It was a decision that did not come lightly, or without considerable thought, but then decisions about removing oneself from the Hall of Fame ballot, after a lifetime spent chasing that grail, never are. And so it was that Dan Haren came to tweet his decision—well, the decision forced upon him, if truth be spread—on Tuesday evening:
The message could not have been clearer. Haren did not capitalize Twitter or Baseball Hall Of Fame, but he did give the social media engine four “T’s” and was equally casual about the apostrophe. This is a man concealing a wild and bubbling rage, you can tell.
Also there was Curt Schilling, who pitched a relatively similar fit, the difference being that he was complaining about the voters who both did and didn’t vote for him, leaving him once again just on the outskirts of Cooperstown. Haren, for his part, will forever be enshrined with A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Nick Swisher, and Shane Victorino in the #0% Club. Maybe there will be T-shirts. If what we’ve seen of his T-shirt indication is any question, Schilling should get one.
Schilling’s complaints—an incomplete list is that he didn’t get enough votes, and that the wrong people voted for him, and that his character was deemed problematic by some voters who also feel the same way about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Omar Vizquel—are characteristically uninteresting, or interesting only in that “Oh, is he trying to get people to pay attention to him again?” kind of way. Fortunately for us all, Schilling did offer a solution to those troubled souls who might shame him by inducting him against his will. Although in hindsight—which in this case is looking out from one’s hinder—”solution” is awfully generous:
“I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player. 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.”
You would think such a principled and high-minded fellow would decline induction if he feels he doesn’t deserve it, but Schilling has shown remarkable flexibility when it comes to his relationships with such longtime rivals as verifiable fact and logical thought. After all, if 17 more of those despicable cowardly swine who vote for the Hall of Fame had marked the box next to his name, he’d have had a difficult choice. He could swallow his principles, choke down his humiliation, and accept the judgment of his genetic inferiors, or he could curse the Baseball Writers Association of America representative, Jack O’Connell, spit on the phone delivering the poisoned chalice of induction and bark angrily to his family, “They tried to give me a plaque and tell me I was good, but I showed those bastards what’s what.”
And Schilling did that, although he also gave a steer to those two-dozen-odd voters still on the fence on how to access their individual consciences. I mean, who would walk into a party after the guest of honor sees you as you ring the doorbell, describes you as an infected rectal aperture unworthy to breathe the common air, pees on your shoes, and then sics the dog on you? Better just to bring the bottle home.
But I’d still pay to see the result, albeit from a safe distance across the street. So I’d be absolutely good with Schilling getting those last 16 votes next year and then having to wrestle for a nanosecond or so with the oil pan of his conscience about how badly he really wants to be cast in bronze between, say, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz.
You can worry the skin off your chin about who Schilling is or isn’t, and for what he deserves to be honored or castigated. Turn yourself purple as your heart shoots out your sternum if you must. Dislocate both shoulders with applause if you desire. You paid for the right to comment, so by all means get your money’s worth, you law school reptiles.
But for me there is only one desirable outcome, which is to codify in the Hall of Fame charter the phrase, “Character clause, schmaracter clause.” I’m here for the dark comedy of all this pompous theater, and if this year’s Hall of Fame ceremonies couldn’t deliver some belly laughs—like Schilling being inducted the year after Marvin Miller, and presented simultaneously—maybe the Hall of Fame election in 2022 can do it for you. Schilling being inducted against his will and grimacing nailgunned to a plush chair, perhaps being obliquely introduced by the ex-president he just watched get tagged and bagged by the democratic process, would be worth whatever it costs to get that streamed into my home.
It has always been the unofficial position of this squalid little corner of the internet that the Hall of Fame should be first and foremost a museum of the history of the game, all of its credits and debits placed in an orderly fashion for the absorption of the masses. It mostly is that for people who visit, but around this time every year all that is superseded by its exclusive bronze annex, a rural version of the Prado where there are paintings from Antonio Maria Esquivel of the Santa Isabel de Hungria dressed as a Cleveland Spider that you can pose before for selfies. But since nobody wants to agree on what the Hall ought to be between those two options, let’s ignore the argument entirely and give everyone what they actually want—hardcore farce. Snarky, mean-spirited, hate-fueled comedy straight from Cerberus’s doghouse.
If the character clause matters, throw out everyone but Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, and Bill Veeck (there are others of course, but I can’t type these names all goddamn day). If it doesn’t matter, give us dull, fuming Curt Schilling through a decisive vote of the men and women he so detests, sending him into the place he so desperately wants to be. Let the plaque read in part, “He was inducted in 2022 with 79.7 percent of the vote by the very same fucking writers he once offered to kill like the roaches they are, the misery-caked weaklings.”
In a place that eschews unanimous voting, on this you’d get either 100 percent for or 100 percent against. This is the way to make the Hall of Fame relevant to a new generation, and properly contextualize the era in which we live. “Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the Bob ‘Death To Flying Things’ Ferguson exhibit, and there to your left is the mural of Curt Schilling strangling Dan Shaughnessy, and also the gift shop and the refreshment stand, where you can get beer, wine, and COVID slushies for the kids.” Somewhere, Dan Haren will try to get himself back on the ballot again for the sake of fun, and Scott Rolen, who finished fifth in the voting, will be sitting in his backyard and smiling the smile of a comfortable and secure man who knows he can wait until this phlegmsquall of hilarity blows over. And 2022 will be the best and the worst year ever for everyone, a true representation of what we all want and deserve.