Designated hitting specialist Harold Baines was selected for Baseball’s Hall of Fame. This solidifies Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz’s case.
A large number of people would argue strongly that Baines’ successful 22-year long major league career is definitely worthy for inclusion, however, many people have doubted the decision. The six-time All-Star’s performance in the majors had mostly little to do with this standpoint. The main reason for doubting the selection of Baines was that he primarily played as a designated hitter.
The American League’s designated hitter rule is hated upon by many fans of the game. However, as Red Sox fans, we couldn’t be more happy about it. It gives protection to your pitchers and allows for an extra hitter to fit in the lineup. It’s vital to the current team’s success and how Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and J.D. Martinez are aligned – working wonders, right now.
As for Red Sox recent history, we’ve seen one of the game’s greats – David Ortiz. Big Papi’s career in Boston was nothing short of phenomenal. Although there are plenty who disagree, any Red Sox fan, or any fan who followed his career closely, will be the first to tell you that number 34 should be in the Cooperstown and even as a first-ballot induction.
There is no real question on Ortiz’s eligibility, he’s done pretty much everything as a major league and Red Sox hitter. The only hurdle to jump across is the fact that he specialized as a DH. But why should this hold a player back? It shouldn’t, and it hasn’t this year. Baines’ induction into the Hall of Fame is a significant one. As a designated hitter, this can pave the way for players of a similar predicament who are worthy of inclusion into the Hall.
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Taking nothing away from Baines’ achievements, it is more than evident that Ortiz had a more decorated career in the league. 10 All-Star appearances, 7 Silver Sluggers, and 2 Hank Aaron Awards is a resume that would signify a default induction to Cooperstown for the majority. Ortiz’s regular season performances can be more than backed up.
Known as one of the premier clutch hitters in baseball, it’s extremely difficult to picture the Red Sox winning any of the 2004, 2007 and 2013 World Series’ without Ortiz. Winning the ALCS MVP in 2004 and the World Series MVP in 2013 puts Papi down in the history books. These awards commemorate what the slugger did for this team and the city of Boston and how he led the Sox to three world championships. It’s a resume that sounds like it should already be on the ballot.
Although it’s rare to see a primary DH in contention, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t or can’t happen. As a DH is only used by half of MLB’s teams it limits the opportunities to excel at this position. An elite DH is something to behold and something that should be commemorated just like any other position player or pitcher if they come around and perform like the Baines’ and Ortiz’s of the world.
There are many players who’ve played as a DH in their career’s already in the Hall, but not players who’ve played there exclusively. Hall of Famer Frank Thomas is the most similar case, but even he only played half of his career as a DH. Baines’ induction sets a new landmark. His inclusion can pave the way for DH greats of the past, like Ortiz and those of the present and future. It can allow worthy resumes to go to Cooperstown as they deserve, and it can put an end to any “despite being a designated hitter'” talk, when debating if a player is Hall of Fame worthy or not.