It’s never pretty when a great athlete reaches the end. What compounds the human drama is that the very qualities that made him great cloud his ability to see reality.
Not that I’m going to try to choose among doctors. But it seems obvious that the Red Sox are hoping against hope that they might get some useful innings out of Curt Schilling this year through a conservative rehab program, whereas Schilling believes if they’d only let him have surgery, he can return to his glory days.
Neither scenario is realistic, but at least the Sox are pursuing the one route that might work to a limited degree. If Schilling has surgery, it’s likely that he’s done for the year, if not forever. If he doesn’t, well, maybe there’s a chance that Schilling’s got one good post-season run left in him.
It’s inevitable that the Boston sports media, and especially Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, would try to turn this into a controversy. Schilling hasn’t helped, either. But it seems to me that there are really only two areas of possible controversy here, and neither hold up to inspection:
- The course of treatment. Doctors disgree. What do we know? Nothing. End of discussion.
- Schilling’s condition at the time of his signing. We know he took a physical and got an MRI when he signed a one-year, $8 million deal last fall. We may assume that he did not pass with flying colors. I’m sure the Red Sox were told that it was no worse than expected and that, with luck, he’d be able to pitch one more season. It didn’t happen. But to suggest that Schilling was hiding something is to assume that he could somehow fake his MRI.
Schilling says he needs surgery just to lead a normal post-retirement life. He sounds like someone who is deeply conflicted. I suspect he knows what he should do — announce his retirement, undergo surgery and forfeit the $8 million. If he feels like Josh Beckett next spring, well, he can always unretire.
But I’m sure Schilling believes he signed his contract in good faith, with both sides knowing the end was near, and that the Sox shouldn’t get a pass for refusing surgery — especially since his own surgeon seems to think he could be back by mid-season. (Let’s not forget that we’re talking about a 41-year-old who took a year and a half to recover from ankle surgery.)
The thing is, I see no evidence that the Red Sox aren’t acting in good faith, too.
All that said, I think there’s something to what John Henry told Shaughnessy today — that Schilling’s surgeon has created considerable doubt in the pitcher’s mind as to whether rehab will work. Might a compromise be possible? How about letting Schilling go ahead with the surgery, but not letting him collect the $8 million if he’s not back by, say, Aug. 1?
It’s worth asking him. Then again, maybe they already have.
Photo (cc) by guano, and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.