Friday, November 28, 2003

The Red Sox Nation has held its collective breath since Monday to see whether Curt Schilling would accept the trade from the Diamondbacks to the Red Sox. Tonight, the Nation could breath again as Schilling agreed--with the help of a contract extension--to come to Boston and bring a championship to the Red Sox.

On paper, the deal does much to bolster what should be a good pitching staff. The tough part about paper is making it reality. Will Pedro hold up? How much does Schilling have left at 37. Will the real Derek Lowe stand up? On paper, who Boston gave up to get Schilling doesn't seem to hurt much. It is unclear whether Casey Fossum will ever be a successful MLB pitcher and Brandon Lyon shows promise but not exceptional promise.

For Red Sox fans, this will be a bold strike and will hearten even cynical fans. Schilling is considered a superstar and anytime your home town team gets a superstar, it's exciting.

Although the Marlins have promised their fans that the red tag sale that happened after their last championship won't happen this time, they do have to manage their money wisely. The Marlins' first attempt at that objective was to trade first baseman Derrek Lee to the Cubs for fellow first baseman, Hee Sheop Choi. I believe this trade hurts the Marlins.

Not only was Lee a pretty good hitter, he was one of the best fielding first baseman in baseball. The Fan has written in the past how much a good fielding first baseman improves total infield defense and pitching ERA. To repeat some of the points I made back then, look at how the Mets went from record setting defense with Jon Olerud to mediocrity the next year with Todd Zeile playing first. There is no coincidence that the Mets went from contenders to chumps in a short time after the Olerud trade.

Olerud is largely responsible for the great run the Mariners have had and he was a big part of the Blue Jays championship seasons because his defense allowed the Tony Fernandez and Bret Boones of the world range more freely and be more daring on the infield. The Marlins team defense will suffer without Lee and team defense is one of the reasons they were champions in the first place.

Indications are that the Marlins are far away from being able to keep catcher, Ivan Rodriguez. If they can't sign him, that will be two of the leagues best defenders lost in one off season. Yikes!

Monday, November 24, 2003

The Red Sox are on the cusp of making a blockbuster deal that would obtain Curt Schilling from the Diamondbacks for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon and two prospects. The deal hinges on whether the Red Sox hire Terry Francona as manager and agree to give Schilling an extension on his contract. But is he worth the risk.

Schilling’s career has a definite pattern. He pitched over 200 innings in 1992 and 1993 and broke down the next year. He combined for only 380+ innings in total for the following three years.

He repeated that pattern by pitching over 250 innings in 1997 and 1998. He broke down again in 1999 and only pitched 390+ innings over the next three years. The pattern isn’t a good one for the Red Sox as he pitched 250+ innings in 2001 and 2002 and broke down last year. Will history repeat itself? Would you want to risk $36 million over three years to a 37 year old pitcher to find out?

On the positive side, Schilling did strike out 194 batters in his 168 innings last year and kept his ERA under 3.00. It’s a gamble the Red Sox are probably willing to take.

The Angels made a great signing today in acquiring free agent Kelvim Escobar for three years at “only” $18.75 million. That’s not bad for a great arm that has big time potential for greatness with the Angels.

Warren Spahn died today. The lefthander with the most career wins had an astonishing thirteen twenty game winning seasons on the way to compiling 363 wins. He won 23 games in his 21st major league season! He then played three more years too long, but that did not diminish a sparkling career.

Spahn was a part of that great Braves refrain: “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.” A decorated WWII veteran, Spahn still pitched from the early forties until 1966. I saw him pitch in the last years of his career while struggling with the 1965 Mets. But he was still a lot of fun to watch and you could just tell that the man lived to play baseball and had a joy that made his smile just shine throughout the park.

Spahn was legendary, but his charm was that he was also ordinary. Baseball fans everywhere will mourn his passing today and also celebrate what he meant to baseball.