The press is pretty selective when it comes to judging Curt Schilling’s character

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Jerry Crasnick of ESPN has a story wondering whether Curt Schilling has “tweeted his way out of Cooperstown.” The question presented is not a new one. It goes like this: Despite his baseball resume, has Curt Schilling’s outspoken and controversial public comments and social media posts turned off voters and harmed his Hall of Fame case? We’ve talked about that a million times here, obviously.

Crasnick’s story, however, provides an interesting wrinkle to all of this: it shows how selective and self-centered some in the media can be when it comes to this question.

Crasnick notes that, even though Schilling has been politically outspoken for some time, and even though he said and did controversial things before this past year, his vote total had been rising. His support went from 29% to 39% between 2014 and 2015 and then shot up to over 52% in last winter’s vote.

Now, however, early tracking of votes is revealing that Schilling, unlike almost every other candidate, is losing a lot of ground this year. According to Ryan Thibodaux, who keeps track of these things, 14 voters out of 80 whose ballots are currently known have changed their mind on Schilling, leaving him off ballots despite voting for him before this year. More will likely follow when final vote totals are revealed. Why? Crasnick:

While Schilling’s right-wing orientation risks offending the sensibilities of any left-leaning journalists, ESPN.com surveyed more than 50 writers who cast ballots this year, and only one (who chose to remain anonymous) said he gave the slightest thought to Schilling’s political orientation in casting his vote. Instead, evidence suggests a singular act six weeks ago might lie at the heart of Schilling’s dropoff in support.

The flashpoint came on Nov. 7 — amid the heat of the presidential election — when Schilling posted a tweet in response to a man wearing a T-shirt with the words, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.” Schilling expressed his approval, calling the shirt “awesome,” before the comment disappeared from his timeline.

Voters Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe and Kirby Arnold, from Seattle, both specifically cite the anti-journalist thing as the tipping point. New York voter Wallace Matthews was so upset about it that not only did he decide not to vote for Schilling over it, he gave up voting altogether and challenegd Schilling to a fight. It’s fair to assume that others who have changed their mind on Schilling did so based on the November 7 incident as well.

Which is kind of nuts.

I obviously carry no water for Curt Schilling, and in my view the “Rope/Tree/Journalist” thing was odious in the extreme. But how is that your tipping point on Schilling? He gained 13% in the polls a couple of months after he compared Muslims to Nazis and posted racially charged nonsense glorifying the Confederate flag. Earlier this year he slandered transgender people and made “jokes” about violence against political candidates which were not dissimilar to the comments he made about reporters. Yet it’s only when he turned his misanthropic gaze at the press that his suitability for the Hall of Fame was found to be lacking?

As I’ve said many times, I do not believe a player’s “character,” as judged by Hall of Fame voters, should enter into his candidacy. There are scoundrels and worse in the Hall now. There are a lot of guys in there who are thought of as good men who probably weren’t. No voter is in a position to be anything close to a fair judge on that score, even if someone, such as Schilling, makes it easier to judge someone in certain cases. “Character” is a complicated topic for even the most able of observers to assess, so it’s best for people who write about baseball for a living to steer clear of it when it comes to the Hall. As I wrote earlier this week, in my book, Schilling is a Hall of Fame baseball player, even if he’s a world class jackwagon.

But if you’re a Hall of Fame voter who believes that a candidate’s character should enter into the matter, Curt Schilling gave you plenty of ammunition to use against his case before the reporter comment on November 7. That, at least to some voters, going after the press is disqualifying when his equally hostile and dismissive comments about many other groups of people — most of whom are far more marginalized by society than the press — were not is sad.

Sad and telling.

Red Sox to extend protective netting at Fenway Park in 2018

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The Red Sox are the latest team to extend the protective netting at their ballpark this winter. According to a statement by club president Sam Kennedy, the exact dimensions of the netting have yet to be determined, but it will likely stretch “all the way to Field Box 79, down the left field line and then all the way down to almost Canvas Alley in the Field Box 9 area.”

Fenway Park received additional protective netting prior to the 2016 season, when the netting behind home plate was lengthened to the home and visitor dugouts. Per Kennedy’s statement, the current expansion should cover everything but the outfield corners, making it nearly impossible for a line drive foul to reach fans in the lower boxes.

After a toddler sustained serious injuries from a 105-MPH foul ball to the face at Yankee Stadium last September, over half of all MLB teams decided to take more extreme preventative measures in advance of the 2018 season. The Brewers, Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Twins and Indians are among the organizations to address the issue over the last several years, while others have yet to take significant action.