Curt Schilling and his curious case for the Hall of Fame

Curt Schilling is undoubtedly one of the greatest pitchers of the last 20 years, and yet this year his MLB Hall of Fame vote took a plunge.

To me, that is the biggest surprise of the HOF class of 2017.  I’m not saying he should have been inducted this year, as all three inductees are more than deserving of this prestigious honor.  It’s only Schilling’s fifth year on the ballot, but since 2015 his stock has risen and last year was at its peak of 52.3 percent.

This year that number dropped to 45 percent, which is behind steroid-users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. In fact, both Bonds and Clemens numbers (53.8 percent and 54.1 percent, respectively) this year are higher than Schilling’s highest number. So what could have happened that would make Schilling’s number drop?

One could be the possibility that the voters saw better candidates this year (Pudge Rodriguez was on his first ballot). That doesn’t explain how Bonds and Clemens both came in at a higher percentage than him though. Last year Schilling was above both Bonds and Clemens, and even though HOF balloting can be inconsistent, there is no reason why this year Schilling’s number would drop below two players most famously known for cheating the game by taking PEDs.

In comparison, Sammy Sosa, also a known cheater is in his fifth year of HOF voting as well, and only got 8.6 percent of the vote. There’s obviously some inconsistencies with voters, because Sosa was one of the best power hitters of his time, yet is polling way too low if Bonds is polling over 50 percent this year.

The second, which is probably more likely, is Schilling’s social media. Over the last year, Schilling’s Twitter has been filled with er… controversy.

Schilling is not one to hide his feelings about his political stances on Twitter. In fact, ESPN fired him for tweeting about the law in North Carolina that does not allow transgendered people to use the bathrooms that do not correspond with their birth gender. That was the first in a long series of tweets about certain political issues (search Curt Schilling Twitter remarks on Google). Considering this year he lost 19 votes of returning voters, I’m willing to bet that his social media had a big part of their decisions to not vote for him again.

To me, the returning voters who didn’t vote for him this year are doing a disservice to themselves and the Hall of Fame. While I certainly do not agree with everything with Schilling tweets or says, it his constitutional right to do both of those things, whether an individual agrees or disagrees with it. However, that should not bar a player’s chances of getting into the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame should be minimized to players and their success both on and off the diamond, and the second they retire nothing beyond that point should count towards the Hall of Fame. Schilling accomplished a tremendous amount of accomplishments as a player, both on and off the diamond.

On the diamond, Schilling was an absolute monster, finishing 216-146 with a career ERA of 3.46. He was a six-time all-star, recorded over 3,000 strikeouts, three-time World Series champion and a World Series co-MVP.

Off the diamond, he won the Branch Ricky Award, given to a player for exceptional community service. He also won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for best exhibiting the character and integrity of Lou Gehrig, both on and off the field.  Those are just a drop in the bucket in terms of awards he won as a player.

Schilling is known for a lot in baseball besides his awards too. Nobody in Arizona will forget his outstanding Game 7 performance in the 2001 World Series, and although he didn’t end up as the winning pitcher (Randy Johnson was), his performance kept it close enough for the Diamondbacks to rally against the greatest closer of all time (Mariano Rivera) and eventually lead to Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single to win the game and the series.

While Gonzalez is known as the World Series hero, Schilling is perhaps the most important player of that series. He pitched games 1, 4 and 7 and his numbers in all three games were more than impressive. While Schilling is famous in Arizona, nothing is more famous than his “bloody sock” game with the Red Sox in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. Needing a win to force a game 7, Red Sox manager Terry Francona put Schilling on the mound, and after allowing 6 runs in just 3 innings in Game 1, a game where he also had issues with his ankle, came out and allowed 1 run in 7 strong innings. The 2004 ALCS was iconic, and Schilling’s bloody sock was one of  the most iconic games in baseball, given the circumstances.

It is astonishing that Curt Schilling is not on the verge of getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  It’s an embarrassment to the voters that they can not look past what Schilling is doing today on social media. Schilling would be a great addition to the Hall of Fame and I hope that he is able to get in the next year or two, as he is more than deserving.

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