This past week, Derek Jeter made all the headlines by being one vote shy of a unanimous induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Receiving 396 of a possible 397 votes, Jeter has the second-highest vote percentage of all time, behind teammate Mariano Rivera and his unanimous induction last year. Much has been made about the one voter who left Jeter off their ballot, but Jeter seemingly brushed it off.
The only other player to receive the 75% voting percentage to enter the HOF this year was former Expos and Rockies outfielder Larry Walker. Notable players that fell short of 75% this year include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling. With the allegations of performance enhancing drugs placing an asterisk (for some people) on the careers of Bonds and Clemens, the question remains: why in the world isn’t Curt Schilling in the Hall of Fame?
The answer is a pretty obvious one, at least in my opinion. Throughout his career and even more so since his retirement, Schilling has been very outspoken about his political viewpoint. Schilling publicly endorsed George W. Bush in the 2004 election while the Red Sox front office was publicly backing his opponent John Kerry. In 2007, Schilling endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain and was very vocal in criticizing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. More recently, he has been a supporter of President Trump and has joined far-right news company Breitbart with his own show. He has also considered running for office on several occasion, even saying he will run for president in 2024 if President Trump is re-elected.
It is not uncommon for athletes to be blackballed for their political or religious views, as we have seen in recent years with Colin Kaepernick and Tim Tebow. Whether Kaepernick and Tebow have remained without a job due to their personal beliefs is unknown, both have played at a high enough level to have a job, whether as a backup or starter. Even when players aren’t totally blackballed, they are heavily criticized for projecting their personal beliefs. In 2018, Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham told Lebron James to “shut up and dribble” in response to his political opinions because he is just “someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball.”
This intersection of politics and athletics has been a line that more athletes have been daring to cross in recent years. Athletes have just as much of a right as anyone to have their own personal views and also have an equal right to discuss their views. Regardless of whether you are in agreement with a person’s viewpoint, it is important to acknowledge that they have a right to believe what they believe.
In terms of baseball, Schilling’s conflicts have all been off the field. Unlike Bonds and Clemens, whose actions directly impacted the game and gave them an advantage, Schilling has not had any significant issues that have impacted the game. He should not be held to the same standard as Bonds and Clemens (who I believe should be in the HOF, but that’s a topic for another time), or even Pete Rose, who has been banned for life by the MLB for gambling, for something that did not impact the game of baseball nor is illegal.
The numbers prove that Schilling deserves to be a Hall of Famer. Over his 20-year career, he racked up 216 wins, 3116 strikeouts, 3 World Series championships, 6 All-Star appearances, 2 MLB wins leader seasons, a World Series MVP, with a career ERA of 3.46. Baseball Reference compares Schilling’s stats with the average HOFer, showing that his stats prove he should be a surefire inductee. His “Hall of Fame Monitor” is at 171, which takes all of his stats into account, and anyone that has more than 130 points if a “virtual cinch” for the HOF, according to baseball-reference.com.
This year was Schilling’s eighth year on the HOF ballot, with two years remaining. He received exactly 70% of votes this year, which is a long way from the 38.8% he received in his first year on the ballot. With Jeter and Walker off the ballot, Bonds and Clemens not receiving support, and a weak rookie ballot in 2021, there is hope that Schilling will get enough votes to be inducted into the Hall of Fame next year. While in no way do I agree with any of his political viewpoints or business ventures, it would be ignorant to keep a player like Schilling out of the Hall of Fame for these reasons and would set a bad precedent for the MLB going forward.
Photo: Kathy Willens/AP Photo