Curt Schilling’s candidacy its own case

The 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame writers’ ballot might very well be the most fascinating and polarizing such referendum in the museum’s history. This week, ahead of the results being announced Jan. 25, The Post’s Ken Davidoff will break down the many issues and debates in play before revealing his ballot.

Curt Schilling put together a uniquely terrific baseball career while creating a uniquely controversial persona in the game.

Fittingly enough, then, the former pitcher has become a unique conundrum for Baseball Hall of Fame voters. While issues like illegal performance-enhancing drugs and analytics hover over bunches of players, Schilling is his own category. A bunch of one.

Should a player’s post-retirement words influence his Cooperstown candidacy?

Enough Baseball Writers Association of America members appear to believe so, turning Schilling last year on the writers’ ballot from a close call to a major longshot. Of the first 162 public ballots gathered by data miner Ryan Thibodaux — about 44 percent of the 401 who voted last year — the right-hander drew the support of 103, or 59.9 percent, a precipitous drop from his 2021 near-miss of 71.1 percent (16 votes short).

Schilling’s new gig, provocateur, is proving to be a little too effective as it pertains to his previous gig of outstanding pitcher. Numerous public comments, expressing not really political points as much as messages of hate and intolerance, put him in this hot water. His response to his 2021 showing, his best in nine years, seems to have sealed his fate for this round. Of those first 162 ballots, an astounding 23 came from voters who did not check Schilling’s name this time after doing so in the previous election; two voters had switched from No to Yes, netting out the 55-year-old at minus-21.

Curt Schilling
Curt Schilling
Reuters

While Schilling voiced many thoughts as a player, especially once he shined on Boston’s big stage, leading the 2004 Red Sox to their first championship since 1918, he considerably amped up his toxicity after he stopped pitching. Here’s a timeline highlighting some of his non-baseball words and the impact they’ve had on his baseball legacy.

  • Aug. 26, 2015: ESPN suspended Schilling, then an analyst, after he tweeted a meme that read, “It’s said only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. How’d that go?” Schilling added on the tweet, “The math is staggering when you get to true #’s.”
  • April 20, 2016: ESPN fired Schilling after he shared an anti-transgender meme on his Facebook page, a response to a North Carolina law barring transgender people from using restrooms and locker rooms that didn’t correspond to their birth gender.
Curt Schilling helped the Red Sox end their decades-long World Series championship drought during his four seasons pitching for Boston.
Curt Schilling helped the Red Sox end their decades-long World Series championship drought during his four seasons pitching for Boston.
Anthony J. Causic
  • Nov. 7, 2016: Schilling tweeted a photo of a man at a Donald Trump rally whose shirt read, “Rope. tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”
  • Jan. 18, 2017: Schilling’s Hall of Fame vote percentage dropped from 52.3 percent to 45 percent, a highly unusual dip, as most candidates climb steadily, especially once they pass the 50-percent threshold. As The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy wrote, “I’m putting Schilll in a corner for this year after he tweeted that the notion of lynching journalists was ‘so much awesome.’ This is not a political statement by me. To my way of thinking, lynching is not a political issue.”
  • Jan. 26, 2021: After enjoying considerable jumps in 2018 (to 51.2 percent), 2019 (60.9) and 2020 (70), Schilling rose barely to 71.1. More controversial comments in that time frame, including attacks on Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg and NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, had lost him some love. Longtime sportswriter Joe Posnanski cited these comments in December 2020 when he wrote, “If the Hall of Fame really is an honor and not just an acknowledgment of baseball greatness, well, one thing I feel very sure about is that Curt Schilling doesn’t deserve it.”

Schilling — whose tweet supporting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection sparked one BBWAA voter to try to change his yes to a no (the Hall denied that ask) — was so incensed that he requested to be removed from the ballot. The Hall ultimately turned that down.

Nevertheless, the damage has been done. Shaughnessy recently wrote of Schilling: “When he failed to gain entry last winter, he stated that he no longer wanted to be part of this process. I am honoring his request.” Many others clearly feel similarly.

Some voters appear to question the worthiness of Schilling regardless of his non-baseball takes. These folks tend to point to Schilling’s 216 regular-season wins and 3.46 ERA. His many supporters counter with the fact that no one in the modern era threw more innings (3,261) and compiled a better strikeouts-to-walks ratio (4.38-to-1) and throw in his postseason greatness — a 2.23 ERA in 133 ⅓ innings, which helped his clubs capture four pennants and three titles. If Schilling indeed doesn’t get elected by the writers, his words will have caused the bulk of his downfall.

One postscript of curiosity: Schilling, assuming he falls short, will immediately be eligible for consideration by the Today’s Game Committee, which will convene this December and then again in December 2024. The current Hall occupants have made clear their contempt for the illegal PED users . It is far less clear, and therefore far more intriguing, how that constituency feels about the forces that have kept Schilling from achieving baseball immortality.

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