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Is David Ortiz a Hall of Famer?

Oct 31, 2013, 9:22 AM EST

BOSTON — A lot of people are going to be asking that question this morning. Anyone answering “no” had better bring a good argument, because they’re on the much tougher side of the battle today than they were a year ago.

First, though, let us set aside the World Series and look at Ortiz’s overall case. Don’t worry: we’ll get there in a minute.

The Numbers

David Ortiz is a career .287/.381/.549 hitter. He has 431 homers and 1429 RBI. His OPS is .930 and his OPS+ — which adjusts him to the level of his competition, his era and the ballparks in which he hits — is 139, which means (for quick and dirty purposes) that’s he’s 39% above the average hitter.  These numbers place Ortiz comfortably within the range of current Hall of Famers. Is he inner-circle? Not really, but his not borderline on the numbers either. There are many worse hitters than Ortiz in Cooperstown whose primary argument for induction was their offensive output.

The Designated Hitter Factor

Of course Ortiz is offensive output and offensive output alone.  He has played a mere 263 of his 1514 career games in the field, spending the rest of his time as a designated hitter.  Not having any defensive value does take away from his overall value, but the notion that just because one has zero defensive value means one has no Hall of Fame case is silly. The DH has been part of the game for 41 seasons. It is not some novelty anymore. Relief pitchers are routinely inducted to the Hall of Fame now and they are specialists too. Many — specifically, one-inning closers — are the sorts of specialists that have only existed since the 1980s, really. If no one knocks them for not being all-around players no one should knock the DH.  And the fact is that, with the possible exception of Edgar Martinez, David Ortiz has been the greatest DH in baseball history. And for what it’s worth, Martinez should be in the Hall too.

The Playoffs Factor

I don’t necessarily believe that there are clutch hitters. Meaning, guys who can be predicted to do well in tough spots and on big stages before the fact. But there is no escaping the fact that Ortiz has done well in tough spots and on big stages throughout his entire career.

In three World Series he has hit a mind-boggling .455/.576/.795 with 14 RBI in 14 games.  Is he some freak of nature in this regard? Not really, as his career playoff line — including division series and league championship series — is almost identical to his batting line since he joined the Boston Red Sox. But that’s not to diminish his playoff performance. We notice what he does in the playoffs far more and are usually amazed. The fact that he has basically done that for his entire Red Sox career and some people think he is undeserving of the Hall tells us that we are underrating his regular season performance.

The Performance Enhancing Drugs Factor

The ultimate objection to Ortiz’s candidacy will be that he was once associated with performance enhancing drugs. Specifically, his name was leaked — but never confirmed — as one of the 103 players who tested positive for banned substances during baseball’s trial drug testing in 2003. Drug testing that (a) was, by design, not to result in discipline; and (b) was supposed to remain anonymous but which had its anonymity compromised by over-zealous federal investigators.

You may have a personal rule that, if someone who took PEDs, they should not be in the Hall of Fame.  We’ve handled these arguments here several times before and have shown them to often be disingenuous and unfair. Maybe nothing will change your mind, but know that there are already Hall of Famers who took PEDs and know that the accusations made against Ortiz are perhaps the thinnest that have been lodged against any player. And know that, in the past decade, he has never tested positive for PEDs.

So: He’s a Hall of Famer, Right?

You bet your bippy he is. The numbers certainly bear this out. And he still has a lot of gas left in the tank so he’ll be providing value for a few years yet, adding to his case.  But you can be statistically illiterate and see this guy’s value as a player. His mark on the game is indelible. Numbers aside, Ortiz has killed it in the World Series. He clearly carried the Red Sox this year. He is clearly the leader of one of the best teams of his era.

When I have a tough call on a Hall of Fame candidate, I ask myself: “Can you tell the story of baseball in the era in which he played without including him?”  If the answer is no, it’s hard to argue against his Hall of Fame case.  And in Ortiz’s case, that answer is clearly no. The man should go to Cooperstown the first year he’s eligible.

175 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. dafern0560 - Oct 31, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    Hell yea !! Induct him right now !!

    • dadler2150 - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:27 AM

      Nah… He hasn’t compiled enough HR or RBI to compare favorably in this era. 500 HR isn’t a lock anymore. He is nowhere close to 3000 hits. He doesn’t have a career .300 average. And since he was tied to steroids, there are way more suspected users more deserving of the HOF. Sorry but the post season heroics aren’t enough. Thome – yes. Edgar Martinez- yes. Frank Thomas – Yes. Big Papi – no

      • adamsmessage - Nov 6, 2013 at 4:43 PM

        Postseason heroics aren’t enough….gee, what an argument. He is the best hitter October has ever seen.

  2. ezwriter69 - Oct 31, 2013 at 8:52 PM

    They need to just put up a sign, we know some of the guys in here used PED’s; just because the others didn’t test positive ever, it still doesn’t mean they didn’t use, whoever they and their reputation are; If you can’t deal with that, don’t come inside. Ditto for gambling; there may be a dozen guys in there who also bet and threw games. So LET THEM ALL IN. To paraphrase what some of us used to say back in my day in a land far far away, let them all in, and let God sort it out. None of us are omniscient, we just will never know, and it’s CRIMINAL to keep guys like Piazza and Bagwell out based on NOTHING but speculation. Put them all in, and let God sort out the moral issues. We’re not qualified.

  3. blynch67 - Oct 31, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    Short answer: Not HOF

    • adamsmessage - Nov 6, 2013 at 4:44 PM

      Short reply: You’re wrong.

  4. paco53 - Nov 1, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    No HOF. PEDs. No PEDs users belong in the HOF. No DH belongs in the HOF; if they are good to make the HOF, they would play offense & defense.

    • jarathen - Nov 1, 2013 at 7:55 AM

      So according to your logic, players that play horrendous defense that actually hurts their value to the team are more worth of HoF induction than players allowed to keep their godawful defense off the field?

      It’s part of the game. Get over it.

    • adamsmessage - Nov 6, 2013 at 4:45 PM

      He was accused. Never proven….I could accuse you right now and you’d be as much of a user as David Ortiz. Face it. He’s clean and the fact he tests every other week proves it.

  5. calicokiller49 - Nov 1, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    Obviously

  6. lordfletcher - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:50 AM

    amazing what happens when he cheats.

    oh Twins, what could have been

    • adamsmessage - Nov 6, 2013 at 4:46 PM

      Again, he was only accused. Never confirmed to use any PEDs. He’s as much of a user as any of us. Papi is clean.

  7. cswanson69 - Nov 1, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    HOF……you’re kidding right? A guy who waddles up to the plate 4 times/game?

    Also, anybody else notice that after PEDs come back into the picture with Alex/biogenisis, etc, that Big Blobbi shows up this year about 150 lbs lighter?

    • adamsmessage - Nov 6, 2013 at 4:48 PM

      Gosh, you are so stupid. A DH that waddles up to the plate 4 times a game does as much as a starter who steps on the field once a week…

      …oh and you say 150 lbs lighter? You’re kidding, right? What an exaggeration. He was like 20 lbs lighter and for your information, he’s been tested every other week for the past 7 years at least. Take your dumb comments and shove them up where it hurts.

  8. richwizl - Nov 1, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    He has been one of the most feared hitters in the game for a decade because he produces like clockwork: you tell me.

  9. brandonmauk - Nov 1, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    It’s been established that anyone who is even somewhat linked to PEDs is out. Also established is no career DHs. If Bonds, Clemens, Edgar, and Bagwell are out, so is Ortiz.

    • brandonmauk - Nov 1, 2013 at 4:56 PM

      And this guy argues he should be in on the first ballot? Give me a break! Based on the criteria established by the voters, he should never get in.

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