Schilling hurt by his prob­lems after ca­reer

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - Ted Berg

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.

EILEEN BLASS/USA TO­DAY

Curt Schilling won three World Se­ries ti­tles in his ca­reer.

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