Several years ago ESPN produced a documentary about the 2004 Boston Red Sox’ amazing comeback in the ALCS called “Four Days in October.” They’ve re-run it a lot. Yesterday, in the run up to last night’s Yankees-Red Sox game, they ran it again, on ESPN2. Only it was a bit shorter than usual. Why? Because it omitted the part about Curt Schilling and his bloody sock in Game 6.
Which, um, that’s one of the signature moments of that series, right? It’s one of the signature moments of the entire modern era of the franchise. Why edit that out? Many Red Sox fans — who also didn’t much care for ESPN’s handling of the DeflateGate story — believe that it was a vindictive act. A figurative airbrushing out of Schilling and his moment given his recent termination by the World Wide Leader. Even Schilling himself snarked about it:
For its part, ESPN had a simple explanation: the softball game which led in to the documentary ran long and they needed to cut someplace. Which makes some sense. It’s probably also worth noting that decisions about programming on their secondary network on a sleepy Sunday afternoon are not likely made in a board room by mustache-twirling villains. If ESPN really has it in for Schilling at this point, that’s a rather random and passive aggressive way to show it. My gut instinct is that this is just a coincidence.
But when it’s ESPN and Schilling it’s understandable when people assume there’s something more to it than coincidence. Both sides have, in the past, behaved in curious enough ways with respect to innocuous things that the benefit of the doubt is not something which is likely to be given automatically by some. Especially in Boston.
ESPN announced on Wednesday it has hired former major leaguer Raul Ibanez to replace Curt Schilling. The two asides agreed to a multi-year deal. Ibanez is expected to provide commentary on Baseball Tonight as well as select broadcast games.
Schilling was fired by ESPN last week, the culmination of a handful of social media snafus, the latest of which involved sharing an anti-transgender meme on Facebook. His other transgressions included suggesting that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “should be buried under a jail somewhere,” comparing Muslims to Nazis, and arguing with Keith Law over evolution. Law, not Schilling, was punished in that particular case.
Ibanez, who turns 44 in June, is a veteran of 19 seasons and last played in 2014 with the Royals. He was mentioned various times in the last two years as a potential candidate to coach or manage and ended up being hired as a special assistant to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman in February.
Ibanez will debut on ESPN at 8 PM EST tonight during the Rangers/Yankees game.
Richard Sandomir of the New York Times reports that Dallas Braden has been named Curt Schilling’s replacement on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball broadcasts.
Braden, famous for tossing a perfect game in 2010, retied from baseball in early 2014, calling his arm a “shredded mess.” He only pitched 18 more innings after the 2010 season, saying “I left my arm on the mound at the Coliseum.” Since then he has had various media jobs, most recently as a studio talking head on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”
All in all it’s a pretty logical move. Braden’s profile has been rising on ESPN telecasts. I can’t say I’ve caught enough of his stuff on the air to know if he’s any good, but he’s always been outspoken and a little off-the-wall. The sort of player who eschewed cliches. That’s probably a good trait to have in this line of work.
While it might be nice for sports broadcasts to get away from hiring ex-players all of the time, if they’re going to do so they should at least try to get a mix of competent analysis and entertainment value. That’s a hard balance, of course — Schilling’s original hire was likely based on him being an outspoken, unpredictable guy and we see how that turned out — but it’s worth trying again. ESPN will now try it with Braden.
A day after getting fired it appears that Curt Schilling is making up for lost time on social media. I don’t follow the guy on any platform, but the Daily News has been playing close attention and describe his “social media bender.”
He’s been posting right wing memes and railing against political correctness and, in the usual ironic twist guys like Schilling often exhibit, is being highly, highly sensitive to criticism in that “me, mad? hahaha, no, I think this is funny, I’m actually laughing at this right now” kind of way which, in reality, masks some pretty decent outrage.
Best bit: he’s been mixing it up with Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy has been intellectual and respectful and is holding an actual debate. Schilling decided that he’d insult McCarthy by claiming that McCarthy’s “life goes on” stance was some sort of failure on par with his having “only” nine career complete games:
So yeah, that’s all going well. Glad Schilling is keeping busy. And mature.
(Thanks to Josh for the heads up. Schilling blocks me so I didn’t see any of this)
With the way he had been proceeding it was only a matter of time. And now his time is up. Curt Schilling has been fired by ESPN.
The final straw came yesterday when Schilling shared a disgusting anti-transgender meme on Facebook and followed it up with supportive comments which took a distinct, inflammatory side in the ongoing debate about access to public facilities for transgender people. He later doubled down in a combative blog post on the matter. The matter has become highly controversial and Schilling weighing in in the manner he did was both insensitive to transgender persons and flew in the face of ESPN’s mandate to its on-air talent — often broken by Schilling himself — to not wade into highly-charged political topics in an inflammatory manner.
Schilling has constantly defended his behavior in this regard as a matter of his personal beliefs, but when one’s personal beliefs are in direct contradiction of your employer’s values and when you cease to heed your employer’s warnings to cease making controversial public comments, you are eventually going to be fired. And if there is any doubt that Schilling’s beliefs conflicted with his employer’s, ESPN’s statement this evening regarding the firing put that to rest:
“ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”
Schilling had already been demoted from his job on Sunday Night Baseball last year for a similar incident involving a social media meme which equated Muslims to Nazis. In the past he had also gotten into controversies regarding the teaching of evolution and, last month, was on a radio show when he said that Hillary Clinton should “be buried under a jail somewhere.” By some counts, Schilling has had no less than seven separate instances in which he came under scrutiny for his social media habits. And a guy with Schilling’s distinguished career on the mound knows that, by the time you get to seven strikes, you’re out.
A person hired to be a sports commentator can, with caution and care, wade into public matters. Many do. But the reckless and offensive way Schilling did and his repeated violation of his employer’s orders in this regard made his position untenable. And now one of the best pitchers of his generation is out of a job.