The induction ceremony at the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 26 should be a joyous event.
Yankees fans will flock to Cooperstown for Derek Jeter and the expectation is plenty of folks will come down from Canada to celebrate Larry Walker. Ted Simmons will attract loyal Cardinals fans and baseball will finally convey its highest honor on the late Marvin Miller.
But in 2021, there’s a good chance that the only living inductee will be one Curtis Montague Schilling.
Schilling finished third in the balloting done by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America this year with 278 of the 397 ballots cast, only 20 votes shy of the required 75 percent.
Schilling is on track to reach 75 percent next year in what will be a wide-open ballot.
The highway is clear for him with the BBWAA having elected 13 players in the last four years.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have gained little traction in recent years. Omar Vizquel could eventually get there but is unlikely to make the leap from 53 percent to 75 percent in one year.
The most prominent newcomers to the ballot next year will be Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, and Torii Hunter. All were fine players but unlikely Hall of Famers.
The Golden Days and Early Baseball committees will meet in December to assess candidates who made their greatest contributions to baseball prior to 1969.
They could elect a player or executive, but it may not necessarily be somebody who is still alive, unless Dick Allen, Jim Kaat or Tony Oliva makes it through.
It’s easy to envision Schilling with the spotlight all to himself.
Schilling has climbed 25 percent in the last three years since dropping to 45 percent in 2017 after he voiced support for a T-shirt that advocated the lynching of journalists.
Since 1966, 24 candidates have received at least 70 percent but fallen short of 75 percent. Three were in their final year of eligibility. Of the other 21, as Jay Jaffe of Fangraphs pointed out, all but Jim Bunning were voted in the next year.
Many BBWAA members, myself included, choose to judge Schilling on his baseball accomplishments and overlook his offensive comments. That’s not always easy to do considering some of the hateful people Schilling has promoted and the conspiracy theories he has championed.
Take away the controversies and Schilling is easy to support. He is 15th all time in strikeouts with 3,116 and has the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.38) in modern history among pitchers with at least 1,700 innings.
Schilling also was a key member of three World Series champions and one of the best pitchers in postseason history at 11-2 with a 2.23 earned run average in 19 starts.
He never won a Cy Young Award but finished second three times.
Of course there is a caveat: What’s sure to be a hotly contested presidential election is coming up in November and the BBWAA ballots will go out to voters a few weeks later.
Can Schilling avoid saying or posting something so offensive that it would prompt voters to invoke the Hall’s character clause?
Would you bet a dime on that? It’ll be an ongoing story until the ballots are due on Dec. 31.
Schilling is a student of baseball history who has a great appreciation for the players who came before him, particularly pitchers. He also was an excellent analyst on ESPN before being fired in 2016 for what was judged to be an offensive social media post.
The Hall of Fame would surely mean a lot to him.
“I don’t know,” Schilling told Bob Costas for an interview with MLB Network this past week. “Initially when I retired and I got  percent of the votes, I thought, ‘That’s cool. At least people thought of me in that sense. I’m good.’ Then it became, I think, focused on things that weren’t on the baseball field that I had done or said. It became meaningless in that sense.”
Schilling then said BBWAA members were “more flawed than anybody else I know” and he didn’t want them judging his character.
Keep in mind that 278 of the 397 voters did check off his name and of the 119 who didn’t, some could simply disagree with the idea that he had a Hall of Fame career. That’s not a wholly unreasonable stance.
But Schilling clearly enjoys playing the role of victim. It’s good for his brand.
If Schilling does get in, particularly if he is the only living inductee, it’ll be interesting to see what impact that has on attendance by fans for the ceremony and if any Hall of Famers stay away in protest.
Schilling played nine years with the Phillies and four each with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox. He won titles with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox. Would fans from any of those teams turn out en masse to support him?
Based on feedback from readers, my sense is many Red Sox fans appreciate the huge role Schilling played in breaking the curse in 2004 but disagree with many of his views. They’re waiting for David Ortiz to get in to plan a trip to upstate New York. That will be a party.
In the end, it won’t come down to strikeouts, ERA, or World Series rings. It’ll be whether Schilling has the discipline to put his phone down instead of picking a fight on Twitter.
Are Sox close to a manager?
Total speculation here, but Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom could well have an out-of-the-box candidate he will introduce as manager in the next 7-10 days.
Bloom has done a good job of keeping a tight lid on his search, to a point where he wouldn’t even say whether any candidates have been interviewed or if he had consulted with the players to get their thoughts.
The only thing Bloom acknowledged was that “ideally” a manager would be in place before the start of spring training. But that’s a given.
The easy move would be to elevate bench coach Ron Roenicke or appease the fan base by giving Jason Varitek a chance. But if the Sox wanted to do that, wouldn’t they have done it already?
Given the lack of job security in his position, Bloom may only get one chance to hire a manager if he doesn’t get this right.
He also came into the organization from the outside and inherited nearly all of Dave Dombrowski’s staff. He has to be able to work closely with the manager and hiring a fellow newcomer would enhance that.
If the Sox are intent on cutting payroll, it would be better to do that with a manager coming in from the outside who shares the same values as Bloom.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
■ As spring training approaches, the second best free agent on the market behind Nicholas Castellanos is probably Brock Holt, unless you’re somehow a fan of the unpredictable Yasiel Puig.
There was a time a few years ago when the Sox were receiving attractive trade offers for Holt but didn’t want to give up his versatility.
The Red Sox don’t necessarily have one replacement for Holt. But there are a number of players who can play different positions. Their plan is to use Jose Peraza at second base and see what economical players such as C.J. Chatham, Michael Chavis, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Rule 5 draft pick Jonathan Arauz can provide off the bench.
Outside of the Blue Jays and Reds, no team has been connected to Holt. The Sox have not closed the door on him, but a return seems unlikely at this point. That may not be true for Mitch Moreland if the Sox decide they need another lefthanded hitter.
■ You’re probably not very familiar with Arauz, Austin Brice, Matt Hall, Chris Mazza, Josh Osich, Kevin Plawecki, or Jeffrey Springs. But they were all added to the 40-man roster this winter.
There’s not necessarily a star in the making in this group. But Bloom said each of those players have qualities the Sox feel they can work with.
Mazza, by the way, was given the No. 22 Rick Porcello had for five years. Brice has No. 31, which Erasmo Ramirez was assigned last season when he was called up.
But Ramirez was on the roster for one day, April 16, and wore No. 42 because it was Jackie Robinson Day.
■ The most interesting nonroster player invited to major league spring training is 23-year-old outfielder Jarren Duran. He had a .775 OPS in 132 games last season and stole 46 bases. Duran was a seventh-round pick out of Long Beach State in 2018. The Sox lack outfield prospects in the upper levels of their system and Duran could get playing time in the majors this season.
■ The over/under for Red Sox victories is 88½, according to BetOnline.ag. The Yankees are at 101½ and the Rays 90½.
■ That fellow right fielder Larry Walker was voted into the Hall of Fame could provide a boost for Dwight Evans down the road.
Walker had a 72.7 WAR and Evans finished at 67.1 without the benefit of 597 games at Coors Field. Evans also played 140 or more games 11 times in his career. Walker did that only four times.
Evans cannot be considered again until the Modern Baseball committee meets in 2023. He finished four votes shy of induction when that committee voted in December.
Some umpiring changes on way
Major League Baseball will test an automated strike zone at nine spring training ballparks in Florida.
The “robot umps” will be installed at those parks that are also used for Florida State League games. The system will not be used to call balls and strikes in spring training but will be evaluated for its use in minor league games during the season.
The system is essentially a high-speed camera that judges whether a pitch is a ball or strike and communicates the call to the umpire via an earpiece. The system was used in the Arizona Fall League and the independent Atlantic League last year.
Baseball is at least two or three years away from the system being used in games. But teams are already preparing for the eventuality, particularly in how they judge catchers.
Framing a pitch to make it appear in the strike zone, a much sought-after skill for a catcher, will be useless once human umpires are taken out of the equation. That and what is likely to be an increase in pitches being called from the dugout will fundamentally change catching.
The other change coming will be using a designated hitter in the NL.
During a question-and-answer session with fans this past week, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak acknowledged there has been a shift in that direction.
“I do feel like there were times I could look all of you in the face and say it’s a non-starter, it’s not being discussed at the owner level or GM,” Mozeliak said. “But over the past year it has. I’m not suggesting you’re going to see a change, but I definitely think the momentum [has changed].”
Any change would be part of the negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement, which expires in December. Some longtime NL owners are against the idea. But that number has dropped.
An explanation is needed
During the impeachment proceedings on Thursday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) got a laugh when he suggested everyone in the chamber could agree on issuing a subpoena to the Hall of Fame “to figure out who out of 397 individuals was the person who voted against Derek Jeter.”
A subpoena isn’t needed, but that person should indeed step forward and explain their reasoning.
The BBWAA is a media organization and we ask players, managers, and executives to go on the record every day. The very least we can do is hold ourselves accountable and be transparent.
The BBWAA overwhelmingly voted in 2016 to make every ballot public, but the Hall of Fame rejected that request, and it makes the rules about the voting.
Many voters reveal their ballots via their outlet, social media, or the BBWAA website. Here’s hoping the lone Jeter holdout does the same. It would be unethical to hide from that responsibility.
The Indians hired Holy Cross coach Greg DiCenzo as manager of Single A Lake County. DiCenzo, who is from Duxbury, coached the Crusaders for 12 years, leading them to an NCAA Tournament berth in 2017. Former Red Sox outfielder Jonathan Van Every is joining the Holy Cross staff as director of operations. Van Every, who played for the Sox from 2008-10, was once traded for himself. On April 24, 2010, the Pirates traded him to the Sox for a player to be named later. He became the player to be named later and went back to the Pirates May 31 . . . Patrick Mahomes was a 37th-round pick of the Tigers out of Whitehouse (Texas) High in 2014. Mahomes didn’t sign, went on to play football at Texas Tech, and is now in the Super Bowl. The Detroit Lions have yet to draft a quarterback who went to the Super Bowl . . . The 20th annual Hot Stove Cool Music concert will be Feb. 8 at the Paradise Rock Club. The event, which benefits The Foundation to be Named Later, will feature Letters to Cleo along with Tanya Donelly, Mike Gent, Gail Greenwood, Bill Janovitz, and Duke Levine. Peter Gammons and Theo Epstein also will be on hand, along with former All-Stars Bernie Williams and Jake Peavy. Tickets are $50 and on sale now at Ticketmaster.com. VIP passes ($500) can be found at ftbnl.org. They include a preshow reception and free food and beverages . . . The Friends of Doubleday Field are hosting a Hot Stove Weekend Feb. 7-9 in Cooperstown. MLB Network’s Brian Kenny will host a panel of media personalities, including Hall expert Jay Jaffe. Only 100 tickets will be sold. Go to friendsofdoubleday.org for details . . . Condolences to the family and friends of Marc Letendre, who died this past week. He was a good baseball man, from his playing days in the Newport Sunset League to coaching at the Ted Williams Camp in Lakeville and going on to coach the varsity teams at Bishop Connolly and New Bedford High. As somebody who sat on the bench and kept the scorebook on many a cold spring day, we learned a lot about the game from him . . . Happy birthday to Jemile Weeks, who is 33. Weeks was 11 for 35 (.314) with three doubles in 17 games for the Sox from 2014-15. The infielder last played in a major league game in 2016.