Schilling's story an effective MLB tobacco deterrent

Schilling's story an effective MLB tobacco deterrent
August 21, 2014, 11:15 am
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BOSTON - Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 8-3 loss to the Angels on Wednesday night at Fenway Park.

1. Curt Schilling had mouth cancer and it was due to chewing tobacco.

Maybe this is cheating a little bit because we didn't actually learn this in the Red Sox game, but earlier that day. Give me break... we aren't learning anything new from this bunch on the field.

But the Schilling news is actual, real news that somehow never got leaked in a time where everything gets leaked. Schilling had been battling cancer since February and now we know that it was mouth cancer - and it's in remission.

And he knows that it's from chewing tobacco.

When I think about the Red Sox and my glory days as a fan, Curt Schilling is one of the first players that comes to mind. I'd expect just as much from anybody else around my age (26).

He's a player who didn't shy away from speaking his mind, didn't back down in a big moment, and didn't let anything get in the way of his goal, which on the Red Sox was ending the curse and winning a World Series.

Beating cancer is the biggest challenge he's had to face, and so far, it sounds like he's doing just that.

But if I know Curt (and I don't at all), I don't expect him to just beat mouth cancer and go on his way. I expect him to beat it and become an advocate for getting chewing tobacco out of the game of baseball once and for all.

Baseball already has a recent example of a great who passed away due to cancer caused by chewing tobacco in Tony Gwynn. Unfortunately, Gwynn can't be that voice MLB needs. He couldn't even talk by the time he passed.

Schilling can talk. And when he becomes strong enough to do so as he used to, I really hope he does.

Sure, chewing tobacco is banned in the minor leagues, but we all know it's not strictly enforced. You mean to tell me the tobacco police are going around to each minor league clubhouse, taking chewing tobacco and leaving fines? Come on.

It's not against the law, and I'm not saying it should be. You want to do it in your own time? Fine, it's your life (and sometimes death) and your body. But there's no need for it in the confines of the stadium. Like with cigarette usage, it starts with education. It starts with outspoken leaders. In this case, it does start down in high school, college and the minor leagues, with former players-turned-coaches leading by example.

If young players know that chewing tobacco is banned in the majors, they might be less likely to start it to begin with. Maybe they pick up a crazy sunflower seed habit, or chew more gum - whatever. At the very least, they'll use it less.

Chewing tobacco is currently allowed, but with a new labor agreement needed in 2017, we can change that in the future.

There's already plenty of evidence and research that proves chewing tobacco isn't conducive to one's health. What better person to relay that message even further to the baseball community than Schilling?

2. Things can change in a hurry.

The Los Angeles Angels came into Wednesday night with the best record in baseball. They had just taken over first place in the AL West a couple games back, and had their young ace on the mound.

Things were fine in La La Land.

But man, did %#@& hit the fan in the second inning.

By now you know what happened to Garrett Richards. He sustained a serious left knee injury while running to cover first base. It was one of those injuries that occur when a player is untouched - you see it in football more than anywhere else (obviously).

Richards went down in a heap, and if that wasn't ugly enough, watching him lay there writhing in pain was.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you how important Richards is to the Angels (13-4, 2.61 ERA and 1.04 WHIP). The postseason comes down to pitching, and without Richards the Angels are going to have to rely heavily on Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.

Sorry, but that just isn't going to cut it. The Angels don't have a prayer without him.

You never want to see a guy go down like that - here's to a speedy and full recovery.

3. Clay Buchholz is in a world of hurt.

And I'm not talking physically, either.

While Buchholz's issues in the past have been due to his not being able to stay healthy, this time it appears that he's perfectly healthy physically, but not so much mentally.

Of course, that's complicated. Nobody can get in the mind of Buchholz. But I couldn't help but notice he looked particularly dejected after the loss.

Five of six innings went fine for him, but it was that one inning - the fifth - that blew up as soon as things started to go south. He walked two in the inning, including one with the bases loaded, and then couldn't seem to shake off a misplay in the outfield in the next at-bat after the bases-loaded walk.

Buchholz even specifically mentioned the ball that Mike Trout hit that Daniel Nava didn't get to in right field, leading to a run. Did that continue to eat away at Buchholz on the mound? Is he internally playing the "woe is me" card to the point where he loses focus out there?

"The difference between everything that's going on this year and last year is a lot of the balls that are finding holes or home runs or doubles, they were hit at somebody last year," Buchholz said after the game.

Just tough luck all season long?

Whatever it is, it's taken a toll on Buchholz.