Curt Schilling’s failure to gain admission to Baseball’s Hall of Fame this week has brought calls to modify the election process. It’s not the process that’s broken. It’s that the candidates have issues.
Schilling received 71.1 percent of the vote. To become a Hall of Famer, players need 75 percent of the vote of 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He fell 16 votes short.
After the results were announced, Schilling wrote on Facebook that he no longer wanted to be considered for election by the BBWAA and asked that the Veterans Committees should judge him.
Schilling’s case as a player is a strong one. He was a three-time 20-game winner, led the National League in complete games four times and struck out 3,116 batters, 14th most in major league history.
He struck more than four times as many batter as he walked, an excellent ratio, and the 11-2 postseason record with a 2.23 ERA is eye-popping.
Schilling won 216 games. His first win came with the Orioles in 1990. Schilling came to the Orioles with Brady Anderson in July 1988 in exchange for Mike Boddicker.
Thirty years ago this month, Schilling was sent to Houston with outfielder Steve Finley and right-hander Pete Harnisch in exchange for first baseman Glenn Davis, a trade that many consider the worst in Orioles history.
Schilling’s polarizing political views turned off some of the voters. If he had kept his views to himself over the past few years, he would have been elected to the Hall of Fame by now, but he wasn’t going to do that.
He’ll probably remain on the ballot that will be sent to writers late this year. It will be his 10th and final year of eligibility, and his unhappiness about the process practically guarantees he won’t be elected.
Some fans might say that his views should be ignored and that politics and sports don’t mix. They’ve always mixed, unhappily in many cases.
Discriminatory politics kept Blacks out of Major League Baseball until 1947, and the game has been trying to make up for that ever since.
The Schilling tumult managed to overshadow the annual debate about whether Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should be voted in. Bonds (61.8 percent) and Clemens (61.6 percent) have inched up in support but are still well below the 75 percent. They’ll also be on the ballot once more later this year.
The steroid taint against Bonds and Clemens has turned off many voters. Another strong candidate, longtime shortstop Omar Vizquel, was harmed by a mid-December story in The Athletic that revealed charges of domestic abuse against him. Vizquel finished fifth in the voting with 49.1 percent.
Of the top five candidates, only third baseman Scott Rolen had no character issues to consider. Rolen finished fourth with 52.9 percent.
It’s not the electorate’s fault that Schilling, Bonds, Clemens and Vizquel carry troubled pasts.
While I am not yet a 10-year member of the BBWAA and can’t vote, I know many of those who do. Most spend a lot of time considering their ballot and researching it.
The Hall instructs: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
That’s subjective, and voters interpret that in many ways.
We live in a complex and troubling time. The rise of social media and Schilling’s use of Twitter has undermined his case. The revelation of the troubling charges against Vizquel, which came after some voters had mailed in their ballots, raises more questions of character.
Some believe that the vote should be taken away from the writers. Some major newspapers, including The Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, prohibit their writers from voting for postseason awards and the Hall of Fame. Those papers think that reporters should report news, not make it.
Overall, I think the writers have done an excellent job at choosing the right candidates. In the previous seven years, the BBWAA elected 22 players, and each one was worthy of induction.
Since I’m not a voter, I don’t write about who I would have voted for. But I would have voted for Schilling, no matter how offensive his politics may be.
The next ballot will be even more difficult. Not only will Schilling, Bonds, Clemens and Vizquel be on it, but so will Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, both of whom have troubled pasts, too.
Some believe that a panel more like the Veterans Committees should vote on the Hall of Fame. Those committees, which vote on non-players and players whose BBWAA eligibility has lapsed, are comprised of Hall of Famers, baseball executives, historians and media members.
Those committees do admirable work, but I think having 10 years for a group of 400 writers to consider candidates generally rewards the worthy, and the Veterans Committees are there to make up for exclusions.
Baseball’s system is superior to football’s or basketball’s. Voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is done by 48 electors, a group of writers, broadcasters and Hall of Famers. As popular as the NFL is, that voting gets scant attention compared with baseball’s. Basketball’s selection process is secretive. No one discloses who votes.
The Hall of Fame shouldn’t be disappointed that no one was elected. Because of the pandemic, Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller, who were supposed to be inducted last year, will be presented this July in Cooperstown, New York instead.
The Hall also can’t be upset that there’s so much talk about the process. Many voting writers give valuable publicity to the Hall of Fame by explaining their ballots.
Earlier this month, Ken Rosenthal explained his dilemma about voting in The Athletic, and he said it could be his last ballot. I hope he continues voting because he’s the type of informed voter who’s needed, and I hope the process continues as it is. To make the process easier, we just need candidates with fewer issues.