Schilling’s Financial Mess Has Plenty Of Blame To Go Around

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In today’s Sunday Business section of the New York Times, Matt Bai writes a great article about Curt Schilling and his failed video game company. What is made clear in the piece is how blinded those who were involved in this failed entrepreneurship/business partnership were to the obvious realities behind it.

The issues that surrounded Schilling throughout his career have extended to his post-career endeavors. The main difference is, back then, it didn’t really affect anyone other than himself and it didn’t harm his teams all that much. He was a great pitcher and if he pitched, the other stuff was shrugged away.

Schilling played for five teams in his career and took a long time to establish himself. In every stop, there was eye-rolling at head-shaking at Schilling the person and his overt theatrics even as he accumulated respect for his abilities, post-season success and willingness to pitch through pain. When he played with the Diamondbacks, there was an uncomfortableness bordering on hate between Schilling and his fellow ace and Cy Young Award contender Randy Johnson. With most teams, it would be construed as jealousy, but with Schilling it wasn’t a unique phenomenon. It was obvious why Schilling would clash with Johnson when Johnson never hid who he really was: a curmudgeonly star who would be happiest if the media never came near him. Schilling, on the other hand, was almost chameleon-like in his personality.

This was a hallmark for his career.

The teammates who considered themselves “real people” like Mitch Williams, thought Schilling was a phony and relentless self-promoter doing things to garner attention. There was a “Will this be cool?” aspect to Schilling that’s indicative of a lack of definition in who he was and what he believed. Like a teenager whose brain hasn’t fully grown and is fighting through puberty, Schilling’s personality was flexible and he never appeared to have evolved into a complete person on its own merit. There’s a constant concern about perception and eventually the line becomes blurred with the cause of something a person is doing and the effect.

“Oh, not many people are willing to be open, hard-core conservatives? I’ll stump for Republican candidates and make clear my political affiliation.”

“What? Nobody pitches complete games anymore? Watch me pitch complete games.”

“Ballplayers are unable to make the transition from athlete to business without losing all their money? I’ll become Bill Gates-rich.”

Most of the quotes are designed to encapsulate my view of Schilling’s thinking except for the words, “Bill Gates-rich.” He actually said that.

It’s a window into his mind that he really believed that his video game company could achieve that level of inexplicable wealth when, for 99.9% of the world’s population, the money Schilling had accumulated as a player as well as the extras ballplayers get for endorsements, broadcasting, autograph shows and whatever would have been more than enough to support them and several generations after them. It’s an egotistical need that was being fed and, in turn, wound up devouring him, his money, and his reputation.

Was there an intentional decision on Schilling’s part to take the loans from Rhode Island and blow it all with nothing to show for it but lawsuits, contretemps and humiliation? Doubtful. But it’s disturbing and telling that he felt the state should have given him more money to prop up the business.

In a similar vein, I don’t think there was any intention on the part of former governor of Rhode Island Donald Carcieri to waste that money by giving it to Schilling. Schilling has accused the current governor, Lincoln Chafee, of intentionally sabotaging his video game business. I don’t think it was any of that. I think that each party was using what benefited himself and his vision for what would further his own interests. Schilling had absurdly ambitious plans and the belief that he’d bull his way through to achieve them without the experience and ability to do so; Carcieri wanted to create jobs to help the flagging economy in his state; Chafee jammed the spigot into the money flow before the investment grew more red than it already was.

What led to this were the mistakes made due to political calculations, desperate agendas, and a starstruck reaction to Schilling’s enthusiasm and name-recognition.

Schilling’s intentions were legitimate, but who would think it’s a good idea to hand him $75 million based on a vague business plan and grandiose statements backed up by his status as a borderline Hall of Fame baseball player? If Jimmy O’Brien from Boston showed up and tried to extract that money from the governor of Rhode Island, he wouldn’t even receive a reply. That’s how ridiculous it was. Since it was Schilling, he got the money.

Had Schilling chosen to lure a series of professionals—CEOs, CFOs, gaming executives—to assist him in allocating that money and creating a viable company, it could have worked with Schilling lending that same star power he used to get the money to selling it rather than running it. But Schilling decided to play big businessman and lost everything he had as well as a massive chunk of Rhode Island’s dwindling cash.

Because his intentions weren’t nefarious doesn’t make it much better than if he just walked in, scammed them, took the money and left because it’s the exact same result.

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Curt Schilling Witlessly Follows The Lenny Dykstra Business Model

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Curt Schilling is a believer.

When he sticks to his Republican talking points, ends his self-righteous blog postings with “God bless you and God bless the United States of America” as if he’s concluding a Presidential address and appears as a prize showhorse at GOP events, he truly thinks he’s a part of the culture and is adhering to the strict principles of conservatism.

In a way it’s admirable. In another it’s stupid.

Perhaps Schilling was under the naïve impression that his Republican pals would bail him if he ran into trouble with his video game business. He was a “job creator” after all—the same type of person whose plans for expansion are strangled by a “socialist” administration bent on robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Schilling received a $75 million loan guarantee from the state of Rhode Island to move his company there from Massachusetts. The guarantee was provided by the ousted Republican Governor of the state, Donald Carcieri. Now that the former liberal Republican and now Independent Lincoln Chafee is the Governor, there’s a back and forth as to whom is responsible for the demise of Schilling’s company and what’s going to be done in its aftermath.

You can read the news story here on Boston.com.

It sounds as if Schilling’s looking for more money. Saying that he stands to lose the $50 million he claims to have left from his playing days isn’t going to elicit sympathy from the people of Rhode Island, nor is it going to persuade any “friend” Schilling has in the Republican party to stand up for him especially if he can no longer help them get elected.

Schilling’s adherence to the system is going to be his downfall. All he need do is look at how quickly Roger Clemens’s supporters ran from him once he found himself on trial for perjury. The battle lines were drawn at the congressional hearing when Clemens forcefully proclaimed his innocence of using PEDs and—according to the government—perjured himself in the process. The Republicans in the hearing were starstruck and aghast at the Democrats’ attacks on Clemens. Then their support withered away once Clemens became a detriment. Now he’s on trial and one would assume a vast chunk of his fortune is going towards legal fees.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, Schilling made over $114 million as a player in his career. Those who think that’s all he made are not accounting for endorsements and other income that’s not counted in a player’s salary such as per diem benefits, licensing fees for things such as baseball cards and other enticements received by athletes that would be plenty for a normal person to live on quite comfortably. He’ll still receive his players’ pension.

It’s irrelevant whether or not the business model Schilling used to get the loan was solid enough to warrant a $75 million guarantee from Rhode Island or if Schilling was risking his own money. It’s his company and he’s responsible for it. For someone like Schilling this is a combination of the worst case scenario personally and publicly. He idealism has reverberated back on him and, in spite of his intentions, he’s left to portray himself as another victim of the economic downturn and political expediency.

He wants a bailout that neither the government nor the taxpayer are not going to want to give him. The United States couldn’t function without the banking industry and the auto industry—other recipients of such bailouts. It will survive the destruction of Schilling’s video game company.

Maybe he’ll be able to go to people from his baseball playing days to find a path out of this mess, but given his polarizing personality I can’t foresee anyone doing anything more than giving him a job as a coach or broadcaster and that’s not going to get him the money he needs. A tell-all book would make him Jose Canseco-money, but that won’t clear the debts either. No one will do what Rhode Island did and hand him a check.

Schilling sought to be an entrepreneur when he might’ve been better off holding onto his money. If he had $50 million, was that not suitable? He had to try and be a big shot and put his money where his principles were under the mistaken belief that this endeavor was a version of giving back and practicing what he preached as an overt supporter of conservative causes? Not everyone can be an innovator, a job-creator or a business titan. Some people are meant to do what it was Schilling did: throw a baseball.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

He’s learning the hard way.

Lenny Dykstra tried to create a vast empire of his own. He had a string of successful car washes that would’ve kept him comfortable for the rest of his life with little effort on his part, but he wanted more. He had to be a “player” as his ill-fated magazine “The Players Club” will attest. His schemes were ludicrous. Now he’s in jail and under siege by endless lawsuits.

Schilling was the polar opposite of Dykstra but his finances are heading for the same place. It’s likely because they both had delusions of grandeur and the mistaken thought that because they were successful as athletes and people cheered for them when they were in uniform that the blind idolatry would easily translate into the business world. If it didn’t work, well, there’s always someone to bail them out.

It’s not the case and Schilling could wind up a broken man in every conceivable sense because of it.

This doesn’t make Schilling a bad person as some suggest. But it does make him the epitome of what he railed against in his politics. No one wants to be called a hypocrite, but that’s the least of Schilling’s problems right now.

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