Curt Schilling is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the ninth time, his next-to-last opportunity to be voted into Cooperstown by the Baseball Writers Association of America. He seems fairly likely to make it, having appeared on 70 percent of ballots a year ago, just 5 percent shy of the threshold for induction.
As a pitcher, Schilling’s credentials for the Hall of Fame are, obviously, the same as they were when he threw his final pitch in 2007: three seasons of 300-plus strikeouts, three World Series rings, three second-place Cy Young finishes, two times leading the league in wins, two times leading the league in WHIP.
Schilling also had some pretty blah seasons in there. He wasn’t as great for the 1993 Phillies as people like to remember in retrospect. He was awesome in 1992, but for most of the mid-90s, Schilling looked like something of a flash in the pan. Where he really started to look like an all-time great was in Arizona and Boston, in his mid-to-late 30s, in the early-to-mid 2000s. Schilling has said the Red Sox encouraged him to use performance-enhancing drugs, but of course he never used any. Whatever. There assuredly already are steroid users in the Hall, and it would be hypocritical to say Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa should be enshrined in Cooperstown, but to keep Schilling out for that reason. Still, it’s stupid that Schilling has escaped real scrutiny for drugs just because he says he never used.
Even with the blah patch of his mid-career, which gives rise to arguments against his case, like “same career ERA+ as Roy Oswalt” and “higher career WHIP than Masahiro Tanaka,” Schilling’s career stacks up at about the same level as Jack Morris and Mike Mussina … and now that both of them are in, it’s all the harder to say that, for baseball reasons, Schilling shouldn’t be.
For non-baseball reasons, though… we don’t have to go through the whole laundry list, but it’s generally bad when “defrauding Rhode Island for $75 million” is just scratching the surface. More recently, Schilling has encouraged people to give to a GoFundMe to build a border wall that — surprise! — also turned out to be a massive fraud and resulted in Steve Bannon’s arrest on a boat. And, of course, there’s the “so much awesome here” comment about a shirt suggesting the lynching of journalists. That last one is particularly germane to the discussion of Schilling’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame, where the vote is conducted among the very people Schilling thought it would be “awesome” to see murdered.
It’s enough that the Red Sox have dissociated themselves from Schilling, which sometimes is chalked up to “political views.” As much as it may be the case in the Trump era that embracing fraud, racism, and violence are mainstream tenets of the Republican Party, it’s disingenuous to call those things merely “political views.” Schilling doesn’t merely have controversial opinions on highway funding or farm subsidies, he’s legitimately hurt people and supported others being hurt.
Baseball writers have the power to reject this by voting no on Schilling’s candidacy for two more years. Schilling already is represented in the Hall of Fame building, where his famous ketchup sock is on display in the museum. The question before the writers is whether Schilling should be celebrated with a plaque in the Hall and given a day to spew bile to the world from a podium in upstate New York.
If the Hall of Fame is about recognizing the greatness of the game’s legends, so long as Schilling is alive, he’ll be willing to tell you all about how great he was. Schilling deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but not to be celebrated. His plaque can wait until he’s dead, and spending the afterlife alongside other scoundrels of the Hall from Cap Anson to Tony La Russa.
Baseball writers don’t get to decide to keep Schilling out for the rest of his life. That call goes to the Veterans Committee, which probably would vote in Schilling in another few years. Fine. Let them. But the BBWAA doesn’t need the stink of celebrating a man who thought it would be “awesome” to see their membership murdered, and doesn’t need to be the group that validates and gives an implicit endorsement to everything he’s done. Once Schilling goes in, that’s forever, and “Hall of Famer” before a name carries weight with it. To give Schilling that gravitas for the rest of his life would be irresponsible and irreversible.
The writers should not vote for him.