Longtime baseball fans will tell you Curt Schilling was one of the sports so-called big-game pitchers. Take a look at his career stats, and you find that he won 216 regular season games over a two-decade career; however, when the post-season rolled around, Schilling was almost perfect. He posted an 11-2 record with a stunning 2.23 earned run average.
But unless the veterans committee at some point in the future decides Schilling deserves a place in the Hall of Fame, he won’t ever enter baseball’s shrine without buying a ticket.
Schilling has told Hall of Fame officials he doesn’t want his name to appear on next year’s ballot, the final year in which he’d be eligible. That comes after the news he just missed receiving enough votes this year from the media to earn enshrinement.
The Boston Globe has reprinted most of Schilling’s lengthy social media post that explained his decision. I found this part to be most interesting:
Even the thought of responding to claims of ‘nazi’ or ‘racist’ or any other term so watered down and rendered meaningless by spineless cowards who have never met me makes me ill. In modern times responding to such drivel somehow validates the claim. My love of this country has always been worn on my sleeve. My desire to do the right thing and be a good person has driven most of my life choices. I stood at my locker 400+ times after my starts and took every question and answered honestly. Those people who stood there asking the questions KNOW what they are claiming is untrue yet they quote, re-quote and link to one another story after story that began as lies and grew into bigger ones.
Schilling’s politics are as clear as can be: He’s a hardcore conservative, and someone who’s never been afraid to state his political beliefs. And in today’s white-hot social media environment, Schilling’s posts instantly are magnified. It’s fair to say that some of the things he’s written go beyond basic decency, and he raised plenty of eyebrows by showing off the Nazi items he owns.
Put it all together and Schilling is convinced his political positions and controversial commentary have blacklisted him.
At least one baseball writer thinks Schilling doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, but not for the reason you might think.
Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy has no sympathy for Schilling, and he’s thrilled Schilling “won’t be darkening the doorstop of Cooperstown next summer.”
Shaughnessy diverts from his obvious disdain for Schilling arguing that multiple former Major League Baseball pitchers who have career stats similar to Schilling’s also are not — and should not be — in the Hall of Fame.
Look him up on Baseball Reference and you’ll see that the ex-players he most closely resembles are Orel Hershiser, Bob Welch, Kevin Brown, and Tim Hudson. None of those guys are in the Hall and none of them travel with Schill’s baggage.
What baggage can a baseball player carry and still make it into the Hall of Fame?
Outfielder Barry Bonds, 1st baseman Mark McGwire and pitcher Roger Clemens — all of whom put up statistics demanding enshrinement — likely won’t ever be; fairly or not, they’re the faces of the steroid era of the 1990s and early 2000s. No Major League Baseball player has more hits than Pete Rose, but he’s an even less likely candidate for enshrinement because he bet on baseball games, including some involving the team he was managing.
In comparison, Schilling is a rabid conservative who often has crossed the line in what he’s written. Did he cheat as a player? There’s zero evidence to suggest he did. Did he bet on baseball? Again, zero evidence. So, which is it?
Is Schilling a really good, but not great, pitcher with stats that aren’t worthy of the Hall of Fame? Or is he being denied a rightful place in Cooperstown because of his political ideology and some incendiary comments?
There are 81 pitchers in baseball’s Hall of Fame, and 30 of them won fewer than 216 games. Let’s dismiss 26 of those 30 because they were primarily relief pitchers or because they played most, if not all, of their career before the 1950s, a much different baseball era than now.
The remaining four are Don Drysdale, Roy Halladay, Sandy Koufax, and Satchel Paige.
Paige should be omitted from this conversation because he played most of his career in the Negro Leagues, ensuring that his Major League Baseball numbers look flimsy. His Negro League statistics were anything but, by the way.
Drysdale and Koufax had their careers shortened by injuries; there’s every reason to believe Drysdale (209) and Koufax (165) easily would have eclipsed 216 wins had they remained healthy. Koufax’s case is elevated even more because he remains in the conversation discussing the game’s best-ever pitchers.
That leaves Halladay.
Put Schilling’s and Halladay’s stats side by side and you get this:
Schilling: 19 seasons, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 3116 Ks; 11-2, 2.23 ERA in postseason (4 appearances)
Halladay: 16 seasons, 203-105, 3.38 ERA, 2117 Ks; 3-2, 2.37 ERA in post season (1 appearance)
There’s a case to be made for Schilling, but it’s not an exceptionally strong one especially when the only pitcher who can fairly be compared to him played three fewer seasons, threw a no-hitter in a playoff game and died tragically in an airplane accident.