I know they won the game; I want to know if he liked the book

July 26th, 2006 → 6:15 am @

“OAKLAND, Calif. — While it was Curt Schilling who could be found on a clubhouse sofa before last night’s game reading the book, ‘Feeding the Monster,’ it might have been more appropriate reading material for the kid pitching for the Oakland Athletics, the one just two years out of college whose second big-league start placed him at the mercy of Manny Ramírez and the Red Sox.”

“Sox show muscle, Red hot bats help Schilling win 13th”
The Boston Globe
July 26, 2006

Post Categories: Curt Schilling & Feeding the Monster reactions

Josh Beckett and the importance of learning how to pitch

July 15th, 2006 → 12:49 pm @

Before the season began, Peter Gammons predicted that, should be remain healthy, Josh Beckett would be the American League Cy Young Award winner. Well, so far, Beckett has remained healthy, and it appears as if 2006 could be the first time in his career that he tops 200 innings. But the Cy Young? Not so much. Beckett’s 11-5 record shows nothing so much as how deceptive a pitcher’s won-loss record can be; his 5.12 ERA is more indicative of how he’s pitched this season. Indeed, last night’s 7-run, 8-hit, 4 1/3 inning effort is beginning to feel disturbingly familiar.

So what’s the problem? It doesn’t seem to be his stuff: he began last night’s game by getting Jason Kendall to whiff on a 97-mile-per-hour fastball—and he’s reached 95 in almost every start this year. Here’s one theory, and it’s one that’s at least been discussed within Yawkey Way: Beckett has never learned how to pitch.

At first blush, that probably seems like a ridiculous statement. Beckett shutout the Yankees on short rest to clinch the 2003 World Series for the Marlins, and has been cited as one of baseball’s marquee pitchers for as long as he’s been in the game. But that could be the problem. For as long as Beckett’s pitched, he’s been someone blessed with preternatural ability and lauded for his skills. In 1999, he was the first high school righthander to be selected second overall in the draft in more than two decades. Baseball America named him the top high school prospect in the country, and he was USA Today‘s High School Pitcher of the Year. He spent only one full season in the minors (2000), and has been a full-time major league starter since he was 22. Compare his development to that of Jonathan Papelbon, a college closer whom the Red Sox converted to a starter in the minors, asking him to develop a fuller repertoire of pitches. In the NL—or, as us American League snobs like to call it, AAAA—Beckett could, more often than not, rely on his natural ability to overpower and overwhelm the opposition. In the AL, he’ll get his share of strike-outs, but he’ll also find that there are plenty of hitters who can use the power he generates to smash a ball into the stands. (It’s no accident that Beckett leads the league with 27 home runs allowed.) When he’s not blowing pitchers away, he’s often getting lit up.

So what does that mean going forward? When it’s working for him, Beckett has a jaw-droppingly nasty curve, and there’s no reason he can’t learn to mix in a little Greg Maddux with his Nolan Ryan. (This is what’s allowed Pedro Martinez to be one of the all-time greats. Witness Game 5 of the ALDS in 1999, when Martinez—essentially pitching on guile and guts—shut down the Indians without any of the power he used to whiff five of the first six batters in that year’s All-Star Game.) But that transition is going to take a bit of time…

An aside: I’m convinced the reaction to Beckett as compared to Matt Clement should serve as case study A in how a player’s demeanor, and perhaps even his physical appearance, can have as much to do with fan reaction as his on-field performance does. Last year, Clement finished at 13-6 with a 4.57 ERA. He helped anchor an exceedingly shaky rotation’s first-half. And he was hit in the head by a screaming line drive. But Clement–asthmatic, hunched over, in need of glasses–appears kind of shlubby, and, even though he never tries to make excuses, he’s often looks as if he’s sporting the Derek Lowe Face. Beckett, on the other hand, looks and talks like a warrior. Last year’s reaction to Schilling as compared to Keith Foulke is another example. The Sox wouldn’t have won the World Series without either one, and Foulke’s performance in the ALCS was as gutsy and brave as anything I’ve seen. But Schilling is well spoken; Foulke is defensive and has a tendency to lash out. Schilling was consistently applauded just for making it out to the mound; Foulke took as much abuse as anyone on the team.

Post Categories: Baseball & Curt Schilling & Jonathan Papelbon & Josh Beckett & Keith Foulke & Matt Clement & The Derek Lowe Face

Outtakes: Curt Schilling on Fenway, Boston fans, and winning the World Series

July 4th, 2006 → 11:51 pm @

This the fifth in a series of outtakes from interviews done for Feeding the Monster, to be published on July 11 by Simon & Schuster. This interview with Curt Schilling was conducted in the Red Sox dugout on September 28, 2005. Read the book for exclusive details on how Schilling ended up having emergency surgery in October 2004, his reaction to his 2005 season, and Pedro Martinez’s response to Schilling’s arrival in Boston.

On whether he thought he’d end up in Boston: I went into [the 2003 offseason] thinking and feeling like I was a free agent with a contract, which gave me a lot of leverage, because we were both extremely happy in Arizona. But I had known for an extended period of time that that was my final season in Arizona, just based on the contractual situation and things that had been said by [Diamondbacks owner] Mr. [Jerry] Colangelo and the front office there. I knew I was probably going to be the odd man out, and when we started to think about what we were going to do, that season I was injured for a lot of the year on and off, so we started to look around, and the two things we wanted weren’t exclusive.

We wanted to go somewhere that we were familiar with and comfortable with, and we wanted to be on a contending ballclub for the remaining years of my career. I went into this knowing that this was going to be the last contract for me. The two teams that kind of jumped out at us were the Phillies and the Yankees. It became obvious very early on that the Phillies were not interested on a personal level, that that wasn’t going to work out. Because through back channels, I made it very clear to them that I’d go there for a lot less than I actually ended up signing for, for a lot shorter period of time. We wanted to go back to what we thought was home. I think there were a lot of personal issues between people that were in the organizations and myself that just weren’t going to work out.

And then with the Yankees situation, we let it be known that that was one of the teams we were interested in. Boston wasn’t a team that we were even contemplating, because I didn’t know anything about them. I didn’t know anything the organization, I didn’t know anything about the people here.

On Fenway’s reputation as being a bad park for fly-ball pitchers: Well, that wasn’t even a top-of-the-rung factor. That was something that just added to the negatives. I’d played here and knew it was an incredible atmosphere to pitch in, but it was not something that offered a lot for me.

On why he decided to consider Boston: When Tito [Francona] ended up getting interviewed for this job, it became someplace that I was interested in. It all happened, literally, in a span of about 12 hours. My wife had a fundraiser at our house, and Mr. Colangelo and [general manager Joe] Mr. Garagiola were both there, and this was, I think, the day I’d heard that Tito had been interviewed for the job. And I felt like if Tito interviewed for a job, he was going to get it. And I went to Joe and I told Joe that I would probably contemplate or consider coming to Boston. I know that within five minutes, he told Jerry, and within five minutes after that, Jerry came to me and told me he might have a deal. My impression was that Boston had talked to Arizona and had a preliminary deal on the table in case they became a team I was interested in, and when that happened it happened very quickly.

On the experience of pitching in Fenway: First of all, I was prepared, to a degree, for what this was like, but I wasn’t prepared for what it really was. The first thing that I kind of, that took me not by surprise, but was more than I expected was the level of the personal relationship that these fans have with the players. If you are a member of this franchise, you’re a member of their families. There was so much hype and excitement, and I was excited to think that coming here could have that kind of effect on people. I think in the end, coming here, the final piece of the puzzle was that Boston presented me, on a personal level, was a challenge that no place else can offer. Philly had won [the World Series]. In New York you were supposed to win. Boston had never won [since 1918], and to come here and be a part of something that could change that was incredibly attractive to me. From day one, it was nice. It was everything I had hoped it would be, atmosphere-wise and more.

On what’s changed for the Red Sox after winning the World Series: You can take the same 25 guys from one year to the next, and things are going to change. The atmosphere is going to change, because people change. Everything changes: the dynamics in the clubhouse. We all have families. We all live real lives. Teammates go through divorces, teammates get married, teammates have kids—those are life-changing experiences, and people change because of them. So regardless of whether you’ve turned over a whole roster or have 25 of the same guys, the dynamics are going to be totally different each year. The difference here is that there’s so much scrutiny, so much media, that every change is addressed and dissected to the umpteenth degree. It’s monotonous, and things are made out to be a much bigger deal here outside the clubhouse than they are inside the clubhouse.

On the press coverage in Philadelphia compared to the coverage in Boston: One of the differences is that in Philadelphia, the media is so negative. It is such a negative place. There are some negative people here, but the years I spent in Philly, there was such a deep resentment for the front office and the team that fans were not going to support the team just to show the ownership and the team a thing or two. That’s not the case here.

Post Categories: Curt Schilling & Feeding the Monster Outtakes & Red Sox

Sneak Peeks: ‘This is about winning the World Series.’

June 30th, 2006 → 12:34 am @

This is the fourth in an occasional series of Sneak Peeks from Feeding the Monster. The section below–which is running in honor of Curt Schilling’s tenth win of the season–takes place on November 26 and 28, 2003, the span during which the Red Sox were allowed to negotiate a contract with Schilling. Here, CEO Larry Lucchino, general manager Theo Epstein, and assistant to the general manager Jed Hoyer are at Schilling’s house outside of Phoenix, Arizona, trying to convince the big righthander to agree to a trade that would send him to Boston. (Schilling had initially said he would only agree to trades that would send him to either the Phillies or the Yankees.)

Schilling’s initial wariness was noticeably softening. “The preperation they did in getting ready was big for me,” he says. “It was impressive. It was clear, they’re a very forward-thinking group of guys, and I knew that was going to mesh with what I was trying to do. There was just a lot of common ground.” That night, the Sox made their initial proposal—three years with a club option for a fourth year or four guaranteed years at less money.

Schilling contemplated the offer, pointedly playing with his gaudy World Series ring. “Look,” he said. “You guys are bringing me here for one reason. It’s not to make the playoffs. It’s to get beyond where you were last year and win the World Series. Let’s make that very clear.” Since that was the case, Schilling said, why not build in a World Series clause into his contract: If the team won the championship while he was in Boston, he’d get a raise for every year remaining on the deal. “I don’t want a clause that says, ‘If we make the World Series,'” Schilling said. “This is about winning the World Series. That’s all I care about. That’s what I’d be there for.”

As Hoyer says, “We were like, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty cool.'”

As the Red Sox executives were heading back to Schilling’s house on Friday afternoon, they were hopeful they could seal the deal, but they knew that if Schilling didn’t agree to their new offer, they’d have almost no time to renegotiate. When they arrived at Schilling’s house, they presented him with their latest offer. Schilling took the piece of paper on which they had written out all of the specifics–the World Series clause, the award bonuses, the club option–and was silent for several minutes. Finally, he looked up…

What was Schilling’s response to Boston’s initial offer? What was it that sealed the deal? And what were the big righthander’s first impressions of playing in Fenway? Find out the answers to these questions, along with much more about Schilling’s tenure in Boston, in Feeding the Monster, out July 11 from Simon & Schuster.

Post Categories: Baseball & Curt Schilling & Feeding the Monster Sneak Peeks & Larry Lucchino & Red Sox & Theo Epstein

Pedro 2006: Revisionist history, reunions, and reality

June 28th, 2006 → 10:23 am @

This morning’s Providence Journal has an obligatory item about Pedro’s return. “For whatever reason, the Red Sox’ brass just didn’t believe Pedro,” the piece begins. “They didn’t believe him when he told them he had gotten a four-year contract offer from the New York Mets.”

One reason the Sox didn’t believe him could be because Pedro never said that at the now-famous Domincan Republic airport meeting; the four-year offer he was referring to in his press conference yesterday (“I could tell Lucchino like I did before…that I got four years and he goes, ‘No, bullshit.'”) supposedly came from the St. Louis Cardinals, the team the Sox had swept in the World Series two months earlier. The Mets’ offer of four guaranteed years didn’t come until the night he agreed to sign with the team, and that was only in response to a Boston offer of three guaranteed years that trumped what New York had on the table.

Did the Cardinals really offer Pedro four years that December? Perhaps…or perhaps it was like the six-year deal Johnny Damon supposedly had on the table before he left Boston for the Yankees. (I know this refrain is getting old…but there’s lots more details about what really happened in both of these situations in Feeding the Monster.) But before everyone gets all choked up about how much Pedro loves Boston, how he wore his heart on his sleeve when he told John Henry and Larry Lucchino he wanted to stay in the Hub, remember this: On October 24, 2004, several hours before Curt Schilling was scheduled to pitch against the Cardinals, Pedro was not thinking about the game, or his start two nights later in St. Louis, or what it would mean to the city of Boston to have the Sox finally win a World Series. He was thinking about free agency, and he was thinking about the New York Mets. When he saw Mets PR chief Jay Horwitz in the bowels of Fenway Park, he had a message he felt so strongly about imparting he repeated it twice: “Say hello to Omar.” As Minaya later told New York Magazine‘s Chris Smith, “When you’re a free agent, that’s a pretty clear coded message: ‘Hey, keep me in mind.’ The time of it tells me, this isn’t Pedro being polite; this guy’s interested. Especially since Pedro told Jay, ‘Say hello to Omar’ twice.” It is a clear message. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Baseball, despite what many of us would like to believe, is a business, and players and management alike should be looking out for their self interests.

I’ll be on my feet cheering when Pedro walks to the mound tonight (and I’ll be on my feet cheering every time a Red Sox player gets a hit), and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to watch Pedro pitch in Boston. I’m also thankful that this is a Red Sox ownership that doesn’t feel compelled to engage in a pissing match with the best pitcher ever to take the mound as a member of the Red Sox. (Remember, that wasn’t always the case.) But when Pedro says he wanted nothing more than to return to Fenway and finish out his career with the Sox, a little context would be nice. Pedro–one of the proudest men ever to put on a uniform–hated the fact that Schilling had supplanted him as the team’s ace. He hated it so much that he didn’t travel to New York for Game 6 of the ALCS against the Yankees, when a bloodied Schilling took the mound and did what Pedro hadn’t been able to do since 1999: beat the Yankees in the playoffs. He resented the fact that the Sox had juggled their World Series rotation so it was Schilling who got the Game 2 start at Fenway. (That way, Schilling wouldn’t need to bat and risk running on his ankle.) Pedro had been a savior in Boston, and he wanted a chance to do the same thing in New York. “Fenway Park changed almost 100 percent from the time I got there the first day to the time I left,” he told the New York Times earlier this week. “I’m glad I’m in the middle of it again, changing what seemed to be a dead atmosphere at Shea Stadium.” Pedro loves to be The Man. For almost seven years, he was in Boston, and tonight, he will be again. But let’s not allow the misty-eyed tributes to cloud a clear-eyed view of reality.


Anyone interested in the inside dope on Pedro and his return to Fenway would be well served by keeping up with the Herald‘s Michael Silverman. No reporter was closer to Pedro when he was with the Sox, and if there are any exclusives to come out of the next several days, I bet Silverman’s the guy who’ll have them.

Post Categories: Curt Schilling & John Henry & Larry Lucchino & Mets & Michael Silverman & New York Magazine & Pedro Martinez & Providence Journal

Hello, I must be going

June 27th, 2006 → 4:48 pm @

I can’t tell you how many years I’ve wanted to reference this. Anyway, I’m off to Boston, where I likely won’t be able to keep up my normal frenetic posting schedule. But don’t worry mom and lonely guy sitting in his basement: I’ll be back on pace soon. And tomorrow there’ll be a Sneak Peek from back in 2003 in honor of #45’s return to Fenway. In the meantime, enjoy (and argue about) Nomar, read about how close the Sox came to passing on Papi, and enjoy tonight’s game. I know I will.

Post Categories: 2007 Offseason & Coco Crisp & Curt Schilling & Honeymoon & Jacoby Ellsbury & Kevin Youkilis & Mike Lowell & Phil Collins