Tuesday, we will know whom the Baseball Writers Association of America selected for enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A few years from now, we will be waiting for those same voters to pass judgment on Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.
Are his chances good? Well…
One of the most popular players in Red Sox history, Ortiz plays the game with the genuine enthusiasm once showed by Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks and Minnesota Twins icon Kirby Puckett, both players with plaques in Cooperstown.
Add Ortiz’s legendary postseason performances—the walk-off hits in 2004 and his Most Valuable Player honors in the 2013 World Series—and that alone will make his chances stronger in the eyes of voters.
During the games right moments, Ortiz has stood front and center. Will that, however, cover up from some of his strong negatives?
Two things will cloud the judgment of the writers—allegedly named in the Mitchell Report as one of 103 players who failed a drug test before steroid testing was agreed to and Ortiz primarily playing as a designated hitter.
The “not playing in the field” argument has cost Ortiz before. In 2006, Ortiz clubbed a league-leading 54 home runs, drove in 137, hit .287 and finished third in the voting behind the Twins Justin Morneau and the New York Yankees Derek Jeter. These same writers will ultimately decide Ortiz’s hall fate.
Edgar Martinez, the poster child of designated hitters not getting into Cooperstown, will probably have to either be elected or come close in order for Ortiz to draw votes from those who consider DH’s as a scourge on the fabric of the game.
The Mitchell Report involvement, however, is a bigger impediment.
As long as players such as Houston Astros sluggers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell are on the outside looking in with absolutely no hint of performance enhancing drug use, players such as Ortiz have no chance.
Whether we like it or not, the writers are never knowingly going to elect a player that has failed a drug test. For now, we will let the double standard of not bringing the subject up during the steroid years slide on their judgments.
Five players, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmerio, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, have lost their shot at enshrinement because of their PED usage. Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez—also outed in the Mitchell Report—are likely never to be inducted because of multiple incidents—along with caustic personalities.
Ortiz will always be considered guilty by association, and miss his day in the sun, unless the fragile façade of the writers never voting in a dirty player gets broken. He is going to need someone to come forward and admit to PED use—sorry, speed, or greenies, is not the same as human growth hormones.
When that day comes—as we all know it will in the seven or eight years before Ortiz faces the voters—what kind of case does he have based on statistics?
Ortiz has a career batting average of .287 and nearly 1,000 extra-base hits to his credit. A nine-time all-star, a five-time Silver Slugger and a six-time top-10 MVP finisher, Ortiz has made a solid case based on the depth and longevity of his career.
His 431 home runs—once a sure fire way to get your ticket punched—mean nothing on their own. His 2023 hits, on the other hand help him out. Ortiz will need to have 2500 hits and stay clean the rest of his career to have a chance.
Ortiz is on the cusp of being too good to ignore, but he needs a couple more solid years to make all but the most extreme negatives melt away.
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