Red Sox: Curt Schilling worthy of Hall of Fame induction
Some of the voting electorate appear resolute in denying former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling an honor long overdue.
On January 18, the fate of one-time Boston Red Sox pitcher, Curt Schilling, per his membership into the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be determined.
Much like an onion, there are numerous stratums to this narrative, many entirely irrelevant to the game of baseball. In this piece, I would like to analyze some of the issues affecting Schilling’s candidacy, provide sustenance to my case regarding Schilling as a Hall of Famer, and elaborate upon the hypocrisy, discriminatory voting practices, and indefensible behavior exhibited by some members of the voting electorate.
This year marks Schilling’s fifth year on the ballot. To receive baseball’s greatest honor, he will require approval by 330 of the 440 voters.
Schilling made some outstanding advances from 2015 to 2016, as those deeming him worthy of the Hall of Fame rose from 39.2% to 52.3%. It should be noted that 75% of the voting electorate is required for enshrinement.
A three-time champion and, perhaps the greatest postseason pitcher in baseball history, Schilling should be welcomed into Cooperstown, as few hurlers are more deserving. Unfortunately, no different from most occurrences in this world, things are not that simple. When a group of people in which most, although not all, of its membership are ill suited for properly carrying out an assigned task, and said group is granted the enormous responsibility of determining the fate of others, sans a reasonable safeguard of checks and balances, the results are often unjust. I would be pleasantly shocked were that not the case in 2017.
In a December 22, 2016 article by ESPN Senior Writer Jerry Crasnick, “Schilling is leaking oil in his quest to reach the 75 percent barrier…. 80 writers who have made their ballots public in advance of the Dec. 31 deadline. Among that group, Schilling has picked up four votes from last year while losing 14, for a net difference of minus-10.”
As noted in Crasnick article, “With about 18 percent of the electorate accounted for, Schilling is trending in the wrong direction.”
The Baseball Evidence Speaks Volumes
It should not go unrecognized that Schilling pitched in the most offensively advantageous era in baseball history, and his career requires evaluation within said parameters. It would be unfair to compare Schilling’s statistics to those hurlers who produced far better numbers, albeit in significantly friendlier pitching environments. It is imperative that he is judged relative to his contemporaries and not Hall of Famers from a different era, as many of those enjoyed pitching in an era devoid of steroids, and prior to 1969, from a 15-inch pitching mound.
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If one feels such statements are hyperbole, then please consider the following facts: Only nine pitchers who began their careers after 1968 are enshrined in Cooperstown, while 15 pitchers who began their careers in the 14 years between 1955 and 1968, inclusive, are members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
In order to remove the inherently biased human element from the voting process, and to objectively quantify Schilling’s Hall of Fame credentials, I would like to present the results of the widely-accepted metric of Hall of Fame Worthiness, the Jaffe WAR Score system, alternatively referred to as JAWS.
The Starting Pitcher JAWS Leaderboard, was developed by sabermetrician Jay Jaffe as a means to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness. A player’s JAWS is his career WAR averaged with his 7-year peak WAR.
Of the 62 Hall of Fame players classified as “Starting Pitchers,” the average scores for JAWS, the Baseball-Reference.com career WAR, and the Baseball-Reference.com 7-year peak WAR are 62.1, 73.9, and 50.3, respectively.
Curt Schilling’s three scores are 64.5, (27th in baseball history), 79.9, (26th in baseball history), and 49.0, (49th in baseball history), respectively.
It should be noted that no “Starting Pitcher” who played after 1900, with the exception of Roger Clemens, has a JAWS score greater than Schilling’s, and is not enshrined in Cooperstown. In fact, Schilling’s JAWS score trumps those of Tom Glavine, Nolan Ryan, Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, Juan Marichal, Carl Hubbell, Don Drysdale, John Smoltz, and Sandy Koufax, all of whom upon which has been bestowed baseball’s ultimate honor.
In addition, among all pitchers with a minimum of 1500 IP, Schilling is first in the entire history of Major League Baseball, with a 4.38 K/BB ratio, a feat rendered even all-the-more remarkable when one considers that Schilling is one of only 16 pitchers in baseball history to amass 3000 strikeouts.
In fact, with the exception of Clemens and Schilling, all 16 members of the 3000 strikeout club are enshrined in Cooperstown.
The Greatest Postseason Pitcher in Baseball History
If this were a civil litigation, the previous slide, by a “preponderance of the evidence,” would have demonstrated Curt Schilling’s fittingness for inclusion into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
In fact, were Schilling the author of merely an average and nondescript postseason record, his regular season numbers would still justify his enshrinement; however, sadly, for many members of the voting electorate, Schilling’s numbers are of secondary importance and consideration.
However, to quote that irritating announcer on a 3 am infomercial, “But wait, there’s more”!
Schilling is the greatest postseason pitcher in baseball history. If his repeated, consistent, and dominant performances on baseball’s brightest stage are not strongly considered, then one must think very little of those insignificant things that are referred to as “winning,” and “championships.” After all, nothing is more coveted in team sports than a championship. Similarly, if one agrees with the previous statement, then a significant component of a player’s worth is his capabilities to perform well enough in the postseason to assist his team in acquiring said championship.
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The pressure of the October spotlight has rendered many of the greatest regular season pitchers very average. In fact, just as all fans know the names of the prodigious regular season pitchers who seem incapable of translating their success to the postseason, the names of the “money” pitchers, those who seem to perform best when the lights are brightest, are equally recognized.
Schilling is a three-time champion with a sparkling 11-2 postseason record, accompanied by an ERA of 2.23. He can lay claim to the 1993 NLCS MVP, acquired as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, and his 2001 World Series MVP, acquired as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, capped one of the single-greatest postseason pitching exhibitions in baseball history.
During the 2001 postseason, in 48.1 IP, Schilling was 4-0 with an ERA of 1.12. He allowed just 25 hits, while striking out 56 batters and issuing a mere six bases on balls.
Despite his unmitigated brilliance exhibited during the 2001 postseason, Schilling will forever be remembered for his starring role in the iconic “Bloody Sock Game,” Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS against the rival New York Yankees. In what may have been the grittiest, gutsiest performance by an athlete in professional sports history, October 19, 2004 is a day that will live forever in the annals of Red Sox folklore.
Schilling took the mound to face the Yankees as the Red Sox were facing their third consecutive elimination game. In a procedure described as “barbaric” by then-teammate Bronson Arroyo, Schilling had his ankle tendon literally stapled back in place, enabling him to face one of baseball’s most dangerous lineups.
Schilling went out to the mound with, by his own admission on ESPN’s 30-for-30 special, “Four Nights in October,” “nothing.” In the baseball equivalent of “Willis Reed,” Schilling tossed seven innings of one-run ball, allowing just four hits and striking out four, despite rarely touching 90 mph. That same fierce warrior-esque competitiveness that drove Schilling to demand the ball in an elimination game, despite pitching on just one leg, is the same intensity with which he carries out his everyday activities. Unfortunately, it is his relentless passion that sometimes rubs people the wrong way and occasionally places him in trouble.
It is often said that one’s greatest strength is also one’s greatest weakness; there is no truer example of this than Curt Schilling.
Schilling vs. Smoltz and Glavine
Nonetheless, I mention Smoltz and Glavine to invalidate the laughable proclamations uttered by some of the more vindictive members of the voting electorate who claim that the voting process is purely objective, based solely on a candidate’s “playing” career. For example, both Smoltz and Glavine were first-ballot Hall of Famers, yet Curt Schilling, whose baseball resume slightly trumps those of Smoltz and Glavine, has yet to approach the obligatory number of votes required for enshrinement in four attempts.
There is something very wrong with that.
Schilling is a three-time champion, while Smoltz and Glavine have sipped the champagne on only one occasion.
The only advantages that I concede to Glavine are that he has reached the 300-win plateau, while also winning two Cy Young Awards. The only advantages that I concede to Smoltz are that he was a uniquely accomplished hurler, a very successful closer and a very successful starter, and he does own a Cy Young Award as well.
The one caveat that I must include for fairness is that both spent the great majority of their careers on the perennial division winner Atlanta Braves, and, as a result, all else being equal, both were in much more favorable situations to accumulate victories than Schilling was.
In terms of postseason pitching Smoltz was outstanding, while Glavine was merely average. Nonetheless, neither one’s postseason resume is comparable to that authored by Schilling.
Schilling’s scores for JAWS, Baseball-Reference.com’s career WAR, and Baseball-Reference.com’s 7-year peak WAR are all significantly higher than the corresponding scores attributed to Smoltz, and it is advantage Schilling in two of the three metrics relative to Glavine.
Curt Schilling’s three scores are 64.5, (27th in baseball history), 79.9, (26th in baseball history), and 49.0, (49th in baseball history), respectively.
John Smoltz’s three scores are 54.2, (58th in baseball history), 69.5, (34th in baseball history), and 38.8, (102nd in baseball history), respectively.
Tom Glavine’s three scores are 62.9, (30th in baseball history), 81.4, (25th in baseball history), and 44.3, (67th in baseball history), respectively.
Schilling trumps both Smoltz and Glavine in virtually every pitching category: FIP, ERA+, SO, BB, WHIP, K/BB ratio, SO/9, and BB/9.
Of the three, Schilling was the best postseason pitcher, won more championships, possesses the highest JAWS, and is the leader in nearly every single pitching category.
I mention all of this not with the intent to denigrate the careers of John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, as both are deserving of enshrinement.
However, it should be abundantly clear that Curt Schilling had the best baseball career; however, the fact remains that Smoltz and Glavine were first-ballot Hall of Famers, while Schilling has yet to sniff enshrinement on what will be his fifth attempt.
The results of the Hall of Fame voting are in no way commensurate with the pitching statistics accumulated by the three aforementioned hurlers, leaving little doubt that voters are not applying the same criteria to all players. Such a farce cannot be allowed to perpetuate unchecked and those voters denying Curt Schilling his well-deserved baseball immortality for reasons completely unrelated to baseball are not fulfilling their privileged responsibility that they are expected to uphold.
Can You Tweet Yourself Out of Cooperstown? Who Knew?
Curt Schilling is a polarizing figure. There are those, such as myself, who find his brutal honesty, at a period when our society appears increasingly plagued with liars, cheats, and prevaricators, refreshing. Of course, there exist those that cannot tolerate a citizen who says what he means, means what he says, and could not be less concerned whether said words meet my approval, your approval, or that of anyone else’s.
The media have never embraced Schilling, and I suspect that were the following action carried out by a media darling, it would be a complete non-issue. Nonetheless, many media members, some of whom constitute the Hall of Fame voting electorate, became incensed at a November 7 tweet by Schilling. In what can only be dubbed an enormous overreaction, some media constituents interpreted said tweet as Schilling’s demonstration of support for the lynching of all journalists.
Schilling claimed that the tweet was simple sarcasm and his superlative reputation as a magnanimous contributor to society should have quelled the media’s clamor immediately.
Frankly, the manner in which Curt Schilling conducts his life nearly ten years since he last tossed a baseball should be of little concern to anyone, especially sports writers. Mr. Schilling is no longer an active participant in any sport of which I am aware, and by diverting your attention from those individuals who are actually participating in the sports that you are compensated for covering, you are short-changing your audience and skirting your responsibilities.
People in Glass Houses
Some of the more vindictive media members claim that Schilling’s tweet places him firmly in violation of the Hall of Fame’s character clause. How does one render the silly determination that one ill-advised tweet is enough to erase Schilling’s pristine and decorated history as a great humanitarian.
It should be stated that, according to ESPN, as a player, “Schilling won the Roberto Clemente Award, Branch Rickey Award, Hutch Award, Sporting News Good Guy of the Year award, Lou Gehrig Award, Babe Ruth Award, Worth Magazine’s Young Benefactor of the Year award and the designation of “Most Caring Athlete” from USA Today.
He was also a tireless advocate for veterans’ causes and a champion in the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig‘s Disease.” Somehow, after reading this list, I have significant difficulties believing that any voter of sound mind and a clear conscience could claim that the man upon whom has been bestowed the aforementioned awards does not meet the “character” standards as established by the Hall of Fame.
Allow me to elaborate on some of the hypocritical, inexcusable and reprehensible behavior carried out by Wallace Mathews, a former Hall of Fame Voter, current role model for aspiring young journalists, and, supposedly, a “professional.”
Despite Schilling’s unblemished record as a humanitarian with the greatest of intentions, it is stated in Crasnick’s article, “And former ESPN reporter Wallace Matthews, in a column for New York Sports Day, pronounced himself so enraged by Schilling’s overall behavior that he challenged the pitcher to a boxing match.” Really, Wallace? Is that how you advocate your young and impressionable followers to assuage their transgressions? Shame on you.
The word of the day is “hypocrisy.” It would be fascinating for one single member of the voting electorate to explain to me, straight faced, how, Curt Schilling, a man who has given so much to so many, is in violation of the character clause that may keep him out of Cooperstown, yet Bud Selig, a man synonymous with enabling and perpetuating the “Steroid Era,” is not.
The inclusion of Selig in the baseball Hall of Fame, a man who single-handedly stood by and watched as previously hallowed and indelibly etched numbers such as 61 and 755 were forever rendered meaningless, raises many questions regarding the competency of the voting electorate.
Selig, as a result of greed, ignorance, stupidity, or some combination of all three, has enabled the once hallowed records of baseball, to which there exist no equivalent in any other sports, to be permanently desecrated in a conflagration of flammable synthetic hormones.
In the aforementioned Crasnick article, it is further indicated that, “Dejan Kovacevic, a Pittsburgh-based voter and writer, subtracted Schilling this year because he thought the pitcher’s behavior, ‘especially in recent years, represents the antithesis of the character clause that the Hall and BBWAA continue to instruct voters to honor.’”
Dejan, if Schilling, a man merely exercising his first amendment rights to free speech is in violation of the character clause, then one can only imagine how you feel about the inexorable and egregious violations of said character clause by those individuals who have committed repeated federal crimes, i.e., all PED abusers. If one is to follow the character clause for one player, then it needs to be followed for all players.
Although often prosecuted at the state level, Dejan, and the remainder of the electorate, should be aware that The Department of Justice states the following on its website, “The Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990 placed anabolic steroids into Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as of February 27, 1991. Under this legislation, anabolic steroids are defined as any drug or hormonal substance chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids) that promotes muscle growth.”
In addition, it is stated, “The possession or sale of anabolic steroids without a valid prescription is illegal. Simple possession of illicitly obtained anabolic steroids carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a minimum $1,000 fine if this is an individual’s first drug offense.”
In other words, any member of the voting electorate who fails to vote for Schilling, for the sole and explicit reason that he is in violation of the “character” clause, yet casts a vote for any PED abuser, who, as clearly stated above, has violated a clearly delineated Federal Criminal Statute, has redefined the upper bound of hypocrisy.