While Some Say Yes, WFAN's Sweeny Murti Doesn't Think Ace Right-Hander's Political Views Matter In The Process

By Matt Higgins
WFAN.com

Curt Schilling’s numbers speak for themselves.

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Over 20 seasons, Schilling compiled a 216-146 record with a 3.46 ERA, 3,116 strikeouts and an 80.7 wins above replacement. He had more than 300 strikeouts in three seasons, including doing it back-to-back with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1996-97. He also appeared in six All-Star games.

Schilling was even more dominant in the postseason while capturing three World Series championships — one with the Arizona Diamondbacks and two with the Boston Red Sox. He was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA, capturing the 1993 NLCS MVP award with the Phillies and was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series with the Diamondbacks. And no one can forget the “bloody sock” game as he helped lead the Red Sox back from a 3-0 series deficit in the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees.

Those numbers, however, have yet to translate to a spot in the Hall of Fame for Schilling. He has been on the ballot for four years and received his highest percentage of votes in January at 52.3 percent, still well below the needed 75 percent for enshrinement.

But Schilling is becoming more recognized now for his comments and political leanings, instead of what he accomplished on the baseball field.

The former pitcher was recently fired from his position as a baseball analyst at ESPN following an anti-transgender post on Facebook in reference to North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom law.”

Last month, Schilling shared a post of a man in a wig, wearing a tight shirt, skirt and stockings with the caption: “Let him in? To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving racist bigot who needs to die!!!” In a comment underneath the post, Schilling said, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”

“ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated,” the network said in a statement.

It wasn’t the first time Schilling got in trouble with the network. Last year, he was suspended after posting an anti-Muslim tweet. Earlier this year, he said in a radio interview Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton should be “buried under a jail.”

Mark Viviano, the sports director for WJZ-TV in Baltimore, told CBS New York that “there may be a cumulative effect that hinders his election.”

“My guess is that some voters who may be on the fence regarding Schilling’s Hall of Fame worthiness will find it easier to not vote for him as he’s made himself a target of some derision with some of his social and political views,” Viviano said. “Whether those comments should or shouldn’t matter in Hall of Fame voting is a separate issue. Hall of Fame voting is subjective to a great degree and Schilling’s off-field, post-career negative publicity can only hurt him. I can see no scenario in which it helps.”

Viviano, who believes that Schilling’s statistics fall short of Hall standards, added that voters might want to avoid “controversial personalities.”

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“The Baseball Hall of Fame includes several members of questionable character, but in most cases, their career accomplishments outweighed their character issues. We can suggest a player’s off-the-field character after his playing days shouldn’t be a factor, but when people are voting on an exclusive club it’s likely they want to avoid controversial personalities, if possible,” Viviano said, adding that it’s a “popularity contest” in part.

However, Sweeny Murti, Yankees beat reporter for WFAN, believes Schilling’s comments “will have little bearing on his vote total” in next year’s election.

“I don’t think voters take into account his personal opinions on political or social issues,” Murti said. “I can’t speak for those holding votes, but this isn’t the first time Schilling has been involved in a controversy over his opinions, and to my knowledge, it hasn’t affected the opinions of those voting for him.”

Murti continued, “When Schilling’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame has been discussed, I haven’t heard anyone ever bring up any of his previous rants, commentaries, or viewpoints. Did he win enough games? Was he dominant in his era? How much do his postseason victories weigh in? These are the questions I hear when people talk about Schilling and the Hall of Fame.”

Murti also described Schilling as a “popular figure for reporters” because he was open to the press.

“Curt Schilling was an interesting player to cover because he spoke freely and openly. That is invaluable to the media, and not because it can create controversy,” Murti said. “We seek out interesting individuals and interesting stories. The more people who are approachable and open, the easier it is to tell good stories.”

Murti believes Schilling will get elected in a few years.

In an interview with Boston’s WEEI Radio in January 2015 following that year’s Hall of Fame voting, Schilling said he believed voters didn’t cast a ballot for him because he’s a Republican.

“When human beings do something, anything, there’s bias and prejudice,” Schilling said at the time. “Listen, 9 percent of the voters did not vote for Pedro (Martinez). There’s something wrong with the process and some of the people in the process when that happens. I don’t think that it kept me out or anything like that, but I do know there are guys who probably will never vote for me because of the things I said or did. That’s the way it works.”

Schilling fell 100 votes shy this year getting elected to the Hall of Fame.

He has six years of eligibility left.

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Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattHiggins80