Almost a Yankee but never loved in the Bronx


Around these parts, we don’t harbor much love for Curt Schilling. When he announced his retirement via blog post yesterday, the jokes out of New York — from the Mystique and Aura references to a belief that now he’ll have time to really tell us what he thinks — were quick and obvious.

While Curt was and probably always will be, in the words of Ken Davidoff, a big jerk, he told it like it is. That’s something every New Yorker can appreciate. Schilling, on the other hand, is someone no one who roots for the Yanks wants to appreciate.

Ah, but what might have been. From 2004-2007, Schilling taunted the Yanks from up the road. Outside of October, Schilling didn’t really taunt them on the mound. Since arriving in Boston, Curt threw 101 innings over 15 games against the Yanks, and he went 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA. For a pitcher likely destined to Cooperstown and with a career 3.46 ERA, the Yanks fairly had his number over the last few years.

But, oh, the October torture. In 2001, Schilling helped drive a stake through the Yankee Dynasty while insulting the beloved Yankee mystique and aura. In 2004, he cemented his legacy by leading the Red Sox on a stunning and heartbreaking comeback while pitching on a bum ankle. Those are days Yankee fans long to forget.

What makes it worse though is the reality that those glory days for Boston could have been ours. So as Schilling gets set for a career as an outspoken baseball/political pundit, it’s time to rev up that ever-popular Wayback Machine.

The destination is November 7, 2003, and the Yankees are one week removed from a World Series loss at the hands of the Marlins. George wants Curt reports Tyler Kepner. “A lot of clubs are targeting him, but there’s no way we’re going to be out shopping Curt Schilling,” Sandy Johnson, Arizona’s assistant GM says. Famous last words.

Five days later, Jack Curry, in a rumor-laden article that makes for a fun experiment in “What If? The Yankees Years,” confirms the Yanks’ interest in Schilling. This time, though, the Diamondbacks are looking to cut payroll, and Curt will probably be moved.

The next day, Curry uncovers an early price tag: The Diamondbacks would swap Schilling and Junior Spivey for Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson. Today, that doesn’t seem like quite a high price, but five and a half years ago, it did to the Yankees. (Of note: Curry also reports for the first time that the Rangers would be open to trading Alex Rodriguez. It’s an early sign of things to come.)

By Friday, the Yankees had moved on to Javier Vazquez. The Yankees would not, according to Curry, “trade their two best young players for Schilling because they feel the monetary relief they would be giving Arizona eliminates the need for them to trade equal talent.” At that point, Schilling also expressed his desire to go to only the Yankees or the Phillies. Brian Cashman left the GM meetings with the team feeling insulted by the Diamondbacks’ offers.

That would, of course, be the end of it. The Yanks refused to budget; the Diamondbacks refused to budge. Despite Schilling’s public desire to play in New York, the two sides could not work out a deal, and when Theo Epstein turned on the Thanksgiving charm, the Boston/New York rivalry would never be the same.

As Curt goes off to the great beyond of retirement, I can’t decide if I want to tip my cap to him or give him a different kind of salute. I’ll always wonder though how we would feel today if Schilling wound up in New York. Would we still despise him if Schilling hand landed in New York? Would we still smile gleefully at his retirement? How different would the last five years have been had the Yanks shipped Soriano to Arizona for Curt Schilling? We’ll never know.

Categories : Days of Yore


  1. I Remember Celerino Sanchez says:

    I think if Schilling had been a Yankee, he would have fallen into the Clemens/A Rod/Randy Johnson category for me: I root for them because they’re on your team, but I can’t bring myself to like them.

  2. You make an interesting point about what could have been, but if you look at the offer Arizona actually accepted for Schiling it makes you wonder if either the Dbacks overplayed their hand or felt like they could fleece the Yankees.

    They asked New York for Nick Johnson (at that time a good, cheap 1B) and Alfonso Soriano, who the next season would nearly go 40-40 (39 HRs, 41 SB) and hit .300. Seems like a huge amount and if I’m Cashman I would have easily balked too. Not to mention Soriano was also young (he hadn’t taken the two-year trip to Texas) and played a position that doesn’t have that kind of production normally.

    Then, Arizona takes a package from Boston revolving around Casey Fossum. Granted, at the time Fossum was in the Hughes-Buchholz strastophere as terms of ceiling and untouchability, but he wasn’t even close to a proven major league pitcher.

    They also got Brandon Lyon, who at that time had a 4.59 ERA in the Red Sox bullpen. There was some other minor league filler in the deal (Jorge DeLa Rosa and Michael Goss), but that doesn’t come close to what they asked Cash for.

    I think they did the right thing by balking at Arizona’s asking price, even if it did come back to haunt them later. Had the Dbacks asked for a similar package to what they got back from Boston, I have no doubts the Yanks would have made the deal.

    I mean we did trade Johnson and Juan Rivera to the Expos for Javy Vasquez, so it wasn’t that we didn’t want to make a deal. They just asked for too much.

  3. Mike Pop says:

    Is he really a HOFer?

  4. Weren’t the D-Bags still pissed at us from the David Wells Oral-Agreement-Gate? I seem to remember some media stories about how Arizona was high-balling us and demanding a better package from the Yanks for Schilling than what they were asking of the Phils and Sox and others, because of the Colangelo-Steinbrenner feud stemming from the Wells signing.

  5. Wait a sec, WE COULDA HAD JUNIOR SPIVEY?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?


  6. MattB says:

    Go back even further than the 2003-2004 off-season and consider what would have happened had the Yankees traded for Schilling in 2000.

    Schilling’s 2nd to last start as a Phillie came in an interleague game at Yankee Stadium in July 2000. I can remember him being interviewed during that series and all but openly campaigning to be traded to the Yanks. Instead he went to the desert at the deadline.

    Imagine what might have happened in 2001 and 2004 had that deal been made in 2000. Then again, the ripple effect probably means no Mussina signing, which could mean no ALCS victory in 2003, so who knows.

    I find Schilling’s vitriol for all things Yankee to be very contrived in light of his wanting to be traded to the Bronx at at least two different points in his career. His son is named Gehrig for crying out loud.

    • Mike Pop says:

      But if he was a Yankee, we wouldn’t have any funny pictures from NoMaas.

    • Then again, the ripple effect probably means no Mussina signing, which could mean no ALCS victory in 2003, so who knows.

      Wait, what? Schilling was just as good as Moose for the first half of this decade (albeit in an inferior league).

      How does adding Schilling and removing Mussina (assuming those are ostensibly the only two changes to the club) mean we probably don’t win the 2003 ALCS? It’s probably a wash.

      • Alright, now you’ve got me started.

        Curt Schilling, IP and ERA+:
        01: 256.7, 157
        02: 259.3, 142
        03: 168.0, 159
        04: 226.7, 150
        05: 93.3, 80
        06: 204.0, 120
        07: 151.0, 122
        08: did not pitch

        Mike Mussina, IP and ERA+:
        01: 228.7, 142
        02: 215.7, 109
        03: 214.7, 129
        04: 164.7, 98
        05: 179.7, 96
        06: 197.3, 129
        07: 152.0, 87
        08: 200.3, 132

        Hmm… Schilling’s brilliance, or Moose’s durability? Tough call. I guess since we didn’t have to give up any talent to acquire Moose, it’s probably him, but Schilling is tempting in retrospect. Wonder what the Phillies would have asked for? Ed Yarnall, Drew Henson, Alex Graman, and Ricky Ledee?

        • Heh, July 12, 2000:
          Yankees trade Drew Henson, Ed Yarnall, Brian Reith, and Jackson Melian to the Rockies for 31 year old Denny Neagle.

          July 26, 2000:
          Diamondbacks trade Omar Daal, Travis Lee, Vicente Padilla and Nelson Figueroa to the Phillies for 33 year old Curt Schilling.

          Fuck it, I’m building a time machine.

          • Mike Pop says:

            Don’t let anyone stop you. They might say you’re crazy, but you, you my friend, you will have the last laugh.

          • MattB says:

            I’m not suggesting that Schilling is better than Moose or vice-versa. What I am saying is that in light of the two trades you reference above, is that if the Yankees acquired Schilling in 2000 then maybe they don’t make a trade for the hooker-loving, train-whistling Neagle. Then maybe they don’t sign Mussina that off-season to take the departing Neagle’s spot in the rotation.

            If they don’t have Mussina, then who comes out of the pen in ALCS Game 7 in 2003 and keeps them alive until Boone ends the game? That’s all I was suggesting.

            Then again, maybe they still sign Moose anyway. Or maybe they don’t. And maybe they sign Manny instead. Then how does that change recent history? Who knows. Who cares. You can’t answer these things playing “what if”.

            • steve (different one) says:

              If they don’t have Mussina, then who comes out of the pen in ALCS Game 7 in 2003 and keeps them alive until Boone ends the game?

              not trying to be a dick, but do you really think that this situation would ever exist if Schilling was a Yankees instead of Mussina?

              • MattB says:

                You never can tell. Again, not making a value judgement as to whether Moose or Schilling is better, but you can’t really fault Moose or any of the pitching for 2003 going to game 7. The 2003 team was built around pitching. IMO, the reason that series went so long had much more to do with Karim Garcia, Enrique Wilson, Aaron Boone, etc. Moose’s numbers aren’t great for that series, but they aren’t terrible either

            • If they don’t have Mussina, then who comes out of the pen in ALCS Game 7 in 2003 and keeps them alive until Boone ends the game? That’s all I was suggesting.

              Yeah, playing the what-if game is fun but you can’t use it to drill all the way down into something as specific as what happens at the end of a Game 7 of a playoff series.

              Maybe Schilling wins Game 1 of that 2003 ALCS and Game 7 never happens. Maybe, as you said, Schilling means no Neagle and no Moose but instead Manny Ramirez in pinstripes and the Sox never even make the 2003 playoffs at all, maybe the 2003 ALCS is a handy sweep of the Twins or something.

              Butterly effecting a scenario like this almost assuredly means no 2003 or 2004 ALCS Game 7′s ever happen.

  7. mko says:

    I hate him, his opinions and his (personal) style and behaviour.
    But the numbers are respectable and I would vote for him to get into the HOF…

  8. steve (different one) says:

    last time we had this argument, i posted a bunch of links describing how the Schilling negotiations were colored by Colangelo’s hatred of Steinbrenner from the Wells’ saga…

    i’m a little surprised none of that was mentioned, as it’s fairly well documented.

  9. Jake H says:

    It upset me that they wanted that much for Schilling then got a bag of balls pretty much for him. I don’t think he gets into the hall thou.

    • steve (different one) says:

      he’s definitely getting in.

      whether he belongs or not is debatable (i say yes), but i think he’s definitely GOING to get in.

    • YankeeScribe says:

      Not to take anything away from Schilling’s “brilliance” but he was arguably mediocre until he arrived in Arizona. His career winning percentage is pretty lame for a Hall of Fame worthy pitcher…

      • steve (different one) says:

        ehh, not that i think it Winning % matters, but Schilling is tied with Warren Spahn, ahead of Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, etc.

        i count at least 15 Hall of Famers beneath Schilling.

        Schilling did have about 3 monster seasons in Philly

      • His career winning percentage is pretty lame for a Hall of Fame worthy pitcher…

        Sandy Koufax’s career winning percentage probably would have sucked if he would have spent eight and a half years with the 1990′s Phillies.

        • YankeeScribe says:

          You can’t compare Schilling to Koufax. I mean, Schilling isn’t in the top tier of his generation of Aces(Pedro, Clemens, Glavine, Maddux, R. Johnson etc.).

          He’s in the second tier with Smoltz, Mussina, Cone, K Brown, Wells, etc… Out of the second tier Aces, I’d say Schilling, Moose, and Smoltz deserve the most consideration for the Hall…

          • steve (different one) says:

            Out of the second tier Aces, I’d say Schilling, Moose, and Smoltz deserve the most consideration for the Hall…

            i agree and would vote for all three.

            one comment though, i don’t think we can hold it against him that he falls short of that top tier, as it was a historically great collection of talent (though i would bump Glavine down to the second tier, or at least halfway between them) that will probably never be seen again. Clemens, Johnson, Pedro and Maddux are probably 4 of the 20 best pitchers of all time.

            for example, if Schilling’s career started 10 years earlier, we’d easily consider him the best pitcher of that era.

            a title that currently falls to…Jack Morris?

          • I wasn’t comparing Schilling to Koufax. I was pointing out that your quibble with Schilling not having a good enough W/L percentage is a silly quibble because W/L percentage is very dependant on the quality of team you are surrounded by, and Schilling pitched on some AWFUL Phillies teams.

            Once he got out of Philadelphia, his W/L percentage had a remarkable uptick. It’s not because he was a better pitcher, it’s that he stopped pitching in front of a team that struggled to give him run support.

            W/L is not a good metric for evaluating pitchers.

  10. Rich says:

    FWIW, Schlling, posting on NYYFans, disputed that the D’Backs demanded both Soriano and Johnson, and he said that if he was the GM of the Yankees, he too would have opted for Vazquez because of the age issue.

  11. Phil McCracken says:

    Curt has always been a phony. And that doesn’t include his whole Sammy Sosa imitation in front of Congress.

    He always talks about how he never would play for the Yankees, yet back in 2003 he wanted to play for the Yankees so badly that he called WFAN during Francesa’s show. He told Mike’s producer to get a hold of the Yankees front office because a trade was going to happen in 12 hours with the D-backs and he wanted the Yankees to jump in.

  12. [...] revisit the Schilling trade to the Red Sox. He was, after all, nearly a Yankee. I covered the tortured history of the Schilling deal last March when Curt announced his retirement from baseball. At the time, I wrote: [In [...]

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