Curt Schilling officially announced his retirement on Mar. 23, prompting immediate debate whether he should be worthy of inclusion in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown when he attains eligibility.
If you're a baseball purist, the answer is "no."
If you believe that the Hall of Fame selection committee must eventually loosen its tie to accommodate a changing baseball landscape, the answer is "yes, one day."
The record reveals that Schilling was several cuts above the average pitcher who at times dominated the opposition. He amassed 216 victories and 146 losses for a .597 percentage. His lifetime ERA was 3.46 and his WHIP was a tidy 1.137.
A six-time All-Star, Schilling thrice was runner-up for a Cy Young award.
Schilling's signature seasons came when he was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2001, at the age of 34, Schilling fashioned a 22-6 won-loss record with a 2.98 ERA. The following season, he went 23-7 with an ERA of 3.23.
It was in the postseason that Schilling arguably assumed Hall of Fame proportions. In 19 division and league playoff and World Series games, he posted a 10-2 mark with a 2.23 ERA over 133-and-a-third innings.
This is much better than the record of another "money" pitcher, Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees, who went 6-5 in 19 World Series games with a 2.71 ERA. Ford, of course, earned Hall of Fame plaudits due, in large part, to that clutch reputation.
Schilling's postseason brilliance will have to outweigh the fact that he "merely" won 216 games during his career. There is a logjam of modern-era pitchers who are not in the Hall of Fame (or ineligible at the present time) but won more games than Schilling.
These include: Greg Maddux (355); Tom Glavine (301); Randy Johnson (295); Tommy John (288); Bert Blyleven (287); Jim Kaat (283); Mike Mussina (270); Jack Morris (254); Jamie Moyer (246); Dennis Martinez (245); Frank Tanana (240); David Wells (235); Luis Tiant (229); Jerry Koosman (222); Joe Niekro (221); Jerry Reuss (220); Kenny Rogers (219); and Mickey Lolich (217).
It's likely that Andy Pettitte (215), Pedro Martinez (214) and John Smoltz (214) will eclipse Schilling's victory mark sometime this season.
Some of the pitchers named above, such as Kaat, Blyleven, John, Tiant, Koosman, Niekro and Lolich, pitched in an era when starters were expected to hurl a complete game.
Of these, only Tiant and John were dominant, as far as won-loss records go, for an extended period of time. But they all benefited from starting more games—and finishing them—than modern-day pitchers.
Schilling pitched during an era when a new baseball ethic was evolving that stressed saving unnecessary wear and tear on prized arms. However, this is hardly a mitigating factor in Schilling's favor since his contemporaries, Maddux, Glavine and Johnson, all won far more games than Schilling under the same circumstance.
Even pitchers such as Moyer, Wells and Rogers won more games than Schilling despite the inexplicable fact that their career statistics don't measure up to those compiled by Schilling.
Schilling's shortcomings as a Hall of Famer are manifest in his early career. He didn't put the pieces together on the mound until later in his career. From 1988 to 1996, he was merely a .500 pitcher at 52-52. Maddux, by the same age, had won his fourth Cy Young award.
Tom Glavine also had won a Cy Young and authored three 20-win seasons. Johnson, like Schilling, would become a better pitcher as he aged, but he had already captured 23 more wins than his future teammate at the identical point of their respective careers.
Under the present-day criteria, Schilling doesn't deserve a plaque in the Hall of Fame.
In five or 10 years time, though, Schilling's candidacy will be enhanced as its becomes apparent that capturing 200 career victories is a lofty achievement.
Outside of Pettitte, Martinez and Smoltz, who seemingly are on the downside of their careers, there aren't any pitchers on the immediate horizon who have a chance of matching or passing Schilling's career victory total.
Even fewer stand a chance of equaling his lifetime ERA and striking strikeout numbers.
Tim Wakefield (178 career victories), Bartolo Colon (150) and Livan Hernandez (147) are journeymen hurlers at this stage of their careers. Tim Hudson (146), at age 33, seemingly has a shot at 200 or more wins. Only Roy Oswalt (129), C.C. Sabathia (117) and Johan Santana (109) seem to have youth, talent and time on their side.
In the present context, Schilling possesses borderline stats for inclusion in the Hall of Fame. Yet, it's highly likely that only Santana, over the course of the next few 10 years or so, will be able to equal Schilling's career line. Seen in that light, Schilling will eventually have a compelling case for the Hall of Fame.
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