OPINION: What makes a Hall of Famer? Curt Schilling’s Complicated Case for Cooperstown

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    The MLB offseason can sometimes be painfully slow, and this year’s offseason is made even worse by the pandemic-slowed free agency market. This means that around the New Year, there is rarely much to talk about for diehard MLB fans. One constant that remains each offseason is the ongoing debate of who should be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. For most baseball fans, it seems as though the HOF doesn’t matter at all or on the contrary, it is the end all be all to decide which people are worthy of being remembered in baseball’s storied history. I sit somewhere in between. I see the importance of remembering the best baseball players, managers, and announcers in history, but in a much more real way, it’s a plaque in a room of a museum.

    However, where there’s passion like the kind that some people have for the Baseball Hall of Fame, there’s sure to be some controversy that surrounds it. Some of this controversy has manifested itself in the form of all-time greats like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who have been condemned by many HOF voters because of their connections with the doping scandal that swept Major League Baseball in the early-2000s. Other notable steroid users on the 2021 HOF ballot are Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, and Andy Pettitte (some say Sammy Sosa was a steroid user, but he was never proven by MLB to be doping and he denies any PED use during his career to this day). This article is not about any one of those 6 players and their individual cases to make it to the Hall of Fame. This is about perhaps the most controversial HOF case on the 2021 ballot: Curt Schilling.

    Curt Schilling’s Hall of Fame case is very strong on paper. He has all the career accolades that one would need to make it in: 3 World Series titles, along with an NLCS MVP and co-WS MVP award that he shared with teammate Randy Johnson in 2001. He is perhaps the most dominant postseason pitcher of the Modern era. He has accumulated 79.8 fWAR, Fangraphs’ stat that accumulates all the positive or negative value a player gives their team and quantifies it into how many “wins” that player added to his team over that of a replacement level player. That number alone pretty much punches Schilling’s ticket to Cooperstown. He never won a Cy Young award, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t an absolutely dominant pitcher in his era. Yet, in spite of Curt Schilling’s place in the Hall all but set in stone, I believe that he should not be a Hall of Famer. Why? Because Curt Schilling is a bigot.

    Schilling has spent almost the entirety of his post-playing career dehumanizing and diminishing just about anyone possible. He is a social media troll in the truest sense of the term. Some of his most repulsive antics include alleging that former Orioles outfielder Adam Jones lied about the racist insults he received from fans at Fenway Park, and being fired from ESPN for “unacceptable” conduct after he made a Facebook post of a transphobic meme. He also made a tweet commenting on a t-shirt that encouraged the lynching of journalists, which should be especially troublesome for Schilling’s HOF case because guess who votes to send players to the Hall? That’s right: Journalists. He has used his platform to make baseless claims to conspiracy theories, peddle completely false information in support of Donald Trump, sometimes from Trump himself, and he has denounced Dr. Anthony Fauci as a “war criminal”. Most recently, he made comments in support of the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, one of the most historically vile and embarrassing days in American history. Many of the people involved in the attack are openly white supremacists, and yet, Schilling stood in support of them. These are not things that a Hall of Famer in the year 2021 should do.

    Schilling would like the public to think that his actions have either been jokes, or strictly political, and therefore should have no bearing on his case to be enshrined in the hall. To that I say there is a line between political opinion and deliberately continuing the oppression that so many groups in American society face. He has a platform as a former star baseball player that he is using for evil. If Schilling makes it to the Hall of Fame, that platform will only grow, and he does not deserve that added popularity.

    A case for allowing Curt Schilling in the HOF despite his hideousness would be the fact that there are already plenty of people in the hall that were also terrible people. Former MLB Player’s Union director Marvin Miller, a Hall of Famer himself, made claims that HOF players Tris Speaker and Cap Anson were members of the Ku Klux Klan when advocating for former catcher Mike Piazza’s enshrinement. Until this year, the league MVP awards were named after Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the league’s first commissioner, who actively fought against the integration of Black players in MLB. I believe that this point actually works against Schilling, because in my eyes the Hall of Fame should evolve away from its troubled past by warding off openly intolerant people like him. In a year that has brought so much acknowledgment of oppression in America’s past, why would you want to further elevate someone hellbent on blocking progress in any way possible?

    Despite his excellence on the field and legendary postseason heroics, Curt Schilling has made his Hall of Fame case much more complicated than it had to be. Schilling’s stats paint him as a no-doubt, slam dunk pick to make the HOF, but his racism, transphobia, and belief in conspiracy theories that have been shown after his playing days should make any voter stop themselves from checking his name on their ballot. As icing on the cake, Schilling stood in support of white supremacists as they tried to destroy American democracy as we know it. The Baseball Hall of Fame should tell the story of everything and everyone that is good and respectable about the game we love.

    Curt Schilling is exactly the opposite.

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