With the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame class set to be announced on Jan. 25, SportsByColin Sports is breaking down the candidacies of some of the top players on the ballot.
Right-hander Curt Schilling has never shied away from the spotlight – throughout his 20-year major league career or in retirement.
He was an outspoken team leader, frequent sparring partner with the media and a larger-than-life personality, especially in the postseason.
Despite being one of the best pitchers of his generation, Schilling’s greatest barrier to Cooperstown may be his public persona since his playing days ended. Many voters have invoked the Hall of Fame’s “character clause” – consciously or otherwise – to keep Schilling from reaching the 75% of the vote required for induction.
This marks his 10th and final year on the ballot.
The case for
A six-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion, Schilling won 216 regular-season games and racked up 3,116 career strikeouts – trailing only 13 Hall of Famers and Roger Clemens.
He was also one of the best postseason pitchers in history, posting an 11-2 record and 2.23 ERA in 19 career playoff starts. Despite being named co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, his signature moment came during the 2004 AL championship series when he tossed seven innings of one-run ball against the New York Yankees despite torn tendons in his ankle.
The case against
Schilling didn’t become a full-time starter until midway through his fifth season in the majors. As a result, his win total doesn’t quite rise to the level of his contemporaries already in the Hall, especially considering he never won a Cy Young award (though he did finish as the runner-up three times).
The question many voters have isn’t with his qualifications as a player, but with his personality and politics. The Hall of Fame’s character clause comes up frequently in regard to Schilling’s post-career actions, comments and social media posts. He hasn’t been shy about fanning these flames either.
Last year when he missed being elected by 16 votes, Schilling asked to be removed from Hall of Fame consideration in his final year of eligibility. His open letter to the Hall suggested his personal views might cause voters to lump him in with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who have overwhelming statistical cases for the Hall of Fame yet are strongly tied to performance-enhancing drug use.
Many BBWAA voters seem to be honoring Schilling’s request, judging from this year’s preliminary voting results. Of the 152 public ballots on Ryan Thibodaux’s online tracker, Schilling’s support has dropped 11 percentage points from last year to 59.6% (as of 1/10).
- 2013: 38.8%
- 2014: 29.2%
- 2015: 39.2%
- 2016: 52.3%
- 2017: 45.0%
- 2018: 51.2%
- 2019: 60.9%
- 2020: 70.0%
- 2021: 71.1%
Players in their final year on the ballot generally get a much closer look from the voters. Those who have gotten as close as Schilling has the past two years are usually a lock to make it over the top. However, it appears he’s going to be an exception to the rule.
Schilling said himself he’d rather not be judged by the writers, but by the former players and historians who make up the Hall’s Era Committees. That appears to be his best route to Cooperstown.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hall of Fame 2022: One final chance for controversial pitcher Curt Schilling