Breaking down the David Ortiz Hall of Fame affair; will he arrive at his first ballot?

For the first time, five years after retiring from a esteemed playing career, longtime Red Sox slugger David Ortiz appears on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year. Just starting from intuition, I think Ortiz has the best chance of being inducted out of the 30 former players in this poll. He’s not sure, but if I had to bet I’d say he comes in.

Should he? Let’s dig.


After a year in which he hit .272 / .339 / .500 (120 OPS +) with 20 home runs in 412 batting appearances, the Twins cut Ortiz in December 2002. More than a month later, the youngster Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein grabbed it on the cheap. The seemingly insignificant move at the time would help place the two on a Hall of Fame career path.

Ortiz would finish in the top five of AL MVPs voting each of the next five seasons. He then added two more top-10s. He would finish 10 times All-Star and seven times Silver Slugger. He’s led his league in home runs once, RBI three times, walk twice, base percentage once, strike once, OPS once, and double once.

A .286 / .380 / .552 (141 OPS +) career, Ortiz has amassed an excellent record on rate and count statistics.

Ortiz had 10 seasons of 100 RBIs. Only 12 players in history have done so more often. He finished with 1768, good for the 23rd all-time.

With 541 home runs, Ortiz sits 17th all-time. His 632 doubles rank 12th in history. Based on those two stats, he’s eighth in career extra-base hits, behind Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and A-Rod.

Ortiz has compiled 2,472 hits and 1,319 walks (41st all-time).

He also ranks 26th in slugging, 38th in OPS, 91st in races, 32nd in total bases, 77th in OPS +, 64th in time on base and 60th in bag flies.

For comparison, there are currently 183 attacking players in the Hall.

Ortiz’s top eight similar statistic players on are: Frank Thomas (Hall of Famer), Fred McGriff (should be a Hall of Famer, in my opinion), Manny Ramirez (not due to PED links) , Miguel Cabrera (will be a Hall of Famer), Jim Thome (Hall of Famer), Rafael Palmeiro (not due to PED ties), Jeff Bagwell (Hall of Famer) and Willie McCovey (Hall of Famer).

If we put Ortiz at JAWS first goal, he sits at No. 29, a decent touch below the current Hall of Fame average (the average is currently between 14th and 15th). He is ahead of Hall of Famers Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda. He is behind non-Hall of Famers like Keith Hernandez and Will Clark. I suspect defense is the main culprit here, as Ortiz ranks 21st in the WAR offensive. And we’ll get to that.

Playoff performance

Where Ortiz likely gets a boost from his position in JAWS – aside from the raw count stats above – would be in October.

In 85 career playoff games, Ortiz has reached 0.289 / 0.404 / 0.543 with 22 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, 61 RBIs and 51 runs. Multiply that to 162 games and Ortiz hit in the playoffs – remember, against much fiercer competition than the regular season – at a pace of 42 doubles, 32 homers, and 116 RBIs in the full season.

Arguably the most important playoff series in Red Sox history was the 2004 ALCS. Ortiz went 12 for 31 (.387) with three homers and 11 RBIs in those seven games. He hit an extra home run in Game 4 to keep the Red Sox alive.

He walked around in the 14th in Game 5 to send the series back to Yankee Stadium.

He hit a two-run homerun in the lead of the first in Game 7.

He would win ALCS MVP.

Ortiz would win three rings with the Red Sox, who previously went 86 years without one. He also won the 2013 World Series MVP title, going 11-16 (.688!) With two home runs, six RBIs and eight walks (including four intentional).

Ortiz is fourth all-time in doubles and RBI in the playoffs, while sixth in total goals, seventh on steps and 10th in races.

Penalty for designated hitter?

In Ortiz’s career, he started 2,009 games in the DH slot machine against 265 at first base. For years something like this didn’t start in Hall of Fame discussions. The argument is that if his teams have actively kept him off the field due to being such a bad outfield, how could he be a Hall of Famer?

I would say there are players in the Hall who weren’t good hitters and who are there because they are amazing defensive players (Ozzie Smith and Bill Mazeroski come to mind and they are not alone. ).

In 2015, as I was trying to defend Edgar Martinez, I noticed a group of great hitters who were bad defensemen and made the Hall of Fame. Their weak defensive skills were overlooked as they were such needle-movers on offense. In the cases of Martinez and Ortiz, the negative value brought to the defending team was simply removed. This means that we can logically say that the existence of DH has made them more valuable to their team.

Also, now that Frank Thomas (1,308 starts at DH, 968-1B) and Martinez (1,396 DH, 560 elsewhere) are here, we should probably quarterback on Hall-worthy DH. I know Ortiz is more extreme in terms of playing positions against DHing, but who really cares at this point if the offensive numbers are overwhelming?

PED connection?

In 2003, Major League Baseball conducted what was supposed to be an anonymous and confidential drug testing investigation to see if a PED testing system should be implemented for the 2004 season. The league determined that, yes , testing was needed and a joint drug agreement was drafted before 2004 and has been in place ever since.

In 2009, a New York Times According to the report, Ortiz was among a group of players who tested positive in the 2003 investigation. Ortiz vehemently denied ever using a PED. He never tested positive at any time from 2004 until the end of his career.

Additionally, Commissioner Rob Manfred has since said there were serious legitimacy issues with the 2003 inquiry’s testing (remember, this was unofficial). Via ESPN Boston in 2016 (emphasis mine):

“The list was supposed to be confidential. I take the confidentiality commitment very seriously,” Manfred said. “It’s really unfortunate that someone’s name has ever been made public, point 1. Point 2: I don’t think people quite understand what this list was.

“There was legitimate scientific questions as to whether or not these were really positive. If, in fact, there were test results like this today on a player and we tried to discipline him, there would be a grievance about it. It would be examined, tried, solved. We did not do it. These issues and ambiguities were never resolved because we knew they didn’t matter.

“We knew we had enough positives for everyone to agree that we knew they were going to trigger the tests the following year. Even if Rob Manfred’s name was on this list, he could have to be one of those 10 out of 15 where there was probably or at least a very legitimate explanation that did not involve the use of a prohibited substance. “

There may be enough of them here that those who want to avoid voting for Ortiz will have an excuse, especially since those comments above were made on a weekend the Red Sox were honoring retirement. of Ortiz.

Still, there are certainly a lot of questions – particularly Ortiz never tested positive from 2004-16 and the possibility that anything from 2003 looks murky at best.

The aura

Didn’t David Ortiz aka “Big Papi” feel like a larger-than-life Hall of Fame player? If the numbers aren’t there it sometimes seems like a silly trail to explore, but it still seems to tick a lot of other boxes, so why not give out some bonus points? The dude was a rock star in Boston and the Dominican Republic throughout his career and still is. He gave the “this is our fucking town!” speech after the tragic Boston Marathon bombing. He’s been the driving force behind the offense for three World Series titles, especially with all of those clutch successes in the 2004 title breaking false-curses (yes, all “curses” are false).

Ortiz’s fear factor entering the box was also real. Even in powerful formations for most of his career, he racked up 209 intentional career walks, good for 16th place in history. It lasted until the end. He has led the league in intentional walks in three of his last four seasons (37, 39 and 40).

His arrival with the Red Sox in 2003 and then what happened with that franchise throughout his career really feels like it should matter as well. He played a big role in changing a previously unfortunate franchise, at least in terms of the playoffs.

Ortiz has the offensive numbers without the defense, although the playoff numbers surely give him a boost. There are questions on the PED front, although these seem quite fragile. The absence of a positive test for most of his career should alleviate any questions.

In conclusion, I think Ortiz will eventually come in, if not this year, and rightly so.