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.
When your team is not in the World Series, the one thing you really want is a memorable World Series. Even if a team you hates wins the World Series, you want to be rewarded for the time you invest watching the World Series. In my lifetime, here are some of the World Series I found to be absolutely riveting:
1991 World Series
As for as World Series go, this one could very well be the gold standard. Five of the seven games were decided by one run. Three of the games went into extra innings including Games 6 and 7. With Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, Kevin Tapani, and of course Jack Morris, there was great pitching that led to tense innings and rallies. In six of the seven games, both teams scored five runs or less. However, what truly made this series great was two all time games to close out the series.
In Game 6, Kirby Puckett put the Twins on his back. He made that leaping catch snatching Ron Gant‘s home run from clearing that plexiglass, and then he hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning that included a classic call:
Then in Game 7, Morris went the distance in a 1-0 10 inning game that featured rookie Chuck Knoblauch deking 13 year veteran Lonnie Smith from scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning that probably would have been the game winner. Then in the 10th inning Gene Larkin became the unlikeliest of heroes by getting the World Series walk-off single.
1993 World Series
Generally speaking, this would have been an average World Series as most six game World Series are. However, there was a lot in this World Series.
Lenny Dykstra turned into Babe Ruth during the series. Roberto Alomar hit .480 in the series, and he wasn’t even the best hitter. That honor goes to Paul Molitor who hit .500 in the series. Game 4 saw the Blue Jays mount a frantic eighth inning come from behind rally to win by a score of 15-14. And as if this wasn’t enough, in Game 6 Joe Carter did something only Bill Mazeroski had done:
1997 World Series
This series wasn’t particularly memorable despite a couple of slugfests in Games 3 and 5. No, what made this series was an epic Game 7. The Indians were seeking to win their first World Series since 1948. They had their closer Jose Mesa on the mound and a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
The Marlins first scratched in a run in the bottom of the ninth with a Craig Counsell sacrifice fly scoring Moises Alou. The Marlins started the game winning rally in the bottom of the 11th with a Bobby Bonillia single off Charles Nagy. Eventually, the Marlins loaded the bases with one out. Devon White, who won the World Series with the aforementioned Blue Jays, grounded into a force play with Tony Fernandez nailing Bonilla at the plate. Then with two outs, rookie Edgar Renteria singled home Counsell to win the World Series.
Note, this would’ve been rated much higher if not for the MVP mysteriously being given to Livan Hernandez (5.27 ERA) over Alou, and for Bonilla having such a huge Game 7.
2001 World Series
This World Series had it all. Curt Schilling did the old fashioned 1-4-7 you want your ace to do in the biggest series of the year. Randy Johnson was better than that shutting out the Yankees in Game 2, shutting them down in Game 6, and pitching on no days rest to keep the Yankees at bay in Game 7.
Game 7 was an epic back-and-forth matchup. Alfonso Soriano broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth to set the stage for the great Mariano Rivera who is the greatest postseaon closer, if not pitcher, of all time. This would be the one World Series blown save in his career. He was uncharacteristically frazzled making an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Still, he recovered, and the Yankees got the forceout at third on the next bunt attempt. Tony Womack would then shock everyone by hitting a game tying double. After Counsell (him again) was hit by a pitch, Luis Gonzalez would bloop a walk-off World Series winning single over the head of Derek Jeter.
However, that World Series was not memorable for Game 7. It was memorable because those games were played post-9/11, and they were memorable due to what happened at Yankee Stadium. Before Game 3, President Bush threw a curveball for a strike off the mound before a hard fought Yankees win. In Game 4, the Yankees were on the verge of falling behind 3-1 in the series before Tino Martinez hit an improbably two out home run off Byung-hyun Kim to tie the game, and Jeter hit a walk-off home run in the 10th to become “Mr. November.” In Game 5, the Yankees were again down two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This time it was Scott Brosius who did the impossible hitting a game tying two run home run to send the game into extras with Soriano getting the walk-off hit in the 12th.
Overall, baseball does not get better than that three game set in the Bronx, especially in the backdrop those games were played.
2002 World Series
That Rally Monkey was all the more prevalent in Game 6. In that game, Baker made the fateful decision to lift Russ Ortiz with a 5-0 lead, two on, and one out in the seventh inning. Scott Spiezio greeted Felix Rodriguez with a three run homer. Darin Erstad then led off the seventh inning with a solo shot off Todd Worrell. Worrell made matters worse by allowing back-to-back singles thereby putting closer Robb Nen in a precarious situation. Nen would allow a go-ahead two run double to World Series MVP Troy Glaus giving the Angels a 6-5 win. In Game 7, rookie John Lackey took care of business and shut down a Giants team that should have won the World Series in Game 6.
2011 World Series
For the most part, this was a well played if not memorable World Series through the first five games. In the seventh inning, Adrian Beltre broke a 4-4 tie that sparked a three run inning that seemingly was going to deliver the first ever World Series title to the Rangers franchise. The World Series title was going to be even sweeter for a Rangers team that had their doors blown off in the 2010 World Series.
In the eighth, Allen Craig hit a solo shot to draw the Cardinals within two. There was still a large enough lead for the excellent Rangers closer, Neftali Feliz to put the game to rest. The game was there to win even after a Albert Pujols double and a Lance Berkman walk. Then with two outs, David Freese unleashed a two RBI game tying double to keep the World Series alive. If that wasn’t painful enough, the Rangers were in for more pain.
Josh Hamilton would hit a two run homer in the top of the 10th to give the Rangers the lead. At this point, victory was almost assured. The Cardinals were undeterred putting the first two on against Darren Oliver. After a sacrifice bunt, Ryan Theriot plated a run with an RBI groundout, and Berkman brought home the tying run with an RBI single.
The Rangers would have no response in either Game 6 or Game 7. In the bottom of the 11th, Freese, the World Series MVP, would hit a walk-off home run that not only sealed Game 6, but also demoralized a Rangers team heading into Game 7.
2014 World Series
Of note, five of the first six games were terrible. Absolutely terrible. Through the first six games, the average margin of victory was six runs per game, and that includes a one run game in Game 3. Taking aside Game 3, the average margin of victory was seven runs per game. This is really the type of series you expect with some truly terrible starting pitching on both sides. In fact, the only starter who was actually good was Madison Bumgarner.
That’s an understatement. Bumgarner made Morris look like a Little Leaguer with his World Series performance. In his World Series MVP performance, he appeared in three games going 2-0 with one save, a 0.43 ERA and a 0.476 WHIP. He came out of the bullpen in the fifth inning in Game 7 with the Giants having a 3-2 lead. Watching him pitch on two days rest, you kept waiting for him to falter, and then this happened:
Alex Gordon‘s two out single almost became a Little League home run with Gregor Blanco letting the ball bounce past him and Juan Perez nearly booting the ball away. The debate would rage for days as to whether he should have gone home (he shouldn’t have) with Bumgarner being Bumgarner. Those that believed he should have gone only intensified their arguments when Salvador Perez fouled out to Pablo Sandoval to end the World Series.
2017 World Series
There is enough here for a classic World Series with two great teams, and two great storylines. Honestly, the Indians fans deserve this more as they are far more tortured than the Cubs fan. Ideally, this series goes seven with the Indians pulling it out in classic fashion. Hopefully, a majority of the games are close. No matter what happens, all we need is one or two games or moments to make this a series for the ages. That’s all we can realistically hope to get.
Things are already off to a good start with Dexter Fowler being the first ever black man to play for the Chicago Cubs in a World Series game.
He was coming off a .336/.415/.541 Gold Glove year at the age of 33. He had a 7.3 WAR, and to that point in his career, he had accumulated a 67.0 career WAR. By any measure, Alomar was a superstar and a future Hall of Fame player. He was also a complete and utter disaster with the Mets. In his two years with the Mets he hit .265/.333/.370. His WAR was -0.4. The only good thing is the players the Mets gave up never came back to haunt them.
To date, Ben Zobrist has hit .265/.355/.431. He’s accumulated a career WAR of 38.5. Last year, he hit .276/.359/.450 with a 1.9 WAR. He has a UZR of -6.7 at second base last year. He will be 35 next year.
With that said, is it still a good idea to give Zobrist a four year deal?
After losing the 2000 World Series and a rough 2001 season, Steve Phillips decided the Mets needed to shift gear. He thought the Mets needed to be an offensive based team. He started with what seemed like the masterful Roberto Alomar trade. He also added Mo Vaughn (don’t trust the narrative, sadly the Mets won this trade) and Jeromy Burnitz via trade. Finally, the Mets signed Roger Cedeno. It was a disaster with the Mets finishing in last place with a 75-86 record.
All of the aforementioned players underachieved, none more so than Alomar. Part of the narrative behind Alomar’s season was the adjustment to New York and his rift with Rey Ordonez, who would be cast off to Tampa before the season. In his place, the Mets brought on a player approved by Alomar to play SS, today’s magic number 10, Rey Sanchez:
In theory, it made sense. You make a superstar like Alomar feel as comfortable as possible to get the most out of him. In practice, it failed. Alomar would hit .262/.336/.357 in 73 games for the Mets in 2003. With the Mets sitting at 36-47 and 16 games out of first place, the Mets traded Alomar. Sanchez couldn’t save him.
In fact, Sanchez needed to save himself. Sanchez had his career worst year in 2003. He hit .207/.240/.236. I think the Mets pitchers this year hit better than that. His play was so poor, he would only play in 56 games. Of course, he would leave the Mets and resurrect his career. Unfortunately, he couldn’t resurrect a Mets team that finished 66-95.
So Sanchez reminds us that there was a time that players didn’t always excel like Yoenis Cespedes when they came to the Mets. It’s also a reminder that it takes a special personality like Juan Uribe to come in and create a new clubhouse culture. Again, we learn how different and special this 2015 season is.
So with that, we all owe a hat tip to Rey Sanchez.
There was Roberto Alomar‘s disappointing tenure. I’m sure there are Mets fans that would’ve picked Willie Randolph, but he was decent with the Mets in the last year of a good career. Furthermore, I was higher on him as a manager than most people. I remember that Jeff Kent was hated by Mets fans, except the ones in my household.
When fans booed Kent, my Dad was baffled. When he saw Kent, he saw a terrific player. My Dad was right. Kent played well in his five years as a Met. Kent would win the 2000 NL MVP and finish his career with the most homeruns by a second baseman. However, all of that happened elsewhere. Why elsewhere? Well, the Mets made an idiotic trade including him and Jose Vizcaino for Carlos Baerga and today’s selection, Alvaro Espinoza:
Espinoza was not a great major league player, but truth be told, he was at his best in those 48 games with the Mets. So, why pick him? He was part of a trade that ditched a possible Hall of Fame second baseman for a player fading fast in Baerga. Neither player was of much help, especially in a 1996 season when the Mets finished 71-91.
Baerga’s numbers dropped steadily his three years in New York, and he couldn’t stay on second base. He would be gone before the glory years of 1999 and 2000, but you know who would reappear in 2000? Vizcaino. The man who put an end to Game 1 of the 2000 World Series. He was in that position due to Timo Perez‘s lack of hustle and Armando Benitez once again caving in from the pressure.
So I picked Esponiza more as a symbolic gesture as a reminder that the trade for the star usually doesn’t work in the Mets history. I think that reminder is quite aprospros this season.
With that in mind, please join me in offering a hat tip to Magic Number 12, Alvaro Espinoza.
Did you ever hear of the saying, the more things change the more they stay the same? The saying drives me absolutely nuts. Inherently, something that is static cannot also be idle at the same time. However, for the first time I am starting to understand this saying.
I believe this season is starting to resemble 2005. Sure there was some optimism before that season with the signings of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. This was also going to be the first full season David Wright and Jose Reyes were going to play together. That team also had some holes: Doug Mientkiewicz had a great glove but not the bat to play 1B, Kaz Matsui was being shifted to play 2B after he showed he couldn’t play SS the prior year, and let’s not forget the closer was Braden Looper in a largely ineffective bullpen. However, I don’t know of anyone that expected the Mets to realistically make the playoffs that year.
At that point, the Mets fans were suffering. In 2001, the Mets rallied around the city, but they fell short of making the playoffs in an otherwise disappointing season. In 2002, we watched Steve Phillips attempt to recreate the team as an offensive juggernaut with the likes of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno. This lead to three years of just bad baseball. Now, the Mets fans were clamoring for a move to be made. We wanted to see Piazza go out on his last year with the Mets with a winner. At the Trading Deadline, the Mets found themselves only 4 games out of the Wild Card.
However, Omar Minaya stayed the course. The Mets made no trades. He kept his bullets for the offseason. If you recall, that was a magical offseason with the additions of Paul LoDuca, Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Xavier Nady, Endy Chavez, Julio Franco, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, John Maine, Jorge Julio (was was then traded in season for El Duque), Darren Oliver, and Billy Wagner. Omar showing restraint permitted the Mets to build that great 2006 team the fans loved.
Now, Mets fans have been suffering longer than they were in 2005, and they are begging for just one bat (which I don’t think will do the trick). While Mets fans were disappointed in 2005, I don’t remember them being a distraught as they are now. I think the difference is trust. We trusted that ownership and Omar would spend the money to get the players that were needed. In fact, they just come off of a spending spree that netted Pedro and Beltran. Now, fans don’t trust that ownership will spend the money. I believe this is the trust gap that is the biggest sense of frustration with this team.
It’s a shame too because I remember 2005 being a fun season. So far, I think 2015 has been gut-wrenching with all the tight, low-scoring games. My only hope is that if the Mets don’t make a move now, they have a plan for what can be realistically accomplished this summer. There will be LF available who can really help the team in the short term, but the market is scarce on middle infielders. My fingers are crossed. I want to be able to go to a playoff game with my father and son.