To save you the suspense, Curt Schilling won’t make the Hall of Fame this year, or maybe ever, depending on how the Veteran’s Committee views his candidacy. The former World Series MVP is polling around 61 percent, well below 2021 when he was included on 71.1 percent of ballots, the most votes of any player that year but still short of the minimum 75 percent required for induction.
Unlike Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose legacies are both complicated by their believed use of performance enhancing drugs, Schilling doesn’t have steroid questions to answer for. Assuming Schilling falls short of induction for the tenth and final time (we’ll know for sure Tuesday), it will be because of his intolerant views, alienating members of the gay and transgender communities while also exhibiting racist and Islamophobic tendencies.
Schilling has forever tarnished his public image, but should his problematic beliefs keep him from being enshrined in Cooperstown? Longtime ESPN personality Bomani Jones weighed in during a segment on HBO’s On the Record with Bob Costas, arguing that Schilling, despite sullying his reputation by aligning with far-right politics, is still deserving of Hall-of-Fame status.
“Schilling is a Hall-of-Famer. I’ve made peace with this reality,” said Jones, who thinks Schilling’s six All-Star nods and three World Series rings outweigh whatever damage he’s done to his reputation off the field. “Sometimes bad people are good at stuff.”
Irredeemable as Schilling may be (the stunt he pulled in 2016, wearing a t-shirt that advocated for violence against journalists, certainly didn’t win him any goodwill with HOF voters), his on-field accolades speak for themselves—216 wins, three seasons of 300+ strikeouts, a lifetime 2.23 postseason ERA. Not to mention Schilling’s heroics in the 2004 ALCS, with his “Bloody Sock” game against the Yankees still considered among the great clutch performances in MLB history.
“Roberto Clemente may be the greatest man to play baseball. What got him to Cooperstown? Three thousand hits and that arm,” said Jones, adopting the cynical but not unfounded view that voters should judge players, not for who they were as people, but for their on-field successes. “Ascribing virtues to success is a foolhardy mission. But rather than abandon such childish simplicity, we deputize ourselves as arbiters of goodness.”
Hall-of-Fame voting has always been an exercise in hypocrisy. Despite ties to PEDs, David Ortiz is likely to get elected this year while others, including Bonds, Clemens and Alex Rodriguez, are long shots to get in. The story of baseball over the past 25 years couldn’t be told without any of them, but why are Bonds and Clemens subject to harsher judgment than Ortiz? Commissioner Rob Manfred himself has said it would be unfair to hold Ortiz’s flunked PED test from 2003 against him, considering those results didn’t even show what he tested positive for. Of course, Bonds and Clemens were never beloved in the way that Ortiz was, with both painted as selfish and combative throughout their careers. The same could obviously be said of Schilling, whose loathsome behavior, particularly in his post-playing career, has made him a worthy antagonist.
“Schilling has made himself easy to judge. Right-wing politics are keeping him out of the Hall,” said Jones. “His inflammatory, indecent rhetoric has bit him in the keister. It has cost him his reputation as a thoughtful man.”
Seeing the writing on the wall, Schilling requested to be taken off the ballot last year and though that bid was denied, he’ll get his wish soon enough.