David Ortiz isn’t just the most important player in Boston Red Sox history. He’s also one of the most important players in Major League Baseball history.
And now, a half-decade after his MLB retirement, Ortiz is set to take his rightful place in Cooperstown, as the Red Sox legend learned Tuesday he’s been voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.
Ortiz received 77.9% of the votes — more than the 75% required for enshrinement — and will enter the Hall solo this summer, with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens among those missing the latest cut. There was plenty of debate as to whether Ortiz would punch his ticket in 2022, as some Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) members argued against his Hall inclusion in the time since he hung up his cleats in 2016. But the reality? Those arguments were asinine, at worst; flimsy, at best.
Any ballot without Ortiz’s name checked required a certain level of overthinking. Put simply: Ortiz is the greatest designated hitter of all time. His career stats compare favorably to the numbers posted by many of his contemporaries. And no one has had more franchise-defining, league-altering moments — particularly in the postseason — since he joined the Red Sox in 2003.
If that isn’t a Hall of Fame résumé, what constitutes such?
Therein lies the problem with the Baseball Hall of Fame voting process, in general: the imbalance in how ballots are cast. Some voters focus exclusively on the analytics. Some value peak performance over longevity. Some discredit certain accomplishments due to steroid suspicions, however unfounded they might be. Some don’t care at all.
It’s a total bleep-show, really. And perhaps nothing accentuates that fact more the annual potential for both blank ballots and full ballots. Everyone has their own qualifications, oftentimes leading to a convoluted mess as we, the fans, try to make heads or tails of how each candidate truly stacks up.
But certain players transcend — or should transcend — these quibbles, because their overall body of work is so thoroughly eye-popping in the context of baseball lore. Ortiz is one such player.
Maybe we’re oversimplifying matters here. But then again, maybe that’s exactly the approach we should take to avoid getting lost in the weeds. It’s often been said the best way to judge a player’s Hall candidacy is to conduct the knee-jerk reaction test: When you think of Player X, do you think “Hall of Fame?”
Apply that experiment to Ortiz, and it’s a no-brainer. You simply cannot write the history of baseball without Big Papi, a 10-time All-Star, a seven-time Silver Slugger and a three-time World Series champion who simultaneously was one of the game’s most feared sluggers and its most beloved characters for the better part of two decades. He led the Red Sox on a dynastic run after 86 years of championship futility.
We talk a lot nowadays about the “face of baseball,” and which players are best positioned to assume that title. While doing so, we should acknowledge Ortiz spent a large chunk of his career in the thick of that very conversation, along the way influencing the next generation of great Dominican talent.
Sorry, but a Hall of Fame without David Ortiz would be no Hall of Fame at all.