Not bad company in terms of making a Hall-of-Fame bid. His swing on the ball was one of expectation of the pitch and awareness of the moment:
Ortiz continues to produce, even after 19 seasons in the big leagues. It’s been a heavy lefty bat over the years, coming in at 230 pounds of slugging power. His slash line for 2015 is currently .275/.361/.556, with 95 RBIs to his credit. Ortiz has been on a tear, lately, with a hot August and September. In the last seven games, Ortiz belted five homers and 13 RBIs for a .458 average, with no real signs of slowing down.
It was also fitting that Number Thirty-Four’s 34th homer was the record-maker.
But, how important was it for him to reach 500? There have been critics that have doubted Ortiz’s efforts have deserved a trip to Cooperstown in the Hall of Fame. Don’t laugh, it’s true. Even with three championships, one where Big Papi put his younger teammates on his back and took them to the promise land essentially single-handed, baseball people have questioned whether a designated hitter deserves the honor.
However, Gordon Edes of ESPN feels differently, while acknowledging the doubters: “Ortiz also solidified his case for induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame, a place which only this past year opened its doors to a second Dominican player, Ortiz’s former Boston teammate Pedro Martinez, and has historically resisted the inclusion of designated hitters.”
How much more can the nine-time All Star do in his career to make it worthy enough for the ‘haters’? Ortiz helped bring about the biggest comeback in MLB playoff history, when the Red Sox came back from three games down to eliminate the New York Yankees in 2004. He earned the World Series MVP award in 2013. Even his fielding percentage at first base, when called upon, has been a respectable .982 for his career. Let’s face it, he’d be put in for his bat, but it’s not like he was a poor first baseman either. Can being a designated hitter hurt his chances that much, after all that he’s done for the Red Sox and the MLB universe?
Or maybe it is the performance-enhancing drugs issue, which has plagued him for years without any definitive proof. In an article called ‘The Dirt’, Ortiz wrote, “Mark my words: Nobody in MLB history has been tested for PEDs more than me. You know how many times I’ve been tested since 2004? More than 80. […] Ten times a season these guys come into the clubhouse or my home with their briefcases. I have never failed a single one of those tests and I never will.”
If we live in a true democracy, where people are innocent until proven guilty, then this decision should be easy. The debate on how tainted Ortiz seems to be could go on forever. What can’t be debated is how much the Dominican-turned-Bostonian has meant to Red Sox Nation. His 500 homers is just the icing on his cake of a career. He’s hit 1628 RBIs, 91 more than Hall-of-Famer Joe DiMaggio and tied with fellow designated hitter Harold Baines. Alex Rodriguez technically has the lead with 2049 RBIs; however, between admitting to using PEDs to being caught a second time, let alone the fact that most of his RBIs came while playing other positions, A-Rod should not be considered the true leader. With the way that Ortiz is playing, he will far surpass Baines and be the most successful designated hitter in MLB history.
Ortiz may go down as one of the greatest offensive players in all of baseball lore. Should defense slow his progression to entering the great hall? This has been the ninth year that Ortiz has hit 30 or more home runs, Edes notes that he passed Ted “Williams for most in Red Sox history.” He will go down as one of the greatest Red Sox ever, let alone the majors. Can you really argue that a man with no evidence of PEDs and has created more offense than players already in the Hall of Fame should not be allowed to enter, just because he didn’t play defense as often as the rest? That’s a hard sell.
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