Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year. With 541 home runs to his name, three World Series rings, ten All-Star Game appearances, seven Silver Slugger Awards, and a career 141 OPS+, his résumé seems to warrant a spot in Cooperstown.
There’s more to it than that, though. Ortiz reportedly failed a drug test in 2003. Known PED-users have notoriously been held out of the Hall of Fame, namely Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose numbers are far superior to Ortiz’s. Big Papi, however, is currently over the 75% vote threshold needed to be inducted, based on the public ballots we have at our disposal.
A Strange Bias
I wish I had some super-smart answer as to why guys like Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, etc. have not gotten a pass for their juicing, while Ortiz seemingly has. But I don’t. There’s no denying his numbers warrant a plaque in Cooperstown. The issue is the validity of the numbers, which gets called into question when a player juices. For Ortiz, though, none of that seems to matter. Why did voters, many of which are the same voters, not show this leniency for the aforementioned stars?
It becomes even weirder when you factor in that David Ortiz played in basically the same era as guys being held out of the Hall. We’re not comparing him to a player who might have taken some kind of amphetamines in the 1940s or something. We’re comparing sluggers who are basically separated by a single decade; Ortiz dominated in the 2000s and 2010s, while Bonds, Sosa, Palmeiro, etc. did much of their damage in the 90s and early 2000s. Is a handful of years really all it took in order for the BBWAA to change their mind about ‘roids?
As weird as that sudden change of heart is, it’s better than the alternative, which is that Ortiz was a far more lovable figure than guys like Bonds and Clemens were, particularly in the media. I hope it’s not because of that. I really fucking hope it’s not that. But there aren’t many other explanations when you have one PED-user getting a pass with 55.3 bWAR and another getting held out of Cooperstown with 162.7 (Bonds).
It’s just absurd.
Assuming a Change of Heart…
I’m going to assume the BBWAA is simply softening it’s stance on performance-enhancing drugs. David Ortiz is just the first beneficiary of the shifted goal posts. Now that we’ve established that, though, there needs to be some remedying.
No one has ever hit home runs at a greater rate than Mark McGwire. Sammy Sosa had THREE seasons in which he hit 63 or more home runs. Rafael Palmeiro is one of six players in the 500-home run and 3,000-hit club. Roger Clemens won seven Cy Young Awards. Barry Bonds won seven MVPs (although his case is a little trickier). Each of these players is either off the ballot completely or gasping for air on their last opportunity. Inducting Ortiz while keeping other PED-users out is God-level hypocrisy by the BBWAA.
These moves will affect Alex Rodriguez’s candidacy. Robinson Cano’s as well. Do I think David Ortiz should start the trend of PED-leniency from the BBWAA? I don’t know. I don’t really care that much either. But the inconsistency is incredibly annoying.
Hall of Fame voting results will be announced on January 25th.
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