Is Curt Schilling this decade’s Jack Morris?

Through his blog ( last week, Curt Schilling ended months of speculation on whether or not he would pitch this season by announcing his retirement from baseball. And the moment he hit the send button on his computer screen, the debate began if he is a worthy Hall of Fame candidate.

If you consider him a lock for enshrinement to Cooperstown than you must re-evaluate Jack Morris’ career because they’re one in the same. Neither guy was a marquee name. For Schilling, he had to contend with Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, while Morris competed with Doc Gooden and Roger Clemens for the title of baseball’s best pitcher. They had similar starts to their careers as long men in the bullpen, but once they established themselves in the starting rotation, Schilling and Morris became big game pitchers at the most important time of the year…October.

Their regular season numbers don’t overwhelm you, as Schilling had only 216 career wins and Morris recorded 254 wins in his 17-year career, with both eluding the coveted 300 wins mark for automatic entrance into the Hall. And neither one won a Cy Young Award in their career. But, what really puts them into the conversation is their memorable playoff performances.

Two words come to mind when you say Schilling and postseason…bloody sock. He stapled his ankle tendon to the bone and led the Boston Red Sox to their first championship in 86 years. He was the ace or co-ace on four World Series teams (the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies, the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, and the 2004 and 2007 Boston Red Sox), and was named the 2001 co-MVP in one of the best seven-game World Series ever played. In 19 postseason appearances, Schilling had an 11-2 record with a 2.33 ERA. His detractors will tell you that Schilling never met a microphone that he didn’t like, and who could forget him playing for the camera by covering his head with a towel instead of watching Phillies closer Mitch Williams save game five in the 1993 World Series?

Morris was a true throwback, a pitcher that finished what he started. He had 175 career complete games in an era that was transitioning from dominant starting pitching to a bullpen–based staff. And just like Schilling, he is remembered for one amazing postseason outing. Morris recorded a 10-inning complete Game 7 shutout victory over the Atlanta Braves to capture the 1991 World Series for the Minnesota Twins. His World Series record was 4-2 with a 2.96 ERA, as he led four teams (the 1984 Detroit Tigers, the 1991 Minnesota Twins, and the 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays) to World Series titles, including three in a row from 1991-1993.

Schilling and Morris raised their level of play when their teams’ back was against the wall. They pitched to the moment and came up big time after time. Other pitchers (Mike Mussina or Bert Blyleven) might have better career numbers, but they will have to pay admission to get into Cooperstown. The debate about whether or not Schilling and Morris are Hall of Famers has begun…let’s discuss.

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All is Forgiven, Mitch Williams

WilliamsThe Wall Street Journal recently did a nice piece about Mitch Williams, the former Philadelphia Phillies closer who gave up the Game 6 homerun to Joe Carter of the Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. The town scapegoat has since shaken off the persona in the wake of the Phillies’ current success. You can now hear “Wild Thing” on Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia as well as buy his signature salsas and cheese dips.

Mr. Williams has fared far better than many of baseball’s other well-known goats. In 1908, New York Giant Fred Merkle neglected to advance from first base to second on an apparent game-winning hit by a teammate, and was forced out at second base as he celebrated, costing his team the pennant. He was ridiculed for decades for his blunder, and didn’t attend old-timer celebrations at the Polo Grounds until 1950.

Bill Buckner of the Red Sox let a crucial ground ball go through his legs in the 1986 World Series, leading to his team’s eventual loss. He has spent his retirement in Idaho. Only this year did the Fenway Park faithful forgive him, with a standing ovation when he threw out the first pitch at the home opener.

Sometimes, the fallout is tragic. Donnie Moore of the California Angels gave up a ninth-inning home run in 1986 when his team was one strike away from advancing to the World Series. The Red Sox won that game and two more to take the pennant. Three years later, he shot his wife and committed suicide.

Mr. Williams was not a classic closer. Most pitchers brought in late in games to shut down the other team have stellar control and allow few base runners. Mr. Williams’s pitching style didn’t inspire confidence. The rugged, 6-foot-4-inch fireballer had a mullet and a violent delivery. When he threw, the top half of his body went one way, the bottom half another. He nearly tumbled off the mound with each pitch.

I remember watching that game as a kid. It was the first time I had really seen anyone “blow it.” Event at that young an age, I could sense the doom Williams was feeling. It’s good to hear that Philadelphia, one of the toughest cities in sports, has welcomed his return to baseball.

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