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Tuesday could’ve been written off as a mulligan for baseball, an undesired result paired with a desirable outcome.
And then Curt Schilling had to open up his big, fat, bigoted mouth once again.
So now the Baseball Hall of Fame must cope with this unusual, if not altogether unprecedented, situation: The top vote-getter on its 2021 writers’ ballot — 71.1 percent, 16 yeses away from immortality — wants off of next year’s slate on the account of his contempt for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
His request shouldn’t be granted. Because the Hall of Fame isn’t about one snowflake’s hurt feelings. It’s about the game itself and the fans who support it.
Look, I’d like to see Schilling in the Hall. I’ve voted for him each of his nine years on the ballot (next year would be his 10th and last) because of his stellar pitching performance from 1988 through 2007. I believe the right-hander fell short in the early years of his candidacy because his old-school statistics — most notably his 216 wins — fell short of perceived greatness according to too many voters who unfortunately weren’t up to speed on what mattered and what didn’t.
As he moved further away from his playing career, though, and after his plan to become a gaming tycoon imploded, Schilling, always outspoken, pumped up the volume on his commentary on just about everything. And while I disagree with my fellow BBWAA members who used this transformation as reason to keep Schilling out of Cooperstown, that hardly converts to sympathy for his case.
For when you spread hate, you pay a price. Once more, with feeling: There’s nothing “conservative” about mocking trans people, or challenging a black ballplayer’s account of getting taunted with racial slurs, or going after Muslims. Or supporting the Capitol insurrection, which actually occurred after this year’s ballots were completed. All that falls in line with the toxicity and dishonesty that brought this country to the precipice of disaster.
In his lengthy, self-pitying Facebook post, Schilling wrote, “[T]he media has created a Curt Schilling that does not and has never existed. It’s one of the things that has allowed me to sleep at night.” That accusation probably would hold more validity if, you know, Schilling could claim to be misquoted. Alas, you can’t be misquoted on your own tweets.
Jane Forbes Clarke, the chairman of the Hall’s board, quickly put out a statement reading, “As you know, the Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame sets the rules and procedures for the BBWAA balloting process. The Board has received Curt Schilling’s request for removal from the 2022 ballot, and will consider the request at our next meeting.” Love the first three words, showing who’s boss, and respect the second sentence, reflecting an open-mindedness.
Precedent, however, does exist. Ultra-impactful MLB Players Association executive director Marvin Miller, after whiffing several times on Era Committees, requested that he no longer be considered. The Hall declined the request, and Miller will be inducted posthumously on July 25 along with Derek Jeter, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker, the four men’s celebration all delayed a year due to the novel coronavirus.
This request, too, should be denied. Hey, think of it this way: The perfect scenario would be to vote in Schilling, maintaining historical integrity at the Hall, and have him boycott the big day so we wouldn’t have to listen to him spew his garbage.
If not for Schilling’s whining, Tuesday would’ve been about no one getting in with minimal consequence, thanks to Jeter and company waiting on the stage. The Hall and Cooperstown, as long as COVID vaccinations go smoothly, will enjoy a lucrative summer. The prospect of next year’s ballot being insane, with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Schilling all facing their 10th and final shot while Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz climb aboard as first-time considerations, would loom without dominating.
Instead, we’re contemplating what to do next about Schilling, who has boxed himself into a conundrum of his own making. What a sad story. Fittingly, the national pastime isn’t immune from the divisiveness hurtled upon the nation.
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