Just as soon as the announcement of his retirement was published on his personal blog, the debate had started on whether or not long-time Major League pitcher Curt Schilling should be in the sport's Hall of Fame.
Sure, for a player as outspoken as Schilling, he has as many detractors as supporters, and you can count anyone tied to the steroid era on the list. But if Schilling was anything, it was a warrior on and the field, and an ambassador of the game off of it. He didn't top every statistical category out there for a pitcher, but he played his butt off, worked through injuries, and in the end, he won.
Leaving the game from the team that originally drafted him 23 years later, Schilling was a Red Sock through and through. The most substantive case being the fact that he strapped the team on his back to carry them over the Mt. Everest of curses, giving the team their first World Series Title in over 100 years.
Not only that, but did it while bravely featuring the one item that is so emblematic of not only Boston's great 2004 Championship run, but is also what Schilling himself has become, which is the ultimate Red Sock.
Sure, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski donned the red and white better than any other hitter could have claimed to, and sure they led very successful Hall of Fame careers. Legends of the game for sure, but they could never climb atop that Championship mountain.
Only Schilling, bloody sock and all, was able to do that, not only once, but twice. And even though Schilling made four stops prior to his final one in Boston, he will be remembered most for the time he spent with his back to The Green Monster.
While much of Shilling's career can be considered very mediocre, he really began to shine in his thirties. Traded to the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks in 2000 at the age of 34, Schilling was paired up with perennial ace Randy Johnson at the top of the D'back pitching rotation. It was the influence those two men had on each other, as well as a relatively young team, that helped lead them to become Champions.
Considered huge underdogs by many, Johnson and Schilling led the team to their first World Series title over the New York Yankees in a dramatic seven-game series. Sharing the World Series MVP (as well as SI's Sportsmen of the Year Award) of course were none other than Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
With that being the only Championship during his time in Arizona, it was the young franchise's first, and the list of accolades and awards received helped to catapult Schilling into the elite status among pitchers. While he was a Champion and at the top more often than not at this point in time, the only thing Schilling seemed to not be able to overcome was D'back teammate Randy Johnson in the Cy Young race, of whom he finished second to in 2001 and 2002.
While Schilling never won a Cy Young Award, there has never been a pitcher as dominant (especially in the AL East) over a collection of any three years such as Schilling was without winning the award. The only pitcher to make it to Cooperstown without winning the Cy Young was the recently inducted reliever Goose Gossage (2008).
Schilling three dominant seasons:
2001: 22-6, 2.98, 293 strikeouts. Finished second in voting to teammate Randy Johnson
2002: 23-7, 3.23, 316 strikeouts. Finished second in voting to teammate Randy Johnson
2004: 21-6, 3.26. 203 strikeouts. Finished second in voting to Johan Santana
In addition to his career-bolstering time in Arizona, Schilling really made his mark when he was traded from Arizona to Boston near the end of 2003. With everything he has done during the regular season, Schilling really made his mark in the postseason.
While many don't believe his regular season career stats don't warrant Hall of Fame consideration, his postseason stats are second to none. Touting an MLB best 11-2 postseason record with three World Series titles, Schilling has made his name in the postseason much like Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter, whose career stats are as follows:
W L PCT ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H ER R HR BB K WP HBP
224 166 .574 3.26 500 476 181 42 0 3449 2958 1248 1380 374 954 2012 49 49
Along with those statistics, Catfish Hunter also helped the Oakland A's and the New York Yankees to win five total (Oak 3, NYY 2) World Series Titles in the 1970's. Many believe that it was Hunter's postseason dominance that ultimately pushed him into the Hall of Fame. The same can be done for Schilling, who finished with the following numbers:
W L PCT ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP H ER R HR BB K WP HBP
216 146 .597 3.46 569 436 83 20 22 3261 2998 1253 1318 347 711 3116 72 52
While those numbers are eerily similar, it is the postseason performances of both men that have put Hunter in the Hall of Fame (inducted in 1987), and should catapult Schillling there as well. Schilling is now first eligible in 2013, along with the following underwhelming and controversial class (partial list):
Sandy Alomar Jr., Tony Batista, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Roger Clemens, Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Mike Lieberthal, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Damian Miller, Eric Milton, Russ Ortiz, Mike Piazza, Reggie Sanders, Curt Schilling, Aaron Sele, Sammy Sosa, Mike Stanton, Jose Valentin, Todd Walker, David Wells, Rondell White, Bob Wickman, Woody Williams
The infamous bloody sock is in the Hall of Fame; do you think its owner, Curt Schilling should join it?