Waaaaaay back in April, I made my case for Edgar Martinez getting into the Hall of Fame. I’m sure you don’t need a refresher that one of the biggest obstacles for Edgar is the fact that he played the majority of his career as the Seattle Mariners’ designated hitter. The Baseball Writers Association of America clearly has a prejudice against the DH. I stand by that accusation, even if they voted Frank Thomas into the Hall in his first year of eligibility (he received 83.7% of the vote). With four years left of eligibility, the outlook is grim for Edgar. He topped out at 36.5% in 2012, with a downward trend that doesn’t bode well. And his name has never been associated with PEDs.
Unfortunately for David Ortiz, his name was among those leaked from the 2003 Mitchell Report. However, as Ken Rosenthal wrote yesterday, time may be on his side, as his absolute earliest year of eligibility would be 2021. While the alleged positive test will remain a stain on Ortiz’s resumé, he technically never used PEDs during the era when Major League Baseball finally banned them. Look, I’ve said it before and I will continue to beat this argument into anyone’s head within shouting distance. I honestly couldn’t give a big ol’ crap about PEDs. I don’t view their use as cheating, since it’s possible that over 90% of major leaguers used them during the so-called Steroid Era.
Furthermore, I think it is part of the competitive culture of professional sports. Dudes will do anything to get an edge, even if it ends up just leveling the playing field. And honestly, I’m a little tired of the negative moralizing of one era and sanctifying of others. Especially when some of those eras were played only by White guys. I also don’t want to talk about it anymore when it comes to Ortiz’s case for the Hall. I struggled with how to approach that when my editor asked me to write about Ortiz and the Hall. He never mentioned PEDs, he just asked me to offer my opinion. So, without further ado, I’d like to give you a Boston Red Sox fan’s raving, frothing support for Ortiz getting into the Hall.
Let’s start with some of those ‘magic numbers’ that old school traditionalist voters like so much. Just a couple months shy of 40 and sitting at 2,277 hits, it is almost certain Ortiz won’t reach 3,000 hits. Strike one. On the other hand, with 29 games left to play this season, it would be shocking if Big Papi didn’t hit five more home runs to reach 500 for his career. Knock on wood, but at least Don Orsillo will have the pleasure of calling number 500. Since the All Star Break, Ortiz has hit 14 of his 29 dingers on the season, in almost exactly half of the games he played in the first half, so he seems locked in enough to get to 500.
Those homers account for nearly half of his 1,087 career extra base hits, which is good enough for 22nd place on the all-time leaderboard. He’s also 29th for career slugging percentage at .5451. Frank Thomas and Alex Rodriguez are tied for 20th place at .5549. Edgar is 69th on the list at .5155 – also he sits in 96th place for XBH with 838. If I can go off supporting Edgar for the Hall, I think this is another point in Ortiz’s favor. Both of those lists, by the way, are littered with Hall of Famers after Ortiz’s name appears. The same goes for the career RBI list, where Ortiz currently occupies 33rd place with 1,614 rib eyes.
How about postseason success? I know the BBWAA voters like to consider that, too. Ortiz has GOBS of it. The overall numbers don’t look abnormal. A .962 OPS in the playoffs is just a bit higher than his .923 career OPS in the regular season. So he steps his game up a little bit, when looking at the dry numbers. Yet, any Sox fan, hell, any baseball fan can tell you he has been a redemptive god for a fan base that was about to slip the noose around its collective neck. When he did this, of course.
Less than 24 hours later, he talked Red Sox Nation back off the ledge again.
He quickly took a leadership role amongst the “Idiots” of 2004 and has remained the face of the Sox throughout three World Series championships. That goes without mentioning sticking with us all during some really awful years. He has been a centerpiece to a team that has had overwhelmingly transformative effects upon its fan base and their psychological profile. Even as he has become the elder statesman, he still can put his team on his broad shoulders and carry them all by himself. If you don’t agree, just check out the 2013 World Series that the Sox won with a team OPS of .621. It was only even that far north of pathetic, because Ortiz absolutely mashed his way through those six games (1.948 OPS!!!). In that time, he has been named MVP of the 2004 ALCS and the 2013 Series.
When it comes to WAR and JAWS, it looks, sadly, as if Ortiz falls well short of the first baseman numbers ‘required’ to meet the standards Jay Jaffe has laid out for Hall Status. That, in and of itself, is problematic, because we don’t have any standards for career DH’s and what numbers they need to produce to look like a Hall of Famer. Maybe kinda strike two, but I’d say it’s under review as to whether the bat crossed the plane or not.
Lastly, I know that Cooperstown instructs BBWAA voters to also consider a candidate’s character when considering the vote. I’d say that, since I’ve stated my case about links to PEDs, his character is nearly immaculate. Not only is Ortiz a clear team leader, he’s a fabulous clubhouse guy; Ortiz is not the one you look at when team chemistry is problematic. Beyond that, Ortiz is constantly busy with charitable work – which almost goes without mention for fair amount of high profile athletes these days. He goes beyond that. Not only do Bostonians identify him as one of them, he identifies with the city. And when the city of Boston needed him, to help distract them, he stepped up.
To me, all of this adds up to a clear Hall of Famer. So, in another six or seven, or maybe even eight, years, please remember all of this when filling out your ballots, folks.