NY TimesON BASEBALLBefore Helping the Red Sox to a Championship, Schilling Helped HimselfBy MURRAY CHASS
URT SCHILLING, who was instrumental in helping the Boston Red Sox win the World Series for the first time in 86 years, had a better year than people realize.
On the field, he was the biggest winner in the major leagues with 21 victories, and he pitched brilliantly in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees and in Game 2 of the World Series against St. Louis. All of that was good enough.
But off the field, he negotiated a contract that earned him an additional $2 million in salary for next season and that enabled him to have an option year, the fourth year, guaranteed at a salary of $13 million.
Not a bad salary for a 40-year-old pitcher.
It's especially not a bad deal considering that Schilling, eschewing the aid of an agent, negotiated a triggering clause in the contract that is illegal under baseball rules and should not have been allowed. Professional agents with years of experience have not done as well.
When the Red Sox made a deal for Schilling with the Arizona Diamondbacks, they negotiated a new contract with him because he had only one year left on his existing contract and could have been a free agent now.
The new contract called for a $12 million salary this year, same as under the old contract, then salaries of $12.5 million and $13 million for the second and third years, and the option year at $13 million.
But Schilling also negotiated a clause based on the Red Sox' winning the World Series. If the Red Sox were to win the World Series, Schilling's salary would rise by $2 million the following year. In addition, the option year would become vested, or guaranteed.
The clause, though illegal under baseball rules, was not accidental.
"It was my idea," Schilling said, explaining his thinking. "I felt the clause put into words what everybody was planning in making this move in the first place. They were bringing me here to put a World Series trophy on the mantelpiece. If we didn't win the World Series, bringing me here wouldn't have done anything for the team."
The clause, Schilling added, "was our way of making sure the Red Sox understood that we understood what this was about."
Generally, baseball rules allow performance bonuses based on statistics - games, innings pitched, at-bats - but not on achievements like winning the World Series.
Major League Rule 3(b)(5) states that no contract shall be approved "if it provides for the payment of a bonus contingent on the standing of the signing club at the end of the championship season."
The Red Sox, who didn't want to lose Schilling to a technicality, argued for the clause with the commissioner's office, which approves contracts, saying the clause was not a team-based performance bonus but a team-based escalator.
"Our office approved it," Frank Connelly, general counsel for labor in the commissioner's office, acknowledged. "But after approving it, we later concluded the escalator clause was a bonus prohibited under the rules."
After realizing its error, the commissioner's office sent a memo to the 30 clubs saying that the contract would stand but that team-based clauses would be prohibited in the future.
And anyway, who would have thought the Red Sox would win the World Series and have the clause take effect?
Had the clause been rejected initially, as it should have been, the Red Sox would have had to find a way to get more money to Schilling other than just giving it to him outright. He wanted an average guaranteed salary of $14.5 million; the Red Sox wanted to hold it at $12.5 million.
Schilling said he didn't understand the reason for the bonus rule. "It's easier for someone to manipulate bonuses based on quantitative statistics," he said. "Team-based bonuses are harder to manipulate."
"In the end," he added, "it was something the fans wanted, and it was good for the player."
Unwittingly, he answered his own question. If it's good for the player, it can't be good for the club.
Schilling is a rare player, dealing with his employers without an agent. He guessed that he last had an agent in 1996.
"The bottom line was, I couldn't justify paying someone 5 percent of my salary for a day's worth of work. When you talk about the money we get paid today, 5 percent is a huge amount of money. When I realized how much money that was and what we could do with it for A.L.S." - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease - "and other charities, I decided to go without an agent."