On Monday March 23, 2009, the great Major League pitcher Curt Schilling formally announced his retirement from the game of baseball.
Within nanoseconds of his much anticipated announcement, there were rumblings among many sports analysts as to whether Schilling had done enough to warrant induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
The majority of these analyses lean in the direction of no induction. The consensus has been that Schilling did not do enough over the course of his career to earn a spot in baseball's most revered shrine.
The biggest criticism has been that Curt Schilling won only 216 games in his pitching career.
Traditionally, pitchers are not considered Hall of Fame worthy unless they crack the 300 win mark. With that said, the number 300 is arbitrary. Several starting pitchers have been inducted into the Hall of Fame while failing to win 300 games [ex. Jim Palmer and Sandy Koufax].
In order to consider a candidate who played the game of baseball worthy of the honor of Hall of Fame induction, the committee has to evaluate the player's "value". His "value" is not only based on his individual statistical output but also his impact on his team's overall output.
Schilling was a 20-game winner three times over the course of his career. Each season which he finished with at least 20 wins, Schilling was snubbed of Cy Young Award honors. He finished runner-up in the Cy Young voting all three seasons, twice to his Arizona teammate Randy Johnson!
While 216 wins over the course of a 20-year Major League career may not cut it for some critics, Schilling's 11-2 record in the postseason should. Only former Cardinal great Bob Gibson boasted a postseason resume as impressive as Schilling's.
How many pitchers in baseball history have won a World Series start for at least three different teams? Only one...Curt Schilling (1993 Philadelphia Phillies, 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, 2004 Boston Red Sox, and 2007 Boston Red Sox).
Schilling's 3,116 strikeouts ranks him currently 14th on the all-time list. Bear in mind that among the pitchers ranked higher than him on that list includes the disgraced Roger Clemens. Also, bear in mind that Schilling ranks higher on that list than Hall of Famers Jim Bunning, Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, and Bob Feller.
In the case of Koufax, he failed to win 170 games! But, how can you argue against a man who had pitched 4 no-hitters [one of which was a perfect game] and a 2.76 career ERA?
In the case of Schilling, he failed to win 220 games! But, how can you argue against a man who cracked 3,000 strikeouts, won at least 20 games three times, and won World Series starts with 3 different teams finishing a career with the greatest postseason record of all time?
In the aftermath of Schilling's announcement that he was retiring, there were many articles written about his outspokeness and political incorrectness. Normally, I would never venture off the beaten path to address such trivial matters...but, I feel the need to do so in this case.
Listen up! Schilling is outspoken, provocative, and, on occasions, politically incorrect. So, this makes him wrong because...why? Hahaha.
Schilling was outspoken against steroid usage in baseball. So were we, the fans!
Schilling was outspoken about Manny Ramirez's antics while a player in Boston. So were most Red Sox fans [which I am not, just for the record]!
Schilling was outspoken about Barry Bonds' pursuit of a respected homerun record. So were we, the students of the game of baseball!
Schilling exercised free speech. So too do we, Americans all!
Grow up, sportswriters!
Schilling may be provocative. However, Schilling's provocative commentary parallels with a Davy Crockett, rather than an Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter's provocation is mostly senseless character assassination with very little of any substance to contribute to intelligent discussion and debate.
Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier and a former congressman, was provocative out of principle to show the entire political arena how pathetic its attempts to regulate and manipulate the nation were.
Crockett talked and walked the principled life...abandoning his home state of Tennessee for Texas when the latter was fighting for its independence from Mexico and gave his life defending the Alamo.
Schilling attacked the sinister activities going in the the game of baseball, which he participated in. He attacked players, union representatives, owners, and reporters. And every time he donned his uniform for game time, he gave 110%! He poured his heart and soul into every pitch, every motion, every delivery.
He may not have the impeccable pitching statistics of a Tom Seaver or the jaw-dropping impact of a Nolan Ryan...but he has the spirit and enthusiasm as any old-school pitcher in the days of old.
Many of the game's current pitchers cannot help but gripe everytime they feel the slightest tingly feeling going up their shoulders. Many starters fail to carry a start beyond 6 innings!
In 1998 while pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, Curt Schilling completed 15 games! While injured in the 2004 ALCS as a member of the Red Sox pitching against the New York Yankees, Curt Schilling came back in Game 6 of that series and won a critical start to even that series at three games a piece! How could we all forget about the bloody sock?
Schilling represents a breed of Major League pitcher that is dying off in the game today...gritty, tough, effective, and consistent.
Schilling's retirement leaves his kind in the form of Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. It is only a matter of time before those four walk the plank towards the vast waters of retirement.
And when these giants in the art of pitching move on, what would our current generation of pitcher look to for inspiration?
Such a dilemma can be offset and rectified. It begins with the induction of Curt Schilling into the Baseball Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2013!