Curt Schilling doesn't want my pity or my Hall of Fame vote, but he's getting both anyway.
The former Red Sox right-hander is on the verge of successfully shooting himself out of Cooperstown, a metaphor the Second Amendment lover can no doubt appreciate. A year ago, Schilling asked the Hall to remove him from the ballot rather than put his fate one final time in the hands of the "spineless cowards" of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
The Hall declined, but it appears Schilling will get his wish anyway, such as it were, because after falling 16 votes shy of election last year, Schilling is shedding support like a baby rattler, at least according to Ryan Thibodaux's invaluable ballot tracker at Not Mr. Tibbs.
He has lost 13 votes already while polling around 57 percent. He will need to be named on nearly 85 percent of outstanding ballots to reach the 75 percent threshold for enshrinement. Seeing as he topped out at 71.1 percent last year and most shares drop once all votes are counted, he's almost guaranteed to be kicked to the veteran's committee for future consideration.
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That's what he told the Hall he wanted in a classic bit of Big Schill doublespeak: "I'll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player. I don't think I'm a hall of famer as I've often stated but if former players think I am then I'll accept that with honor."
The logic is suitably twisted -- Schilling doesn't think he's a Hall of Famer, and neither do the writers, but they're cowards, so let the ex-players decide -- but it's all part of whatever Schilling has become over the last decade, an increasingly isolated figure who's no longer a part of baseball in any public way and whose occasional Fox News appearances classify him as little more than a fringe political figure. Let's go Brandon, or something.
It's hard to say exactly what mix of politics, pugilism, and personality are working against him, but he has alienated enough Hall voters to turn a borderline candidacy into a hopeless one. And that's a shame only insofar as I've never really understood the "borderline" argument. He won over 200 games and struck out over 3,000, retired atop the strikeout-to-walk leaderboard, and might be the greatest postseason pitcher ever. What about that is borderline?
To me, nothing. So now we're going to talk about pity.
Sean McAdam at Boston Sports Journal wrote a tremendous column on Schilling last January that basically asked, "What happened to this guy?" (Unfortunately, I can't find a working link). He noted Schilling's charitable work, his push to pay full World Series shares to anonymous Red Sox staffers in 2004, and how much he made for good copy.
Because of our opposing political views, Schilling and I would occasionally be pitted against each other on WEEI, and I actually enjoyed the ludicrous spectacle of him calling me gutless while I labeled him unhinged. It generated some buzz, and I didn't take it personally when he devoted Periscopes to my idiot liberal tendencies.
Somewhere along the way, though, we lost him. Maybe it's because of the self-inflicted beating he absorbed over stupid memes that cost him a job as ESPN's lead baseball analyst -- a role he excelled in every bit as much as former rival John Smoltz -- but Schilling became incapable of showing contrition or even laughing at himself.
He defensively noted that he never broke any laws or failed a drug test or crossed the kind of lines that are keeping some true reprobates out of the Hall. And on that point he's right, although as is typically the case with Schilling, it's only telling half the story.
He counterpunched after highlighting anti-Muslim and anti-trans memes, denying malicious intent, lobbing accusations at coworkers, and just making it all worse. An ounce of self-awareness might've put him back on the air, because Schilling's a gifted broadcaster and storyteller when he's not angry and aggrieved, but he just didn't have it in him.
This is the point where he'd almost certainly scream, "YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW ME!" and to that I'd say sure, but there's no reason to be ostracized from the game, if he'd just meet people halfway. After all, Alex Rodriguez's crimes against baseball were far worse than Schilling's, and he's now one of the leading analysts on television, which is a travesty, given their relative talents in that arena.
A-Rod, incidentally, is trending about 10 percent behind Schilling in his first year on the ballot (he didn't get my vote), but that number is likely to rise in coming years, Rodriguez's faults smoothed over by his ubiquity.
Schilling doesn't have that luxury, but at least he won't be our problem anymore. This is his last year on the ballot, and once the results are announced later this month, he'll never have to worry about a writer checking his box again.
I won't lie. The bleeding heart in me feels bad for the guy and the choices he made that led him only to the doorstep of Cooperstown. I'm confident he wants no part of my pity, but deep down, I bet he feels even worse about the snub.