Curt Schilling’s Hall of Fame candidacy continues to be an enigma. Can the former Phillies pitcher make it to Cooperstown one day?
The 2018 MLB Hall of Fame ballot featured seven former Phillies, with first-timer Jim Thome voted in with his name on 89.8 percent of the ballots. Everyone else fell short, with some failing to even remain eligible for next year’s voting class.
One player caught in the middle of enshrinement and elimination was Curt Schilling. He received 216 votes from 422 total ballots, 51.2 percent of the total vote. This was up from his 2017 total of 45 percent but still slightly down from his 2016 percentage of 52.3. He has more than enough of the vote to stay alive, but is still significantly below the threshold needed to be inducted.
Schilling still needed 101 more voters to select him this year in order to be inducted. He has four years left on the ballot before reaching the 10-year maximum, so about 25 voters each year will need to add Schilling’s name in order for him to be inducted.
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As a player, Schilling should have enough accolades to be inducted. While he never won a Cy Young, he was a runner-up three times and finished in fourth once. Schilling led the league in wins, starts, complete games, innings pitched, strikeouts, fielding-independent pitching, WHIP, walks per nine, and strikeout-to-walk ratio at various times throughout his career.
Schilling had a solid track record in the postseason.
Schilling posted a 2.23 ERA and 4.80 strikeout-to-walk ratio in five postseasons. He was NLCS MVP with the Phillies in 1993 and World Series MVP with the Diamondbacks in 2001. Schilling’s “bloody sock” game in the 2004 ALCS is one of the key moments of the Red Sox breaking the Babe Ruth curse.
The advanced metrics also put Schilling in line with other Hall of Famers. His 79.9 career wins above replacement and 64.5 JAWS are both higher than the average Hall of Fame pitcher. His 49.0 seven-year peak WAR is slightly below average, but the fact that Schilling was still able to pitch so effectively even at the tail end of his 20-year career should make up for the fact.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Schilling’s political leanings. While working for ESPN, Schilling posted various controversial images on social media. He was ultimately fired for an image considered anti-transgender in reference to North Carolina’s “bathroom bill”. Schilling was also a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump during the 2016 election and continues to be.
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Schilling also had conflicts with the media during his playing career. He had a feud with ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez during his time with the Diamondbacks. Schilling also had issues with the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, who criticized Schilling for the condition he showed up to for 2007 spring training.
A major question facing voters in recent years is about voting for the player versus voting for the person. Some just look at the numbers and the accolades and base their decision on that alone. Others look at the player as a whole beyond the box score, whether it be suspected steroid use or issues a voter has with a particular player.
The ultimate factor that will determine if Schilling gets inducted into the Hall of Fame is how many people wind up voting for the player.
Several signs do point towards an uptick in votes in the coming years. According to Ryan Thibodaux’s vote tracker, Schilling had a net gain of 16 votes this year from returning voters who published their ballots. He also gained eight votes from the 11 new voters this year who went public. As new voters trickle in and other make their way out, there may be enough of a gain for Schilling to make it to Cooperstown.
Schilling continues to be stuck in purgatory with the Hall of Fame. Could he make it there before his ten years are up in 2022? Potentially, but it will involve a significant gain of votes and writers having to overlook any issues they have with Schilling on a personal level.