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Around Baseball: 16 Days to Start of Spring Training

       
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After the blog post about Barry Bonds and all of his issues, it’s good
to get back to blogging about real baseball, hustling, don’t let up kind of baseball — the way Curt Schilling or Chase Utley or even Aaron Rowand (and his collision with the Citizens Bank Stadium centerfield wall) play the game.

                      Aaron Rowand       Aaron Rowand

Paul Hagen of Philly.com relates this story about Utley which exemplifies the spirit described above;

                 Chase Utley       Ryan Howard

Chase Utley was on first base when Ryan Howard singled to right. Utley raced around second and, barely hesitating, dug for third. When he arrived, he threw himself at the base in a headfirst sprawl.

The ball bounced off his back. Utley scrambled to his feet and headed for the plate, running into the catcher as he scored.

This all-out brand of play is standard operating procedure for Utley, one of the reasons the Phillies recently lavished a 7-year, $85 million contract extension on their 28-year-old second baseman.

Oh, by the way, this scene wasn’t played out during an important stretch-run game against the Mets, or even humdrum midseason game against, say, the Brewers.

It came during a meaningless exhibition game last November in Japan.

And that is the sort of relentless will to win, no matter what, that gave the team comfort that sudden lifetime security won’t change the way he plays the game.

Great story, eh?  Looking for great things in 2007 from Utley and for his infectious effect to drive the Philliesto the top! 

                              Curt Schilling

In Boston, Curt Schilling has announced that he is ditching his plan to retire after the 2007 season and now plans to be around through the 2008 season.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe provides background on Schilling’s current thinking;

“We’d been talking about it for a while,” said Schilling last night. “But until recently, we didn’t get down to the point we did these past few weeks. It was a very personal, private decision made by my wife and kids and I, and I wanted zero outside influences on it.”

Schilling, 40, whose original plan was to retire after the 2007 season, announced on WEEI radio yesterday morning that he had changed his mind and wants to pitch again in 2008. The Red Sox righthander, who will earn $13 million this season, said he would likely be looking for a similar contract for 2008.

“I’m in discussions with the Red Sox,” he said. “We had talked last week, and there’s a lot going on, obviously, right now, but where I’m going to play beyond 2007 . . . I hope it’s Boston.

“This is where I want to play, and in the days leading up to spring training, we’ll figure it out one way or the other. If I go into this season without a contract from the Red Sox, then I will go out and find a home for 2008.”

While Red Sox management has not formally discussed Schilling’s future, owner John Henry seemed excited by Schilling’s decision, saying in an e-mail, “He’s such a competitor, you had to figure that if he is healthy, pitching well, and still has that fire, it would make sense for him to continue. He’s still one of the elite pitchers in all of baseball.”

While Schilling is hoping that talks on an extension won’t get into spring training, Sox general manager Theo Epstein is taking some time off before camp begins, which might preclude a quick resolution.

The news of Schilling playing through ‘08 was music to the ears of Sox manager Terry Francona.

“I’ve known for a while,” Francona said. “We talked about it. I can’t remember when, but I knew what he was thinking.

“The older you get, the bigger the price you pay for playing. You have children to consider and now Curt has a business and all of those things come into play.

“But a year is a long time. A lot can change, and the way he feels right now, he feels he can keep pitching. I don’t doubt that Curt can pitch at a high level as long as he wants to.”

Schilling went 15-7 with a 3.97 ERA last season, and figures he could win another championship with a loaded Red Sox lineup and starting rotation. A couple more good seasons would also enhance his Hall of Fame credentials. He currently compares favorably to Jim Hunter and Don Drysdale, but add about 30 more wins and more postseason appearances, and Schilling could be a shoo-in for Cooperstown.

If he remains healthy, Schilling figures with wisdom and talent he can continue to excel and perhaps rub off on the twentysomethings in Boston’s rotation — Jonathan Papelbon, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Josh Beckett.

If the Schill’s winning outlook rubs off on the rest of the pitching staff, he brings an intangible that the Yanks would be hard-pressed to match – a veteran star and role-model with an insatiable hunger and will to win which has not diminished with time. 

And finally, there is renewed trade talk regarding Phillies centerfielder  Aaron Rowand.  This time, the talk centers around a possible Rowand to the San Diego Padres for late inning reliever Scott Linebrink.  Official trade talks have apparently been shelved for now until both teams evaluate their positions during Spring Training.

The Trade Rumors blog makes this observation on a possible Rowand for Linebrink deal;

Kevin Towers would like to see how Terrmel Sledge looks in left and how the loss of Linebrink would affect San Diego’s bullpen.

I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  I think a Sledge/Cruz platoon could outhit Rowand for a lesser cost.  And is the difference in defense in left field that crucial?  David Wells and Chris Young typically don’t go six innings; I’d rather retain one of the league’s better eighth-inning guys.  

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One Response to “Around Baseball: 16 Days to Start of Spring Training”

  1. Blogging Baseball » Schilling Doesn’t Seek a Raise in 2008, Just Wants the Ball for the Red Sox Says:

    […]  Yesterday, the columns and the blogs, including this one, trumpeted the report that Curt Schilling wants to keep pitching through the 2008 season. […]

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