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.