Retired Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, in an interview on Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning, said that the collective decision by Hall of Fame voters to not elect a single player to Cooperstown this year was a clear consequence of the failure by players in the era in which he played to police the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the game. (To listen to the complete interview, click here .)
“I think, with a few exceptions, nobody knows [who used performance-enhancing drugs], so the whole lot of us are lumped in together. Nobody knows,” said Schilling. “We didn’t do anything about it. At the end of the day, we didn’t do anything about it. We knew about it. I think we all had an idea, a really strong suspicion, but we didn’t do anything about it. And we sat by, and we turned a blind eye, and I think this is one of the prices that we ended up paying.”
Asked what he would have done differently if he could have had the opportunity to revisit the era when steroid use was rampant, Schilling did not hesitate.
“I think I would have reacted to the first time [former pitcher and leading Players' Association member] Rick Helling stood up in a player’s union meeting and said what are we going to do about testing? And I think there were a lot of players who wanted to react,” said Schilling. “But I think it was one of those things, like everything else that comes from being in a game mentality, you’re afraid to go against the stream. And I think that’s one of the last times in my life that I didn’t.”
Schilling said that, if he were entrusted with a vote, he wouldn’t vote for players who cheated by using performance-enhancing drugs. At the same time, he acknowledged that, from the vantage point of history, it’s problematic that players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (as well as Pete Rose, who is banned from baseball — and hence, from Hall of Fame consideration — after gambling on the sport) do not have places in Cooperstown.
“I believe they were potentially the best hitter and best pitcher of my generation,” said Schilling (who also clarified that he thinks Greg Maddux, whom he expects to get elected to the Hall of Fame next year, is the best pitcher of all time). “But what does it say about the Hall of Fame if the leading home run hitter and the second-best or third-best pitcher of all-time and the leading hits guy aren’t in the Hall of Fame?”
As for his own voting results, Schilling said that he was extremely pleased with the support he received in his first year on the ballot. The right-hander, who went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA, a 127 ERA+ (meaning his ERA was 27 percent better than league average for his career) and a 4.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio that is the best of any pitcher since 1901, was named on 38.8 percent of the ballots, slightly more than half the 75 percent support that would result in enshrinement in Cooperstown.
“This whole thing was surreal for me,” said Schilling. “People were talking or people were debating about whether I belong in the Hall of Fame or not. How unbelievably cool is that? I’m good [with the results].”
Schilling acknowledges that he’s given some thought to the idea that, had he not spent nine seasons with the Phillies from 1992 to 2000, his numbers might look even more robust, thus boosting his candidacy further.
“That 10 years was detrimental to my win total, but I loved it there. I always thought we were going to be a competitor next year. I believed the ownership was going to make the moves the next year, because the fan base was so passionate and so adamant about pushing them to win and they never did,” said Schilling. “One of my last years, I had Ruben Amaro (the current Phillies GM who hit 16 career homers in 1,051 plate appearances) hitting cleanup for me, if that tells you anything. It was just a bad situation. I think about that. And I think about, in ’97, I signed my first big contract. I went 17-11 and I think I punched out 300 guys. And I had a sub-3.00 ERA. The opening day of that season, I signed a four-year, $24 million extension. Kevin Brown, after that season, signed a $105 million contract. That was the first big contract. So, you could play that what if game, but I don’t. I’m so blessed and so lucky. The game owes me nothing. It’s good.”
Schilling does feel that, based on recent awards voting for active players, Hall voters ultimately look beyond his won-loss record to more important indicators that would benefit his candidacy.
“I won’t think about this again until this day next year. But I also, when I do think about it, I think about a more educated base of voters,” he said. “I think you’ve seen, starting with Felix Hernandez winning the Cy Young and Zack Greinke winning the Cy Young with 12, 14 wins, I think you’re starting to see a move away from conventional statistics. As a guy who never bought into conventional statistics, I love it. It shows more interest.
“I still think the process needs to be tweaked,” he added. “I think voters should lose their credentials. I think if a guy gets over 90 percent of the vote and you don’t vote for him, you should lose your pass. If a guy gets less than 5 percent and you vote for him, you should lose your pass.”