Schilling hurt by his problems after career
USA TODAY is counting down the top 10 candidates on the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in advance of the Jan. 22 election results. The countdown is based on voting by our power rankings panel, which includes five Hall voters. No. 8 is Curt Schilling.
He came late to greatness, and his best years overlapped with those of a handful of all-time great starters already in Cooperstown, but Schilling has twice landed on more than 50 percent of ballots, most recently in 2018.
One of the few truly divisive candidates for enshrinement who were never associated with performance-enhancing drugs, Schilling’s Hall hopes have not been helped by his somewhat frequent online indiscretions.
A right-leaning political firebrand whose failed video-game company cost Rhode Island taxpayers millions, Schilling has created headlines in his postplaying days by gleefully sharing specious xenophobic, transphobic and conspiratorial memes.
Ironically, Schilling was known for exquisite control on the pitcher’s mound. The case for: Outside of Roger Clemens, Schilling is the only pitcher with more than 3,000 strikeouts not yet in the Hall. He landed in the top 10 of his league in ERA+ 10 times and finished with a 127 career mark that outmatches those of all-time greats including Tom Seaver, Juan Marichal and Bob Feller.
One of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time, Schilling won World Series MVP honors and a championship ring on the heels of a brilliant October with the Diamondbacks in 2001, then helped author one of the greatest comebacks in MLB playoff history with his bloody-sock heroics for the title-bound Red Sox against the Yankees in the 2004
American League Championship Series.
He picked up his third ring as part of the 2007 Red Sox in his final season and finished with a lifetime 11-2 record with a 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts. The case against: Schilling spent the early part of his career pitching for mostly lousy Phillies teams and finished with 216 wins, well below the traditional Hall of Fame bench mark of 300 for starting pitchers.
His 3.46 ERA was excellent by the standards of his contemporaries but looks pedestrian when compared with great pitchers from before and after the sport’s so-called steroid era. While he long ranked among the league’s best starting pitchers, he was never even the best starting pitcher on his own team during his best seasons, pitching alongside Randy Johnson in Arizona.
X factors: Many of the knocks on Schilling have more to do with his mouth and Twitter thumbs than his big right arm. He once jokingly endorsed the lynching of journalists, which multiple Hall of Fame voters have cited in the past as reason to leave him off the list. Few if any writers seem terribly eager to hear what he’d have to say in an induction speech.
Consensus: He appears unlikely to reach the 75 percent threshold necessary for enshrinement in his seventh year on the ballot, but Schilling should see another bump in 2019.
Schilling’s case is strong, and voters seem increasingly willing to ignore the ballot’s so-called “character clause” and evaluate candidates based on onfield merit only. The transgressions working against him are entirely different from those working against Clemens and Barry Bonds, but his candidacy seems in some way tied to theirs nonetheless.
Curt Schilling won three World Series titles in his career.