For the last 5 months, Friday rants were devoted to football as has been the custom here in Curmudgeon Central for years. However, this particular Friday is always a deviation from that schedule because even in non-COVID seasons, there is no football of significance happening on this weekend. I view the Pro Bowl – even when it is played – with even lower regard than I do the Exhibition Games that lead up to the NFL regular season. So, let us just agree to call this Football-free Friday.
The Baseball Hall of Fame will have no new inductees next summer from the voting of the Baseball Writers Association of America; no player on the ballot this year received the requisite 75% of the votes cast to merit inclusion in the Hall of Fame. The three highest vote counts went to:
- Curt Schilling
- Barry Bonds
- Roger Clemens.
From my perspective, people with a vote in this matter have chosen to vote against these three players for different reasons. Bonds and Clemens are both inexorably tied to PED use – not proven to legal standards but proven to the standard of a preponderance of evidence for many baseball fans. Schilling is merely “politically odious”; many of his public pronouncements go well beyond the standard of “politically incorrect”; many of his pronouncements are in the category of loathsome. [Aside: I am not going to list some of them here because I really believe that they need no additional airings.]
All three players have one year left on the Baseball Writers’ ballot; after that, their candidacy will be in the hands of a Committee known as the Today’s Game Committee. Here is the membership of that Committee:
“The Today’s Game Committee shall consist of 16 members, comprised of members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, executives, and veteran media members. The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. shall act as the non-voting chairman of the committee and shall act as non-voting Secretary of the Committee.”
Schilling took the unprecedented action to petition the Hall of Fame to direct the Baseball Writers to take his name off their ballot for next year; he says he does not want to give the writers another year to harp on his personal views as they go about their voting. Surprisingly, the writers have protested to the Hall of Fame that Schilling must remain on the ballot because their rules say he belongs there. Yes, you are right; this contretemps has all the gravitas of an argument over “Tastes Great” versus “Less Filling”.
My position on the propriety of including controversial figures in the Baseball Hall of Fame is not black and white – – so let me try to explain. The Baseball Writers try to include “character” and “integrity” issues in their criteria for entry to the HoF. That leads to a conundrum quickly:
- Steroids were illegal in the 90s when they were rampantly used in MLB; there was no baseball rule about that but there were legal restrictions. So, does that make PED users automatically ineligible on the basis of a “character flaw” as a “lawbreaker”?
- PEDs – by definition – give the user “performance enhancement” meaning they promote his ability to accumulate great stats that the writers then view as the basis for his candidacy. So, should PED users be disqualified on the basis that their stats are in question? Well, if that is the case, then how could someone like Gaylord Perry be in the HoF when he threw thousands of illegal spitballs over the course of his career that accumulated stats sufficiently noteworthy …?
- When a player lies about using PEDs – or about gambling on baseball – should the lies themselves be disqualifying indicating of a lack of “integrity”?
If I had a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame – which I do not – I would vote:
- To include Bonds and Clemens and other PED users/suspects posthumously and with the provision that their plaque in the Hall says explicitly that there is plenty of reason to believe that these players were PED users and that PEDs may well have inflated their statistics cited in the Hall of Fame.
- To include Pete Rose posthumously and with the provision that his betting on baseball and his lying about betting on baseball be included on his plaque with the notation that his gambling behaviors did not enhance his ability to accumulate his statistics.
- To include Curt Schilling in the HoF because he is one of the best big-game performers ever. [See some stats below] The idea that Curt Schilling and his odious political views will somehow pollute the Baseball Hall of Fame is beyond ludicrous. Cap Anson and Ty Cobb were fundamentally flawed human beings – Anson also bet on baseball games – and they are in the Hall. There is more than a little evidence that Cobb and Tris Speaker colluded to fix a game or two even after the 1919 Black Sox scandal and that the Commish looked the other way. Speaker is in the Hall. I think Curt Schilling is a social troglodyte – meaning no disrespect to cave dwellers in antiquity. But he will not be the most repugnant person in the Hall of Fame if inducted.
Anyone can Google Schilling’s career stats for themselves. I want to present just a couple of things that take a bit of searching through those stats to indicate why I believe Curt Schilling’s on-field body of work makes him eligible:
- In the history of baseball, only 4 pitchers have recorded 300 strikeouts in three different seasons. Those 4 are Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Curt Schilling. That is rather good company Schilling is keeping there…
- He started five postseason games where a loss would have eliminated his team; he won every one of them. No other pitcher did that.
- Overall in postseason play, Schilling started 19 games and was the pitcher of record in 13 of those 19 games. His record for his career in the post season was 11-2 with an overall ERA of 2.23.
Finally, here is a note from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times related to another member of the Baseball Hall of Fame – – about whom there is no debate regarding his proper inclusion there:
“Yogi Berra, the late Yankees legend, is about to get his own commemorative postage stamp.
“New U.S. Postal Service motto: It ain’t delivered till it’s delivered.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………