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In the pantheon of clutch displays from injured players, few come close to topping Curt Schilling's performance last night. Willis Reed in the '70 NBA Finals? Largely a morale boost. He set the tone with two early hoops -- and finished with four points. Kirk Gibson homering off Eck in the '88 Series? He was a pinch-hitter. A gimpy Tom Berenger legging out a bunt (and a horribly executed one at that) then looking like he was shot in the back Platoon-style as he crossed first base to clinch the AL East for the Indians in Major League? Uh, it was a movie. Schilling didn't just limp to the hill and inspire his teammates. He dominated the game from start to (almost) finish. I'm trying to come up with a better under-the-gun performance from an athlete in pain, and I'm having trouble. Feel free to argue with me, but I think that's about as gutsy as it gets. Hats off to Curt.
Two thoughts about tonight: I had a feeling Kevin Brown was going to shut down the Sox down in Game 3. He seems like a guy who could pull a four-hitter out of his hat when he most needed it. He still does, which is why I think the Yanks win a close one. Second, I've got to believe Tim Wakefield pitches at some point (as I write this, the last I saw was Terry Francona saying Derek Lowe probably would start). If Wakefield pitches, there's no way Jason Varitek can catch him. I've never seen a catcher pulled for a defensive replacement mid-hitter, let alone mid-inning, but I half-expected to see Doug Mirabelli come off the bench when Hideki Matsui got to third with Wakefield on the hill in Game 5. So wouldn't it make more sense to start Wakefield in Game 7 with Mirabelli catching? Then when you go to the bullpen, bring in Varitek. That maximizes Varitek's at-bats and guarantees he's in there for crunch time. It also gives Varitek a few more hours of rest -- after catching 11 hours worth of games over the past two nights, I'm sure he'd appreciate every minute he can get.
For all the attention the ALCS has received, whichever team wins it is going to lose in the World Series to the Astros. ...
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You would not believe how much mail I got after writing about Rafael Furcal last week. I ripped the judge in the case for letting him play in the postseason after violating his probation with a second DUI. I was called a moron, a racist and even a Republican. In reality, I'm just one of those wacky people who doesn't like sharing the road with drivers who are drunk. Many people pointed out that it's not unusual for a person to be allowed to continue to work after picking up a second DUI -- they're often allowed to serve their time on weekends. Now, I'm not suggesting that Furcal be held to a higher standard than a non-athlete. I believe it's a judge's responsibility to uphold and apply the laws of the land equally. But I also believe a judge has a responsibility to look at every case on its individual merits and make a decision that's in the best interest of society as a whole. My problem with the ruling was the message it sent: We're going to be as accommodating to Rafael Furcal as we can be.
I don't doubt he could have hired an expensive lawyer and slowed the process so there would be no resolution until after the playoffs. But why did it have to be so easy for him? Why give the impression that the criminal justice system is going to bend over backwards to help Furcal play in the postseason.
Who does that help? The people of Atlanta? No. True, Furcal had to be monitored so he couldn't be out driving, but the public gains nothing from having Furcal on the streets. The children of the people of Atlanta? Absolutely not. What kind of message does it send to let Furcal play? Yeah, a welder who violates his probation by getting a second DUI would probably be allowed to serve his sentence at a time that wouldn't interfere with his ability to work. But a welder who violates his probation by getting a second DUI isn't front page news. Again, Furcal shouldn't be held to a higher standard because his arrest was newsworthy. I'm just saying that being so accommodating of Furcal sends a terrible message. Furcal himself? Absolutely not.
A few people accused me of being hypocritical for saying a few nice things about Ken Caminiti in the same column that took on Furcal's case. My problem with the Furcal case isn't with Furcal -- it's with the judge. I don't regret the things I said about Caminiti. He was a nice guy. He also killed himself with his vices. Would Caminiti have stopped his heavy drinking or his drug use if someone had thrown his butt in jail when he was 26? Who know, but I don't think it would have hurt. Furcal's 26 now, still relatively young and impressionable. He asked the cops who arrested him in September to cut him some slack because he plays for the Braves. Do you really think sending him the message that he's bulletproof because he plays baseball is going to help him get his head on straight?
I have no idea what kind of guy Rafael Furcal is. All I know about him is he's a good baseball player with some dangerous personal habits. And I don't think Furcal -- or the people who look up to him -- should be led to believe that the former excuses the latter. ...
Did you see Jon Stewart on Crossfire? Came off as just a wee bit crotchety. He raised some valid points, but he hurt his credibility by being just downright cranky and mean.
Thanks for stopping by. Stay classy.
Mark Bechtel covers NASCAR for Sports Illustrated and SI.com.