Given the current climate in America, separating the art from the artist is a daily exercise in mental gymnastics as the populace grapples with the idea that those they admire might not share their ideals.
Which brings us to Curt Schilling's candidacy for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
One of the great pitchers of the 1990s and 2000s, Schilling won 216 games in his career and is among the all-time best postseason pitchers in the history of the game.
Since his retirement though, he has become a lightning rod in the public arena.
Many voters have invoked the Hall of Fame's "character clause," consciously or otherwise.
Having said that, it seems like voters are putting the memes aside. Schilling is trending upwards heading into his eighth year on the ballot, with his vote share jumping to 60.9% in 2019, a huge increase from the 45% he received as recently as 2017.
Schilling won three World Series titles – one with Arizona and two with Boston. (Photo: Sports Weekly)
One of only six players in history with at three 300-strikeout seasons, Schilling ranks 15th on the all-time list with 3,115 – behind 13 Hall of Famers and Roger Clemens.
Schilling's career was largely defined by his postseason performances and the numbers back up the hyperbole. Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 career postseason starts,
After surrendering six earned runs in his 1993 World Series debut, Schilling gave up just five more across his next 41⅔ innings in the Fall Classic, helping the Diamondbacks (2001) and Red Sox (2004 and 2007) win titles.
Schilling was 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in five career elimination games, most famously sporting a bloody sock as he helped Boston force a Game 7 in the legendary 2004 ALCS. His 56 strikeouts during Arizona's 2001 run remains the most ever in a single postseason.
Dealt three times in his first six years as a pro, Schilling didn't become a regular part of a rotation until 1992, his age 25 season. He tossed 10 complete games in just 26 starts that year, a preview of what the workhorse would do throughout his career. From 1988-2007, Schilling's 83 complete games trail only Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux.
OTHER HALL OF FAME DEBATES:
- Scott Rolen
- Gary Sheffield
- Omar Vizquel
- Jeff Kent
- Bobby Abreu
Schilling never won a Cy Young award, finishing second on three occasions. This isn't particularly surprising, but illustrates that he wasn't considered to be on the same level as some of his contemporaries.
In a 2017 interview, Schilling admitted that he may not measure up to Hall of Fame standards – at least in his book.
"I think I was pretty good," Schilling said. "I think i was better than anybody else in the history of the game in October, but do I think I'm a Hall of Famer, in my Hall of Fame? No."
With almost 40% of the ballots tracked by the Ryan Thibodaux, Schilling has gathered 79.5% of the vote. Some voters will continue to omit him from their ballots for "character" concerns – as is their right – but the tide is rising.
Still, Schilling saw a substantial 8.9% drop-off between the pre-tracked ballots and the actual 60.9% received last year. A similar number in 2020 may indicate a firmly entrenched opposition unwilling to come around on his candidacy.
Even if he doesn't hit 75% of the vote this year, Schilling has two more chances and will almost certainly cross the threshold before his 10 years are up.
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