The Hall of Fame results were announced today, and much as expected, nobody was elected in the Class of 2021. Three players, with off-field issues of different kinds, got over 60%: Curt Schilling (71.1%, falling 16 votes shy of selection), Barry Bonds (61.8%) and Roger Clemens (61.6%). But all three came up short of the 75% line necessary for induction.
After the results were announced, Schilling made public the contents of a letter he wrote to the Hall of Fame. In it, he asked to be removed from consideration next year, in what would have been his tenth and final year on the ballot. It seems he decided it wasn't worth further hassle, especially with his wife currently undergoing chemotherapy, and prefers to see what the Veterans' Committee does, rather than the writers. But what I thought was particularly interesting was that, if he had been inducted, he asked the Hall of Fame to allow him to enter the hall as a member of the Diamondbacks. Here's the relevant section:
I’ve chosen Arizona as the team I would have represented if I had been inducted and even though I heard someone there is calling for the DBacks front office to “meet” should the induction happen I’ll stand with that decision as I know Mr Kendrick to be an honorable and kind man. Should that change it most certainly would be the Phillies. What Mr Henry and Mr Werner did to my family and I in my final year [with Boston] has been forgiven but will never be forgotten.
It's an interesting decision. Certainly, we in Arizona remember his exploits here fondly, in particular his teaming with Randy Johnson in the 2001 and 2002 seasons. That was an incredible 1-2 punch in pitching, which is among the finest ever, and may never be matched again. In 2001, they combined to go 43-12 and be worth 18.9 bWAR. The following year, they were a mind-blowing 47-12 and an even higher 19.3 bWAR. Of course, in the first of those seasons, they were unquestionably the reason why Arizona won its only World Series to date. Here’s just one stat: of the eleven playoff victories by the D-backs that year, Schilling and Johnson were responsible for nine, including all four in the World Series.
All told, Schilling did spend far longer with Philadelphia, spending parts of nine seasons there, compared to four apiece in Arizona and Boston. However, he only had a single playoff win in almost a decade there. Schilling had four here and six with Boston, winning further World Series rings with the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007, including the famous "bloody sock" incident. So you could argue a case for either of those franchises: Philadelphia has the longevity, and Boston the greatest success.
But there can be little doubt that Schilling was at the peak of his career in Arizona, from his arrival at the 2000 trade deadline, through the end of the 2003 season. Over that time he had an ERA+ of 148 and was worth 25.9 bWAR. In his four best years as a Phillies (1996-99), the comparable figures were an ERA+ of 137 and 22.3 wins. In Boston, 120 and 17.7 wins. In both 2001 and 2002, Schilling was runner-up to Johnson in the National League Cy Young voting, and was almost as unanimous a choice as the Big Unit.
Player opinion is not binding, when it comes to determining the cap with which a player is identified in Cooperstown. Though the player is involved, the final decision rests with the Hall of Fame. In 2009, its president, Jeff Idelson, explained the process:
We try to decide where the player made his most indelible mark... Our senior staff, our research team, they’ll look at a player’s career numbers and look at the impact. And quite honestly, it’s usually a no-brainer. Then we have a conversation with the player, because we wouldn’t do something unilaterally... If a player’s career is very evenly divided, we’ll give more leeway to him.
“Most indelible mark” is a rather objective criteria — again, you could argue for any of the three teams being the case for Schilling. But there’s no question that Arizona has a strong case, and the player’s endorsement is certainly significant. Though the decision now appears to rest with the Veterans' Committee, it may not be as long as I expected, before Arizona fans get to celebrate getting another Diamondback into the Hall of Fame.