Skip to content

Is David Ortiz a Hall of Famer?

Oct 31, 2013, 9:22 AM EDT

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Red Sox trade John Lackey to Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    John Lackey Getty Getty Images

    Not satisfied with adding Justin Masterson to the rotation yesterday, the Cardinals have added another veteran starter by acquiring John Lackey from the Red Sox. And, much like Boston’s deal to get Yoenis Cespedes from Oakland for Jon Lester, the Red Sox have prioritized the present by getting veterans Allen Craig and Joe Kelly in exchange.

  2. Jonny Gomes says something interesting about chemistry

    Jul 31, 2014, 12:49 PM EDT

    Jonny Gomes AP

    Seems that Gomes knows more about team chemistry than the people who hold him up as a paragon of good chemistry.

  3. Dodgers “trying hard” to get Joaquin Benoit from Padres

    Jul 31, 2014, 12:38 PM EDT

    Joaquin Benoit

    Because the Dodgers can apparently never have too many current and former closers in the bullpen, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that they’re “trying hard” to acquire Joaquin Benoit from the Padres.

  4. HBT Daily: Breaking down the Jon Lester-Yoenis Cespedes trade

    Jul 31, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    It’s a win-win from where I’m sitting. In my basement studio. With shorts on beneath the suit jacket, even if I’m trying to look like I’m in an office.

  5. Dan Runzler leaves the Giants to go to Japan

    Jul 31, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT

    San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies Getty Images

    San Francisco released reliever Dan Runzler from Triple-A so that he can sign with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com.

  6. Royals release Joe Saunders

    Jul 31, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT

    Joe Saunders AP AP

    Joe Saunders has been released from Triple-A by the Royals, who’re the fourth organization to cut bait on the veteran left-hander this season.

  7. 2014 Trade Deadline Tracker

    Jul 31, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT

    Recapping all of Thursday’s dealings in one spot.

  8. A’s trade Tommy Milone to Twins for Sam Fuld

    Jul 31, 2014, 11:13 AM EDT

    Tommy Milone Getty Getty Images

    Tommy Milone was the odd man out in the A’s rotation before today, so there was really no place for him in Oakland following the Jon Lester trade.

  9. This trade can be a winner for Oakland, even if they don’t win it all.

    Jul 31, 2014, 11:12 AM EDT

    a's logo

    Because, if you haven’t noticed, they have not sewn up the AL West yet.

  10. Orioles shut down prospect Hunter Harvey with elbow injury

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

    hunter harvey orioles

    Harvey was selected for the Futures Games as a 19-year-old and started 17 games at low Single-A with a 3.18 ERA and 106/33 K/BB ratio in 88 innings.

  11. The Lester trade is a win-win

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    cespedes getty Getty Images

    The Sox did not get hosed here. Don’t believe that for a second.

  12. “All indications” Cubs will trade Emilio Bonifacio

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT

    Emilio Bonifacio AP

    Emilio Bonifacio was available to the Cubs on a minor-league deal after being released by the Royals in February and now five months later they’re going to get something in return for the 29-year-old speedster.

  13. 30 Seconds to Know: the trade deadline is not really a deadline

    Jul 31, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT

    30 Seconds To Know

    It just gets more complicated to make a trade after 4pm today.

  14. Corey Kluber tossed an 85-pitch shutout last night

    Jul 31, 2014, 9:16 AM EDT

    Corey Kluber Getty Images

    It was quite a tribute to Greg Maddux, actually.

  15. Matt Kemp is sizzling since the break, plays the hero again last night

    Jul 31, 2014, 8:55 AM EDT

    Matt Kemp AP

    Trade rumors? Heck, he looks like he’s going to be a key piece for the Dodgers down the stretch.

  16. The State of the Trade Deadline: Yesterday was pretty sleepy. Will general managers wake up today?

    Jul 31, 2014, 8:10 AM EDT

    Jon Lester

    The State of the Trade Deadline, eight hours before the music stops.

  17. And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

    Jul 31, 2014, 6:59 AM EDT

    Heart

    Always go 100%. Even if you’re not totally into what you’re doing. That includes singing power ballads.

  18. Marlins, White Sox “have discussed” a John Danks trade

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:19 PM EDT

    john danks getty Getty Images

    From FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi comes word that the Marlins and White Sox “have discussed a possible trade” involving left-handed starter John Danks.

Featured video

The Jon Lester-Yoenis Cespedes trade is a win-win
Top 10 MLB Player Searches