David Ortiz, designated hitter of the Boston Red Sox, had another personal milestone against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night when he got his 2,000 Major League hit of his career. He is a nine-time All-Star and is one of 51 players who have at least 400 career home runs. He has the Red Sox single-season record of most home runs in the regular season with 54. If you are a Red Sox fan, you cannot forget his heroics in 2004 against the New York Yankees. He has won an MVP and is a five-time winner of the Silver Slugger Award. All in all, he has maintained almost a decade of excellence. Those are statistics that should almost be a lock for getting into the Hall of Fame when he is done or at least, serious consideration. However, he may not even get close and it has nothing to do with his numbers.
Ortiz may not see the Hall of Fame anytime soon after he retires and it is all because of the position he plays … or the lack of one in the voter’s eyes. He is a designated hitter and arguably one of the best of all time and that is what could keep him from getting into Cooperstown. Here’s why. The litmus test of whether or not Ortiz could get into the Hall someday was Edgar Martinez. Martinez probably was the greatest designated hitter ever and so far is the only DH to win a batting title. He first showed up on the ballot in 2010 and only received 36.2% of the vote, not remotely close for election. Each year since then, his support has not really increased. The highest it has ever been is 36.5% in 2012. If Martinez, really the first pure designated hitter can’t get in, what does it mean for Ortiz? Many voters do not consider the DH a true position and because of that, Martinez and Ortiz could be on the outside looking in for a long time.
Voters seem to not grasp that the game is changing and their voting should change with it. It has only been very recently that you started seeing closers elected in the Hall on a regular basis and there are many great closers who aren’t and probably won’t get elected. Unfortunately, the same may hold true for Big Papi. Ironically, Ortiz probably could play a position in the field if he needed to. He has played some first base in interleague and World Series games. While he is no Keith Hernandez, he has held his own out there.
I don’t think there is any doubt that Boston will retire his number when he is done. I don’t think there is any question that he will be considered the greatest designated hitter ever. Getting into Cooperstown will probably be a different story. Too bad Ortiz’s speech could be one for the ages.