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Curt Schilling: Hall of Famer

Yes, Curt Schilling deserves a spot in Cooperstown. Jayson Stark agrees that we’ve witnessed greatness from him. Rob Neyer says “Of course” he’s a Hall of Famer. Now that he’s officially announced his retirement on 38 Pitches, it’s time for the debate to really begin. Whether or not you like the guy or agree with his opinions, there’s no denying the impact he had as a pitcher on every team he played for. While he may have to wait five, ten or maybe even all 20 years, Schilling deserves the 75% vote it takes to get in.

Detractors will point to his relatively modest 216 career wins as a reason for him not to be inducted, but they will eventually realize that wins is becoming less and less of a barometer of Major League success. For some time, 300 wins has been the benchmark for pitchers to punch their ticket to Cooperstown. Randy Johnson will win his 300th game this season barring a serious injury, and he may be the last player to ever achieve that total. In an era of deep bullpens and five-or-six-man rotations, 300 is becoming a nearly impossible number to reach.

The way I see it, if this gets into Cooperstown:

Then the man who wore it ought to make it in as well.  I think Schilling accomplished enough over his career to warrant a gold plaque with his face on it.  He may ultimately be most famous for the Bloody Sock game against the Yankees, but he should also be remembered for his 11-2 career postseason record that included an MVP performance in the 2001 World Series, over 3,000 career strikeouts, and a competitiveness and determination on the mound to deliver his team to the promised land, no matter his condition.

Schilling’s 216 wins will look better as his time on the ballot goes on and the Baseball Writers of America take more time to think about giving him their vote. Basically, it’s because Schilling took until his 30s to really become a great pitcher that his case for the Hall is being hurt. If he had figured it out five years earlier, we could be talking about a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

Let’s look at those 216 wins a little more closely, specifically his first Cy Young-caliber seasons. In 1997, Schilling was 17-11 for a Phillies team that finished 68-94, last in their division. While Schilling’s ERA was 2.97 that year, the team’s ERA was 4.87. And their best hitter that year was then-22-year-old Scott Rolen. While the Phillies won eight more games in 1998, the team once again had very little to offer in the rotation beyond Schilling, as he posted a 3.25 ERA for a team with a 4.64 team average. He totaled 619 strikeouts in 524 innings those two seasons. In his eight no-decisions in 1997, Schilling posted a 2.00 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 49 innings.

Simply put, a lot of wins were left on the table for Schilling during his Philadelphia tenure, and without him the Phillies could have been historically bad. But Schilling wasn’t a victim of circumstance in only that department. He also lost out on the Cy Young award at least three times, perhaps four in his career due to someone else having a historic season. Randy Johnson did it twice in Arizona, Pedro Martinez was lights-out in 1997 for Montreal and Johan Santana took his game to a whole new level in 2004. Schilling pitched like a Cy Young winner all those seasons, but never had a season where he was clearly on top. He faced some seriously stiff competition in his time and finished second in the voting in 2001, 2002 and 2004.

I think the most telling sign that Curt Schilling belongs in Cooperstown is his 3,116 career strikeouts, putting him 15th all-time. Only two other pitchers in the top 15 are not in the Hall of Fame, and one of them is a future first-ballot player: Pedro Martinez. The other is Bert Blyleven, who is on the ballot and could still get his due. Schilling amassed over 300 strikeouts three times in his career, and had 293 in 2001.

Schilling’s career WHIP is 1.14. While he did have his hiccups, the man dominated his starts when he was on, and was other-worldly in the postseason. Even if Schilling never makes it into the Hall, he will still have his three rings and know that he really earned them. But it would be severely unjust to deny this man a plaque. I think it will take about ten years on the ballot for him to get in, but he will. By that time, there will be only a handful of pitchers even approaching 200 career wins, making 216 that much more impressive. His strikeout totals and postseason numbers will also get better with age, and soon enough the BBWA will join Stark, Neyer, Buster Olney and Peter Gammons in giving him their vote. As a Red Sox fan, I can only hope…

Here’s a video courtesy of the Associated Press showing plenty of photos and highlights, and stating plenty of more facts to help his Hall of Fame case:

Other Curt Schilling Videos:

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March 24, 2009 - Posted by | baseball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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