For no good reason, Curt Schilling’s wait continues.
In his eighth year on the Hall of Fame ballot, the former Phillies ace fell just short of the 75% needed to be inducted into Cooperstown. The 53-year-old Schilling was named on 278 of 397 ballots when the voting was revealed Tuesday on the MLB Network. The 70% figure was the highest he has ever received.
Schilling, who spent 8½ of his 20 seasons in Philadelphia, has two more years of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot and it seems likely that he will eventually get in. Former Colorado Rockies star outfielder Larry Walker got in on his 10th and final year on the ballot with 76.6% of the vote.
As expected, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will be the headliner at the July 26 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., after receiving 396 of 397 votes and just missing joining former teammate Mariano Rivera as the hall’s only unanimous selections.
Attempts to reach Schilling were unsuccessful.
While there’s still plenty of hope for Schilling’s eventual induction, the honor is long overdue. Schilling, in fact, should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was that good. He was, in my opinion, better than a few of the starting pitchers he has watched go in ahead of him during his first eight years on the Hall of Fame ballot.
That list includes Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Mike Mussina. Jack Morris also went in during Schilling’s time on the ballot, but that was via a veterans committee. If I was selecting a Hall of Fame pitching staff, I’d take Schilling over Glavine, Mussina, and Morris. And if I was selecting a pitcher to start a must-win playoff game, I’d take Schilling over all of them.
To me, Schilling’s regular-season credentials — 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts — are good enough to make him a Hall of Famer. His strikeout total is 15th in baseball history. The 14 men in front of him are all in the Hall of Fame.
Schilling’s postseason accomplishments should have pushed the door open immediately. In 19 postseason starts, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.
Add in the fact that he went 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in five postseason elimination games and his induction should be a no-brainer. It’s a disservice that he has had to wait this long.
His 2001 postseason with the Arizona Diamondbacks might have been the greatest of the extended postseason era. He started six games, including Arizona’s Game 7 World Series win over the Yankees, pitched a single postseason record of 48⅓ innings and posted a 1.12 ERA. He shared the World Series MVP with Randy Johnson, who came on in relief to win Game 7.
If not for Johnson, the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time, Schilling would have won the National League Cy Young Award in 2001 and 2002. He went a combined 45-13 with a 3.10 ERA in those two seasons, but Johnson went 45-11 with a 2.40 ERA. Schilling finished second in the Cy Young voting each season.
Schilling also finished second in the American League Cy Young voting in 2004, the year he helped Boston end its 85-year World Series drought. Roger Clemens won the Cy Young Award as a Houston Astro that season, but evidence later arose that he was using performance-enhancing drugs.
We all know, of course, why it is taking Schilling so long to be voted into the Hall of Fame. He did not cheat like Clemens, but he’s a blabbermouth who has always had the ability to alienate others, including those who played with him.
Poll the 1993 Phillies on who their least favorite teammate was that season and Schilling would win. Follow that up with a question about who each player would most like to see on the mound with the season on the line, and Schilling would again win.
With the Phillies facing elimination in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series, he blanked a Blue Jays lineup that had scored 15 runs the night before. Unfortunately, that would be the last postseason game of Schilling’s Philadelphia career, which brings us to our next subject: How many Phillies fans really care about Schilling’s Hall of Fame plight?
Two years ago, Jim Thome was inducted and Phillies fans were pleased because it’s impossible to find anyone who does not like the affable slugger from Peoria, Ill. Thome, however, only played parts of four seasons with the Phillies and never appeared in a postseason game with them. He was a Cleveland Indian and the crowd in Cooperstown reflected that affiliation.
The late Roy Halladay was inducted last season and it was one of the saddest moments in Hall of Fame history. But there was no sea of red on hand even though Halladay’s wife Brandy and sons Braden and Ryan tipped their cap to Philadelphia by choosing to have their husband and father inducted into the Hall of Fame without the team hat logo that typically accompanies most plaques.
Rather than choose between Toronto, where Halladay played for 12 years and Philadelphia, where he only played for four, the family decided the pitcher’s time with the Phillies was special enough to be on equal footing. It doesn’t get much better than a Cy Young Award, a perfect game, and a postseason no-hitter for a pitcher. Phillies fans will always love Halladay for his fast and fabulous career here.
As for Schilling, he came of age as a pitcher here. Schilling only spent 3½ years in Arizona and four in Boston, but his three World Series rings came with those teams.
He pitched and moaned with equal ferocity during his latter days with the Phillies and finally got his trade wish in 2000 when general manager Ed Wade dealt him to the Diamondbacks. More than a few people in the Phillies organization were happy to see him go even though they knew his immense talent would be difficult to replace.
Return trips to Philadelphia have been infrequent for Schilling since his career ended after the 2007 season. He settled with his family in Boston and the guess here is that if he ever goes into the Hall of Fame, it will be with the Red Sox “B” on his plaque.
Schilling, of course, has made even more enemies since his retirement by expressing controversial opinions about Muslims and journalists. His inability to keep from hitting the tweet button eventually cost him his job at ESPN and it undoubtedly has delayed his entry into the Hall of Fame. That’s not right because no matter what you think of Curt Schilling, he had a Hall of Fame career.