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Danziger: Fouled Out

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

Former Red Sox Pitcher Considering Senate Bid Against Elizabeth Warren

BOSTON (Reuters) – Former Boston Red Sox pitcher, failed video game entrepreneur and conservative political commentator Curt Schilling said on Tuesday he is considering running against Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in 2018.

“I’ve made my decision. I’m going to run,” Schilling said during an interview on WPRO-AM radio in Providence, Rhode Island, about 40 miles from Boston. He added that the decision would be contingent on his wife’s approval. “Ultimately it’s going to come down to how her and I feel this would affect our marriage and our kids.”

Schilling also fielded phone calls from listeners about a $75 million loan the state of Rhode Island made in 2010 to his video game company, 38 Studios, which went bankrupt in 2012.

“I’m sorry it ended the way it did,” Schilling said, adding that if he had been governor of Rhode Island he would not have offered financing to that company.

Schilling is still warmly remembered by Red Sox fans for undergoing a medical procedure that allowed him to pitch with an injured ankle and blood-stained sock during the American League Championship Series and World Series in 2004, helping the team win its first world series championship since 1918.

Despite being associated with a team from a politically liberal state, Schilling has long backed conservative politicians, most recently Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by David Gregorio)

Stats, Not Politics, Kept Schilling Out Of Cooperstown

The announcement of the newest National Baseball Hall of Fame class took a political turn when pitcher Curt Schilling asserted that his support for the Republican Party kept him out of Cooperstown. This past week, Schilling told a Boston radio station that John Smoltz, who was elected in his first year of eligibility, won support through his Democratic leanings, while Schilling’s conservatism cost him votes. Of course, there’s no reason to believe that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is a left-wing organization. Furthermore, it is unclear how Schilling determined that Smoltz, who once campaigned for Ralph Reed and compared same-sex marriage to bestiality, is a Democrat. But, most important, it should be noted that Schilling fell short of induction because of his performance on the field, not his politics off it.

Schilling had a fine career with the Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox, but he was never a clear-cut Hall of Famer. Pitching from 1988 until 2007, he compiled a career record of 216-146, a 3.46 ERA, 3,116 strikeouts, and a 1.137 WHIP.  ERA+, a statistic that contrasts a pitcher’s performance with the league average in a given season, places Schilling at a very solid 127 throughout his career. He finished with a total of 80.7 Wins Above Replacement. These numbers — particularly the strikeout totals — are undeniably strong, but leave him as, at best, a borderline candidate for the Hall of Fame.

To take this point further, compare Schilling’s career statistics to those of his contemporaries whose Hall of Fame campaigns have gained less traction. Mike Mussina, for example, received 80 fewer votes this year despite putting together similar career numbers. While Schilling finished with more strikeouts, Mussina had more career wins. Their ERA, WHIP, ERA+, and WAR numbers are practically identical.

Baseball-Reference.com lists Kevin Brown as Schilling’s most comparable player. Yet Brown appeared on only 2.1 percent of ballots cast when he was first eligible for Hall of Fame consideration in 2011 – few enough that he was removed from all future ballots. Mussina and Brown were never public about their political views. However, Mussina did appear in a documentary about crossword puzzles alongside Bill Clinton, a fact that should have helped his standing with the BBWAA, according to Schilling.

Schilling’s supporters point to his success in the postseason as key to his Hall case, and he was an undeniably great playoff performer. He pitched to a 2.23 ERA as a central figure on three World Series-winning teams. And painful though it might have been for a Yankee fan, Schilling’s bloody sock from the 2004 ALCS has gone down as one of the more indelible images in recent baseball history.

However, playoff performance, with its small sample size, is a faulty method for evaluating a player. Why should Schilling’s 133.1 postseason innings trump the 3,261 he compiled in the regular season? What’s more, plenty of players can point to their own moments of October glory. Brown, who led a mediocre San Diego Padres team to the 1998 World Series, and Mussina, whose excellent relief appearance helped the Yankees win Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, were no slouches.

Ultimately, Jack Morris’ stalled and controversial Hall of Fame candidacy makes the most apt comparison for Schilling’s Hall of Fame odds. Morris’ career numbers were good, but not great. Like Schilling, his case rested on his postseason success, especially his 10-inning, complete-game shutout in the 1991 World Series. Many so-called “baseball traditionalists” praised Morris as a legendary big-game performer, while the more statistically inclined argued that the small postseason sample size should not overshadow his somewhat pedestrian career numbers. In the long run, the stats won out and Morris’ eligibility ran out after the 2014 ballot.

Schilling’s Hall of Fame credentials are murky, and the fact that he does not believe in evolution is the least of his problems. While some voters may be swayed by his success in the postseason, several of his contemporaries were equally or more effective over their careers. Following the Morris example, Schilling should continue to face an uphill struggle to win the votes necessary for induction.

Stephen Abrams-Downey is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Readers can email him at sabramsdowney@yahoo.com.

Photo: Aaron Frutman via Flickr

Jeff Miller: Angels Will Beat The Odds, Win World Series

By Jeff Miller, The Orange County Register

The Angels will not, contrary to the consensus, finish third in their division this season.

They will not, as suggested by The Sporting News, finish fourth, ahead of only Houston, a team that lost 111 times in 2013.

And they will not, as Sports Illustrated’s website just forecast, finish with the same record — 78-84 — they had last year.

No, the 2014 Angels will…

Win the World Series!!!

Remember, you read it here first, where the Orange County Register has learned, according to sources familiar with the way the baseball gods are thinking, that Mike Scioscia will guide this team to the second title in franchise history.

Hey, everyone else reports the news this way today, without attribution of the facts, so why can’t we?

And who even needs proof or evidence or anything more concrete than belief when it comes to predicting the order of finish for a 162-game season that hasn’t started yet? Not even this sport can quantify hope, and baseball gathers stats on everything but the spitting.

A year ago, we based our preseason thinking on a pile of facts, all of which pointed to Boston finishing last in the American League East. So that’s what we forecast. Well, that turned out to be a pile all right, a pile of something other than facts.

The Red Sox instead won the World Series. So maybe Angels fans shouldn’t get too excited about what they’ve read here to this point.

But, as wrong as we were last spring about Boston, why can’t everyone else be equally wrong right now about the Angels? If this game was meant to make sense, a ball that hits the foul line wouldn’t be fair, right?

The Red Sox won last season despite having only one pitcher with more than 12 victories, only one hitter with more than 25 home runs and no one among the top 12 in WAR. They won a year after going 69-93.

Jeez, the 2013 Angels finished nine games better than that. You don’t have to be the Rally Monkey — or an Angels’ broadcaster — to find belief in that statistic. Still…

“I like the Angels to be better,” one expert said. “But I’m afraid Mike Scioscia doesn’t have enough in his rotation to get this team back into the postseason.”

That expert was Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, who clearly is looking at this from the perspective of someone bogged down in reality.

Maybe Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, and Tyler Skaggs aren’t exactly well known right now. But we knew plenty about Jason Vargas, Joe Blanton, and Tommy Hanson a year ago, and look at how well that turned out.

“I’m not nervous at all,” Jerry Dipoto said of his team’s young pitchers. “I’m very excited for those players.”

As the Angels’ general manager, Dipoto obviously doesn’t have to concern himself with reality, which explains why Blanton’s still around. Even the Angels owner, Arte Moreno, likes to fantasize. That’s a topic we’ll be sure to ask him about, after he moves the team, as some have suggested, to Hawaii.

At least we’re taking a positive approach to this coming season, something that isn’t easy to do when writing about a team as generally joyless and staid as the Angels have been the past few years.

Then again, when you’re supposed to win, when you’re paid like a team that should win, and you keep missing the playoffs, perhaps being only joyless and staid actually is an accomplishment.

In other words, things could have been worse around here, and how frightening is that possibility to fans who have been suffering since the Angels’ most recent postseason appearance, back in 2009?

We still think there’s a decent chance this is all the fault of Gary Matthews Jr., who, somewhat incredibly, remains the last Angel to bat in the playoffs. If that seems hard to believe, recall that he did so as a pinch-hitter, batting for Mike Napoli.

If that, too, seems hard to believe, take comfort in knowing that Matthews did something in that final at-bat that is staggeringly plausible. He struck out.

Anyway, Matthews’ time with the Angels was not terribly positive and was, more to the point, an embarrassment. The only memorable thing he produced here were suspicions of HGH use. The team still might be paying for Matthews’ sins.

But that all ends now, with a season that will feature the return of Albert Pujols, the continuation of Mike Trout, and even the resurfacing of Josh Hamilton. The young pitching will emerge and the bullpen finally will be solidified.

Why? Sorry, that’s not the question right now.

The question is why not? If the 2013 Red Sox could do it, why not the 2014 Angels, another team expected to do nothing?

That’s what the Register is reporting today, regardless of whatever Sports Illustrated says. We like to fantasize, too, you see, and we don’t have a swimsuit issue to do it.

AFP Photo/ Jamie Squire