Lenny Megliola: Schill needs strong finish
The jacket cool night had an October feel to it. It’s the month the Red Sox are waiting for anyway, and when it arrives, they’ll be prayin’ Curt Schilling has something left in his Autumn tank.
His October history plays out to an 8-2 record with the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox. In Boston, in the surreal season of ‘04, Schilling made a bloody sock, by nature a disgusting thing, a badge of valor. It was Schilling’s first year in Boston. He went 21-6.
He owned the town, and wasn’t shy about it. Eighty-six years of ballplaying and the Red Sox couldn’t win a World Series. Schilling shows up. Done.
He pitched for Ford trucks and Dunkin’ Donuts before he even pitched for the Red Sox. WEEI was quick to sign him up for the Dennis & Callahan show. Schilling was a ratings booster. He moved his great-looking family into Drew Bledsoe’s former Medfield mansion.
Life was good.
But for some finicky fans, 2004 is the new 1918. Red Sox management has all but made any discussion about that championship season illegal. It’s all about this year, as it should be when your team has more wins than any team in the big leagues in September.
Schilling will have a say, for better or worse, regarding what happens in October. He’s 40. He is nowhere near the dominant pitcher he was. Guile isn’t enough. He’s not even the ace of the staff anymore. Josh Beckett is. But that’s not important. When Schilling arrived in the Hub, Pedro Martinez was the ace.
It only matters what you do in October. Derek Lowe proved that.
So each time out, Schilling is being sized up. His 215 wins are just a pretty number. It’s all about October now.
Last night against the Blue Jays, Schilling didn’t set any Boston hearts fluttering.
He tossed goose-eggs for the first four innings, wiggling out of second and third no outs and runner on third, one-out dilemmas. "I thought I had control of the game," said Schilling. It was too good to last. In the fifth, after Schilling had walked the eighth batter in the order, the Blue Jays strung four hits in a row. That made it 3-1.
His night was over after six innings, three runs, eight hits, two punchouts. Schilling was kicking himself afterward for that walk to Gregg Zaun that started his demise. "I don’t care who’s hitting out of the eighth position, you don’t walk him," he said.
Schilling’s night was not the work of a commoner, but nothing that had Epstein reaching for pen and contract, either. Schilling’s standards are so high, and now he’s trying to reinvented himself. His days of overpowering batters are over. "I’m making an adjustment to using my stuff differently," he said. So far, opposing hitters like facing this Schilling as opposed to the power guy.
It’s no secret Schilling is pitching for a 2008 contract. Theo Epstein wouldn’t bite in spring training. Management wanted to see Schilling at 40 first. Schilling didn’t pout publicly about having to audition again. In his gut, he must have been steaming.
He’d have to show them the error of their ways. Make them look foolish. Foolish? How about Schilling saying recently the (Be)Deviled Rays might be a team he could see himself joining. Then again, he may have been dead serious. He just doesn’t seem like a guy who’d want to pitch in front of such a small number of fans that you could fit then all in a flea’s navel.
How has Schilling vs. The Doubting Suits played out? Advantage management. Schilling is 8-6 with a 4.04 ERA. He had a stay on the DL. His competitive heart still beats. Maybe it’s not enough. At his age, it’s about the arm and legs.
Can he still be an Autumn stud? "I have no choice," he said. "I want to be someone you can count on."
Does this mean Schilling needs a big October to get a new contract? Maybe. Or maybe that won’t even be enough.
There is also this to ponder. Will the Red Sox have staying power in October with only a token contribution from the irrepressible Mr. Schilling?
(Lenny Megliola is a Daily News columnist. His e-mail is email@example.com)