With Curt Schilling's retirement announcement today -- it was blogged, further evidence of the brave new world of journalism -- pundits are already starting to weigh in on his Hall of Fame chances.
Put me down for a yes.
My initial gut reaction was no way -- not with just 216 victories. Not when Bert Blyleven (287) and Jack Morris (254) and Tommy John (288) and Jim Kaat (283) can't get in. And Schilling doesn't have any Cy Youngs, coming closest in 2001 when he was runnerup to teammate Randy Johnson. He was also second to Johnson in 2002 and to Johan Santana in 2004.
But after doing some reading, researching and ruminating (the three R's of Hall of Fame decision-making) I've determined that Schilling is worthy.This decision didn't just come today. I began to ponder this issue last year, when it became apparent that Schilling's return was unlikely.
He's been an ace, or co-ace, on three highly successful teams -- the 1993 Phillies, which lost in the World Series; the 2001 Diamondbacks, which won the World Series; and the 2004 Red Sox, which won the World Series. He also contributed three postseason wins to the 2007 Red Sox, which won another World Series.
As Jayson Stark pointed out last year in making a case for Schilling, he led all right-handers of his era in complete games (83). Only Pedro Martinez had a better strikeout ratio (8.59 K/9). Only Pedro and Roger Clemens had more overall strikeouts than Schilling (3,116). Only Pedro and Greg Maddux had a better WHIP than Schilling (1.137). And Schilling's strikeout to walk ratio (4.38 strikeouts for every walk) is No. 1 among all pitchers of the modern era, left or right.
Schilling won won 20 games three times, had three seasons of 300 or more strikeouts, pitched 20 shutouts, was a six-time All-Star and co-MVP of the 2001 World Series.
What really puts Schilling over the top is his postseason performance. Two words: Bloody Sock. In 19 postseason games, covering 133 1/3 innings, Schilling went 11-2 with a 2.33 ERA. The only starter in history with over 100 IP with a lower career ERA is Christy Mathewson (Granted, not many pitchers have reached 100 ip in the postseason). The winning percentage is No. 1. If Hall of Fame cases can be made for Morris and John Smoltz based on postseason success -- and they have, and will -- then Schilling surpasses both.
Tim Marchman of the New York Sun wrote last June: "What gets a bit overlooked is that had Schilling never pitched a playoff game, he'd still be a deserving Hall of Famer. His topline numbers are terrific - 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA, 3,116 strikeouts - and they get better the more you look at them. When adjusted for park and league effects, for instance, his ERA is as good as Gibson's or Tom Seaver's, and he has the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in modern history. Only two eligible pitchers have won at least 200 games with a winning percentage exceeding Schilling's .597 and not eventually made the Hall, and one of them, Carl Mays, isn't in mainly because he killed someone with a pitch."
As Jim Salisbury of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out last June, Schilling also had the intangibles that define a Hall of Fame player.
I'm sure there are dissenters out there, but I'll have no problem casting my vote for Schilling in four years (not five, as "this gift" correctly points out, because Schilling didn't play last year).