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Curt Schilling on D&C: ‘This is what happens when you piss people off that are really rich and powerful’

10.13.11 at 11:18 am ET
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Curt Schilling

Former Red Sox pitcher and ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to share his thoughts on an article published Wednesday outing some of the gory details of the Red Sox failed season.

Schilling, who sounded emotional when addressing the current Red Sox players’ silence in the wake of the reports, said he thinks the players need to start taking responsibility for their actions that led to the worst September collapse in baseball history.

“My biggest fear is that one or more players is going to come out and try to defend what’s happened instead of just doing a mea culpa and saying, ‘You know what? Wow was this wrong. Wow did we screw this guy. Wow did we cost you. I don’t know if there’s anything we can say or do to make this up, but we’ll do everything,’” Schilling said. “I don’t see anything other than that. Otherwise you can’t come back.”

Schilling said he was especially hurt and disturbed by accusations made about Terry Francona, and he even went so far as to say Francona may have the makings of a slander lawsuit on his hands because of statements made by anonymous sources about a pain-killer issue.

“I wonder legally whether he has recourse because the team trainer, the team doctor and the ownership, the executive people on this team I would imagine are the only people with enough knowledge of Tito’s medicinal habits to make that comment, to have that news out there,” Schilling said. “This was somebody out to ruin this guy’s life. Because now, I look at this almost like I look at a sexual harassment case. It doesn’t matter if he did it or not. He’s going to have to answer questions about this for the rest of his life.”

Schilling also called out Josh Beckett and Jon Lester for their behavior and condemned the leaders of the team for allowing their teammates to act irresponsibly.

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Did you read the [Globe] story?

I did. I know I talked to you guys yesterday and I had not read it. I was listening to it going wow, what happened. Then your esteemed producer Chach [Steve Ciaccio] got a hold of me and said read it, so.

Did it nauseate you? Did it trouble you? Did it disappoint you?

All the above. You see somebody’s personal life made a story and you know, you see the reporter not use good judgement. You see the reporter do things that are probably questionable ethically. And then you see the reporter report things that you just know are true and you just wish people didn’t know.

Was that your reaction to the revelations about Terry Francona?

Of all the things that I heard and saw talked about after it came out yesterday, did anyone put marital problems with struggling managing and bad September together? I just feel like that was one of those, ‘We need some people to buy this copy so let’s put it in there.’ Why? The medication, that’s embarrassing and it’s sad and it has nothing to do with anything because that same writer and all the people involved have been around Tito, and there were no incidents of him being off his rocker or out of it. And 30 days before that article and the season ended, everyone was okay with everything.

Isn’t it more disturbing that somebody within the organization felt the need to say those things about Tito?

Way more disturbing. Listen, the article bothered me and how it was written bothered me. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that the article didn’t lie enough for me. That happens. I can picture teammates, I can picture situations where everything talked about in that article, I can see or I’ve done. At the end of the day, that is when someone who’s wealthy, someone who’s powerful gets wronged, this is what happens. They destroy people’s lives because they can.

Why would ownership have leaked this information when they have nothing to gain from it? In fact, there was nothing but downside to it.

I think the problem there is that you’re using a logical train of thought in an illogical situation. People do irrational things for the dumbest of reasons. I think when Terry got done and didn’t throw anybody under the bus, I think some people in the organization were livid because the fans were pissed at the owners. I think for the most part, fans were ready for a change managerially. I hate to say it, but I think that there were a lot of fans who saying he was a great guy, but it was time. These fans want a winning baseball team. I think that everybody was semi-okay with how it ended, but they were ready to move on. After he took the high road, I think the ownership, I think there are a group of people who are very upset about the fact that he made them look bad. Because if Terry comes on and says, ‘This guy did this,’ if he does throw guys under the bus, it’s very easy for them to say, ‘That’s why. This is why we had to do what we did.’

I think the ownership got into the end-zone free and clear on this deal.

I think they did as well to some degree, but if you listen, when Tom [Werner] and Larry [Lucchino] did their press conference, I think Larry’s answer to the question about Tito being surprised, about the front office not having his back, I thought that that was disingenuous at best and an outright lie at least. They knew exactly what was going on. They knew exactly how he felt. I just thought that it was very chicken. I just thought that this whole thing was a direct result of what happens when you piss people off that are really rich and powerful.

You are convinced this came from ownership?

Part of this did. Absolutely. There’s no way it couldn’t have.

Have you talked to Francona? How do you believe he’s going to react to this?

He’s upset. You guys know me. I would have acted irrationally and overreacted, I’m sure. I wonder legally whether he has recourse because the team trainer, the team doctor and the ownership, the executive people on this team I would imagine are the only people with enough knowledge of Tito’s medicinal habits to make that comment, to have that news out there.

This was somebody out to ruin this guy’s life. Because now, I look at this almost like I look at a sexual harassment case. It doesn’t matter if he did it or not. He’s going to have to answer questions about this for the rest of his life.

Do you not back off [from hiring Francona] if you’re a potential employer?

I think it also destroyed his chances of maybe being with Theo [Epstein] in Chicago. Absolutely.

You’ve never failed to sing the praises of Josh Beckett. I’m guessing you’re slightly disappointed in the man now that we found out how he reacted down the stretch here.

I think beyond slightly would be a good guess. I’ve talked to enough people to know that it’s not lies. I think that the loss of [former pitching coach] John Farrell had a massive amount to do with why this all happened. I spoke to him the other day and the first thing I said to him was ‘Wow. I don’t see any of this happening if you stay.’ And he was like, ‘Well, it might have happened, but there would have been a couple of fist-fights along the way and I would have been gone at some point.’

Poor Curt Young because here’s a guy coming in to a veteran staff trying to get to know his pitchers and they . . . the amount of disrespect that the players involved here showed to each other, to the organization, to Tito, to the game, is staggering to me. Probably as staggering are some of the names that are on that list. I’m blown away. I’m incredibly disappointed. Things have changed here for a long, long time, and I think it’s for the worse. I think the way that this was handled by the organization is pathetic and embarrassing. Why would you want to root for this team?

As painful as losing is in September and the way they lost and being branded a loser, it would seem to me the only thing worse to be branded as would be a quitter, and yet it seems like that’s what we’re talking about.

You’re a quitting loser. Listen. Let’s fast forward to Opening Day. Things have changed. They get a new manager and GM. This could be the most abysmal Opening Day in the history of sports. These guys are going to get booed. They are going to get booed. No matter what they say in the winter-time, can you imagine John Lackey jogging onto that field? [Or Beckett] But I’m saying, John is going to get a Yankee-like reception. My biggest fear is that one or more players is going to come out and try to defend what’s happened instead of just doing a mea culpa and saying, ‘You know what? Wow was this wrong. Wow did we screw this guy. Wow did we cost you. I don’t know if there’s anything we can say or do to make this up, but we’ll do everything.’ I don’t see anything other than that. Otherwise you can’t come back.

Do you think this team has any leaders right now?

No. They clearly don’t. None of this goes long enough to become news if there’s a leader in the clubhouse or more than one. There are different kinds of leaders. This team needs a statistical agnostic leader. They need a guy who it doesn’t matter if he plays or not. Or it doesn’t matter what he’s hitting or not. He will talk to anybody on the team about them doing something wrong.

I’ve said it a couple times. That was Doug Mirabelli. That was Mike Lowell. That was what those guys did. That was Gabe Kapler. None of those guys were leading the team in home runs or RBIs or batting average. The guys in those clubhouses had an immense amount of respect for them. Orlando Cabrera marching back to Manny [Ramirez]‘s locker and demanding that Manny put himself back in the line-up. Guys like that. This team doesn’t have them.
This team has a couple of guys like a [Dustin] Pedroia who is going to play his [expletive] off and expect everyone to do the same. I don’t see him as a kid who stands up in front of the locker room and says, ‘This has got to change.’ I’m not seeing that yet.

Didn’t we see Ortiz and Varitek as those people? Do you have any theories as to where they were in all of this?

They’ve never been those guys. Those guys were accessory leaders. And Jason was one of those guys who would ask me to have a meeting. Here’s what, we need to do this. He was not comfortable for the most part standing up and talking every night. And it’s not a bad thing. He just figured, I’d play hard and everybody would follow suit. And if not, I’d have to talk with the person that didn’t.

David’s not that guy. David is a guy in the clubhouse with some leaders that can help. David, he’s a designated hitter. God bless him. I love him to death. But David is an emotional guy. He tends to swing way high or way low based on how he’s swinging the bat. And guys want to be led by guys who it doesn’t matter what you’re hitting.

If you could hire the next manager, who would it be? What kind of manager would it be?

I kept thinking that [bench coach] DeMarlo [Hale] should get this job. I had some conversations last night with a lot of different people. I’m not sure if I want him to be set up to fail his first time. I think he’s going to be a phenomenal manager. I’d be very surprised if he’s not on the short list in Chicago. I think the next guy here is going to be a guy to get them through this time. I’m not sure that there’s anybody out there. I can say it’s not a Bobby Valentine. It’s not a big name. It’s someone that players respect.

Does Tony Pena resonate?

I don’t know Tony. I’ve heard great things about him. I don’t know him very well.

The problem that this organization is going to have right now is that all the problems at the end of the year and all the reasons they happened, those things are going to be here again at the beginning of next year. If that’s the case, you’re not going to get rid of Lackey and Beckett and all of those guys on that list. Some of those guys are going to be back here.

Have you talked to Beckett?

I have not.

Do you think they will explore trading him?

Absolutely. Yeah.

We know they’re looking at trading Lackey, but that’s going to be a tough pill to swallow.

I don’t know that they have a choice. I can’t envision a scenario where he’s back here.

Who’s more disappointing: the leader, Josh Beckett or the follower, Jon Lester?

That’s the one that I think probably makes me bend over and double-clutch more than anything. I wanted so bad to believe that that September late-season swoon by him was just something other than . . . I’ve known him since he was a young player. I don’t see him quitting. And I don’t know that he did, but I don’t have anything . . .

Listen. The hard thing for me is you guys know me well enough to know that I’m irrational and very passionate and very loud. If my name was in the article, there would have been a follow-up piece the very next morning in which I called people names they wouldn’t have been able to print and I would have been screaming to the end of the earth to say, ‘That is a lie. That never happened. I didn’t do that.’

The stuff in that article is career-ending stuff from a reputation perspective. I’m hearing nothing. Nothing. No one is saying anything. And in lieu of response, it is guilt. You’re guilty until proven innocent, especially with athletes and celebrities.

But Pedroia spoke up.

My point exactly though. That was the thing. He did. Because he was pissed. These other guys, they’re going to have their careers and their reputations ruined by this stuff and they’re not saying anything.

Were they at least playing an advanced copy of your video game in the clubhouse?

They were not. Listen, I’m going to tell you guys. That is not off the beaten path. Playing video games in the clubhouse or having food in the clubhouse, regardless of what it is, that happens occasionally. Because you’ve got to remember. I’ll give you an example. Sunday day games, 1 o’clock games, somebody might be pitching, there could be schedules that change. I’m not making excuses for anybody, but it’s such a weird lifestyle that you are in the clubhouse. You do find yourself in the clubhouse. You do find yourself eating during the game every now and then. Guys have had beers in the clubhouse during the games. The fact that it got to the point where it was a conversation piece tells you all you need to know about the people in the clubhouse.

Doesn’t it make it worse that it was in September and your team was circling the drain and more than ever they needed the support and the backing?

When you look at what happened, when you look at who it happened to over the last month and a half, a bunch of those guys quit on their teammates, they quit on the organization, they quit on their manager and they quit on their fans. And that’s the thing they’re going to have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Read More: Curt Schilling, John Henry, john lackey, Jon Lester
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