The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown will announce the Class of 2017 on Wednesday. Who should be inducted? Barry Bonds? Roger Clemens? Vlad Guerrero? Mike Mussina? Tim Raines? (I said no because of the character clause).
How about … Curt Schilling? A 20-year career, 216 wins, 3,116 strikeouts (including three seasons when he struck out 300+).
Schilling’s post-season numbers are off the charts: He was 11-2 in 19 starts (including 4-1 in the World Series). He won the 2001 World Series MVP and is a three-time World Series champion, Just to sprinkle in some drama, how about the “bloody sock” game!?
This is Schilling’s fifth year on the ballot, and despite growing support over the last four years, voters have begun to discount Schilling. Why? Schilling, sound like a “conspiracy theorist” at times, suggests it’s the Hall of Fame character clause which states: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
“If you’re looking for a reason to justify not voting for somebody when their numbers are on the cusp, you can say, ‘Let’s go with the character clause,'” said Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. “It’s funny. There’s a lot of discussion you can have on the merits of Curt Schilling. But I don’t think his political views should play into that. That had nothing to do with his baseball career.”
Are voters “picking and choosing” when to invoke the character clause? I talked about this on the latest Voices podcast …
Does “character” count in Cooperstown? ESPN baseball writer Jerry Crasnick asked five Hall of Famers — Jim Palmer, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Tom Glavine and Craig Biggio: How much do you think the ‘character clause’ should affect a player’s Hall of Fame chances?
Tom Glavine: “When I hear that, it sounds like the fallback position for a writer when he really doesn’t want to vote for somebody. Maybe you think a guy used PEDs, or maybe he didn’t. Or you think, ‘He’s a guy I never really liked or got along with.’ Obviously the Hall of Fame is select company, and you want it to be good guys who represent the game well. But if you’re going to use it to keep guys out, that should be the biggest reason why Dale Murphy is in the Hall of Fame. He’s right on the cusp with his numbers. But if you’re going to point to the character clause, there’s not a nicer guy that’s ever played the game than Murph.”
Jim Palmer: “Gaylord Perry won over 300 games, I pitched against him and there were fingerprints all over the ball and the umpires looked the other way. Does that make him a bad guy? Does it make him ‘wily’? Does it make him have ‘guile’? Don Sutton erased (league president) Lee MacPhail’s (signature) from the ball on the last game of ’82, and the umpire kind of scoffed. That doesn’t make Don Sutton a bad guy. There were a lot of guys who scuffed the ball. Mike Scott won a Cy Young in Houston and the bottom was dropping out. Is that part of your craft? There’s not a clear-cut answer. Does it mean Gaylord Perry was a bad guy because he had fly-line stuff on his uniform, or whatever he used? It’s a tough call.”
Bert Blyleven: “If you talk to Jane Forbes Clark or Jeff Idelson (at the Hall of Fame), that’s always brought up: ‘What makes a Hall of Famer?’ It’s part of their formula and what they expect out of their inductees. I think the writers have to look at character and the history of the player. Are the numbers clean or were they shaded by the PED situation? A lot was brought up with Bud Selig being elected. There were articles saying, ‘If he went in, they should allow guys in who are sitting on the fence, and they should receive more votes.’ But if they let in those guys, then why not Pete Rose? As a player, Pete had more hits than anybody in the game of baseball. He was banned by baseball because of the gambling situation, but he didn’t tarnish the game the way some of these guys have.”