On Tuesday evening the Baseball Writers Association of America announced their selection for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2022. Despite the blockbuster names on the list like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (arguably the best hitter and pitcher in the history of baseball, by the numbers), the committee selected late-bloomer and postseason hero David Ortiz for selection.
Ortiz is a Boston legend who put the entire city on his shoulders and threw off 86 years of frustration, futility, and failure. His postseason dominance was the difference in an incredibly competitive series with the Yankees in 2004, a time when most New Englanders left the Red Sox for dead after losing three consecutive ALCS games.
In that 2004 postseason, Ortiz went 22-for-55, posting a monster slash line of .400/.515/.764 with five home runs (two of them in the most crucial of spots). It was an amazing 14 game run for Boston, and without Ortiz, they absolutely would have come up short. All-told, across 85 postseason games (76 of them in a Red Sox uniform) Papi smashed 17 home runs.
Ortiz is a member of the 500 home run club (541) and was a regular extra base hitter. He even led the league in doubles at the age of 40, smacking 48 two-baggers in 2016. Ortiz totaled 2,472 hits, led the league in several different categories including walks in 2006 and 2007, OBP in 2007, and total bases in 2006 (when he also led the league in home runs and RBIs).
With a career OPS+ at 141, Ortiz’ bat never quit. Not only did he lead the league in doubles in 2016, he also led the league in slugging (.621) and OPS (1.021). It’s pretty surprising that he didn’t come back for a swan song considering those numbers.
Ortiz received MVP votes in eight of his 14 seasons, never finishing thier than second place. He is a 10-time all star, and he earned himself seven silver slugger awards.
It’s remarkable the Twins released Ortiz following his first 20 home run season. As a beefy, one-dimensional 27-year-old, Minnesota just didn’t see the upside in bringing him back on a $1 to $3 million deal that would have been agreed to in arbitration.
The downside of Ortiz on-field candidacy was always the rub that he was not a good defender. He was a slow, bat-first slugger, who barely played the field. When he did play on the field, it wasn’t pretty. The reality though, is that in 21st century baseball, that doesn’t really matter. Roles for starting pitchers and relievers have evolved, as has the role of the slugger. That may change with time, but there wasn’t a team in Major League Baseball who wouldn’t have taken peak David Ortiz if they had the opportunity.
Despite the celebration that’s happening in the Ortiz house, and around New England in general, the Ortiz election calls into question the entire BBWAA process for selection into Cooperstown. This is especially the case since Bonds and Clemens have reached their tenth and final year on the ballot. The polarizing duo barely sniffed the 75 percent vote required for induction, topping out in the mid-60s in their tenth and final appearance on the ballot.
Ortiz supposedly failed a PED test in 2003, the cusp of his offensive ascension, yet being elected on his first ballot, he doesn’t appear to have been penalized at all by the voters. Sure, the more traditional writers, most of whom do not make their ballots public, and some of whom apparently don’t even follow who has already been selected, will spurn Ortiz for a myriad of reasons (they don’t like designated hitters being selected, he didn’t have enough ‘magic’ numbers, his one-dimensional play, etc.) but sometimes the play and cultural impact of a player transcend these arbitrary personal rules and biases.
Ortiz’ legacy is cemented in Boston. Next to Ted Williams, he’s the most impactful and significant player in Red Sox history, and as we know, even Teddy Ballgame never delivered the city a World Series championship. Congrats to David Ortiz.
Despite the controversy and all the hand-wringing, Ortiz’ election to Cooperstown is a well-deserved honor. An entire region is appreciative of Ortiz’ career as it’s good to celebrate the good times on frigid January nights in New England.
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano