Greenwich Time (Sunday)
Schilling could blow his Hall of Fame ballot from this voter
My ballot for the 2021 class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame will not be filled in and postmarked until Dec. 31, the last possible date for returns. Two reasons:
Curt Schilling deserves every available minute to open his mouth or his Twitter account to say something so seditious, even treasonous, to ruin his candidacy for me.
And, if Schilling does get into the Hall of Fame by one vote on his ninth attempt, how delicious the irony if one mail-in ballot cast on the last possible day — something that seems to roil Big Schill with presidential elections — were to place him among baseball’s immortals.
It was the July 2019 weekend when Mariano Rivera and Mike Mussina, two Yankees central to a generational rivalry with the Red Sox, were inducted into the Hall of Fame. And no Red Sox from the era were.
I wrote these words arguing that someone was missing: “Schilling stands guilty of being a jerk, maybe a bigoted one, certainly a reckless-talking blowhard. Yet as a voter I have not and will not make the jump to keep him out of the Hall of Fame. He absolutely deserves it.”
I have been voting for Schilling for years. Nothing he has said or done would dissuade me. Only this is 2020; this is the year everything has changed. And so has my viewpoint.
There has been rationale, some fortunately ignored in the modern era of public ballots, among a number of BBWAA voters over the past 85 years. Like don’t vote for a player in his first year of eligibility or give little or no more weight to postseason numbers than regularseason numbers. Or in years when pickings are slim, vote for someone you hadn’t previously just to get an inductee.
Twenty-two players have been voted into the Hall by the BBWAA since the big right-hander became eligible in 2013. None have been named Curtis Montague Schilling. Those who are against Schilling’s induction
or consider him a bubble candidate point to his 216 wins and 3.46 career ERA. Only Jesse Haines, who pitched between 1920-37, has gotten into Cooperstown with those numbers and he was put in by the veterans committee. Schilling never won a Cy Young. There’s no denying a mediocre stretch of years in the ’90s.
Schilling did amass 3,116 strikeouts, and among those who threw more than 1,000 innings, he had one of the five best strikeout-to-walk ratios in MLB history. No doubt he was one of the great control-power pitchers ever. Three times he was a Cy Young runner-up.
Yet obviously it is Schilling’s body of work after the leaves turn with autumn that propel him to the Hall of Fame. He’s a postseason ace of aces. He was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA. He struck out 120 while walking only 25 in 1331⁄ innings and allowed
3 two or fewer runs in 15 of 19 starts. He has three World Series rings and a bloody sock already in Cooperstown to prove it.
I would submit he is one of the great clutch athletes in major sports history.
He is a champion who, only by the great force of his personality and ego, also can be a chump.
Which brings us to 2020. With no compelling names added to the ballot this year, this could be the vote that that puts “juicers” and blowhards on the same Cooperstown stage with Derek Jeter. Remember, with COVID, there was no enshrinement ceremony in July.
The premier names among the “juicers,” Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, got 61 percent of the required 75 percent of the vote last year, falling. 56 and 57 votes shy of induction. There are some voters who will not budge on PEDs, so getting in this year won’t be easy.
At 70 percent, Schilling, with 278 votes, was 20 votes short. He has had a fascinating path. He opened at 38.8 percent in 2013, low for a pitcher of his stature, dropped to 29.2, rose to 39.2 and 52.3 before his, ah, unfortunate meanderings, dropped to 45 percent. He since has grown to 51.2, 60.9 and 70.
This is Big Schill’s year … if he doesn’t do something really stupid and something demonstratively anti-American.
There was the time in 2015 when he shared a meme that compared extremist Muslims to Nazis, leading to an ESPN suspension. ESPN fired Schilling in 2016 after he posted an anti-transgender meme of an overweight guy in a blonde wig and women’s clothing with accompanying comments on Facebook. There also was the time he said on a KC radio station that Hillary Clinton should be buried under a jail somewhere for her classified emails.
And we can’t forget Schilling tweeting his approval of a man wearing a shirt at a 2016 Trump rally that read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.” Schilling added the comment, “Ok, so much awesome here.” Later, he said he was joking and being sarcastic.
Of course he was. Just like President Trump is always joking and sarcastic after saying something revolting. It’s no surprise that Trump has publicly supported Schilling’s Hall of Fame bid.
Some of that stuff Schilling has tweeted and said over the years has made me sick. It’s stupid, it’s ugly, it’s unnecessary. And — having listened to him speak maturely on conservative issues and on matters about chewing tobacco and bullying — I would have thought, beneath him. Evidently not. Still, being a Hall of Fame jerk was no reason, in my mind, not to put him in the Hall of Fame.
Now I’m having second thoughts. I’m giving him a chance to pull my vote.
He goes by the Twitter handle “President Elect Curt Schilling” these days. Blue check mark and familiar @gehrig38. Amid all the craziness that is 2020, few seem to even pay attention to him anymore, but there he is applauding Kayleigh McEnany refusing to call on CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, calling it “awesome.” Memes of Mark Zuckerberg, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a few others before and after they sell their soul to the devil. All the usual retweets of electoral conspiracy theories, mail-in ballots and COVID panic, etc.
But there are some original postings, too.
“The left is COUNTING on fatigue, COUNTING on 70+ million Americans to get tired of all of this and just move on. That can’t happen, not for even a moment. This is a fight we CANNOT afford to lose OR to let them steal, cheat, lie and commit crimes to win. @potus DO NOT give up!”
In response to a tweet about North Carolina sheriffs saying it’s not their job to enforce the governor’s mask orders, they’re not constitutional, Schilling tweeted, “When this all hits the fan, that is the most important question in my mind. Who will our law enforcement side with? Our military? Will they fight a ‘domestic’ assault.”
These are not conservative tweets or Republican tweets. These are Trumpian tweets. Trump and henchmen like Rudy Giuliani are becoming increasingly unhinged and uncaring about COVID since the election. Thrashing about, losing state lawsuit after state lawsuit, watching Georgia certify its results, Trump went so far Friday as to call in Republican lawmakers from Michigan to “discuss” its certification process.
Five states voted for Joe Biden and have GOP-run legislatures. Trump needs a majority in those state houses to become his accomplices. Unfortunately for Trump, Michigan’s senate majority and house speaker said in a joint statement they have not been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election.
Yet if Trump continues his reckless path toward trying to bully state legislatures or the Supreme Court, where he has handpicked three of the nine judges, we could be left with a man acting much more like a banana republic dictator than a president defeated in an election by the will of the people.
More than 6 million individual and 306 electoral votes say he lost.
Here’s the thing: If Trump refuses, without evidence, to give up, give in and relinquish his position, he’s a traitor to our democratic process. He’s already tapdancing on that line. And if a guy like Schilling continues to egg him on, calls on him not to surrender, ditto.
I’m voting for a jerk for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I’m not voting for a traitor to American democracy.
Postmarked: Dec. 31.