Once Again, Hall Of Fame Ethics (Or The Lack Of Them)


The MLB Hall of Fame vote, at least since the Steroid Era, gives us a window into the ethics of baseball writers, and the view is pretty grim. Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballots, many of which are made public before the election results are revealed, annually show dead ethics alarms and an absence of critical thinking, but as someone who has been reading these guys (they are almost all guys) since I was 12, this is no surprise. The smart and thoughtful ones like Joe Posnanski, Roger Angell, Bill James and Peter Gammons, are exceptions. I wouldn’t trust most of the rest to take out the trash.

A player who has been retired for at least five years has to be on 75% of the writers’ ballots (ten players can be listed on a ballot) needed to be “enshrined,” as they like to say in the Cooperstown museum, and a player has ten tries to make it. This year, nobody was selected.

The result was a slap in the face to former Orioles, Philadelphia, Arizona and Red Sox starting pitcher Curt Schilling, and was intended to be. He just missed the 75% level last year, and usually that means that a player gets in the Hall the next time, especially in a year like this one, where there were no major additions to the candidates. Schilling, by prior standards, by statistical analysis, and by the simple reality that he was famous while playing and had a single iconic moment that will keep him in baseball lore forever—the “bloody sock” game, should be an easy call. Yet ESPN and other sources refer to him as “controversial.” Why is he controversial? He’s controversial because he is religious, conservative, Republican, and an outspoken Trump supporter, none of which has a thing to do with baseball. Schilling also, to his credit, refuses to submit to his critics and the social media mobs. He is independent and comfortable with who he is, he is articulate in expressing his opinions (at least by typical athlete standards), and can and will defend his points of view. He shouldn’t have to, however, to be admitted to the Hall of Fame.

His sportsmanship and professional comportment while playing was never less than impeccable. Curt Schilling has a deep respect for the game (one opinion that has been held against him is his insistence that steroid users are cheaters), and he has done nothing since leaving baseball that was sufficiently vile to harm it in any way. To the contrary, he and his wife (now battling cancer) have been active in charity work and community projects. That satisfies the Hall’s so-called “character clause.”

I guess that I’ll stick in here the fact that ESPN fired Schilling as a commentator for tweets criticizing Hillary Clinton and radical Islam, while continuing to employ repeat steroid cheat and liar Alex Rodriguez in a similar role. There you have it: the hierarchy of values of the current sports reporting establishment. Right behind Schilling in yesterday’s results were Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, the former a strongly-suspected PED-user, and the latter well-documented as tied with Lance Armstrong as the most destructive and successful steroid cheat in sports history. There were writers who voted for Barry Bonds who did not have Schilling on their ballots. That’s right: supporting President Trump disqualifies a great player for the Hall of Fame, but cheating on the field does not.

Schilling saw this insult coming, and had already composed and delivered a letter to the Hall that he also posted to Facebook in which he asked to be removed from the writers’ ballot next year, saying,

“I will not participate in the final year of voting. I am requesting to be removed from the ballot. I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player. I don’t think I’m a hall of famer as I’ve often stated but if former players think I am then I’ll accept that with honor.”

False modesty there to be sure: if Schilling didn’t think he was Hall-worthy, he wouldn’t mind the nne years of not being voted into it. There is also an echo of writer William Saroyan turning down the Pulitzer Prize in 1943 saying that those who voted him the honor weren’t qualified to do so. Nonetheless, I’ll applaud Schilling for his counter-attack, which is unprecedented for a player. His absence from the Hall of Fame diminishes the institution, not him or his career.

Curt fights back. No wonder he supports Donald Trump.

13 thoughts on “Once Again, Hall Of Fame Ethics (Or The Lack Of Them)

  1. “the “bloody sock””

    I would argue that Schilling and Randy Johnson’s twin efforts in the 2001 World Series are every bit as storybook as the sock.

    I commend Schilling for asking to be omitted from the next ballot. I’ve long thought that should have been Bonds and Clemens’s approach: we understand where we stand, our presence is distorting the voting for these other fellows, so please just leave us off the next ballot.

  2. “…he and his wife (now battling cancer) have been active in charity work and community projects. That satisfies the Hall’s so-called “character clause.”

    Perhaps that disqualifies them based on the character clause. Looking at the values of the relevant group, Schilling’s behavior is probably not consistent with the ‘community standards’ of the Hall of Fame voters. Defending his point of view instead of groveling to his self-proclaimed masters probably also disqualifies him based on character.

      • It is more a reference to current events. Twitter (and to a lesser extent Amazon) are arguing in court that they don’t have to take down child pornography even when contacted by law enforcement because it doesn’t violate their ‘community standards’.

        • …and yet Amazon will completely de-platform Parler because of their content (or so they say) without being asked to do so by anyone at all.


  3. Curt Schilling is a chatter box. Diamondbacks players used to avoid sitting next to him in the dugout on his days off because he’d chew their ears off. He could rattle on non-stop. He also has a great sense of humor. His most famous prank while at the Diamondbacks (he is a local Phoenix kid and with Randy Johnson led the Diamondbacks to a tremendous, seven game, Mariano Rivera and George Steinbrenner, David vs. Goliath defeating, World Series win over none other than the New York Yankees in the depths of the 9/11 national depression. Schilling was 1–0 in that World Series with a 1.69 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 21 innings, though he also allowed a go-ahead home run in the 8th inning of Game Seven.) was pulled the day after Randy Johnson, a terrifyingly effective Hall of Fame slider thrower but a gawky runner and not the sharpest (or most articulate) pencil in the drawer, certainly not compared to Schill, stumbled and fell to the ground rounding first base before being tagged out. Schill outlined a sprawled, awkward, 6’11” figure just beyond first base in crime scene chalk commandeered from the grounds crew.

  4. I see the NY Post has a headline with pictures of Bonds and Clemens (in his Yankees uni) saying they’ve been shut out of the Hall, and another headline calling Schilling “bitter.” New York, New York. What a wonderful town.


  5. The other day a neighbor who’s a left winger stopped me, while I was on a walk with my dog, to make a comment about wondering why Curt Schilling couldn’t make it to the Hall of Fame. I fired back with “because he’s got a big mouth” , which immediately ended what might have been a conversation, him knowing I was of the same political persuasion that Curt Schilling was. God Bless Him, Curt Schilling,not the neighbor.

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