God, it’s “Get worked up about shitty Hall of Fame takes” season again. Every year I go in feeling optimistic—Oh, maybe my guy will get in this year!—and by mid-December I’d rather pull out my fingernails one by one than look at yet another goddamn ballot with two bewildering selections on it.
However, today’s bit of infuriating voter grandstanding comes not from a bad ballot, but from a highfalutin take from Sensitive Baseball Man Wally Matthews, who is so worked up about the conundrum of whether or not to vote for Curt Schilling that he’s giving up his vote because it’s no longer fun.
The results of this year’s voting will be genuinely interesting due to the controversial “character clause,” which has mostly been used as a trump card by voters with opposition to believed steroid users like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. (This position is somewhat in conflict with the recent induction of Bud Selig, who looked the other way through the steroid craze, but baseball writers have always tended to be angry about labor while giving management a pass.)
This year, the character clause’s target is Curt Schilling, who has for some reason spent the last year putting his reputation in the toilet through a series of public displays of bigotry. He really ran the gamut in the last year-plus, from comparing Muslims to Nazis, to transmisogyny, to posting his shitty Benghazi memes to his heart’s content after ESPN finally gave him the boot. Despite all this unsavory behavior, the thing that finally broke Matthews’s spirit was Schilling sharing a photo that showed some Trump-ite wearing a shirt that intimated a hanging of journalists.
Let’s let Wally take it from here:
That is where the question of Curt Schilling’s candidacy comes up for me this year. I have voted for Schilling in the past, based on his superior career WAR (80.7, higher than that of Tom Glavine, Don Sutton, Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, and yes, even Sandy Koufax) and his outstanding post-season numbers.
His personal views have often troubled and at times offended me — he is an unabashed collector of Nazi memorabilia — but I have kept that out of my thought process.
Until, that is, about a month ago, when he retweeted a photo of a man wearing a T-shirt advocating the lynching of journalists, with the comment, “OK, so much awesome here . . .”
Beyond the offensiveness of any reference to lynching, which is profoundly racist in itself, is the threat to the men and women in my profession. That is something I take personally and if Curt Schilling really wants to “lynch” journalists, he can start with me, in a boxing ring with 10-ounce gloves on. That will put an end to his sick little fantasy.
(“If Curt Schilling really wants to ‘lynch’ journalists, he can start with me, in a boxing ring with 10-ounce gloves on. That will put an end to his sick little fantasy,” is something a baseball writer actually wrote about a former player.)
Matthews uses this point to say that he feels Hall of Fame voting is a “thankless” task because schmucks like Schilling and steroids complicate it, and fans and former players alike get mad when they feel you’ve voted wrong. These complications are apparently enough reason for Matthews to just throw up his hands and stop voting altogether.
(This is probably the time to mention that Matthews’s ballots have not been bad! Last year he voted for Jeff Bagwell, Jim Edmonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Trevor Hoffman, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker. Some may quibble with the exception of suspected steroid guys, but it’s a pretty solid ballot.)
No reasonable person can argue that the whole Hall of Fame industrial complex isn’t subjective and headache-inducing. But if Schilling’s behavior years after his career ended is enough to make you hold out your vote for him, it’s pretty weak to hang that decision on him targeting journalists and not, say, all the other wildly dangerous anti-Muslim and anti-trans sentiments that he’s been spouting from his fairly significant platform.
Perspective isn’t really what performative Hall of Fame column season is here for, though. It exists to give sensitive voters like Wally Matthews an opportunity to fill his diaper and to leave the rest of us with our eyes rolled into the back of our heads.