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Despite hitting the disabled list, David Ortiz has had another monster season to add to his resume. Already achieving an eleventh consecutive season with at least 20 home runs and making his eighth overall All-Star appearance this year, Ortiz’s 2012 campaign can already be labeled an individual success.
At the ripe old age of 36, Ortiz is closer to the end of his playing days than he is to the beginning. Consequently, the question has been asked more and more these days: Is Big Papi a Hall of Famer? The answer is no, but not for the reasons typically given.
When it comes to his Hall of Fame candidacy, Ortiz is typically written off for two reasons, neither of which hold much weight after giving the slightest amount of thought.
First is his position, or lack thereof. For one reason or another, being a Designated Hitter is a terrible, terrible thing. The reasoning: Designated Hitters don’t play defense. Never mind that this excuses players, such as Jose Bautista, who actually hurt their respective teams by playing defense, because that is perfectly okay according to the experts.
It’s all very clear. Designated Hitters don’t hit and field. So by that logic, should all pitchers in the American League be dismissed from Hall of Fame considerations as well? Of course not, because that would be dumb. DH is a position just like Second Base or Catcher or Right Field. Different positions simply have different priorities and responsibilities. It’s been around for 40 years so get over it. The DH position is just like Obamacare–whether we like it or not, it’s here to stay.
And then there are the steroids. As it has been well chronicled, our beloved Big Papi took performance enhancing drugs at some point, which not only disqualifies you from Hall of Fame considerations but makes you a despicable human being. Unless your name is Andy Pettitte, in which case it’s totally fine for some reason.
The way steroids has impacted Hall of Fame voting is absolutely insane. Players who have never been linked to taking banned substances are still written off from consideration. Like the concept of Falling Skies, the steroid thing has been done to death, but the way I see it, players have been cheating since the inception of Major League Baseball. The fact that someone did it after the year 1990 shouldn’t make it any more deplorable. I’m not saying David Ortiz or any other player linked to steroids should make the Hall of Fame. But solely for this reason, I’m not saying they shouldn’t either.
But if none of these arguments against Ortiz hold up, why shouldn’t the guy should be in the Hall of Fame? Because none of these “heated arguments” concerning Ortiz take his career numbers into consideration. Simply put, he hasn’t amassed the stats that constitute a Hall of Fame career.
Since he burst onto the baseball map in 2003 all the way through 2011, Ortiz has averaged 36 home runs, 114 RBIs, a .289 AVG, ,387 OBP, .570 Slugging Percentage, and .958 OPS. He has earned the label of most clutch hitter, face of the Boston Red Sox, and won two World Series titles (although baseball isn’t obsessed with individual rings like some sports). No one is doubting how good that is. A lot of players in the Hall of Fame have done worse.
That being said, Ortiz was a late bloomer. For whatever reason, he was already 27 by the time he had his first breakout year. You can’t amass the mandatory checkpoints required to join the Hall of Fame when your career is non-existent until you’re 27.
When he’s been good, David Ortiz has been Hall of Fame good. But when it comes to Hall of Fame voting, longevity plays a factor. As valuable as Ortiz has been to the Red Sox, there are fifty other contemporary sluggers just like him, many of whom who have reached that mandatory 500 career home run mark. With 401, it is unreasonable to expect 99 more from Ortiz. Throw in the rest of his baggage and it becomes naive to expect voters to lend Big Papi their support.
None of this is to diminish David Ortiz’s talent, achievements, or importance in Red Sox history. When it is all said and done, he will be celebrated and honored in ways most baseball players can only dream of.
It just won’t involve a plaque in Cooperstown.