Curt Schilling Is the Reason Why Curt Schilling Won’t Get Elected to the Hall of Fame
If you reset yourself back to 2007, your impression of Curt Schilling was that he was a big game pitcher. Your first real memory of him was him striking out the first five batters he faced in the 1993 NLCS en route to the Phillies going to the World Series and Schilling winning the MVP. In 2001, Schilling combined with Randy Johnson to beat the Yankees in seven games to win the World Series. He and Johnson would shared the World Series MVP. In 2004, Schilling would be best remembered for the bloody sock that permitted him to win an important Game 6 that would help the Red Sox become the first team to overcome an 0-3 deficit in a postseason series.
He was not only a big game pitcher, he was also a great pitcher. Over his 20 year career, he was 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and a 1.137 WHIP. In the postseason, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP. He has three World Series rings to go with the aforementioned MVP awards. This is an exceedingly strong Hall of Fame case.
Schilling has an even stronger case when you go deeper into the numbers. The average Hall of Famer starting pitcher has a 73.9 career, WAR, 50.3 WAR7, and a 62.1 JAWS score. For his career, Schilling has a 79.9 career WAR, 49.0 WAR7, and a 64.5 JAWS score. Based upon those numbers it appeared as if Schilling may eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The voting history certainly looked that way. In 2013, Schilling’s first year on the ballot, he garnered 38.8% of the vote. Schilling has seen an uptick each subsequent year with him getting 52.3% of the vote last year. Certainly, with the remaining years on the ballot, it would seem as if he was eventually going to be elected. That may no longer be the case.
Since his retirement, Schilling has been a lightning rod. His 38 Studios went bankrupt, and Schilling faced a lawsuit from the State of Rhode Island. He became an outspoken, if not controversial, voice during in his retirement. His tweets have led to multiple suspensions and eventual firing from ESPN. With Schilling no longer being employed by ESPN, he has not had any need to choose his words more carefully (if he ever felt the need). His latest transgression was promoting the idea of lynching journalists. Schilling did later state it was sarcasm, but the damage was already done.
Prominent journalists like Jon Heyman and Mike Vaccaro noted that they may not vote for Schilling for the Hall of Fame again this year. They are hardly alone. While Schilling should likely clear the 5% threshold and remain on the ballot, it is clear the momentum towards him being elected to the Hall of Fame has come to a screeching halt. If that is indeed the case, it won’t be the first time Schilling believes his personal beliefs and politics have hurt his Hall of Fame chance.
Assume for a minute that Schilling is right, should his personal politics and “sarcasm” prevent his election into the Hall of Fame? Those who say yes will undoubtedly invoke the character clause, and there is good reason for that. The character clause has been used to prevent gamblers like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose from induction into the Hall of Fame. It is currently being used to prevent steroids players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame. Seeing how it was applied, it could then be extended for people of poor moral fiber like Schilling is believed to be.
Except it hasn’t quite worked that way. Cap Anson was the genesis of the ridiculously named “Gentleman’s Agreement” that kept black players out of baseball until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Rogers Hornsby was alleged to be a member of the KKK. Roberto Alomar and Kirby Puckett had been involved in domestic violence disputes. Mickey Mantle was a drunk who played games hungover. Paul Molitor used cocaine. Each of these players took part in these activities while playing, and each one of them was inducted into the Hall of Fame. This doesn’t even take half of the things Babe Ruth was thought to have done during his career. The character clause wasn’t invoked as the character clause has been taken to mean cheating the game.
So no, the character clause should not prevent Schilling’s induction. Even with that said, it is going to be a factor because writers are human. More importantly, with players like Bonds and Clemens not getting elected into the Hall of Fame, there is a backlog of candidates forcing writers to leave worthy player(s) off of their ballot. If you find yourself in that situation, why not Schilling? You know he’s not going to garner enough support this year, so why let that stop another worthy candidate, like Tim Raines, from getting elected? It is a fair and reasonable position.
Ultimately, I hope it doesn’t come to that. In my opinion, Schilling was a Hall of Famer, and I think the Hall of Fame electorate was progressing in that direction. While people are critical of the writers, they did elect players like Eddie Murray and Jim Rice who were famously cantankerous with the media (but not to the level of Schilling’s tweet). With that in mind, if Schilling is not elected to the Hall of Fame this year or the next or ever, he will have no one to blame but himself.
By his own words, Schilling believed his actions and beliefs hurt his chances of getting elected in the past. When he sent that last Tweet, he should have known it would again have a profound impact. There will be many who point fingers at different writers for not voting for Schilling, but that blame will be misplaced. It was Schilling who knew the potential consequences of his actions, and he did it anyway. Ultimately, Schilling is his own worst enemy when it comes to his not being elected in the Hall of Fame.