The designated hitter was introduced to baseball a whopping 37 years ago, but there is still a perception among the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, aka those who vote on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot, that those playing this position are not Cooperstown-worthy.
Despite the way the DH has revolutionized baseball, whether for the good or bad, only three career designated hitters have ever been included on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Edgar Martinez, the first “Papi”, was the one most thought would get in first, opening the floodgates to future DHs. But so far, that has not been the case.
Despite Martinez’s impressive 18-year career, all with the Seattle Mariners, his 2,055 games played, 2,247 hits, 514 doubles, 309 HRs, 1,261 RBI and a slash line of .312/.418/.515 could only earn him 36.5 percent of the vote. That is well short of the 75 percent he needs for induction.
Harold Baines, who DH’ed for parts of 22 seasons with five different teams, also finished his career with impressive numbers including 2,866 hits, a record 1,688 of those coming as a DH. However, he only appeared on the ballot five times and never received more than 6.1 percent of the vote.
But despite the Hall’s current shut out of the DH, could David Ortiz be the one to finally change their minds?
Ortiz, who is beloved by the Boston Red Sox fan base, passed Baines for the most hits by a DH on July 10, adding yet another category of which he leads all other designated hitters. With 419 HRs, 503 doubles, 1,169 runs and 1,388 RBIs, Ortiz heads his position in most offensive categories.
At 37-years-old and playing at a position that doesn’t require defense, Ortiz could continue to DH for at least a few more years. In doing so, “Big Papi” will pad his stats and continue to establish himself as the best DH of all-time.
While the voters may continue to shun designated hitters from the Hall, the better numbers Ortiz can put up, the better his case will be.
As long as he continues to stay clear of any sort of PED discussion, time will only help his chances. Even if Ortiz retired at the end of the 2013 season, his eligibility won’t start until at least 2020. He still has one more year left on his current contract, so you can push that date to 2021. But with the season he is having this year, you can bet the 16-year veteran will be around for at least a few more years.
Stats aside, Ortiz does have the benefit of intangibles. After all, he is beloved in Boston, is the face of the franchise and did win two World Series, the first of which broke the prolonged curse of the Bambino. They say it is about stats, but voters will definitely have to take these things into consideration.
It would be a sham to keep Ortiz out of the Hall of Fame and would likely set a precedent. If the voters haven’t changed their tune by the time he retires, it is unlikely they ever will. Simply put, if Ortiz doesn’t get into Cooperstown, all other career DHs can kiss their chances goodbye as well.