The Baseball Desert

Thursday, December 04, 2003

"Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away..."

It's a measure of baseball's ability to capture our attention - even in the offseason - that a week away from blogging feels more like a month. Even though not a single game has been played since I last posted on here, a lot has been going on in the baseball world. As I sat down and took a look at the major stories of the past week, it occurred to me that any roundup of the news should carry a special Sesame Street-style credit - "Today's post is brought to you by the letter 'S'...":

Spahn: baseball lost one of it's all-time greats last week, when Warren Spahn passed away at the age of 82. Being a) British and b) 33 years old, my knowledge and memories of Spahn are somewhat limited, but from footage and interviews I've seen and articles I've read, he was a remarkable pitcher and an exemplary human being. I could go on forever about his incredible stats (177 games won after the age of 35, 13 20-win seasons, ...) but others have done so better than me, so I will simply point you in the direction of Rich Lederer at Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT and Thomas Boswell at the Washington Post.

Schilling and the Sox (Red): speaking of pitchers who are over the age of 35, Boston pulled off a huge trade this weekend with the signing of Curt Schilling, strengthening their rotation with a guy who is not only a great pitcher (something he has proved in big-game situations such as the 2001 World Series against, ironically, Boston's biggest rivals, the Yankees...), but also a workhorse who will be able to give the Red Sox a lot of innings over the course of a season. I know Schilling is outspoken and can easily rub people up the wrong way, but I like the guy - I like his work ethic, the seriousness with which he approaches not only the game of baseball as a whole but his own specific job in particular. Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe has an interview with Schilling which contains the following gem:

Fear of failure, he says, is a great motivator, and his pregame preparation reflects an attention to detail that very few pitchers approach. From [Atlanta pitcher Greg] Maddux, he said, he learned that the key to preparation is understanding when a hitter is going to swing at a pitch and when he is going to take one.

"Once you understand that," he said, "the key is throwing a strike when he's taking and a ball when he's swinging. It can be done. Hitters are creatures of habit. They do things on certain counts and in certain situations that they don't in other counts and in other situations. For a freakin' $13 million a year, is it too much to ask me to know when that is?"

Quick, get me a 2004 schedule - I want to see exactly when we might get to see Schilling and Pedro Martinez pitching on back-to-back starts in Yankee Stadium...

Steinbrenner: the Boss has always pulled the strings in New York, but Buster Olney contends that he's now doing so more than ever. Steinbrenner, not wanting to be outdone by the Red Sox signing Schilling, is on the verge of making a deal with Atlanta OF Gary Sheffield. As Thomas Boswell says, the Red Sox / Yankees rivalry is always big news, even in the middle of winter...

That's it as far as the big news goes (I didn't mention Richie Sexson going to the Diamondbacks, but that's because, frankly, it's not the sexiest piece of news out there...). I'll try to post the fifth (and final) episode of Baseball, the Internet & me on here sometime soon, so keep an eye on this space...