Boston Red Sox’ David Ortiz: Let the HOF debate intensify


David Ortiz now has a timetable for his retirement. Next up is his worthiness for Hall of Fame induction.

The Boston Red Sox’ David Ortiz has announced his pending retirement and, quite naturally, what will ensue is the endless stories that will circulate with various slants on this momentous event – naturally I will join in on the scrum.

Does Ortiz belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

The HOF “Standards”

Joining the HOF is simply not like getting a season’s pass to Six Flags. You don’t drop some coin and get a secret handshake and take some blood oath. This is not a baseball Skull and Bones designed as a drinking club, public service organization or just a place to hide from your spouse.

The ballot slot has certain eligibility requirements for both players and those who do the voting. The majority of eligible players will get into the HOF by the same route as most fans – just take I-90 and take the appropriate exit and then pay your admission fee.

The Hall of Fame is chocked full of questionable inductees and noted for the exclusion of others who would seem worthy. The publicity value certainly can be instrumental in getting an induction – how else to explain Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance? All three received their induction via the Veteran’s Committee. The impact of a catchy little ditty cannot be diminished.

Others have been excluded over gambling, use of PED’s – real or imagined, and those who simply and for some unknown reason failed to have a solid statistical resume for entry such as Fred McGriff, Tony Oliva and Curt Schilling. Media bias? I imagine a certain validity to being a cooperative player and thus cementing your positive standing among the media – Dick Allen would not stand a chance even with 600 home runs.

What about Ortiz’ numbers?

The statistical numbers are a lock. There is absolutely no way that they can be dismissed. The home runs, RBI, batting average, metrics of all sorts and player comparisons. Ortiz measures up with a bounty of those already with a plaque including Frank Thomas – who spent considerable time as a designated hitter. So the stats argument is bogus. Ortiz meets the qualifications of those who are already at home in the HOF.

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One aspect that should not be ignored is the term “clutch” when applied to a player. How does a player perform on the “Big Stage?” The HOF is stuffed with Yankees (and Giants and Dodgers) who have an extensive list of post-season play. Hey, the guys were part of success so give them a break. Ortiz has been beyond the part of – Papi is off the charts on clutch aspect. And coattails? This is not Phil Rizzuto or Pee Wee Reese, but a player who was the central force in three championship marches.

Do you get punished for being a DH?

Edgar Martinez appeared in 1403 games as a DH and 592 as a third baseman and first baseman. So far Martinez has been excluded and the prejudice over DH apparently is part of the exclusion puzzle. However, if you examine the various HOF ranking monitors Martinez is on the cusp – if you place any value in such formulas. For me – why punish a player over a position? Ortiz has played 277 games at first and done it rather well. A Gold Glove? No! But an embarrassment? Another no! Ortiz is certainly not a ballet dancer around the bag, but his instincts are excellent and he will catch anything in his vicinity.

I look it from the perspective of what if Ortiz had played his entire career in the National League? What if the Red Sox were in the National League East? Ortiz would have played first. Simple as that and probably have performed defensively as well or better than Ryan Howard. I have also seen Willie McCovey and Harmon Killebrew play first base and neither would make you think of the glove as a plus.

No trophies

There is no MVP in the trophy case for Ortiz and that is certainly a direct result of his position or as some refer to the DH – a non-position.

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Ortiz has other honors that are as numerous as fruit flies at an outdoor market. Even on the MVP front there was actually a second place finish. The All-Star selections, Silver Sluggers, post season playoff trophies and most importantly the fact that Ortiz was part of three World Series Champions. If there was any player symbolic of eradicating “The Curse” it was Ortiz.

The PED issue

Do I think Ortiz dabbled in PED’s? Since this is not a court with certain procedural issues regarding evidence I have to act on the old standby of opinion based on limited facts. I firmly believe that the New York Times article on Ortiz being one of the famed “100” who failed a test to be accurate. I certainly have my doubts about the testing mechanism, but baseball was simply infested with PED use.

Ortiz will be punished by the “guilt by association” clause that is in no law book but is applied for HOF entry. That will be the death knell for his entry just as it has for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and probably those that are perfectly innocent, but a victim of their times.

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Ortiz will have to wait. Simple as that. The specter of performance enhancing drugs will be the separator for Ortiz and the HOF. That will not crack until players are admitted who have all the numerical qualifications, but end up like Jeff Bagwell.