The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #25: Curt Schilling’s Year in Social Media

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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

Cancer kept Curt Schilling on the sidelines in 2014. Thankfully he fought and beat it and returned to the public eye in 2015. Boy howdy, did he make up for lost time.

In January he claimed that he didn’t get as many Hall of Fame votes as he should have — as many as, say, John Smoltz got — because he is a Republican. Never mind that Smoltz is a Republican too. In March he got praise for lowering the boom on a couple of awful people who tweeted vile and borderline criminal things about his daughter, getting one of them fired and causing a police investigation to be launched with respect to the other.

That stuff, however, was just a warmup for the main event: Schilling posting a tweet that equated Muslims to Nazis. He deleted it, but not before it created an uproar and brought considerable attention to Schilling’s habit of posting controversial political memes on Facebook and Twitter. In the past Schilling’s employer, ESPN, had largely ignored this stuff, but this time they were none too pleased, issuing a statement which said “Curt’s tweet was completely unacceptable, and in no way represents our company’s perspective.” They immediately took him off of his assignment providing commentary for the Little League World Series.

More significantly, Schilling was suspended from his primary job, providing color commentary for Sunday Night Baseball. Which, while a bad thing for Schilling, was a good thing for Jessica Mendoza. Just days before Schilling’s social media controversy erupted Mendoza, the former Olympic softball player and studio analyst for ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” became became the first female in-game analyst for an MLB game on ESPN, contributing to a Diamondbacks-Cardinals game. After receiving praise for that assignment ESPN almost immediately slotted her into Schilling’s place on Sunday Night Baseball where she remained for the rest of the season.

Mendoza has gotten glowing reviews for her work in the ESPN booth and, while Schilling is under contract with ESPN for another year, it seems likely that she will continue in that role. For his part, Schilling has been shifted to studio work and continues to post controversial things on his Facebook and Twitter pages.

One gets the sense that, after his contract expires in 2016, he’ll have a lot more time for Facebook and Twitter. Which is sort of ironic, as his Twitter handle — Gehrig38 — is a tribute to Lou Gehrig while his social media habits got him Wally Pipped from his broadcasting job.

 

Curt Schilling likely getting subpoenaed today for his Rhode Island shenanigans

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At the outset, it’s probably worth noting that a state authority in Rhode Island can’t enforce a subpoena sent to a person in Massachusetts. And, even if you’re the most adamant Curt Schilling critic on the planet, it’s hard to argue against the notion that the overarching investigation from which this subpoena is coming seems to be some pretty obvious political grandstanding. They would’ve prosecuted him for something if they could’ve come up with something, but this, now, is a political body trying to make political hay out of a fat target, even if he is an understandably tempting one.

All of that said, it’s funny to imagine what sorts of tweets and Facebook posts Schilling will fire off once the subpoena actually comes to his door:

Rhode Island House Speaker Nick Mattiello will sign a subpoena Monday compelling Curt Schilling, founder of the failed video game company 38 Studios, to testify before the House Oversight Committee, which is examining the state’s $75 million deal with the company.

The committee voted unanimously Thursday to issue the subpoena, and Mattiello’s office confirmed Friday he will sign it next week.

Given his track record I expect Schilling to compare Rhode Island with various communist and/or fascist regimes or perhaps the Galactic Empire. Too bad he’s blocked me on every social media platform this side of Friendster. Someone tell me if anything good comes of it.

Curt Schilling is still Curt Schilling-ing

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You’d think a guy who got smacked down by his employer for making controversial and politically-charged tweets on social media would cool it on social media for a while. But it’s Curt Schilling here, and no one is gonna tell Curt Schilling what to do.

During last night’s Democratic debate, Donald Tump was live-Tweeting the proceedings because, hey, this is where we are in 2015. He did an OK job of live-Tweeting, actually, adding to my suspicion that he’s really just acting like a psychopath in the campaign for the yuks and, in reality, is going to be quite content to go back to being just a moderately loudmouthed BusinessTainment person soon. Time will tell.

At one point, Trump asked for people’s opinion about who was winning the debate. Hillary? Bernie? Webb? Those other two dudes who, God love ’em, ain’t gonna be around come February? Schilling weighed in:

 

Per that stuff about the anti-Chase Utley signs at Citi Field yesterday, I’m going to rule that this, likewise, is in the realm of actually somewhat darkly funny comedy. Sure, the person with the signs didn’t actually believe that Utley supports ISIS and Schilling probably believes what he’s saying here, but that’s not a big deal. The net effect of it all is a laugh, so that distinction is not really important.

But one does wonder how ESPN feels about Schilling continuing to beat his drum like this. And, for that matter, whether Schilling doing so is itself a way of challenging them to do something about him like, say, making him some sort of free speech martyr who will command handsome speaking fees at the sorts of meetups where people who think your employer being displeased at you for something you say is an actual violation of your First Amendment rights.

For now, though, ESPN is not commenting. They’re probably too busy moving the “Jessica Mendoza: Sunday Night Baseball” graphics from the “temporary” directory to the “permanent” directory.

Curt Schilling to return to ESPN for the postseason

Curt Schilling
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ESPN has confirmed that Curt Schilling — suspended in late August for a tweet equating Muslims to Nazis — will return to the network’s airwaves for postseason coverage on Baseball Tonight. He will not be in the booth for ESPN’s live broadcast of the American League Wild Card Game.

They do not broadcast any other postseason baseball.

Schilling has one year left on his contract with ESPN and told reporters Sunday at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway that he doesn’t expect he’ll be moving on over the winter. But it’s not clear whether Schilling is going to return to Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts in 2016 or remain in a studio role.

Jessica Mendoza has been filling in with Dan Shulman and John Kruk. She seems pretty popular.

Curt Schilling’s co-defendants in the 38 Studios case settle out

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Fun thing: Curt Schilling, and others, are still being sued by the State of Rhode Island in the wake of the debacle over Schilling’s software company that went belly-up and cost taxpayers $75 million. Some of his codefendants, however, have settled, leaving Schilling as one of the few remaining defendants:

A judge has approved a $12.5 million partial settlement in a lawsuit over Rhode Island’s failed $75 million deal with former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s video game company 38 Studios . . . Schilling and others opposed the settlement, but the judge called it a good faith agreement and overruled their objections . . . The case continues against Schilling and others at the company, as well as others who were involved.

The case, filed by Rhode Island in 2012, alleges that Schilling and others engaged in financial misconduct, neglect, fraud, and conspiracy to deceive officials about the company’s financial prospects. The complaint says that the defendants “knew or should have known, but failed to inform the [Rhode Island’s economic development board] that 38 Studios was destined to fail according to 38 Studios’ own financial projections.”

In Schilling’s defense, and as virtually all of his post-baseball actions have shown, he is profoundly and possibly even pathologically unaware of when he is making mistakes, so I feel like there is some kind of good-faith-narcism defense he could put up here. Just spitballin’.