If You Don't Think David Ortiz Is A Hall-Of-Famer You're An Idiot
By Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff)
BOSTON (CBS) -- According to reports Tuesday afternoon, Red Sox legend David Ortiz will retire following the 2016 season. Wednesday is Ortiz's 40th birthday and he intends to hang it up after one last farewell tour.
Ortiz has said that he does not want the same kind of last hurrah that Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera got, even though he might get it anyway. However Big Papi and the Red Sox plan to handle his final season, 2016 marks the end of what should be a Hall-of-Fame career.
It pains me to say "should be", because Ortiz's Hall-of-Fame worthiness has been up for debate for years over a multitude of reasons and will rage on after he retires. But it should be a no-brainer: Papi should be the first designated hitter to be enshrined in Cooperstown, and if you believe otherwise you are a moron. Sorry for the name-calling, but I really believe you're either clueless or in denial - and I'll tell you why.
The biggest factor that will hold Ortiz back on Hall-of-Fame ballots is his loose yet undeniable connection to PED use. Ortiz appeared on a 2003 list of players who failed drug tests, but has never been suspended or disciplined in any way for using performance enhancing drugs. That apparently will be enough to hold him back from the 75% of votes needed to induct him into Cooperstown, at least for a while.
But I am of the opinion that steroids should not be a factor in determining someone's Hall-of-Fame eligibility. I think the Baseball Writers Association of America should assume that either everyone did steroids or no one did. A specific set of guidelines might be necessary, because there are plenty of Hall-of-Fame voters who love to inject their own morals and values and reject anyone linked to steroids with zero tolerance - and others who don't let it taint players' careers as much as others have.
Perhaps my whole point is moot, because the steroid argument is a matter of opinion and you may put PEDs on the same level as betting on baseball. If we fundamentally disagree on that overriding factor, my entire case means nothing to you. But for argument's sake, let's assume everyone in baseball history did steroids. You should be able to distinguish the Hall-of-Famers from the good-but-not-greats. They should pass the eye test - well, if you look past the bowling ball heads and He-Man arms.
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa elevated themselves from decent to unbeatable after using PEDs, so they are not Hall-of-Fame players. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, on the other hand, were clearly Hall-of-Fame talents with or without steroids. Rafael Palmeiro? No. Ortiz? Yes!
Now I know what you may be thinking: "All Ortiz does is hit home runs! Take away the steroids and he's nothing!" Obviously, if Ortiz did indeed use PEDs he got a boost in his home run numbers. But the big, big difference that separates Ortiz from so many other feared sluggers of his generation (and the steroid era in general) was his uncanny ability to consistently deliver big hits in the biggest situations.
Steroids (if he did them) made Ortiz bigger and stronger, but they did not make him clutch. He simply had it. That he delivered dozens of big hits and iconic moments throughout his career, culminating with his incredible team-carrying MVP performance in Boston's 2013 World Series title, is a testament to his undeniable ability to win games or put his team on top all by himself.
Ortiz is not only the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history, he is arguably the most clutch hitter in baseball history. His face should be carved into baseball's Mount Rushmore of big-time playoff performers, as big as that list may be by now. And as far as just his generation, Ortiz surpasses everyone else when it comes to hitting in the postseason. It's the same reason Ortiz should make the Hall of Fame that Curt Schilling should.
The other big reason that many voters will resist giving Ortiz Hall-of-Fame votes is because of his position, designated hitter. For whatever reason, a lot of voters consider themselves "purists" or "traditionalists" and invariably dismiss the notion of voting in someone who only hits and doesn't play the field.
It's true, Ortiz didn't play much first base over the course of his career and when he did, it was not pretty. But should that alone undo all of the amazing things he did with his bat, just because he didn't go out there and suck at first base more often? Frank Thomas is in, since he played first base sometimes even though he was just OK at best. Thomas never got caught using PEDs so he's got that going for him too, but to be consistent I'm removing PEDs from the equation - Thomas was a feared slugger and liability on the diamond with or without 'roids, and so was Ortiz. And for good measure, so was Jim Rice.
DH may be the black sheep of the baseball position family, but it's still a real position - and Ortiz was head and shoulders above everyone in the game at DH for over a decade, and may go out on top too. It would be a shame for baseball to exclude a player who was the best of his generation at his position and also the best in the postseason.
Above all else, Ortiz was an ambassador for the game, the face of the sport, an immortal, beloved figure in one of baseball's biggest markets, and an internationally respected superstar throughout his decorated career. And if you don't like Ortiz, it's likely not because of him as a person - he's as likable as it gets.
So tell me what you think: does Ortiz deserve a plaque in the Hall of Fame? Surely almost everyone in Red Sox Nation would say yes, but I'm interested in the takes of fans from everywhere else in baseball. He brings one of the most intriguing cases for Hall-of-Fame voting since the first batch of steroid-era sluggers, and the controversy will likely keep him far from a first-ballot induction. But he should eventually get in. It's fine if you disagree, and you may have some solid points. But I reserve the right to say that you are out of your mind if you think baseball should keep Papi's face out of the Hall.
Regardless of PEDs, Ortiz carved himself a legendary legacy that should etch his name into baseball lore forever. And it should take him all the way to Cooperstown.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Read more from Matt here. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
for more features.