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Favorable trade winds

Schilling deal raises stakes

Of course, it's a great deal for the Red Sox. But adding Curt Schilling, as good as he is, guarantees nothing, except an over-the-top response from the Yankees, who are virtually certain to add either Bartolo Colon or Javier Vazquez while returning Andy Pettitte to a rotation that will be missing Roger Clemens and possibly David Wells in 2004. In the euphoria that followed his successful pursuit of Schilling last night, Sox GM Theo Epstein acknowledged as much.

"As Curt said, acquisitions don't affect the balance of power," Epstein said. "It's 25 guys going out and playing hard and working their

butts off. After tonight, this acquisition is behind us." The Yankees had targeted Schilling as Clemens's successor, a righthanded power pitcher cut right out of the Rocket mold: a big, strong physical specimen who wants to pitch until he's 40 and has shown no reason why he shouldn't be able to do so.

They didn't get him, in part because they had emptied their farm system of so many prospects in past deals (lefthander Brandon Claussen, who went to the Reds for third baseman Aaron Boone this summer, could have been the Bombers' answer to Casey Fossum in a Schilling package), and because the Red Sox aggressively went after Schilling as soon as he made it known that Terry Francona's presence in Boston would go a long way toward allaying his concerns about coming here.

Schilling, who had a no-trade clause in his contract with Arizona, had initially told the Diamondbacks he would go only to the Yankees or Phillies, the team he'd helped pitch to the '93 World Series. But when the Yankees and Diamondbacks couldn't match up, Boston became a player last weekend. On Monday, Schilling talked about the attractiveness of the rivalry, how it mattered little which side of that rivalry he was on, as long as he got to be part of it.

That changed yesterday, after he accepted a two-year, $25.5 million extension from the Sox that could easily carry through the 2007 season if he meets makeable performance incentives based on his durability.

"I guess I hate the Yankees now," Schilling said last night.

And perhaps, although he may never admit it, D-Backs owner Jerry Colangelo has a bit of revenge for the gamesmanship Yankee owner George Steinbrenner pulled on him last year when Colangelo thought he had a deal made with Wells only to have The Boss lure Wells back to New York at the last moment.

On paper, the Sox now have a Big Three at the top of their rotation that compares favorably to anyone else in the American League. The Yankees have Mike Mussina, the Cuban defector Jose Contreras, and former Cub mainstay Jon Lieber, coming back after missing most of the last two seasons because of Tommy John elbow surgery. Mussina is the only sure bet in that trio, which is why the re-signing of the lefthanded Pettitte, who last season pitched as well as he has in the last seven years, becomes so critical. Signing Colon also becomes a priority with fallback plans including trades for Vazquez and perhaps Hideo Nomo of the Dodgers.

Steinbrenner will respond. That's a given. This cannot be a happy day in the already frequently traumatized existence of Yankee GM Brian Cashman, having to explain how the Empire missed out on Schilling, a five-time All-Star, a two-time 20-game winner, and a guy who has proven to be at his best in October, with a 5-1 postseason record and 1.66 ERA.

But before planning on that parade down Boylston Street that Schilling was imagining in his musings during last night's press conference, remember this: The A's, with their fabulous threesome of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder, have yet to play in a World Series. The Yankees, despite their rotation of impeccable pedigree, have not won a World Series since 2000.

The Sox led the AL in starters' ERA by a wide margin over the Bombers in 2002 and didn't even make the playoffs. Same thing in 2000.

And who knows how Pedro Martinez's fragile health and psyche will hold up in '04.

But it's still a great day for the Olde Towne Team.

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