McAdam: On voting, the Hall of Fame and the Curt Schilling I once knew

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I watched the MLB Network coverage of the Hall of Fame announcement Tuesday night and something Ken Rosenthal said stuck with me.
The news Curt Schilling had dropped 16 votes ahead of the election, followed by Schilling’s 1,200-word screed in which he expressed his wish to be removed from the ballot, led Rosenthal to some introspection. He recalled first covering Schilling in 1988 when Schilling made his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles and wondered aloud what had happened in the past 33 years.

“This is not the Curt Schilling that I knew,” said Rosenthal, referring to Schilling’s last rants.

I found myself nodding in agreement.

I didn’t know Schilling until he joined the Red Sox in November 2003, although I had covered the unforgettable World Series between his Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees in 2001.

The Schilling I encountered when he was a member of the Red Sox barely resembles the Schilling of 2021.

Yes, Schilling could be outspoken and promote himself. Not for nothing … former general manager of the Phillies Ed Wade said of Schilling: “He’s a horse every five days and a horse donkey the other four.” ”

Schilling could fill out a notebook. He was insightful, selfish, outspoken, calculating and fearless. He had an opinion on everything and was not afraid to share it.

Our conversations, of course, generally revolved around baseball and the media. Schilling complained about my colleagues and what they wrote or said. Sometimes I defended them; sometimes, recognizing his point, I wouldn’t. I don’t remember a lot of political discussions between us, although it was understood that we were for opposite ideological ends.

What I remember most from those talks, however, is that Schilling was relentlessly competitive and unabashedly big-hearted.

He has worked hard to raise funds to fight ALS and to help military families. And as a veteran in a team full of stars, he has used his status to benefit others.

In September 2004, more than a month before the Red Sox continued to knock out the New York Yankees in the ALCS and then win the franchise’s first championship in 86 years, the team’s veterans reunited to vote on playoff shares.

It’s something every team vying for a playoff berth does every year. Essentially, Major League Baseball is asking teams how to divide the pool of money collected from the postseason gate receipts. MLB doesn’t care how the players vote and the team’s leadership doesn’t have any input. This decision is strictly up to the most senior players of a club.

It’s up to the players to decide how many full actions, partial actions, and cash rewards. (Each playoff team gets a certain amount from this pool, with the eventual champions, naturally, getting the bigger amount). The fuller the actions voted by veteran players on the team, the smaller each of those actions.

Teams often award half or quarter shares to players who, for example, joined the team mid-season, or to those called up at the end of the season. Some also distribute “cash rewards” – fixed amounts, like $ 25,000 or $ 50,000 to those who have contributed to the team in small ways, such as bats or members of the organization who help organize the events. team trips, etc.

Weeks after the Sox beat the Cardinals, it was revealed that the Sox had set what was then a record for most full-fledged actions ever awarded by a championship team. The Sox generously donated full shares to clubhouse attendants and other support staff, worth several hundred thousand dollars each. It was hardly typical.

“Money that changes lives,” said one person who received such a share.

Afterwards, I was told that Schilling was behind the gesture. (For those who suspected Schilling to be the source of this information, he was not). He argued that for gamers the difference between a whole share of, say, $ 300,000 and $ 250,000 was tiny, relatively speaking. But by including more non-actors in the cast of full shares, they could impact the lives of so many who weren’t earning seven- and eight-figure annual salaries.

Indeed, some have bought houses, paid off mortgages or paid tuition fees with this money. And indirectly, they have to thank Schilling.

This generosity of spirit seems to be lacking in Schilling today. These days, he seems much more interested in debasing others, creating straw men for his political arguments, and creating divisions. He pokes fun at members of the LGBT community, questions whether the students in the tragic school shootings were just paid actors, and appears to be arguing for the lynching of journalists.

So, no, it’s not a matter of politics. It is about humanity.

On Tuesday, after falling short of the votes needed for the Cooperstown election, Schilling launched a public crisis, saying he no longer wanted to participate in the process and asking to be removed from next year’s ballot in his last year. of eligibility.

Schilling also made a number of conflicting statements in his letter, saying on the one hand that he did not consider himself worthy of Hall while revealing that he had given it some thought and would like to represent the Diamondbacks of the ‘Arizona if elected.

Along the way, he explained that he would accept the dedication by a veterans committee (“men whose opinions really matter”) as a way to once again try to hit baseball writers, who, you know. … never played the game.

Schilling has long said that being inducted into the hall made no sense to him, but I don’t believe it for a second. I know how much he loves the game and how much he appreciates the history of the game. I also know what that would mean for his own legacy and how being in the room would be the ultimate validation for him – not because of the honor. was awarded by a group of sports journalists, but because of where it would place it: among the immortals of the game.

I voted for Schilling in each of his nine years on the ballot, and assuming his proposal to remove his name from consideration next year predictably falls on deaf ears, I will do it again one last time next year.

I don’t care who Schilling became, and while I enjoyed our conversations in the past, I’m not sure I would be interested in talking to him again.

But that doesn’t change my support for his playing career, which in my mind at least should be paramount in the voting process. And I admit it: changing his mind now and resuming my vote would confirm his worst suspicions about the BBWAA and I won’t give him that satisfaction.

In my opinion, Schilling takes a sort of pleasure in playing the martyr here. Every time he fails he gets to say, “See? I told you they were there to look for me! »I find it sad, and it reminds me a little Pete Rose, which I’m convinced prefers to be the outcast because it fuels his narrative and in some ways allows him to monetize his “bad boy” status.

Despite some of his nasty remarks and behavior, I hope Schilling gets elected next year.

I will hold my breath for his introductory speech then, and I hope, perhaps against all evidence to the contrary, that the Curt Schilling I have known – loud, opinionated, caring – will make an unexpected return.

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