Saturday, June 21, 2008

Curt Schilling: Equal Parts Jerk and Hall-of-Famer

For the record, I don't really like Curt Schilling.

He's always angling for the spotlight, sticking his nose into places it doesn't belong just so he can be heard from and generally just acting like a schmohawk. Was that sock really bloody or was it just ketchup? I'm sure it was the former, but it says something about Schilling's personality that it is even a discussion.

Schilling says there's a pretty decent chance he's thrown his last pitch, but I'm here to say that there's a 100 percent chance that whenever he retires he's not just going to just go away. He might become a manager, or a (very) outspoken commentator, or whatever, but he's not going to pull a John Stockton and just fade into the sunset. He's never going to let us forget he's still around. He's too annoying to let that happen.

So, in that sense, I'm not the strongest advocate of Curt Schilling. Noted.

But now that it appears his career is over, the question, naturally, is being thrown around: Is he a Hall-of-Famer?

I was listening to one of ESPN's baseball guys (I think it was Olney) this morning and he said that if Schilling got in it would probably be on the 14th or 15th ballot. The 14th or 15th ballot? Seriously? How insane is that? Never mind for a second that it doesn't make any sense for an athlete to get into the Hall-of-Fame on the 15th ballot (what makes a guy Hall-worthy in his 15th year of eligibilty that didn''t make him worth in his first?), and ask yourself one question:

In a big playoff game, what starting pitcher from the past 20 years would you rather have had on the mound than Schilling?

We're talking about a guy with a career postseason record of 10-2, with a 2.23 ERA. In 2001, he teamed up with the Big Unit in Arizona to pretty much singlehandedly slay the three-time defending champion Yankees, starting three of the seven games and allowing only 4 runs in 21 1/3 innings. In the 2004 ALCS with Boston, after he allowed 6 runs in only 3 innings in a Game 1 loss to the Yankees, he bounced back and did his part to force that historic Game 7, giving up a mere 4 hits and a single run over seven strong. Last year, in the ALCS versus Cleveland, he gave up 5 runs on 9 hits in only 4 2/3 action, he took responsibility for a poor performance and manned up in Game 6, six hits and 2 runs over seven innings to force another Game 7 that would lead to another Sox World Series appearance and title.

But because he only has 216 career wins (and to a lesser extent, no Cy Young's), his chances at Cooperstown are considered Borderline at best. I think stats are overrated in all sports, but especially in baseball, where it often seems that raw numbers are the only thing used to determine a person's greatness. If you don't hit one of the milestones (500 homers, 3,000 hits, 300 wins), your case for induction into the Hall is greatly diminished. Well, Schilling has 200+ wins, 3 rings, and the best postseason winning percentage in history. He's the best October pitcher of my lifetime, right ahead of Jack Morris (who should be in the Hall), John Smoltz (who should get in), and Josh Beckett (too early to tell). You were always better off for having him on your team, he always came through when it mattered most, and we'll always remember him.

Isn't that what being a Hall-of-Famer is all about?

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