Curt Schilling vs. the morality clause. Hmmm ...
The irony is not lost here that it took Curt Schilling's abhorrence to best expose the inherent flaws into Baseball Hall of Fame induction.
But it's time the keepers of the gate in Cooperstown clarify what's required of voters. What they're being asked to do — straddle the already thin line between subjectivity and objectivity — isn't merely unfair, but invites more controversy than necessary.
"Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played," the directive reads.
Record and playing ability are statistically based and, while providing room for debate, are generally objective. The problem lies with the "integrity, sportsmanship and character" part. Many of us have varying definitions for those terms. Put it this way: a .320 career average offers far less gray area than Gaylord Perry touching his cap before he threw a pitch.
The "integrity, sportsmanship, character" thing, otherwise known as the morality clause, was implemented in 1945. I'd like to think integrity, sportsmanship and character were more objective 76 years ago in a more innocent and unified country than they are now. The Hall of Fame needs to adjust to the times. Or at least acknowledge the times.
Under the category of sad but true: There are no longer objective definitions for integrity, sportsmanship and character. One guy's character is another's indecency. Schilling is the quintessential example.
Schilling has tweeted his support for the recent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He has equated Muslim extremists with Nazis, promoted a photo that encouraged the lynching of journalists (he called it "awesome"), disparaged the LGBTQ community, endorsed white supremacy, has a Nazi memorabilia collection and cheated Rhode Island out of $75 million.
And yet there are people who, like Schilling, support the insurrection, hate journalists, disapprove of anybody not white and straight, think the Holocaust never happened and would call defaulting on a $75 million loan an unfortunate byproduct of capitalism.
It's much harder to debate 10 straight years of 20 wins and 300 innings.
The United States isn't the same place as it was in 1945. What's changed? Everything. Asking voters to apply what was easier defined in 1945, compared to the morass of 2021, muddies and cheapens the process. And the product.
Hall of Fame officials need to double down or punt. That means either proclaim from on high that the morality clause has never been more important, encouraging voters to use their consciences to decide induction. Or forget about the whole integrity, sportsmanship and character thing and make this strictly about what happened on the field.
If they choose the former, perhaps the next Curt Schilling out there (and what a frightening notion on its face) may think twice about such a willing exchange of vitriol. Perhaps it would invite the next Curt Schilling to understand that he is free to spew hate — free as in not going to jail — but not free from certain consequences attached to the words. It might also inspire the next Barry Bonds/A-Rod to forgo steroids and maybe just eat more kale.
If they choose the latter, it's simply about what happens on the field. Put up numbers, say what you want, ingest whatever you'd like because none of it matters.
But asking for some combination of the two actually gives the Curt Schillings of the world what they crave more than hate and insurrection: attention.
Schilling's plight has always been fascinating. His credentials are borderline. His behavior is shameful. Perhaps a few more wins and a better spin rate during his career would make his words moot. Look at Ty Cobb. He was a cretin by all accounts. But he had 4,189 hits.
I'd like to see the Hall of Fame publicly acknowledge the tough spot voters face, but encourage them — loudly — to continue making integrity, sportsmanship and character count. But I'd totally understand if they didn't anymore. Many of us see a gray area between right and wrong. Just as we all know gray areas disappear with 4,100 hits.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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