Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Jones: If Curt Schilling was a liberal, he might be in Hall of Fame

Curt Schilling is a blowhard.

He's a fraud. He's self-centered. He is hateful. He's a bully.

Know what else he is? A Hall of Famer.

Know what he's never going to be? A Hall of Famer.

That's too bad.

When the Baseball Hall of Fame voting totals came out Wednesday, the retired pitcher picked up 45 percent of the votes from members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, well short of the 75 percent needed to get into the Hall. More interesting, his total dropped from the 52 percent he received last year.

What happened over the past year? Nothing on the field, obviously.

Plenty off it.

Schilling called journalists an unflattering name we can't print. He retweeted a photo of a T-shirt that suggested journalists be lynched. He compared Muslims to Nazis.

He said Hillary Clinton should be "buried under a jail.'' He has lashed out against trans­gender people. He lost his job as an ESPN analyst because he couldn't keep his mouth shut when specifically told to keep his mouth shut.

That's just a portion of what he has said and done.

There's a phrase when it comes to the controversial former player: Curt Schilling pitched his way into the Hall of Fame, but now he is talking his way out of it.

To be clear, some believe he didn't even pitch his way into the Hall, that the right-hander's numbers aren't Hall worthy. His total wins (216) and ERA (3.46) don't compare favorably with those of pitchers in the Hall. He never won a Cy Young Award. He went to six All-Star Games, which really isn't that many for a Hall of Famer.

But if his regular-season numbers are borderline, his postseason numbers should be enough to lift him over the top. He won 11 postseason games and had a 2.23 ERA while winning three World Series. Pitching his guts out in a must-win playoff game with blood from painful ankle surgery seeping through his sock is the epitome of a big-game pitcher. His "Bloody Sock'' victory in the 2004 American League Championship Series for Boston is one of the gutsiest performances in baseball history.

Feels like a Hall of Famer to me.

However, fewer people think Schilling is a Hall of Famer today than thought so a year ago, and it seems as if Schilling's political views are a big reason why.

Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who covered Schilling with the Red Sox, voted for Schilling in the past but recently wrote, "Count me out on Curt Schilling. … I shall invoke the 'character' clause this year. Schill has transitioned from a mere nuisance to an actual menace to society. His tweet supporting the lynching of journalists was the last straw for this voter.''

There's a difference between one's politics and one's character. Some writers find that Schilling's character, and not his political slant, is a reason to keep him out of the Hall, or at the least, to let him sweat a little before getting their vote. That's fair.

But you also can't help but believe that Schilling's comments are more scrutinized because he is a conservative. If he supported Clinton instead of Donald Trump in last year's election, would he receive the same backlash? The guess is no.

When asked Thursday on the Dan Patrick Show why his vote total went down, Schilling said, "We all know why. Because I'm not quiet. If I didn't talk, I might have gotten in this time.''

His vote total wouldn't have dropped, that's for sure.

"I believe it's politics, in one sense,'' Schilling, 50, said, "but I think it's the retweeting of the T-shirt that gave them an out, so to speak.''

Schilling has repeatedly said he was kidding about lynching journalists, that he simply thought the shirt was funny and sarcastic, and should never have been taken seriously.

"You know how sick and tired I am of trying to explain to people what I was doing?'' Schilling said.

This is Schilling's problem: Every time he opens his mouth, he gives us five more reasons not to like him. If you have to constantly explain what you were trying to say, then maybe it's you and not everyone else.

Patrick asked Schilling if he could just cool it with the trolling tweets and outrageous comments.

"If that's sacrificing the Hall of Fame, I don't want to be in anyway,'' Schilling said. "If that ends up costing me votes, so what?''

Don't believe that for a second. Of course Schilling cares about the Hall of Fame, and that's what makes him a fraud.

Schilling admitted on Patrick's show that he likes "embarrassing'' people on Twitter, that he likes getting people riled up with his comments. If you're going to continue to do that and say you don't care if you get into the Hall, you can't then play the victim when you don't get in.

Schilling is a spoiled brat who enjoys all the attention he gets with his commentary, which can be hateful, divisive and ugly. But as much as his comments disgust me, I defend his right to say such things, and they shouldn't keep him out of the Hall.

As far as we know, he didn't do steroids. He didn't bet on baseball. He didn't fix games.

I don't want to have a beer with the guy. In fact, I wish he would just go away.

But I have no problem with putting him in a museum of the best baseball players. After all, he deserves it.

     
 
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