When Curt Schilling broke from Thanksgiving dinner in 2003 with Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, I doubt even he knew what the next five years would hold for him. And if the last four seasons in a Red Sox uniform are his last in a baseball uniform, no one can deny that the big fella left a pretty indelible legacy on a city rich with legacy.
“I want to be a part of bringing the first World Series in modern history to Boston,” Schilling said. “And hopefully more than one over the next four years.” – Curt Schilling 11/2003
Little did Schilling know that his destiny was to achieve just that…or maybe Curt, as he often came across thinking he was, actually is smarter than the rest of us.
Curt Schilling’s legacy in Boston began the day he logged onto Sons of Sam Horn and started talking directly to Red Sox fans as gehrig38 and only grew through Octobers and injuries and interviews and most importantly Championships.
Whether or not Curt Schilling is “Hall of Fame” worthy is a question that has already and will continue to receive plenty of debate. One thing that I think the last five years in Boston have done was cement the hat that Curt would wear in to Cooperstown should he ever be elected. Despite 8 1/2 seasons in Philadelphia and a championship in 3 1/2 seasons in Arizona, the last few years have cemented Schilling’s connection with what is likely to be the last major league uniform that he wears.
Of course, the obituary on Schilling’s career may be a little premature given today’s news of the “positive” findings after surgery on his pitching arm revealed less Rotator Cuff damage than may have been anticipated. With a four to six month recovery period, a late season run next year would be possible should Schilling want to pursue a return to baseball.
Given his recent reflective post his blog however, you have to wonder whether he has finally come to peace with his retirement from playing the game he loves.
In his years in Boston, he has done everything that you could possibly ask of an athlete in this day and age both on the field and off. Instead of getting into whether you agree or disagree with his points of view, or you think he’s a self-grandizing media hog, both of which are personal reactions to Curt’s public persona, let’s focus on the on field dedication to succeed and rings that are proof of that success. Let’s also look at his off-field charitable work with ALS and the SHADE Foundation. Finally let’s consider that like him or not, he’s given unparalleled access of himself and his perspective on the game through the media, radio, forums, blogs, etc. He was nothing if not ever present.
On the field in a Red Sox uniform we’ll remember October 2004 before anything else. He was “the warrior”. But I will also remember his efforts to close games in 2005 after coming back from injury, filling a spot that wasn’t meant for him, but for which he was the only (even if flawed) answer. I’ll remember his near no-hitter against Oakland. I’ll remember his tremendous ability to compete in any situation that presented him.
The case for Schill’s Hall of Fame worthiness is already well documented. Instead of “re-analyze”, I thought I would point to two cases that I think make the best argument’s for Schilling’s eventual spot in Cooperstown. Obviously the post season success is a check mark far in his favor, 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA over 19 post-season starts with the 2004 drama (and bloody sock) already etched in the Hall of Fame awaiting his arrival. But it is the overall body of work that will most likely trip up Schilling’s chances at the Hall. Was he one of the best ever? Or the best of his era? Or was he just very good bordering on great?
ESPN’s Jayson Stark makes a pretty compelling case as he debates the “very intelligent” ESPN Fan Nation on this very topic. Looking at all right handed starters between 1992 and 2007, Stark unearthed the following;
“Schilling not only led all of them in complete games (with 83), but only one other righthander in the whole sport (Greg Maddux) was closer than 25 CGs away. Just Pedro Martinez had a better strikeout ratio than Schilling (8.59 K/9). Only Pedro and Roger Clemens had more strikeouts than Schilling (3,116), period. Just Pedro and Maddux had a better WHIP than Schilling (1.137). And nobody had a better strikeout-walk ratio. In fact, Schilling’s K/BB ratio (4.38 whiffs for every walk) ranks No. 1 among ALL PITCHERS IN THE MODERN ERA.” – Jayson Stark, ESPN
Pretty compelling regular season stuff right?
Another way to measure “Hall of Fame” worthiness is through the work of Bill James on the very topic as he created a variety of standards to aid in the prediction of a player’s selection.
Having read a variety of explanations of the numbers that you see at the bottom of each player’s Baseball Reference page, I thought the folks at Odds and Sods did as succinct a job as I could at translating;
“According the Baseball Reference tests, which are slightly modified from the Bill James versions, Schilling scores a 42 on the black ink test (how often you lead the league in a category). The average HOF score is 40. He scores a 205 in the gray ink test (how often you were in the top 10), The average HOF score is 185. In the HOF standards test, Schilling scores a 46, slightly below the HOF average of 50. In the HOF monitor, which tests how likely a player is to make the HOF, Schilling scores a 171 when the average HOF score is 100.” – Odds & Sods
Let’s quickly compare those numbers to another post season dominant pitcher looking at the end of a remarkable career in Atlanta; John Smoltz. Smoltz, whom I believe more people would respond favorably when asked about his “worthiness” of the Hall than Curt, scores a 34 to Curt’s 42 on the black ink test, 193 to Curt’s 205 in grey ink, matches Schilling’s 46 in the HOF standards test and falls 167 to Schill’s 171 in HOF Monitor.
You may often hear that Schilling will be a modern day “Bert Blyleven” whose candidacy’s defense is an annual rite of budding sabrematricians. But look at Blyleven’s Hall of Fame standards and you will see someone rightfully rewarded for longevity and consistency, but penalized for not being one of the best of his era. Looking at similar stats for Schilling, I don’t think the comparison stands. I’ll take Curt’s profile to the Hall everyday.
In fact, if you want to find a pitcher that looks alot more like Blyleven than Schilling, look no further than Mike Mussina. Sure Moose has 44 more career wins (260 and counting to 216) than Schilling, but I’ll let you answer whose career would be better served etched for generations to come to reflect on.
At the end of the day (if this is the end of the day or not), Curt Schilling’s legacy both in Boston and in baseball at large is worthy of all the accolades that are bestowed upon the game’s and the franchise’s best.
But don’t just stand there, give us your take on Curt Schilling! Vote in the poll to the right and answer whether or not you think Schilling merits Hall status. Leave your comments on Curt Schilling’s legacy in this thread and we’ll publish the best on Friday. Lastly, for the very brave…call into (360) 450-MVN3 or (360) 450-6863 and leave your comments to be played on this Thursday’s podcast with Paul and myself. As a special treat we’ll have Art Martone, Providence Journal’s Sports Editor and author of some delicious Baseball links over at the ProJo’s Sox Blog to give us his take on Schilling’s legacy.Read next
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