BOSTON – David Ortiz accomplished enough throughout his career to be considered not only a legend in Boston and in the Dominican Republic, but also an icon for his decisive hits on the field and humanitarian efforts off the field.
His No. 34 was removed and placed on the front behind Fenway Park’s right field less than a year after he made his last visit to the plate, a move unprecedented in Red Sox history.
A street and a bridge were named in his honor on Boston Bay.
And now, Ortiz is finally eligible to receive the highest honor a baseball player can aspire to.
Big Papi is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.
The 2022 ballot was unveiled on Monday and Ortiz and Alex Rodríguez are the most notable names among the debutants. Meanwhile, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling are in their final year of eligibility in the North American Baseball Writers Association (BBWAA) process.
“The reality is, I’m really excited,” Ortiz said during a recent interview with MLB.com. “When your name comes up and you feel like you have the opportunity to be part of that special group, it’s something that definitely excites you a lot.”
The alleged use of performance-enhancing substances has so far impacted both Clemens ‘and Bonds’ Hall nominations. Alex Rodríguez was punished at the end of his MLB career for the use of these substances and also acknowledged that he had used them during his years with the Rangers between 2001 and 2003.
In 2009, the New York Times reported that Ortiz was on a list of 103 players who tested positive for banned substances in preliminary tests conducted in 2003, before MLB’s official anti-doping program began in 2004.
On the weekend that Ortiz played his last regular-season series in 2016, Commissioner Rob Manfred said it wasn’t fair to draw conclusions based on what were supposed to be anonymous tests in 2003.
“That list was supposed to be confidential. I take the pledge of confidentiality very seriously, ”Manfred said on October 3, 2016.“ Point one, it is unfortunate that someone’s name has been mentioned in public. Point two, I don’t think people really understand what that list was.
“There were scientifically legitimate questions about whether those were really positive results. If, in fact, there were test results like that today of a player and we tried to punish him, there would be a complaint about it. It would be vetoed, judged, resolved. We did not do that. Those details and ambiguities were never resolved, because we knew they didn’t matter. “
Ortiz has always claimed that he never used such substances.
“I feel like I did what I was supposed to do while playing,” Ortiz said. “I think I did my job the way I was supposed to. I hope voters will consider that and then we’ll see what happens. “
It will be interesting how much importance is given to defense – or lack thereof – in considerations of Ortiz’s arguments for the Hall. Although the Dominican had a first baseman mascot for interleague games in the National League and World Series stadiums, he was a designated hitter for most of his career.
While that was once a stigma for players trying to break into Cooperstown, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, and Harold Baines are recent examples of players entering Cooperstown after starting more games as BD than at any other position.
Early in Ortiz’s career, it was hard to imagine that he would one day be a candidate for the Temple of the Immortals.
Playing for the Twins from 1997-2002, Ortiz hit .266 / .348 ./. 461 with 58 homers and 238 RBIs in 1,693 plate appearances.
Minnesota released him on December 16, 2002, and the Red Sox signed him a month later, with a modest one-year, $ 1.25 million contract. Although the baseball universe didn’t know it yet, Ortiz’s legend was about to begin that first season in Boston.
Surrounded by notable sluggers at the top of their careers like compatriot Manny Ramírez and Nomar Garciaparra, Ortiz began to study their work habits and the things that made them such productive hitters. Little by little, he created his own routine. With a refined swing and more playing time, Ortiz became one of the scariest hitters of his generation during a wonderful 14-year stint in Boston.
That included a trio of World Series wins (2004, 2007 and 2013), the first three for the Red Sox since 1918. While several were responsible for Boston’s rebirth, Ortiz was in the middle of it all, connecting 483 of his 541 homers with the Patirrojos. Only Ted Williams homered more than Ortiz for Boston.
In his 20-year career, Ortiz hit .286 / .380 / .552 and also added 632 doubles and 1,768 RBIs.
How good was Ortiz until the end? His 1,021 OPS in his last major league season – at age 40 – was the best of both circuits.
In the postseason, Ortiz many times put his team on his back. His exploits in the 2004 American League Championship Series changed franchise history. The Red Sox were down in that series three wins to nil against the Yankees. No team had ever recovered from such a deficit in the postseason.
Ortiz hit a gold home run to avoid New York’s sweep in the 12th inning of Game 4. Then, he hit a gold hit to center field the next day in the 14th inning of Game 5, bringing the series back to the Bronx.
And in Game 7, the Red Sox finally beat the Yankees, with Ortiz igniting the party with a two-stripe home run in the first act.
Then there was 2013. The Red Sox were down by four runs and four outs from falling 2-0 in the SCLA against the Tigers. Ortiz stood at the plate and hit a grand slam against compatriot Joaquin Benoit that sent Torii Hunter headfirst into the Boston bullpen. Detroit never recovered.
In that 2013 World Series, Ortiz had a Fall Classic for history, hitting .688 (16-11) with two doubles, two home runs, six RBIs, eight walks and a 1,948 OPS as the Red Sox beat in six games to San Luis.
On January 20, 2022, Ortiz will know if all those accomplishments will be enough to induce him to the Hall of Fame at his first opportunity.
“I know there are a lot of players who have been on the ballot for a long time and haven’t gotten where they wanted to go,” Ortiz said. “It will be my first time and let’s hope things go well.”
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