack of control over the outcome.)
Then came the wait. 3 days, 4 days, 5 days, and no word from the league. “Did you get an email?” was the first thing my wife and I said to each other when we talked on the phone from work, or when we arrived home in the evening. “Nope, nothing.” Finally, an email came late one night. Based on the recommendation of our evaluators, we are pleased to offer your child a position on our Summer Eight Year Old National Team.
I woke up my wife to tell her. We both felt the relief sweep over us, like we had just dodged a cannonball. And our son? When we told him the next morning, he was actually a little bit disappointed. Turns out he had his heart set on the American team, which he perceived to be the more prestigious of the two. Did I mention he’s got a lot of self- confidence?
I couldn’t help but wonder about the other 30 kids who’d been cut, all of whom wanted to play baseball this summer. And what about their parents? At the same moment my wife and I were feeling a rush of relief, they were all preparing their consolation speeches. What could they say? “Michael Jordan was cut from his high school JV basketball team” is a good start, but then what? Perhaps towns should give all parents a “handbook on talking with your child about tryouts” when they arrive on that first day. I know I could have used something like this had my son not been so fortunate….
are two minutes left in game four, and the Celtics are up by 4. The
Celtics have just overcome a 24-point deficit, on the road, for one of
the greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history. My 9 year-old son would
have loved to have seen this. Too bad the game started an hour after
his bedtime (though we let him stay up, and he made it through the
first quarter before passing out on the couch). A whole generation of
future Celtics fans is missing the creation of new Celtics legends —
even if they want to see it live. They’ll have to settle for the highlights on Sports Center
tomorrow. I know it’s a business. I know that’s why the games start so
late (9:00pm) and end so late (11:45pm). I get it. That doesn’t mean it’s not a real shame, though.
I sit here watching the Celtics and Lakers compete in game two of the
NBA Finals, I’m experiencing flashbacks. I was a senior at Brookline
High School during the Celtics’ awesome 1985-1986 season, and I
remember that every Celtics game was truly an EVENT. “Let’s watch the
Celtics game — your house or mine?” You simply didn’t miss a game on
TV. Even as 17 year-olds, my friends and I were aware that we
were watching an historic team. My father, a basketball player himself
who, in 1954, was the center on the first college team ever coached by
Al McGuire, told me and my siblings all the time, “You will tell your
children about Larry Bird. He is one of the best ever. Why? Because he
makes his teammates better.” It was such a joy to watch that ’86 team
pass, shoot, and play as a TEAM. And do you recall? NO ONE beat the
Celtics at the Garden (well, they actually did lose a single game at
home that season, going 40-1). We were invincible at home.
I remember that my Brookline High School graduation took place
DURING GAME SIX of that year’s Finals, a game in which the Celtics beat
the Rockets to take the World Championship. The graduation speaker was
Kitty Dukakis (wife of the then-Massachusetts governor, and a Brookline
High graduate), but I didn’t hear a word she said, because the kid
sitting in front of me had a Sony Watchman (a rare possession at that
time) and we were glued to his black and white mini-tube. Everytime the
Celtics or Rockets scored, the new score would be passed through the
student body through lightning-quick whispers.
I also remember that Jim Craig (the goalie for the 1984 U.S.A. Olympic
ice hockey team) attended our graduation, and when I saw him there, I
ran home, got the Globe and Herald I had saved from the
day after the Miracle on Ice, brought them back to B.H.S. and asked
Craig to sign them, which he did. (What do you think these would fetch
on eBay?) I was much more excited about the Celtics’ victory over
Sampson and Olajuwon and about meeting Jim Craig than I was about my
graduation. Indeed, I probably wouldn’t remember anything at all about
that day were it not for the WAY I watched the clinching Finals game
and my encounter with gold medalist Jim Craig.
What will I remember 22 years from now about the 2008 NBA Finals?
Those two consecutive monster dunks I just saw by Leon Powe? Probably
not. Paul Pierce leaving the court in a wheelchair, then returning to
drain shot after shot? Perhaps. Kevin Garnett? Definitely. What a force
of nature he is. But often, what we remember about a championship is
related to where we were when the final game was clinched, who we were
with, or what circumstances were present in our lives on that day.
First, let’s win….. the memories will take care of themselves.