Let me preface this article by saying that if I had a Hall of Fame vote, I would definitely vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza. When the time comes, I'd gladly put Alex Rodriguez in as well.
I grew up during the steroid era. I was playing Little League when some of the game's biggest stars were having exciting home run races and breaking records left and right. It was fun. I loved it.
Perhaps it's generational, there's definitely the possibility of that. But I can't see how the greatest home run hitter in history and most feared hitter in my lifetime (Bonds) isn't in. I can't see how Clemens, who was dominant and has the most Cy Young Awards ever, isn't in. I'm a New Yorker and lived through Piazza's greatness, but he's the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history, and he's being held out of the Hall of Fame due to a suspicion of using steroids.
The simple fact of the matter is that if worthy first-ballot Hall of Famers such as Piazza are being held out due to a suspicion, there's just no way that David Ortiz should be let in with a failed drug test on his resume.
|Notable Hall of Fame Results|
The interesting thing is that most people either forget about Ortiz's run-in with performance-enhancing drugs or just don't care. It's truly fascinating, and it may just have to do with the fact that Big Papi is a well-loved guy around baseball. It's well known that he has a great personality and is a class act, so people seem to give him a pass due to it.
Unfortunately, we see this happen more frequently than you think.
It's the reason Andy Pettitte, who admittedly used HGH, just had his number retired by the Yankees and now has a plaque in Monument Park among some of the greatest to ever play the game, and Clemens is essentially blacklisted from baseball. It's the reason Ortiz is being considered for the Hall of Fame while notable baseball villain A-Rod, who blows him away in every statistic, is widely regarded as having no chance.
For Ortiz, it was a failed drug test 13 years ago with tricky circumstances, as his name was leaked from a list that was supposed to remain anonymous. He wasn't even told he tested positive until years later.
Ortiz thinks he should still be in the Hall of Fame regardless of the test results. After all, he has been dominating opposing pitchers for nearly a decade and a half since with no other failed tests in between.
“If one day I’m up for the Hall of Fame and there are guys who don’t vote for me because of that, I will call it unfair,’’ Ortiz said, per Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe.
Now, Ortiz jokingly swore in his first-person story on Derek Jeter's The Players' Tribune that the only things drug testers will find in his urine are rice and beans. Still, he claims to have been tested over 80 times since 2004 and has never failed one of those tests.
He's mainly frustrated because he's never been told which substance he tested positive for back in 2003, when he was less careful with the substances he purchased and put in his body. He claims to never have knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs, which could very well be true. In a sport that was once infested with steroids, PEDs in locker rooms were probably more plentiful than chewing gum was in dugouts.
Here's Ortiz's bottom line when it comes to his run-in with PEDs, per his essay on The Players' Tribune:
Let me tell you something. Say whatever you want about me — love me, hate me. But I’m no bulls-----r. I never knowingly took any steroids. If I tested positive for anything, it was for something in pills I bought at the damn mall. If you think that ruins everything I have done in this game, there is nothing I can say to convince you different.
There's no denying that Ortiz has put together a remarkable career and has been the key cog in three championships for a franchise that didn't have one in 86 years. When you think of the great Red Sox teams over the last few decades, Ortiz's name, along with Pedro Martinez and slugger Manny Ramirez, likely comes to mind.
Ortiz has become the unlikely face of a franchise after being a relative nobody over his first six seasons in Minnesota. He has revolutionized the game and is undoubtedly the best designated hitter the game has ever seen. In fact, his prowess at the position is likely one of the reasons that Major League Baseball, though it has increased interleague play, has elected to keep the DH in the American League.
Here's a look at how Ortiz's numbers rank all-time:
|David Ortiz All-Time Ranks|
|Runs Batted In||1,619||33|
|Silver Slugger Awards||6||T-10|
What's missing on Ortiz's resume? An elusive MVP award.
While he has five finishes in the top five, he has never been able to win one.
His closest finish was in 2005, when he finished second to Rodriguez, who posted a monster season for the Yankees. Ortiz finished just one home run shy of A-Rod's league-leading 48 homers, although he led the league with 148 RBI himself.
One obvious knock on Ortiz would be his lack of a defensive position. He is nothing more than a liability at first base when the Red Sox play National League teams, and that's something that would likely be counted against him even if he never tested positive for any PEDs in the first place.
No gold gloves, no defensive metrics to judge him by.
Not to keep bringing Rodriguez into the discussion, but he was a two-time Gold Glove shortstop before voluntarily switching to third base with the Yankees, alongside Derek Jeter. He was a plus third baseman as well, showcasing his defensive prowess and versatility. Bonds won eight Gold Gloves in a nine-year span with the Pirates and Giants.
So the DH argument can work both ways. While he is likely the best DH in the history of the game, it's still a position in which there's less attrition due to its one-sided nature.
If circumstances were different, I wouldn't mind putting Ortiz in the Hall of Fame. The problem is that current voters are trying to play judge, jury and God while deciphering who to let pass and who to deny at the gates of the Hall.
Cooperstown has become a haven for solely clean players, whether it is just in the mind of the masses or not.
Ortiz is a great guy and a great player. He's had a great career. But there are better players with steroid connections who have been blocked from entering Cooperstown. Unless voters change their minds and let those guys in first, Ortiz shouldn't get preferential treatment and a free pass based on personality alone.
It's either they all get in or they don't. There's no in-between.