Curt Schilling’s case for enshrinement in the baseball Hall of Fame no longer has to do with his arm, it has to do with his mouth. Following a year filled with controversial statements, Schilling saw his vote total decrease from 52.3 percent to 45 percent this year.
Schilling’s fall, which was among the largest on the ballot, shouldn’t come as a major surprise. In the months leading up to the vote, Schilling hurt his chances by making headlines with his mouth.
The pitcher turned commentator was fired from ESPN in April after posting an anti-transgender meme on his Facebook page. That was hardly the first time he had been punished by the company for sharing controversial posts on social media. In September 2015, Schilling was suspended by ESPN after posting a meme comparing Muslim extremists to Nazis. He also was outspoken about his political views, suggesting Hillary Clinton “be buried under a jail” while still with the company.
Following his firing, Schilling continued to add fuel to the fire. He defended the anti-transgender meme that got him fired, criticized ESPN for letting him go and continued to make strong political statements.
While Schilling believes his political leanings are the reason for his decreased vote total, that’s not entirely the case. In November, Schilling retweeted a picture of a man wearing a shirt that read “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.” Schilling added his own comment to the photo, saying “so much awesome here.”
That comment hasn’t sat well with journalists, particularly the ones who hold a vote for the baseball Hall of Fame. A number of writers have come out and used that comment to invoke the character clause on Schilling.
It doesn’t help that Schilling was already considered a borderline candidate on a loaded ballot. Over his 20-year career, Schilling posted a 3.46 ERA in 3,261 innings. While that ERA is higher than most pitchers in the Hall, Schilling played in a brutal era for pitchers. His 3.46 ERA is actually 27 percent better than the average pitcher during that time. He was also one of the best postseason pitchers ever, posting a career 2.23 ERA over 19 playoff starts.
Despite all that, Schilling debuted with just 37.6 percent of the vote in 2013. That figure rose as Schilling stayed on the ballot, eventually topping out at 52.3 percent.
While Schilling’s previous jump in votes was encouraging, he still needed a number of writers to come over to his cause in the coming years. His controversial statements made it easy for many of those who were undecided on Schilling to take a stance. If they were between Schilling and another player for the last spot on their ballot, it became a much easier way to justify leaving Schilling behind.
Schilling doesn’t seem to mind his free-fall this year. Shortly after the results were announced, Schilling said he would rather have his rings and memories over enshrinement.
“If you truly stand for your beliefs there will be pain.” I’m good. Rings? Check. Trophies? Check. Memories? Check. https://t.co/VOyVdFmIpe
— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) January 18, 2017
He may have to be content with that, because things may not get much better for Schilling moving forward. While Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez opened up three spots next year, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Scott Rolen all have legitimate cases for enshrinement. Even without those players, the ballot remains loaded, and Schilling is trending in the wrong direction.
At this point, Schilling would need passionate fans on the Internet to come together and rally his cause, much like what happened with Raines. Given that many of those people are the same writers and journalists Schilling angered over the past year, that doesn’t seem likely.
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