Could the Baseball Hall of Fame Remove an Inductee?

In the wake of the recent decision to change the name of Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street, writers like me are wondering if the National Baseball Hall of Fame will follow a similar path. Hall of Famer Cap Anson, the first player to reach 3,000 hits (though that’s debatable), is largely responsible for segregation in baseball. Then there’s Hall of Famer George Weiss, who was general manager for the New York Yankees and New York Mets. According to the book Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee, Weiss allegedly once said out loud at a cocktail party that he “would never allow a black man to wear a Yankee uniform.” So it is possible that we might see the Hall of Fame remove inductees like Anson and Weiss? The short answer is no.

This notion is difficult to consider. On one hand, no one wants racists in the Hall of Fame.hall of fame remove On the other hand, do we risk erasing history? Many writers say no. “…without them we wouldn’t be able to understand history,” says baseball writer Don Tincher. “I’m not a big fan of destroying the past even if we don’t like it. We need to use things like that to teach others.”

“I think the HOF should simply be based on merit, how they played and performed in the game,” says Erik Sherman, author of Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond. “If we start going down a path of who was a model citizen and who was not, it becomes a slippery slope.”

It’s safe to assume that removing inductees from the Baseball Hall of Fame would quickly become a catastrophe. The Hall of Fame could remove Anson and Weiss. However, calls for the removal of other players would make all the inductees vulnerable, making the Hall of Fame a shrine of questionable morals instead of a shrine to baseball talent.

We Won’t See the Hall of Fame Remove Controversial Inductees, but The BBWAA Will Keep them Out

We likely won’t see the Hall of Fame remove inductees anytime soon. It’s fair to say though that there’s a few eligible former players who won’t make it in because of their inflammatory views and ideas. In the summer of 2015, Curt Schilling sent a tweet equating Muslim extremists with Nazi Germany. Schilling, a six-time All-Star and three-time World Series Champion, received 45% of the vote in 2016, thirty points fewer than needed for induction. While he received 51.2% this year, one cannot deny that Schilling’s inflammatory comments are hurting his chances for induction.

In my opinion, Schilling’s inability to get enough votes for induction reflects the Baseball Writers Association of America’s (BBWAA) belief that there is no more room for players with controversial views in the Hall of Fame. Many make the valid argument that consideration for induction should rely solely on their numbers and actions on the field. But where do you draw the line?

I’m not calling Schilling a bigot; I really don’t think he is. But it’s hard to look past his comments. Major League Baseball wants to promote and celebrate diversity and inclusion. With that said, I can’t see someone like Schilling getting inducted. The MLB doesn’t really have a say in who gets inducted each year. However, it’s clear that the induction of players whose views contradict Major League Baseball’s policy on diversity and inclusion could become a can of worms that the Hall of Fame and the MLB don’t want to open.

The Baseball Hall of Fame probably won’t go the way the City of Boston did with renaming Yawkey Way. It’s also unlikely we’ll see the Hall of Fame remove any players. But that doesn’t mean that the BBWAA and the Veterans Committee won’t scrutinize future candidates. Their opinions, regardless of whether they have anything to do with baseball or not, shouldn’t parallel someone like George Weiss’.

Schilling’s Numbers Are Not Hall of Fame Worthy

Curt Schilling is no stranger to controversy. In recent years, the former Red Sox ace has found trouble over the way he expresses his controversial beliefs. The debate has increased since becoming eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013. Most Bostonians would vote for Schilling’s induction in a heart beat, but it’s not up to us. It’s up to the Baseball Writers Association of America and right now they’re not too fond of Schilling. I wouldn’t vote him in because Schilling’s numbers don’t warrant induction.

Much of the debate swirling around Schilling centers on his behavior. Many argue that hisSchilling's Numbers reputation for being hard to work with as well as his hardline political views are keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. That very well may be true. For me though, my opinion that he doesn’t deserve induction isn’t based on who he is or what he thinks. It’s the fact that his numbers, while strong, aren’t stellar enough to deserve induction.

Schilling has respectable numbers. He struck out over 3,000 batters, won more than 200 games, and played on three World Series-winning teams. Being a six-time All-Star, a World Series MVP, and winning 20 or more games in a season three times isn’t anything to forget about either. These numbers and accolades reflect an extraordinary career but fall short for many reasons.

First, there’s plenty of other pitchers that aren’t in the Hall of Fame who posted much stronger career stats than Schilling’s numbers. Luis Tiant, another former Boston ace, had more 20 game-winning seasons and retired with a lower ERA. Jim Kaat not only played in four different decades, but also racked up 283 wins and 16 Gold Glove Awards. Then there’s Tommy John, a four-time All-Star whose name is synonymous with career-saving surgery for pitchers. While none of these three men topped 3,000 strikeouts, or played a key role in winning a World Series, their contributions to baseball outweigh Schilling’s.

Going back to Schilling’s numbers, it’s his post-season stats that most people focus on as justification for induction. He won eleven games in the post-season, was named the 1993 NLCS MVP, and the 2001 World Series MVP. There’s also the bloody sock! Again, these stats are amazing, but no so much that they merit a place for him in Cooperstown. Additionally, Schilling isn’t the only one to accomplish such great feats (except for the bloody sock, that WAS an amazing). Jack Morris, who won four World Series titles, was the 1991 World Series MVP after throwing 10 innings in Game 7 to win it for the Minnesota Twins. By the way, Morris had much better numbers than Schilling and he’s not in the Hall of Fame either.

Schilling’s Numbers Don’t Warrant Induction

Schilling is a long ways away from crossing the necessary 75% threshold for induction. He received only 38.8% of the votes in 2013, and 39.2% last year. He might gain more votes if he decided to tone down his political views, but he’s entitled to say what he wants.  However, he can’t control the way others respond to him, including the Hall of Fame voters. If he had stronger numbers, voters might choose to shrug off his views and vote him in. But Schilling doesn’t have the numbers.

Playing Major League Baseball is for the exceptional. But induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame is for the elite. Curt Schilling was no doubt an exceptional player.

But among the elite? No.