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.