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June 20, 2008

Is it the end?

"22 years ago June the Boston Red Sox picked a Freshman Pitcher from Yavapai Junior College (the best JC team in the nation btw!) in the 2nd round of the (Last!) January Draft. 3 World Series rings, 3k innings plus later, there’s a chance it’s all over."

THAT is what greeted Red Sox Nation when they logged on to Curt Schilling's website this morning.

Admittedly, when I read earlier in the week that Schill's rehab had reached a "plateau"...I was optimistic. I mean, here's a guy who seemingly has looked career ending injuries in the face and much like how he treated the 2001 (or 2004 for that matter) Yankees, did what he always has done...he threw the ball.


Schilling has met nearly every challenge put in front of him and I had no reason to think that this one would be any different. I wrote the following last October...PRIOR to Game Two of the Red Sox-Rockies game. I think it is a fine time to relive it...whether Curt's career over or not.

Curt Schilling was scheduled to take the bump. Prior to the 2004 season, Schill was brought in to do EXACTLY what Josh Beckett was brought in to do a couple years later. HOWEVER…the media, for some reason, was pretty much writing him off. Apparently his blood soaked star had fallen.

Memo to newswriters...Schilling was Josh Beckett BEFORE Beckett was Beckett.

He was the NLCS MVP in 1993 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Almost ten years later (in 2001), he followed it up by being named the World Series Co-MVP alongside Randy Johnson. I won’t even mention the “bloody sock” (maybe) or his postseason winning percentage.

Curt is good…DAMN good.

That being said, is he Hall of Fame good?

My buddy E talks about the “smell test”. Does a player pass the Hall of Fame smell test? If so, you look deeper and see whether or not he is worthy. EXAMPLE: a guy like Tim Raines smelled like a Hall of Famer at one point…now he smells of Kenny Lofton. Since we’re talking lead off hitters (for some reason) a Rickey Henderson smells like fine wine aged to perfection.

That being said…Schilling smells like a rose.

216 victories, 3116 strikeouts, FOUR top five finishes in the Cy Young voting, six All-Star games…not too shabby for a kid out of Anchorage, Alaska. When it comes to his strikeout to walk ratio…only one pitcher was better and he last toed the rubber in 1884. He died, ironically enough, in Boston.

All that said…if you look closer, Schilling, like Raines, doesn’t smell as good as you would initially think.

True, his postseason stats are phenomenal…but you can’t induct him on that alone. Sure, they warrant mention, but induction based SOLELY on that…um, no. If so…open the doors to Bernie Williams, Cooperstown!

216 wins, while impressive, only ranks him eighth among all active pitchers. Four of the seven ahead of him on the list (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson) are WAY ahead and certain Hall of Famers. The other three (Mike Mussina, David Wells and Jamie Moyer) couldn’t pass the “smell test” if they carried Pedro Martinez around in a headlock.

Add to the 216 wins that Schilling’s win percentage is .597 and you’ve got, over the span of his career, a very good pitcher…not a great one.

Strikeouts. Schilling’s four years of 290-plus Ks are crazy good. Of the 13 pitchers with MORE than Schilling’s 3116, only Bert Blyleven is not in the Hall, while Unit, Clemens and Maddux will surely go in when the time comes. Consider that 1228 of his strikeouts came in the afore mentioned four 290-plus years, and that he’s only got ONE 200 K season outside of that…the 3116 seems kinda suspect.

What I’m saying is this…give me 12 to 15 years of 200 or more strikeouts and I’d be MORE impressed than Curt’s five years of 200-plus scattered over a twenty year span.

I liken to Schilling to Sandy Koufax…kinda. Both of their legend has been based on a handful of select years. Koufax, however, did his in consecutive years at the end of his career before he fell victim to an arthritic wing.

Schilling spread his out over a couple of decades.

He was a stud in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2004 (an 83-30 record and 1031 Ks)…but that was about it. You COULD make an argument that outside of the win/loss record (8-9), Schilling was on his way to a GREAT 2003 season before he got injured...which happened WAY too often.

Curt was, undoubtedly, MUCH better over the second half of his career compared to the first. Hell, he’d even agree to that and he doesn’t like ANY of the unfavorable press he gets!

Koufax, over his last four seasons, notched a 97-27 record and 1228 strikeouts. So, yeah, not EXACTLY the same, but Sandy had nearly 200 more innings pitched than Curt.

Watching Curt Schilling work, he carries himself like a sure-bet Hall of Famer who is winding down a great career…but so did Jack Morris. Putting him into perspective, he starts to come across like many of the pitchers that have made it into the Hall over the last 20 years…he’s a guy with some longevity, a handful of years of greatness and some postseason success. And that's not a TERRIBLE thing...just ask Don Sutton, Phil Niekro or Gaylord Perry.

Arguably, he wasn’t always the best pitcher on his staff and only a few times would he have been considered one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. He never brought home the hardware that Cooperstown LOVES to look at (a la Robin Yount’s TWO MVP awards), but he was solid. He has a respectable ERA (3.46) a couple of World Series rings and is a great character.

First ballot guy…probably not. He’ll be competing (potentially) with the likes Clemens, Maddux and Glavine as far as starting pitchers go. Take into account that there will be a slew of position players also vying for their enshrinement and it might take Schilling a while to get through the doors.

Let me know what you think…how does Schilling smell? Does he pass the test or just get tossed aside like some bloody, old sweatsock?!?

***Note: In October when I first asked "is Curt Schilling a first ballot Hall of Famer?" here were the results...Yes-10%, No-90.***

BallHype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...

If they put Schilling in, they better get prepared to open the doors for Blyleven and Jim Kaat. Oh yeah, and Peter Edward Rose too!!!

-Redlegger in the Fort

Jesus said...

Blyleven and Kaat will get in thanks to the veterans committee. Rose? Hmmm...I think I recall him being banned.

As far as Schilling compared to the first two you referenced...neither Blyleven or Kaat were THE dominant pitcher of their time. Their win totals (both 280+) are inflated due to the four man rotation and longevity...NOT dominance. Combined, they had four 20 win seasons (accounting for a 66-40 record) whereas Schilling's three 20 win seasons netted a 66-19 record.

If you're going to look at Schilling, better RECENT comparisons would be Kevin Brown or Orel Hershiser. Throw either one of them (or Jack Morris) into the conversation and you've got a case.

Which brings me to...POST SEASON.

Schilling's personal highlight reel is a "best of" compilation of the top post season moments of the last eight years. And yeah, there are the "a good post season career does not a Hall of Famer make" fans out there...but I disagree.