Now that there is a definitive end date to his career, David Ortiz can talk about the Hall of Fame with a bit more purpose. That’s exactly what he did when sitting down to talk about the subject at his celebrity golf tournament.
“I am,” said the Red Sox designated hitter when asked if he was optimistic he would eventually be inducted into Cooperstown. “I think I did, and still do, what I’m supposed to. So, that’s all I can control.
“Numbers-wise, it shouldn’t be a problem because that’s what the Hall of Fame is all about. Numbers and not being someone being part of controversy, so I guess on that side of it I think I’m doing OK. Getting in the Hall of Fame is not an easy thing to do. There is always going to be someone who has something to say, so we’ll see how that plays out.”
He’s right, numbers probably won’t be Ortiz’s roadblock.
Starting with my very unscientific approach to starting the Hall of Fame conversation for position players — charting how many times they finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting (showing a dominance in their era) — the DH passes muster, accomplishing the feat six times. Conversely, new-inducted Mike Piazza reached such levels seven times, while the guy just missing out this time around, Jeff Bagwell, was a five-timer.
We also know about the 503 homers, and, of course, the historic postseason success.
Ortiz’s hurdles will be his link to performance enhancing drugs (the 2003 survey test) and the position he plays, designated hitter.
Wednesday’s results offered some additional clarity when analyzing Ortiz’s chances.
Even though neither Piazza or Bagwell have no direct link to PEDs, the suggestion that they might have dipped into that well certainly has been the reason it took them so long to get this far in the voting. But here they are.
And even the guys Curt Schilling recently called the “poster children” for the steroid era, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, saw jumps after staying fairly stagnant in their first three years on the ballot. Each jumped about eight percent.
But, perhaps most important for Ortiz’s candidacy, was how Edgar Martinez was viewed by voters.
Frank Thomas is the only semblance of a designated hitter in the Hall of Fame, although he played almost as many games at first base. That has left Martinez — the player the award for best DH each season is named after — as the position’s current hope to crack the Hall.
But, for Martinez, it hadn’t been going well.
In six times on the ballot, he had yet to crack 36.5 percent, dropping to 27 percent last year. And this is a guy who carried a career .312 batting average and .933 OPS over an 18-year career.
But, presumably thanks to weeding out of some of the older voters, Martinez and the DH position took a big, 16.4 percent leap forward. He now stands at 43.4 percent. That, along with closer Trevor Hoffman getting a whopping 67.3 percent on his first try, was an enormous step toward silencing positional bias.
Here’s a guess: If Martinez cracks 50 percent — which it would seem a very real possibility — Ortiz isn’t weighed down by the position and he is in.
“I don’t know,” said Ortiz when asked if there would be another designated hitter to come along like himself. “They said the same thing about Edgar Martinez, that there wasn’t going to be another guy born to be that good and God blessed me for being who I am. So I don’t doubt that some point in baseball somebody else pops up like me, or better than me. That’s something that nobody can dictate.”