Curt Schilling's traditional path to Cooperstown is reaching a dead end.
The former Boston Red Sox pitcher failed to receive the 75 percent of votes needed to be inducted into the 2021 class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday. Schilling has one more year of eligibility left, but in a lengthy letter to the Hall on Tuesday, the 54-year-old requested to be removed from the 2022 ballot.
For its part, the Baseball Writers' Association of America sent the Hall its own letter Wednesday urging the board to reject Schilling's request and keep him on the 2022 ballot.
While Schilling led all candidates on the 2021 ballot with 71.1% of votes, the reality is that he's unlikely to close that 3.9% gap in one year, which means his Hall of Fame window has all but closed. Or has it?
At the very end of his letter, Schilling mentioned he'd "defer to the veteran's committee" on his Hall of Fame candidacy and closed with this line:
"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."
So, what is Schilling talking about? Here's a quick explainer on the Hall of Fame's "veteran's committee."
First, a clarification. The Veteran's Committee recently was rebranded as four separate Eras Committees that deal with candidates from four different time periods: Early Baseball, the Golden Days, Modern Baseball and Today's Game.
Each of those four committees features 16 members -- comprised of current Hall of Famers, MLB executives and journalists -- who consider the candidacy of those who didn't get into the Hall on the traditional ballot during their 10 years of eligibility.
Schilling would be considered in the "Today's Game" bracket (1988 to present). That committee was set to meet this year to vote on candidates for the Class of 2022, but as a result of COVID-19, it will now meet in December 2022 to consider candidates for 2023.
If candidates receive at least 75% of votes from their 16-member committee, they join the following year's Hall of Fame class. So, if at least 12 members of the "Today's Game" committee -- which in 2019 included Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux and Joe Torre, among others -- deem Schilling Hall of Fame-worthy next December, then he'll join the 2023 Hall of Fame class.
How common is a player making the Hall via this method, you ask? The short answer: quite.
The "Today's Game" board elected Harold Baines and Lee Smith to the Hall the last time they met in December 2018, while Jack Morris and Alan Trammell earned Hall of Fame nods in the "Modern Era" group the year before. In all, the veterans committees have elected a total of 173 candidates (101 major leaguers, 31 executives, 22 managers, 10 umpires and nine Negro Leaguers) to the Hall.
That history certainly doesn't make Schilling a slam dunk. If five committee members don't think he's Hall of Fame-worthy, he's not getting in. But regardless of whether he stays on the ballot in 2022, the road to Cooperstown is still open.