MEDFIELD, Mass. - Curt Schilling needed no prompting. The question was innocuous. Did he like this year's Phillies team?
"I think trading Cliff Lee was the stupidest thing they've ever done, and they didn't have to," Schilling said. "They didn't have to do it. It was a stupid, stupid move. They could've had a World Series berth locked up right now with those two guys at the top of their rotation."
Those two being Lee and Roy Halladay.
Schilling knows a little something about pitching power propelling a team to a World Series championship. He and Randy Johnson were unstoppable in 2001, combining for a 43-12 regular-season record and 9-1 record in the postseason. In the World Series against the Yankees, Schilling and Johnson went 4-0 - Schilling pitched Game 4 on three days' rest and left in the seventh inning with a 1-1 tie - with a 1.40 ERA and struck out 45 Yankees in 391/3 innings.
Arizona beat New York in seven games, with Schilling starting Game 7 and Johnson getting the win as the closer one night after pitching in Game 6. Johnson and Schilling finished 1-2 in Cy Young Award voting, shared the World Series most valuable player award, and were named Sportsmen of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
Had the Phillies not traded Lee to Seattle after acquiring Halladay from Toronto in December, the pitching aces, not to mention the Phillies, could have had similar results, according to Schilling.
"Those guys would've finished legitimately 1-2 [as] Cy Young candidates on the same staff," Schilling said. "You've got Cole Hamels in the three slot, which is a dream come true for both. They would've been a 110-win team."
Instead, the Phillies sent Lee, who won both of his starts in the 2009 World Series against the Yankees, to Seattle to replenish their farm system, which was decimated in the Halladay deal. To get Halladay, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. agreed to give up pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud, and outfield prospect Michael Taylor. In the Lee deal, the Phillies got Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, and J.C. Ramirez.
"The Roy Halladay deal, I think, gave them the perception that they depleted their minor-league system," Schilling said. "That's one of those things now where, five years ago, so what? Now, your minor-league system ranking is such a big deal, because that speaks to your scouting and your drafting and all those things. It's a direct reflection on your general manager.
"If they hadn't made that [Lee] deal, I think they felt like their minor-league system would've been trashed, even though it wasn't. They still had a lot of talent. But it was to restock. If you draft right, you can literally restock your system in a year or two now.
"There's no other reason why they made that deal, none whatsoever. That's why they didn't push trying to re-sign Cliff, because I think they felt like he would've been real receptive to it, so then they would've looked even worse, because 'We traded a guy who wants to be here.' "
Schilling said that Halladay is "a fantastic guy" and "a hard worker," but he pointed to Lee's postseason performance last year and shook his head.
"He's coming off a phenomenal run when he came over," Schilling said of Lee. "He showed them [in] October he was going to be better than everybody else. You don't know what you're getting there. Doc's never pitched in October. I think he'll be great and be awesome and all that stuff, but he could get to October and not be the guy. Cliff proved that he can pitch in October. That's a big loss."