Edgar Martinez’s election to the Baseball Hall of fame paves the way for David Ortiz’s enshrinement on the first ballot

Photo Credit: Boston Herald

The 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame election results have been announced, and Edgar Martinez – in his last year of eligibility on the writer’s ballot – has been elected with just over 85% of the vote. Martinez had an impressive career as hitter, highlighted by his career .933 OPS, and is the first primary Designated Hitter to be elected to the Hall. While recent inductee’s, Frank Thomas and Jim Thome, played multiple seasons at the DH spot, they played over half of their career’s at the first base position. Martinez came up as a third baseman, and by his fourth season in the Majors he was a full-time DH.

I wrote last year, after Martinez fell short of induction, how his enshrinement could affect the way writers look at David Ortiz when he becomes eligible for the first time in 2022. Like Martinez, Ortiz will be on the ballot as a primary Designated Hitter. While Martinez put up impressive numbers from the DH position, Ortiz dwarfs him in nearly every offensive category. What’s more impressive, is that Ortiz put up his numbers over roughly the same number of season as Martinez:

Edgar Martinez: .312 / 309 HR / 1,261 RBI / .933 OPS 6x All Star, 4x Silver Slugger, 2 Top-10 MVP finishes  

David Ortiz: .286 / 541 HR / 1,768 RBI / .931 OPS 10x All Star, 7x Silver Slugger, 6 Top-10 MVP finishes & 3 Time World Series Champion

Big Papi hit over 230 more home runs and drove in over 500 more than Martinez. What’s not shown in the career stats above is the postseason performance of each player. While Martinez hit a respectable .266 with an .873 OPS in 128 career post season at-bats, Ortiz became a household name and cemented his legacy with his playoff and World Series heroics. Ortiz was instrumental in the Red Sox winning their first World Series in 86 seasons in 2004, winning the ALCS MVP, en route to his first of 3 World Series titles with the Red Sox. He was the 2013 World Series MVP, and put up a career postseason slash line of .289 / 17 HR / 61 RBI’s with a .947 OPS in 304 post season at-bats.

Outside of being a primary DH, the only other blemish on Ortiz’s career is his mention in the “Mitchell Report”, an informal investigation into the use performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. The report was leaked to the media in 2007, and released the names of 89 players that had positive results in the spring of 2003. The report and it’s details were controversial at the time, and while there was no consequence for the players named, it led MLB to implement one of the strictest PED testing programs in all of professional sports. Ortiz got in front of the issue immediately and has denied his knowledge of ever taking PED’s, he has also lobbied for stronger testing in an effort to keep the game as clean as possible. He’s also been vocal in letting fans and media know that he’s never tested positive since formal testing was put in place.

While known PED users like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens spark heated debate each year, and neither has been elected yet, the writers have softened their stance on players with PED suspicions in recent years, electing players like Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza– all of whom have had the whispers of PED use in their past. Also helping the case for Ortiz is that he was a true superstar in a sport that sorely lacks big name recognition in today’s professional sports climate.  

The lovable teddy bear with the larger than life smile and personality off the field and the menacing snarl in the batters box when staring down a pitcher in a key at-bat, have all created the “Big Papi” persona we’ve come to know and love. He’s also stayed relevant since leaving the game as a player, working closely with the Red Sox and as a permanent fixture on the MLB on FOX during the season. His interaction with Alex Rodriguez (who joins Ortiz on the ballot in 2022) on the FOX set is some of the most watched non-game content on the MLB media platform. It will be interesting to see how Rodriguez is measured by the voters as a known PED user, as he tries to repair his image since leaving the game.

While Edgar Martinez is the first primary DH to be voted into the Hall of Fame by the writers, he’ll be joined at the enshrinement ceremony by Harold Baines, who played 1643 games at DH in his career, and spent the last 12 seasons of his career as a full timer in the role. The selection of Baines is not without controversy, as he fell off the writers ballot early into his candidacy, and was elected this season by the Veteran’s Committee on the “Legend’s Ballot”. However, with two designated hitters going into the Hall of Fame in 2019, the hesitation toward putting a full time DH in the Hall seems to have quieted.

The is little doubt that David Ortiz is a Hall of Fame baseball player. His numbers in both the regular season and postseason will land him in Cooperstown. Will the fact that he was a primary Designated Hitter keep him from the exclusive “first ballot” enshrinement club? We’ve got a few years before we know for sure, but today, things are trending upward for Big Papi.