Tomase: What to make of Schilling's lengthy letter to Hall of Fame originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Curt Schilling wrote the Baseball Hall of Fame a letter before missing out on enshrinement by 16 votes Tuesday, and it's a doozy. He thanked the Hall for its kindness, ripped the writers for their cowardice, and caromed between topics, emotions, and points of view like Jim Carrey in "The Mask."
Schilling wants all things all ways. He wants off the ballot and doesn't consider himself a Hall of Famer, but hey, maybe the veteran's committee disagrees. He's a self-proclaimed patriotic American who also applauded an insurrection. He declares himself fully accountable, and yet fails to address or acknowledge the specific Tweets and memes that have turned so many otherwise open-minded voters against him.
He'll wear a Diamondbacks hat if he's enshrined. Or maybe the Phillies. Doesn't sound inclined to consider the Red Sox. And man, does he hate Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, though Shaughnessy, enshrined in the writer's wing, seems poised to get the last laugh.
Schilling's screed was so gonzo Big Schill, it deserves the annotation treatment, so let's dissect it. (Note: all typos are his).
"Hey guys. Couple things. First off I am not sure I can express my level of gratitude and sincere appreciation at the graciousness, kindness and desire on all your parts to help me navigate this process. I can say at this point I am mentally done. I know math and I know trends and I know I will not attain the 75% threshold for induction."
This is classic Schilling, who can channel a polite Boy Scout like nobody's business. During his playing days, this often influenced the way he'd refer to owners or retired players or franchise icons as "Mr.," a trend he continues later in this jeremiad whilst ripping Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner, aka Mr. Henry and Mr. Werner.
"As I've stated often over the past years to those I've spoken with in my heart I am at peace. Nothing, zero, none of the claims being made by any of the writers hold merit. In my 22 years playing professional baseball in the most culturally diverse locker rooms in sports I've never said or acted in any capacity other than being a good teammate."
I'd generally agree with this. Schilling could be a look-at-me blowhard, but he wasn't malicious. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy covering him. I'm calling BS on the peace in his heart, however. The rest of this thing is filled with righteous anger.
"I've certainly been exposed to racism and sexism and homophobia as it's part of who human beings are. I've played with and talked with gay teammates. I've played with wife beaters, adulterers, assaulted, drug addicts and alcoholics. I've never hit a woman, driven drunk, done drugs, PEDs or otherwise, assaulted anyone or committed any sort of crime. But I'm now somehow in a conversation with two men who cheated, and instead of being accountable they chose to destroy others' lives to protect their lie."
He's talking about Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, of course, and oh my God is this disingenuous. No one conflates the three. Clemens and Bonds earned their scorn by cheating the game, and roughly 40 percent of the voters simply can't forgive them for it. I don't happen to be one of them, but I understand the sentiment.
Schilling's an entirely different case, in a bed of his own making. While some voters believe his career numbers fall short of enshrinement -- he was a borderline candidate before he ever tweeted -- those who choose to invoke the character clause aren't basing it on anything he did while playing. It's all the conspiracy-mongering and fever-swamping since his playing days. That's an important distinction, but Schilling never misses an opportunity to play the victim.
"Having said all that the media has created a Curt Schilling that does not and has never existed. It's one of the things that has allowed me to sleep at night. Not an ounce of that is to absolve myself of sin, Lord knows I've committed my share and will do so again. Never malicious, never to willfully or intentionally hurt another person. I was 100% accountable and still am. Even the thought of responding to claims of 'nazi' or 'racist' or any other term so watered down and rendered meaningless by spineless cowards who have never met me makes me ill. In modern times responding to such drivel somehow validates the claim."
This response is very convenient, especially once you get past magnanimously declaring himself capable of sin. Schilling has never understood the problem of liking a meme advocating for the lynching of journalists ("OK, so much awesome here," he wrote at the time), or sharing a grotesquely transphobic image during the days of bathroom bills, or retweeting a question of whether Parkland activist David Hogg could be a crisis actor, because hey, hands up, I committed no fouls, I'm just asking the question. And it's quite rich that he'd object to cries of "Nazi!" when yet another of his shared memes compared Muslims to Nazis.
Nope, that's all make-believe stuff the writers conjured in a bid to destroy his fine character. Mr. Accountability sees no reason to address any of it.
(It's also worth noting that the writers objecting on character grounds don't do so by invoking Nazism or racism, but general intolerance.)
"My love of this country has always been worn on my sleeve. My desire to do the right thing and be a good person has driven most of my life choices. I stood at my locker 400+ times after my starts and took every question and answered honestly. Those people who stood there asking the questions KNOW what they are claiming is untrue yet they quote, re-quote and link to one another story after story that began as lies and grew into bigger ones. The game has made it clear it does not want me back and that's fine, the game owes me exactly nothing."
Here he goes with the patriotism again. We get it. He loves America. He also answered all of our questions back in the day. This is true. But many conflicted voters have posted thoughtful explanations for denying him. They're not just dismissing him with a wave.
"But as I watch my wife battle cancer and go through the grueling soul crushing process of chemotherapy and see her hurt every time some idiot writes another hit piece linking to other hit pieces, none rooted in any sort of truth but rather story after story of 'what he meant was' and 'what he's saying is' and 'that's a dog whistle for' all the while providing zero actual acts or quotes of the claims being made I can't help but to go into deep conversation with my father. 'Never live your life trying to impress people you don't know, or who don't know you' and what that means in todays world.
"Being an aspie has allowed it to flow like water off a ducks back. But to see the hurt I'm causing my wife and to have my children read and hear this stuff and then look at me and try and match a public 'image' that in no way aligns with the man their father is, has been something I never considered."
Schilling's wife, Shonda, is battling breast cancer. He has been an outspoken advocate for children with Asperger's syndrome since his son was diagnosed over a decade ago. Schilling is right when he says he has lent his time and energy to worthy causes. A cynic might view the preceding paragraphs less charitably, but I won't go there.
"I do not and never will 'scoreboard' the cowards but if I'm not mistaken only Jamie Moyer and I 'swept' the humanitarian awards players can win. Awards meant to define who the true man is apart from the player. These same writers voted on those awards. Do those awards and 22 years absent of a single validating event to support their claims define me? Or does a 'what he meant to say' tweet?"
Again, Schilling willfully ignores the fact that no one is disparaging his acts as a player -- which is problematic in and of itself, if I may digress. It would be one thing if he committed a felony or participated in the Capitol riots or joined a hate group. It's another to be refusing him votes based off nothing more than speech, no matter how repugnant.
It shows how badly the Hall has hung both the writers and players out to dry with its amorphous character clause, forcing a bunch of journalists to act as moral arbiters when we're not exactly a saintly bunch, either. If the Hall doesn't want Bonds or Clemens or Schilling to be enshrined, then it should remove them from the ballot. Don't punt that responsibility to us.
Anyway, Schilling's charitable endeavors are admirable. They're also only part of the story, which he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge. If there's a benign way to reference lynching or transphobia or anti-Muslim sentiments, I'm having a hard time picturing what it would be.
"Based on the vote and the pike of dung authored by morally decrepit men like Dan Shaughnessy it's the latter. I cannot and will not say or do anything to possibly soften a weak willed man's opinion of me if it is not something I believe."
Say what you want about Shaughnessy the columnist (who remains the best in the business, in my opinion), but that man is good people. Sorry.
"I've chosen Arizona as the team I would have represented if I had been inducted and even though I heard someone there is calling for the DBacks front office to 'meet' should the induction happen I'll stand with that decision as I know Mr Kendrick to be an honorable and kind man. Should that change it most certainly would be the Phillies. What Mr Henry and Mr Werner did to my family and I in my final year has been forgiven but will never be forgotten."
Oooh, juicy. What exactly did the Red Sox owners do to Schilling in 2008, anyway? That topic is worth a separate story, which you can read here. Also, that's three Misters in one paragraph. So formal.
"If by some miracle this would happen I have zero interest in taking questions from the very group who lined up to destroy my character with no regard to anyone in my life or being held to account for their lies. I would and will talk with the guys on the MLB network if you want that, but no one else."
Something all parties can agree on. It would probably be in everyone's best interests for Schilling to enter the Hall of Fame quietly.
"I wanted to reiterate this final point. I will not participate in the final year of voting. I am requesting to be removed from the ballot. I'll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player. I don't think I'm a hall of famer as I've often stated but if former players think I am then I'll accept that with honor."
He saved the best for last! This I-am-but-a-humble-unworthy-ballplayer schtick has been Schilling's stock in trade since his first Hall vote. It's also classic doublespeak, or maybe even triplespeak, to (a) ask off the ballot, (b) offer himself to the veteran's committee, (c) declare himself unfit for enshrinement, and (d) allow for the possibility that maybe those ex-players who really know what's what will reward him with immortality. Whew! That's a lot of lifting in three sentences.
OK, here's the thing. I've voted for Schilling every year he's been eligible and imagine I will do so again one last time, unless the Hall strikes him from the ballot. His Twitter feed is filled with anger and grievance, and I honestly hope he can find a way to step back and find some peace, though I'm not particularly hopeful on that count.
All I know is he brought it every five days on the mound, especially in October, and he always gave us something to talk about.
In that respect, it turns out not much has changed.