For the first time since 2013, no players were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Eight years ago, that was a frustrating fact. The ballot was bloated with plenty of deserving candidates, several of whom were elected in later years, and yet, the BBWAA decided not to award its top honor to any of them.
In 2021, several players are deserving, but that no player will be enshrined in Cooperstown is simply relieving. Thanks to Ryan Thibodaux’s ballot tracker, we knew before the announcement that the only player with any shred of a chance for election was Curt Schilling.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens came close again, and I’d like to believe that what’s keeping them out is Bonds’s domestic abuse allegations and Clemens’s inappropriate relationship with Mindy McCready. Instead, most voters are holding the pair’s use of steroids against them.
Schilling missed induction after months of established baseball writers bending over backwards to justify voting for someone who, since hanging up his cleats, has advocated for the lynching of journalists, repeatedly posted transphobic and anti-muslim memes, and just this month, supported the insurrection at the Capitol.
The last transgression was the final straw for some writers who could excuse Schilling rubbing elbows with white supremacists but drew the line at Schilling cheering on white supremacists. Some requested that the Hall allow them to change their votes for Schilling which the Hall refused on the grounds that it would set a dangerous precedent. I don’t know how many Hall of Fame candidates are expected to support a coup attempt incited by a reality TV show host in the future, but if/when it happens again, the BBWAA better make sure they haven’t sent in their ballots yet.
We’ve been spared a scenario where Schilling got to have his cake and eat it, too. Had he earned induction, he could have had the honor while simultaneously getting to play the victim, decrying the “woke mob” who set out to cancel him. Schilling has already requested to be removed from next year’s ballot because he’d rather take his chances with the veteran’s committee. Schilling would have won while the Hall and its draconian immutability, the writers who became aware of Schilling’s repugnance at the 13th hour, and marginalized baseball fans who actually are victims of Schilling and people like him all would have lost.
If the Hall denies Schilling’s request, he has one more year of eligibility which means that this time next year, we may again be knee-deep in articles about nobly holding one’s nose while checking the box next to Schilling’s name. Or, writers like Ken Rosenthal might come to the conclusion that if they feel “sick-to-my-stomach” casting a ballot for Schilling (or Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens or Andruw Jones or Omar Vizquel or Todd Helton), they could simply not do that.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.