Former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz talks about the chances of fellow DH Edgar Martinez gaining support for induction into the Hall of Fame.
David Ortiz is still three years away from being added to the Hall of Fame ballot but he’s keeping an eye on this year’s results. Particularly when it comes to one candidate who could help pave the way for the former Boston Red Sox designated hitter.
Bias against the DH has held Edgar Martinez back in previous years. Some voters have cited the lack of defensive value, which drags down all-encompassing statistics such as WAR, as the basis for their case against one of the best to play the position.
In this 10th and final year on the ballot, Martinez is seeing a surge in momentum. Only about 35% of the ballots have been revealed so far by noted Hall of Fame tracker Ryan Thibodaux but Martinez is currently appearing on 90.5% of ballots, putting him comfortably above the 75% required for induction.
Ortiz would certainly stand to benefit from Martinez being inducted considering the same DH bias could be held against him. Big Papi acknowledged how Martinez could help his own Hall of Fame case while telling WEEI’s Rob Bradford that the former Seattle Mariner is “without a doubt” worthy of Cooperstown.
"“There are a lot of behind the scenes things you have to do to be that good,” Ortiz said. “He wasn’t just good, but he helped. Team wins? He helped. Teammates around him? He helped. I guarantee you go around and ask about Edgar Martinez to guys he played with and I they will say he made them better. That’s the type of things a guy like J.D. Martinez brings to the table. This is a team situation. It’s not just you. In baseball, the connectivity is what works. The good chemistry. You can be as good as you want to be, but if you don’t have a group of guys around you that you can count on to execute, you aren’t going to win championships.“This guy did everything a player can do to get better, to help. To me, that’s the way people need to start judging things. I think this new generation of voters is to going to focus on that. The game is hard to play. To be that good at this level, it takes a lot.”"
The same traits that he credits Martinez with can be found in Ortiz’ impact on the Red Sox lineup. Boston was a powerhouse lineup up until their star DH retired at the end of the 2016 season. They fell closer to the middle of the pack the following season in runs scored without him anchoring the lineup and finished dead last in the American League in home runs. The decline wasn’t entirely attributed to the loss of Ortiz’ production but also the dropoff those around him suffered without the threat of his bat to protect them.
It wasn’t until J.D. Martinez was signed a year later as the heir apparent to Ortiz’ DH role that the Red Sox returned to being an offensive juggernaut. It’s no coincidence that Mookie Betts had a down year in 2017 without that power bat behind him, only to rebound with an MVP campaign when Martinez joined the team.
Value can be measured in different ways. Guys like Ortiz and Edgar weren’t five-tool players like Betts but they were extremely valuable for what they did bring to the table. Edgar was one of the best pure hitters of his generation, winning a pair of batting titles, a handful of Silver Slugger awards, and driving in 100+ RBI six times.
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If Martinez gets in, Ortiz has to follow. He may not have the steady batting averages that Martinez produced at his peak but Ortiz’ power numbers dwarf Edgar’s and his postseason heroics are legendary. Papi was the centerpiece of three World Series teams.
Players who primarily served as a DH have gained a bit of traction in recent years. Frank Thomas was inducted in 2014, although he played about half his career as a first baseman. Harold Baines was voted in this year by the Today’s Game committee. He never came close to earning enough votes from the BBWAA writers but perhaps Baines’ induction has helped change the way those voters view the DH. Martinez getting in this year would put the DH bias to rest.
Putting Martinez in Cooperstown means there’s no excuse for not voting for Ortiz when he’s added to the ballot. No, I’m not considering his PED allegations as a factor. Not when he never failed a test in his career and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred publically questioned if Ortiz was the victim of a false-positive test during the 2003 “anonymous” survey. The “Ortiz was a cheater” argument is more flimsy than the DH bias.
It’s no surprise that Ortiz has been so supportive of Martinez’ Hall of Fame candidacy considering what it could mean for him. It’s also fair to say that he honestly believes Edgar is worthy.
"“Anyone who knows Edgar Martinez they know the guy was a master when he came out to hit,” said Ortiz. “The numbers speak for themselves. He’s without a doubt a Hall of Famer.”"
He’s right. Martinez does deserve to be in Cooperstown. So does Ortiz and in a few short years, we should see him join Edgar in the Hall of Fame.