David Ortiz in the Hall of Fame

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Last night (as I write this), the BBWAA voted David Ortiz into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot. As a lifelong Yankees fan, David Ortiz was often a thorn my side, but I can’t deny that he was a fantastic hitter, and given the dynasty that he played in and his offensive numbers, he belongs in the Hall. I know there was some debate because he spent most of his career as a DH, but sometimes, there is just something amazIng about watching a player play the game over the course of career, seeing a quality they have that other players lack. It is one of those “intagibles” of the game. As a Yankees fan, no matter what the score or who was on the mound, I was always nervous when Ortiz came ot the plate.

I’ve been to Cooperstown five times, most recently this past summer, when we spent a too brief few hours in a suprisingly crowded museum. The museum is wonderful, but walking through the Hall itself, surrounded by the plaques of the greatest of the game, is a moving experience for fan like me. It might seem silly, but the feeling I have standing in the Hall of Fame is the same feeling I had wandering the nave of Westminster Abbey, and seeing the names of kings and philosophers and scientists all around me. The Hall captures the best of the game in one place.

Noteably, the BBWAA did not vote in Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens in their last year of eligibility. I have mixed feelings about this. To me, the Hall of Fame captures the history of the game, the good and the bad. As writers have pointed out, there are amazing players in the Hall who were terrible people off the field. It is a testament that no one is perfect, no matter how great a player they are. But I was (and am) bothered by the blot that the steriods and PED era made on the game. It is a reflection of just how deep a role money has come to play in the game.

And yet… to my knowledge, while these drugs improve muscle strength, they don’t improve hand-eye coordination; they don’t magically instill a player with great baserunning sense; they don’t help you know what pitch is coming next Bonds has the record for homeruns, but if you’ve ever tried to hit a baseball, you know that strength is only part of it. As Joe Posnanski has pointed out, without Bonds–the all-time home run king–in the Hall of Fame, something doesn’t seem right.

Bonds (and Clemens) can still be voted in by the Veteran’s commitee. Right now that doesn’t seem very likley. But on the offchance they do get voted in, I think Pete Rose would finally get his place there as well. Even Ortiz said that it was hard to believe that Bonds and Clemons were not in the Hall with him.

For now, I’m happy for Big Papi. This is a happy moment for him, and all of baesball, at time when we’re not even certain if the 2022 season will start on time because once more, the players and owners are arguing about — you guessed it — money.

Written on January 26, 2022

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