David Ortiz has provided Boston Red Sox fans with countless memories.
He helped end the 86-year World Series drought in 2004, played a key role in raising another championship banner in 2007 and won MVP of the 2013 World Series in one of the most historic performances in postseason history.
In addition to that playoff success, Big Papi has created many more special moments with walk-off hits, towering home runs and an engaging personality.
Ortiz reached another milestone in his Hall of Fame-worthy career Saturday by hitting his 500th career home run in a win against the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s the 27th player to join the 500-home run club. It also marked his 50th multi-homer game.
This achievement further cements his place in Red Sox lore, and a strong case can be made that he’s the best player in the 115-year history of the team.
Consider this: Ortiz is one of just four players to ever hit 500 home runs and win three World Series, along with Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle.
Since joining the Red Sox in 2003, Ortiz has averaged 34 home runs, 107 RBIs and a .288 batting average. That’s a 13-year run of incredible offensive production, and a lot of players have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame with much shorter primes.
Ortiz has a team record nine 30-homer seasons and needs six RBIs to pass Ted Williams for the most Red Sox seasons with 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs.
In the playoffs, Big Papi has batted .295 with 17 homers, 60 RBIs and a .409 on-base percentage. If you think that’s impressive, here’s his World Series line: .455 batting average, three home runs, 14 RBIs, a .576 on-base percentage and a 1.372 OPS. The following chart from Baseball Reference shows where Ortiz ranks in four statistical categories from World Series play. It’s astounding.
The cases against Ortiz being worthy of the Hall of Fame are mostly ridiculous and continue to shrink with each ball that leaves the yard. One argument that won’t go away is the fact he’s spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter, and thus not often contributing defensively.
First of all, anyone with Ortiz’s offensive production is contributing plenty to his team without playing in the field each game. Second, his career WAR (wins above replacement) among position players is 49.7, which is higher than several players already in the Hall of Fame.
Frank Thomas, who was elected to the HOF in the 2015 class, spent 56 percent of his games at DH, the most of any Hall of Famer. He received 83.70 percent of the vote as a first-ballot inductee — 75 percent is needed to be inducted. Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, one of the best offensive players of his generation, received 54.3 percent of the vote in 2014. Bagwell was not a great fielder, and neither was Thomas. Edgar Martinez, one of the best DHs of all-time, received 25.2 percent of the vote last year.
Ortiz is better than all three of these players, and his postseason resume is leaps and bounds more impressive. Statistically speaking, especially when you combine regular season and playoff success, Ortiz should be a lock for the Hall of Fame.
The crazy part of Ortiz’s career is that at 39 years old, he’s still one of the best hitters in the sport. He currently ranks in the top 10 of the American League in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and OPS. He has the same amount of homers (34) as Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout and 19 more RBIs, despite Trout having 27 more at-bats.
Big Papi still has plenty of great memories to share.
Cooperstown will wait.