Haggerty: Thomas, Schilling can't leave well enough alone

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Haggerty: Thomas, Schilling can't leave well enough alone

NEWARK, NJ The similarities between Tim Thomas and Curt Schilling are striking.

Both were playoff heroes adorned with awards and adulation. They were lauded as folk heroes in Boston after bringing champions to a sports city drunk on success. Both are highly intelligent individuals with interests well beyond the respective sports theyd mastered.

Both defined nebulous, vague terms like "clutch" and "gutsy" while overcoming odds in situations that couldnt possibly have harbored hopes for success.

Thomas was never supposed to make it after falling through the cracks of pro hockey and winding up in Finland as a goaltender as renowned for his love of cheeseburgers as his ability to stop the puck. Instead he became only the second goalie in NHL history aside from Philadelphia Flyers legend Bernie Parent to capture the Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season.

Schilling has the bloody sock hero footage and the paeans written about him after he helped slay the Yankees in 2004. The Big Schill endured game-day surgical procedures on his ailing right ankle to Frankenstein his way through pitching a baseball game, and dominated the best teams in baseball on one leg.

Those feats of strength take the kind of fortitude, courage and determination that both Thomas and Schilling have in spades as they walked the walk of champions.

But unfortunately time doesnt stand still for sports heroes, and thats been the case for this pair of athletes quickly plummeting from grace.

The tragic part: their fall has been due to some of the same qualities that made them great in the first place.

Schillings 38 Studios video game company has been nothing short of a business nightmare.

He took tens of millions of dollars from the state of Rhode Island before working himself into a corner where he couldnt meet payroll or make loan payments back to the state that bankrolled him. The always-opinionated Schilling was finally at a loss for words for once in his life something that many of his teammates never thought theyd see out of the bombastic blowhard.

For Schilling, the video game company sprouted from the same outsized ego that brazenly proclaimed he was coming to Boston to end an 86-year curse.

Unfortunately creating a phenomenally successful video game in such a competitive market proved much more difficult than unleashing a 96-mph heater on the outside corner.

The sight of the outsized Sox pitcher rushing through long lines of media members while hurriedly refusing to answer questions about where all the money went is something nobody could have envisioned eight years ago.

But it all started with the belief that Schilling knows everything about everything.

By the same token, Thomas me-against-the-world mentality has long insulated him against the long odds and sure-to-be disappointing ending his career seemed headed for. He braved through the minors and Europe looking for a chance, and he finally got that in Boston.

The burning desire to prove others wrong pushed him to a pair of Vezina Trophies and four All-Star appearances in a career that had most recalling Johnny Bower.

But that isolated, self-involved view also erected a giant wall between the 38-year-old goaltender and the rest of his teammates.

That wall was constructed on harsh words while blaming defenseman for mistakes in front of his net that led to goals, or just plain bizarre behavior from an eccentric personality that at times seemed like hed have been more comfortable in a Michigan militia rather than serving brilliantly as a hockey playoff hero.

Now Thomas has uprooted his family from their full-time home in Boston for a sprawling property in Colorado near Colorado Springs that sources indicate has a bunker in case any wrath of God type stuff starts happening around the world.

His no-trade clause expires on July 1.

Thomas isnt in control of the situation for the first time in a long time as trade rumors swirl around him after a tumultuous 2011-12 season that saw him butt heads with ownership and management. Skipping out on the White House and using his Bruins bully pulpit for his own political agenda is something that scares the heck out of advertisers and sponsors. At a certain point, word came down from high that he needed to shut up, and he complied for the remainder of the season.

But Thomas isnt a guy that likes to be told he cant speak his mind, and the Bruins as an organization have tired of the bizarro world stuff their goaltender has concocted over the years.

So what does Thomas do when it appears his NHL address might change at 38 years old? He once again puts up his me-against-the-world blinders and sends out whispers that hes considering taking a leave of absence for the entire 2011-12 season.

Sure Ken Dryden once took a sabbatical and Dominik Hasek took off a season at 38 years old before playing four more years. (Hasek actually wants to return to the NHL next season.)

But dont be foolish: Thats not what this is about.

Is it a leverage play by Thomas so he wont be traded away from the Bruins?

Is it a threat so that the Bruins will only trade him where he wants to go?

In true passive-aggressive fashion hes not talking about it, just as he refused to talk about his politics when he started making big waves by refusing to take part in a team-wide photo opportunity with President Obama. The stubborn Thomas clearly believes hes been wronged, and hes going to do everything in his power to make life difficult for those he feels have wronged him.

Its impossible for Thomas to let slights brush off him or hide his true feelings when its colored each of his actions and words since January.

That dead-eye determination and unwillingness to bend is what made Thomas a sports savior for the Black and Gold in the first place.

But just like Schilling, what has made once made Thomas great is also proving to be at the heart of his undoing.

Both Boston sports legends were true larger-than-life folk heroes, but now theyre once again flawed human beings, staining legacies that were better left untouched.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.

Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

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Drellich: After golden 2016, Red Sox remember what it's like to have things go wrong

CHICAGO — More than anything else, Monday’s 5-4 Red Sox loss was a reminder of how much the Red Sox had go right for them a year ago, and just how unrealistic it was to expect so much of it to carry over into 2017.

The Red Sox remain a very good team. But the success of last year’s 93-win team, of any 93-win team is, truly, difficult to replicate. Unlikely, even.

Baseball’s age of parity, the randomness of freak injuries, good old regression — the Sox were due for some elements to catch up to them after a season that was more or less golden in 2016.

Dustin Pedroia, who headed back to Boston on Monday for an MRI on his left wrist, was healthy enough to hit 15 home runs a year ago, his highest total since 2012. The way this year is going for him health-wise, just having him on the field and hitting close to .300 sounds like a worthwhile goal the rest of the way.

(Slides are Pedroia’s enemy, be it from an oncoming base runner, like Manny Machado, or an oncoming first baseman, like Jose Abreu.)

David Price wasn’t living David Price’s best baseball life a year ago. But you know what you can, and probably do, take for granted? He was healthy and devouring innings. He cleared more frames than anyone else in the regular season. Even when he wasn’t pitching well, he could pitch and pitch and pitch. 

Jackie Bradley Jr. had a 1.001 OPS at the end of play on May 29, 2016. His OPS after play May 29, 2017, was .670.

We know how special David Ortiz was. Let’s not go there, because it seems like no one can talk about Ortiz’s absence rationally. His exit did not suck every home run out of the Sox lineup, as many like to say is the case, but he is — of course — a big missing piece.

Not everything was perfect in 2016, lest we remember our ex-girlfriends too fondly. Carson Smith went for Tommy John surgery, for example. 

But look now: Smith still isn’t back, Tyler Thornburg is a mystery if not quiet yet an afterthought and Robbie Ross Jr. not only struggled to the point he was demoted, he’s going through elbow trouble.

Rick Porcello won the American League Cy Young, much to Kate Upton’s chagrin. Porcello will not win the Cy Young this year, if you hadn’t been paying attention, although Chris Sale might.

There’s something going well for the Sox right now: that Sale guy. The bullpen coughed up the game Monday, Matt Barnes in particular. Yet Sox relievers had the fifth best ERA of any team to start the day. 

Hey, Eduardo Rodriguez looks pretty good, doesn't he?

With some downward trends have come some positives. Craig Kimbrel's on another planet.

The Sox may still be a 90-win team. Again, they remain a very good club.

But the wins, the breaks aren’t coming as easily as they did a year ago. You should never have expected they would.