DDT's Pop Flies (43)

DDT (AKA Darryl Tahirali) is a freelance writer living in Orange County, California. Originally from Canada, DDT enjoys writing about music, baseball, and other areas of Western pop culture from the tasteful to the trashy. DDT can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Responding in late March to the allegations of performance-enhancing drug use that have dogged him throughout his career, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz forcefully denied the charges while stating unequivocally "[h]ell yes I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame" in a post entitled "The Dirt" on The Players' Tribune website.

As baseball fans and readers of this site know all too well, the issue of PEDs is very contentious, to the point that players being considered for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame fall under an intense lens of scrutiny for even the suggestion that they simply look as if they may have used PEDs at some point, let alone the reaction to candidates such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro whose connections to PEDs are more concrete.

In his post, Ortiz claims that "[n]obody in MLB history has been tested for PEDs more than me," citing more than 80 instances of his having been tested since 2004, and opening his post with the anecdote about how, this last winter, two MLB representatives arrived at his home in the Dominican Republic at 7:30 one morning armed with cups and syringes to take blood and urine samples.

As reported by The New York Times in July 2009, Ortiz was on a list of more than 100 players who allegedly tested positive for PEDs in 2003. Following that 2003 revelation, Ortiz publicly denied having ever bought or used PEDs, claiming that any positive test results could have been due to his taking over-the-counter supplements and vitamins. In "The Dirt," he repeats the denial, adding, "I never knowingly took any steroids. If I tested positive for anything, it was for something in pills I bought at the damn mall."

But even though we all know that these PEDs allegations will most likely not be forgotten when Ortiz does retire and becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame, for our purposes here, let us examine David Ortiz's other claim that he does deserve to be in the Hall of Fame simply by evaluating his playing record.

Learning His Craft, Living with Injuries

Escaping the hardship of the Dominican, David Ortiz did what many from that impoverished Caribbean island nation do: They hit their way off the island. He came to the United States in 1994 under the auspices of the Seattle Mariners organization, playing three seasons in the minor leagues before being traded to the Minnesota Twins in 1996, his age-20 season.

Ortiz made his first major-league appearance for the Twins in 1997, appearing in 15 games for 51 plate appearances that netted him 16 hits including three doubles and his first home run. However, Ortiz was still learning the game offensively and defensively, and as a first baseman Ortiz has never been anything but a defensive liability, which had slotted him into the designated hitter role early in his career. Moreover, he was beset by injuries, notably in his knee and wrists, and he shuttled between the parent club and its minor-league affiliates during his six seasons with the Twins from 1997 to 2002.

He did attain near-full-time status with the Twins in 2000 and 2002. In 2000, in 130 games amounting to 476 plate appearances, he posted a .282/.364/.446 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage); his 117 hits included 36 doubles and 10 home runs as he drove in 63 runs and walked 57 times. His 2002 campaign offered similar results as in 125 games totaling 466 plate appearances, Ortiz counted 32 doubles among his 112 hits while doubling his long-fly tally to 20 homers and driving in 75 runs for a .272/.339/.500 slash line as his OPS+ rose to 120, indicating a hitter noticeably better than a league-average hitter. (OPS+ is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage added together, then adjusted against league- and park values, and then indexed to 100, with 100 indicating a league-average hitter.)

But Ortiz was hardly impressing the Twins. In six seasons comprising 455 games, 1693 plate appearances, and 1477 at-bats, he posted a .266/.348/.461 slash line that factored in 393 hits, 108 doubles, and 58 home runs and generated a modest 108 OPS+ as he scored 215 runs and knocked in 238. By his age-26 season in 2002, Ortiz hardly looked like a budding superstar, let alone a future Hall of Famer. The Twins certainly thought the same as they released him after the 2002 season when they could not find a willing trading partner among the 29 other MLB teams. Ortiz did sign a free agent contract with Boston Red Sox for the 2003 season, and it was with Boston that his fortunes changed dramatically.

Rise of a Red Sox Icon

Those fortunes didn't reverse immediately, as Ortiz filled a supporting role in Boston for the first two months of the 2003 season. But once he became a full-time player, primarily as the designated hitter although he made 44 starts at first base in 2003, Ortiz kicked off his first career peak. For five years, from 2003 to 2007, Ortiz finished in the top five in Most Valuable Player voting in the American League as he put together an outstanding .302/.402/.612 slash line, generating a 156 OPS+, and averaged 165 hits including 41 doubles and 42 home runs, 105 runs scored and 128 RBI, and 93 walks including 12 intentional walks. The 2006 campaign is arguably his best season as he led the AL in home runs (54; a career high), RBI (137), walks (119; a career high), and total bases (355), while his .636 slugging percentage was another career high. During this peak, Ortiz was named to four All-Star squads from 2004 to 2007.

But as good as Ortiz was during those five seasons, his legacy was writ larger during his postseason appearances, particularly in 2004. It was hardly a factor in the 2003 Divisional Series against the Oakland Athletics as Ortiz had an anemic .095/.174/.143 line with a pair of RBI, although the Red Sox won in five games and advanced to meet their rivals the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series. In this seven-game series, infamous for Pedro Martinez's Game Seven start in which he stayed in to pitch too long as Boston gave up its lead and ultimately lost on Aaron Boone's most memorable home run, Ortiz perked up, posting a .269/.367/.538 line with two home runs and six runs batted in.

The following year, though, Ortiz came into his own as a postseason hitter. The Red Sox swept the (then-)Anaheim Angels in the Divisional Series, with Ortiz hitting safely six times in eleven at-bats for a blistering slash line of .545/.688/1.000 as he drove in four runs in three games. He capped his performance by slamming a two-run walk-off homer off Jarrod Washburn—a southpaw brought in expressly to face the left-handed-hitting Ortiz—in the bottom of the tenth inning at Fenway Park in the deciding Game Three that put the Red Sox into the AL Championship Series, facing, once again, the hated Yankees.

The situation looked grim for the Red Sox after they lost the first three games of the ALCS, although Ortiz so far had gone six-for-twelve with a triple, and with the Yankees leading 4–3 going into the bottom of the ninth at Fenway, the Red Sox had to face the Yankees' lights-out closer Mariano Rivera, who had given up a lead-off single to Manny Ramirez in the eighth inning before retiring the side in order, including a strike-out of Ortiz. But pinch-runner Dave Roberts, following the most memorable stolen base in Red Sox history, scored the tying run and forced the game into extra innings. Three innings later, with Ramirez again hitting a lead-off single, this one off Paul Quantrill, David Ortiz crushed one over the wall for another walk-off home run in the 2004 postseason.

However, that just ensured that the Red Sox would not be swept as the Yankees still led the best-of-seven series three games to one. With the Red Sox trailing by two runs going into the bottom of the eighth inning, Ortiz did homer to lead off the inning, and Jason Varitek's sacrifice fly later in the inning brought trusty pinch-runner Roberts in to score and force extra innings for the second time in twenty-four hours. The two teams battled into the fourteenth inning when, with two out and runners on first and second, Ortiz lined a single into center field that scored Johnny Damon from second base.

That prompted a Game Six in New York and the famous "Bloody Sock" start of Boston's Curt Schilling, which the (appropriately named) Red Sox did win, leading to another Game Seven showdown. And although Ortiz's bat was relatively quiet for these last two games, he did hit a first-inning, two-run shot off Kevin Brown in Game Seven, which along with Damon's two home runs, including a second-inning grand slam, and six RBI, secured the only seven-game series victory in baseball history in which the winning team had lost the first three games. David Ortiz had 12 hits in 31 at-bats including one triple and three home runs as he scored six runs and drove in 11 and, with two walk-off hits, he was easily named the ALCS Most Valuable Player, the first time a DH had ever been named an ALCS MVP.

The Red Sox went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, erasing the infamous "Curse of the Bambino" as Boston won its first World Series in 86 years with David Ortiz firmly at the center. Although Manny Ramirez emerged as the Series MVP, Ortiz was hardly a slouch as in four games he notched four hits in 13 at-bats including a first-inning, three-run homer in Game One for a .308/.471/.615 line as he drove in four runs and scored three. Curiously, neither the Yankees nor the Cardinals walked Ortiz intentionally although the Angels had done so three times in only three games.

But in 2005, the defending champions were gone after the first round of playoffs, losing in three games to the Chicago White Sox, who broke their own curse by winning their first World Series in 88 years, and the Red Sox did not even make the postseason in 2006 despite Ortiz's outstanding regular season, producing a .287/.413/.636 slash line while leading the league with 54 home runs, 355 total bases, 137 RBI, and 119 walks including 23 intentional walks. Ortiz's 5.7 bWAR (Wins Above Replacement, as calculated by Baseball Reference) was the best of his career to that point, but his 6.4 bWAR the following season remains his career high. (FanGraphs, which uses a different calculation for its fWAR, has Ortiz evaluated similarly: 5.3 fWAR for 2006, and 6.3 fWAR for 2007).

In 2007, Ortiz helped lead the Red Sox back to the postseason with career highs in hits (182), doubles (52), batting average (.332), and on-base percentage (.445) as he led the AL in on-base percentage and bases on balls (111) while for the fourth consecutive season he generated a slugging percentage north of .600 as those 52 doubles combined with 35 home runs to produce a .621 slugging percentage. The 2007 season also saw Ortiz drive in at least 100 runs for the fifth consecutive year (he plated 117 runs) while his outstanding 171 OPS+ was the best of his career for a season in which he had enough plate appearances or at-bats to qualify for league-leadership.

David Ortiz At Bat
























David Ortiz in prime hitting form, 2007. (Photo "DavidOrtiz" courtesy of Parkerjh at the English language Wikipedia.)


Having clinched the AL East, the Red Sox summarily dispatched the now-Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in three games of the Divisional Series, with Ortiz banging out five hits, two of those homers, in just seven at-bats as the Angels walked him six times, twice intentionally; he struck out just once as he scored five runs and knocked in three. The Cleveland Indians proved to be much tougher opponents during the lively AL Championship Series that went the full seven games; Ortiz scored seven runs and drove in three with a solo home run and two sacrifice flies. Then the Red Sox secured their second World Series win in three years with a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies, and although third baseman Mike Lowell was the Series MVP, Ortiz still went five-for-fifteen with three doubles, four runs scored, and four RBI.

Decline and Rebirth

A wrist injury at the start of the 2008 season hampered Ortiz for the campaign as he managed just 109 games, and while he was selected to his fifth consecutive All-Star game, his modest .264/.369/.507 slash line hardly seemed auspicious; he still hit 23 round-trippers and drove in 89 runs, but his 124 OPS+ and 1.7 bWAR (also 1.7 fWAR) were not indicative of one of the game's most feared sluggers. However, Ortiz struggled in the postseason, with even the Angels reining him in as they allowed him just four hits in 17 at-bats and walked him just three times, none of them intentional, even though the Red Sox won their Divisional Series in four games. The Tampa Bay Rays were even more unkind during the AL Championship Series, holding him to a .154/.313/.385 slash line with one homer and four RBI as they beat the Red Sox in seven games.

Ortiz was back as a full-time player in 2009, playing in 150 games with 627 plate appearances, but despite 35 doubles, 28 home runs, and 99 RBI he managed a paltry .238/.332/.462 slash line, with his league-average 102 OPS+ the worst since he came to Boston. Ortiz's woes continued in the postseason, with the Angels even more merciless in the Divisional Series as Ortiz managed just one single in 12 at-bats, striking out four times, while the Red Sox were swept out of contention.

In 2010, his age-34 season, Ortiz rallied somewhat with a .270/.370/.529 slash line while slamming 32 homers and plating 102 runs, respectable totals but perhaps an indication that Ortiz was starting his decline, which did not prevent him from being selected for the 2010 All-Star Game. Moreover, Ortiz returned even more strongly in 2011, with his .309/.398/.554 line informed by 162 hits including 40 doubles and 29 home runs as he drove in 96 runs, his 154 OPS+ his best since 2007 as he made another All-Star squad. An Achilles tendon injury in 2012 limited Ortiz to just 90 games and 383 plate appearances, but despite that he still excelled when he did play, posting .318/.415/.611 averages and a 173 OPS+, the highest of his career, as he hit 23 homers and notched 60 RBI while making his eighth All-Star team.

In his age-37 season in 2013, Ortiz had another banner year with a .309/.395/.564 line generated from 160 hits including 38 doubles and 30 home runs while scoring 84 runs and driving in 103, the seventh time he reached the 100-RBI mark during a season. And with his 159 OPS+ and 4.9 bWAR, both bests for a full-time season since 2007 (although FanGraphs has him at a more modest 3.4 fWAR), Ortiz finished tenth in MVP voting.

But it was in the postseason, to which the Red Sox had returned for the first time since 2009, that Ortiz began to cement talk that he was indeed a future Hall of Famer. In the Divisional Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, Ortiz furnished a .385/.556/.923 slash line, that otherworldly slugging percentage resulting from two home runs and a double, with those round-trippers both solo shots coming off the Rays' left-handed ace David Price in Game Two, the second of which knocked Price from the game. The Red Sox won the series in four games, and then went on to defeat the Detroit Tigers in six games for the AL Pennant. Ortiz had cooled off conspicuously, managed just two hits in 22 at-bats, although one of those hits was a grand slam off Joaquin Benoit in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game Two that tied the game, with the Red Sox winning the game in the next inning.

However, if anyone had counted out David Ortiz for the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, they were in for a rude surprise. The Red Sox won the Series in six games, earning their third world championship in a decade, in a campaign that saw the Red Sox hit .211 as a team and the Cardinals, despite some strong individual performances, hit just .224 as a team. Everyone on the Boston squad struggled to make the Mendoza line—except for Ortiz, who posted an amazing .688/.760/1.188 slash line as he collected 11 hits, including a pair of doubles and a pair of home runs, in 16 at-bats while drawing eight walks, four of those intentional, and scoring seven runs and driving in six. Not surprisingly, Ortiz was named the Series Most Valuable Player while his .688 batting average is the second-best for a single World Series ever, as is his .760 on-base percentage, while his 1.188 slugging percentage is eighth-best all-time.

In fact, Ortiz ranks second all-time in career World Series on-base percentage with .576 (Barry Bonds leads with a ridiculous .700) and fifth all-time in the Series in batting average with .455 and in slugging percentage with .795. With his World Series heroics and those in the 2004 American League Championship Series including a pair of walk-off hits, David Ortiz has been called the greatest clutch hitter in Red Sox history; he even began to collect nicknames such as "Señor Octubre" and "Cooperstown" as the legendary Carl Yastrzemski declared that Ortiz was the greatest hitter in Red Sox history . . . after Ted Williams, of course. But for Yaz, the man who is generally regarded as the second-greatest Boston hitter, to then hand the mantle to Ortiz is serious business. Ortiz even came in third in the 2013 Boston mayoral race when he amassed 560 write-in votes!

Ortiz's 2014 campaign, in his age-38 season, saw a drop in qualitative performance with a .263/.355/.517 line while his bWAR was 2.9 and his fWAR was 2.3, although his 142 OPS+ was still impressive, and he did slam 35 home runs while knocking in 104 runs, both bests since 2007. Ortiz is signed with the Red Sox for the 2015 season, a contact with two option years, although he will turn 40 this November, and in today's baseball environment, that is superannuated.

Three Strikes Against David Ortiz?

Despite his late-career surge, David Ortiz is inevitably winding down, and in the highly competitive Major Leagues with their pronounced talent compression, he will be leaving baseball fairly soon, at which time discussion about his legacy, and his chances for the Hall of Fame, will only intensify.

But although Ortiz could have a season or two more to increase his counting numbers—to reach milestones such as 500 home runs, 600 doubles, or 1600 RBI—his legacy has largely been written. This enables us to evaluate him with a fair degree of accuracy as attaining any of those just-mentioned milestones, or others, is not likely to make a substantial difference.

In evaluating his Hall of Fame chances, Ortiz does have three strikes against him already. The first, which we have just touched on, is that his record is largely written, and as we will see, it is an impressive record but it is not an automatic Hall pass. So, perhaps we can call it a foul ball instead.

The second strike is the question of PEDs usage, which is the focus of Ortiz's "The Dirt" piece on The Players' Tribune website. The question of PEDs and their impact on legacy has been hotly debated for years, and that impact has informed just about every Baseball Hall of Fame-related article I've written for this website, so to summarize briefly: It is clear that candidates with known or even merely suspected PEDs associations are being discriminated against by the voters of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), or at least sufficient numbers of them to affect the voting.

Perhaps when David Ortiz becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in the early 2020s, the issue may have died down to the point that his mention in that 2009 New York Times article alleging that more than 100 players tested positive for PEDs in 2003 will hardly have any bearing on voters. It is also entirely possible that Ortiz, aware that his playing days are numbered, penned "The Dirt" piece to lay the groundwork for his Hall of Fame campaign.

This is not to suggest that the allegations are true, but it is crystal-clear that voting patterns and the comments of many BBWAA voters have a direct impact on Hall of Fame voting—and it is clearly negative for any candidate with even the hint of suspicion. And speaking of suspicion, some voters will look with a raised eyebrow at Ortiz's late-career surge from 2011 to 2014, his age-35 to -38 seasons, over which he averaged .298/.389/.556 with a 156 OPS+, 33 doubles, 29 home runs, and 91 RBI.

Ortiz's third strike is that almost his entire career has been spent as a designated hitter, and Hall voters have a prejudice about that too. Edgar Martinez, for whom the AL designated hitter award is now named, has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for six years and has never garnered more than 36.5 percent of the vote (that was in 2012); in fact, he has seen his vote totals slip to the 25-percent range in the last two years, although that could also be the result of an overstuffed ballot that is barely being eased. Yet Martinez has at least amassed a few seasons' worth of starts at a fielding position: In 1956 total games started, either as a fielder or a designated hitter, Martinez made 560 starts at a fielding position, 532 at third base and 28 at first base. By contrast, David Ortiz, in 1991 total starts, has made just 255 starts at first base as 1736 of those were as the DH.



Is David Ortiz a Hall of Famer? Crunching the Facts and Figures

Evaluating David Ortiz for the Hall of Fame is a challenge: His quantitative and qualitative record is excellent but it is not superlative, which puts him on the bubble. The question then becomes, which bubble?

Two players have been elected to the Hall of Fame who had played a substantial amount of their career as the designated hitter, Paul Molitor (elected in 2004) and Frank Thomas (elected in 2014), and although both have come to be identified as designated hitters, both did log substantial time in the field—in fact, Molitor played more games as a fielder (primarily in the infield) than as a DH. Edgar Martinez is known as a designated hitter, but he did play more than 500 games at third base; however, he has not been elected to the Hall of Fame in six tries already, although whether that is prejudice against the position, a ballot logjam that is sapping votes from several players, or a combination of the two is not clear.

By contrast, though, David Ortiz has been overwhelmingly a DH throughout his career, with his only sojourns in the field at first base. That means that he has contributed almost nothing defensively to his teams, and as he has stolen only 15 bases in his career (although he has been caught stealing only eight times), his contribution has been almost exclusively through his hitting. And as the perception, whether accurate or unfair, is that since the DH's only function is to hit for the pitcher, the DH should have a substantially better hitting record than at least many of the position players.

David Ortiz is currently the lifetime leader among designated hitters in several categories including games played, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, home runs, and runs batted in. The following table presents career RBI and other hitting totals by players who have logged significant amounts of time as designated hitters and have proved to be successful at the position. Note that these totals reflect performance as the designated hitter only.

This table is ranked by the players' total runs batted in as a designated hitter. Granted, RBI is a statistic that has been traditionally overvalued, but I have chosen it as the ranking criterion because the DH has generally been looked up as the "big bat," the "run producer" in the lineup, and it is the most appropriate of the counting statistics to evaluate these players. (We look at players' qualitative worth below.)

Designated Hitter Career Totals, DH Only, Ranked by DH RBI

Player

G

PA

H

HR

RBI

Slash Line

David Ortiz

1753

7672

1891

415

1344

.288/.383/.556

Edgar Martinez

1403

6218

1607

243

1003

.314/.428/.532

Harold Baines

1643

6618

1690

236

981

.291/.370/.467

(A) Frank Thomas

1310

5698

1288

269

881

.275/.394/.505

Hal McRae

1426

5917

1555

145

823

.294/.357/.463

Don Baylor

1284

5391

1210

219

803

.259/.344/.449

Chili Davis

1160

4899

1175

200

736

.282/.382/.483

Travis Hafner

1043

4442

1036

200

689

.275/.378/.504

(A) Paul Molitor

1171

5334

1456

102

653

.308/.374/.454

Jose Canseco

846

3730

853

208

641

.265/.355/.510

(A): Player has been elected to the Hall of Fame.
G: Games played at the designated hitter position only.
PA: Plate appearances at the designated hitter position only.
H: Hits at the designated hitter position only.
HR: Home runs at the designated hitter position only.
RBI: Runs batted in at the designated hitter position only.
Slash Line: Grouping of the player's career batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage at the designated hitter position only.

The following table lists those ten players, including Ortiz, with their career totals for each category, including both the DH position and all other positions played.

Designated Hitter Career Totals, All Positions, Ranked by Total RBI

 

G/DH

G/OP

H

HR

RBI

Slash Line

(A) Frank Thomas

1310

969

2468

521

1704

.301/.419/.555

Harold Baines

1643

1056

2866

384

1628

.289/.356/.465

David Ortiz

1753

263

2159

466

1533

.285/.379/.547

Jose Canseco

846

1019

1877

462

1407

.266/.353/.515

Chili Davis

1160

1220

2380

350

1372

.274/.360/.451

(A) Paul Molitor

1171

1489

3319

234

1307

.306/.369/.448

Don Baylor

1284

973

2135

338

1276

.260/.342/.436

Edgar Martinez

1403

580

2247

309

1261

.312/.418/.515

Hal McRae

1426

508

2091

191

1097

.290/.351/.454

Travis Hafner

1043

72

1107

213

731

.273/.376/.498

(A): Player has been elected to the Hall of Fame.
G/DH: Games played as the designated hitter.
G/OP: Games played at positions other than designated hitter.
H: Hits at all positions (total career values).
HR: Home runs at all positions (total career values).
RBI: Runs batted in at all positions (total career values).
Slash Line: Grouping of the player's career batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage at all positions (total career values).

The following table examines the ten players qualitatively, including bWAR, by which this table is ranked.

Designated Hitter Career Totals, Qualitative Statistics for Entire Career (All Positions), Ranked by bWAR

 

bWAR

fWAR

wOBA

wRC+

OPS+

HoFM

HoFS

(A) Paul Molitor

75.4

67.6

.361

122

122

166

59

(A) Frank Thomas

73.7

72.0

.416

154

156

194

60

Edgar Martinez

68.3

65.5

.405

147

147

132

50

 

David Ortiz

47.7

43.4

.391

138

139

138

47

Jose Canseco

42.3

42.1

.375

130

132

103

39

Harold Baines

38.5

38.4

.358

119

121

66

44

Chili Davis

38.1

37.9

.354

118

121

30

39

 
Hal McRae

27.9

28.7

.358

122

123

49

24

Don Baylor

28.3

29.4

.347

118

118

44

30

Travis Hafner

24.8

21.9

.374

132

134

30

19

(A): Player has been elected to the Hall of Fame.
bWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference.
fWAR: Career Wins Above Replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.
wOBA: Weighted on-base average as calculated by FanGraphs. Weighs singles, extra-base hits, walks, and hits by pitch; generally, .400 is excellent and .320 is league-average.
wRC+: Career weighted Runs Created, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by FanGraphs. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 wRC+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.
OPS+: Career on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, league- and park-adjusted, as calculated by Baseball Reference. Positively indexed to 100, with a 100 OPS+ indicating a league-average player, and values above 100 indicating the degrees better a player is than a league-average player.
HoFM: Hall of Fame Monitor: An index of how likely a player is to be inducted to the Hall of Fame based on his entire playing record (offensive, defensive, awards, position played, postseason success), with an index score of 100 being a good possibility and 130 a "virtual cinch." Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.
HoFS: Hall of Fame Standards: An index of performance standards, indexed to 50 as being the score for an average Hall of Famer. Developed by Baseball Reference from a creation by Bill James.

The tiering in the previous table is dramatic: Molitor, Thomas, and Martinez are all within the top 75 of position players in all-time bWAR, with Molitor and Thomas both first-ballot Hall of Famers while many observers (including this writer) maintain that Martinez is Hall of Fame-caliber. Ortiz, 20 wins behind Martinez, is currently ranked 203rd in bWAR, and it is unlikely that he will add more than five wins to his total before he retires—and that only if he has another season similar to his 2013 effort.

Given that Ortiz has largely written his legacy, let's compare him to Hall of Fame position players who are somewhat similar to him. Keep in mind that we are currently in the process of assessing the designated hitter position for legacy. Both Molitor and Thomas are in the Hall, but as we have seen, both clocked substantial time in the field, and even Edgar Martinez, generally regarded to be a DH, put in his time at third base. But considering that Martinez is not yet in the Hall of Fame—a point that could have a bearing on Ortiz's legacy—there are no players in the Hall who are directly comparable to Ortiz.

So, the following table lists players already in the Hall of Fame (all but two elected by the BBWAA) who are roughly comparable to David Ortiz in bWAR (10 wins higher or lower than Ortiz's current [2014] value), in position (first basemen or outfielders only), and whose career occurred primarily after integrated baseball began in 1947.

Hall of Fame Players with Comparable bWAR to David Ortiz, Ranked by bWAR

 

bWAR

fWAR

wOBA

wRC+

OPS+

HoFM

HoFS

Willie Stargell

57.5

62.9

.387

145

147

106

44

Tony Perez

53.9

58.9

.356

121

122

81

41

Kirby Puckett

50.9

44.9

.366

122

124

160

39

(B) Orlando Cepeda

50.2

50.3

.370

131

133

126

37

(B) Larry Doby

49.5

51.1

.396

137

136

72

30

Ralph Kiner

49.3

47.6

.427

147

149

136

34

David Ortiz

47.7

43.4

.391

138

139

138

47

Jim Rice

47.4

50.8

.375

128

128

146

43

Lou Brock

45.2

43.2

.336

109

109

152

43

(B): Elected to the Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee vote.

The following table lists those Hall of Fame players along with David Ortiz ranked by their career RBI totals.

Hall of Fame Players with Comparable bWAR to David Ortiz, Ranked by RBI

Player

G

PA

H

HR

R

RBI

Slash Line

Tony Perez

2777

10861

2732

379

1272

1652

.279/.341/.463

Willie Stargell

2360

9027

2232

475

1194

1540

.282/.360/.529

David Ortiz

2111

8851

2159

466

1267

1533

.285/.379/.547

Jim Rice

2089

9058

2452

382

1249

1451

.298/.352/.502

Orlando Cepeda (A)

2124

8698

2351

379

1131

1365

.297/.350/.499

Kirby Puckett

1783

7831

2304

207

1071

1085

.318/.360/.477

Ralph Kiner

1472

6256

1451

369

971

1015

.279/.398/.548

Larry Doby (A)

1533

6299

1515

253

960

970

.283/.386/.490

Lou Brock

2616

11240

3023

149

1610

900

.293/.343/.410

(A): Elected to the Hall of Fame by Veterans Committee vote.

Again, RBI is an imperfect statistic but it is serving as a measure of the "run producer." Besides, our sample of players is hardly perfect. Both Ralph Kiner and Kirby Puckett were forced to quit baseball prematurely because of physical ailments. Kiner's dominance as a power hitter—he led the National League in home runs for the first seven years of his career—was enough to get him into the Hall of Fame, although just barely: He received one vote over the minimum in his final year of eligibility. Puckett's hit total, high batting average, and World Series heroics helped to bolster a relatively short career, and it may offer a comparable model for Ortiz—although Puckett had defensive value as a center fielder, a dimension Ortiz lacks.

Larry Doby was an excellent, although not elite, player, but Doby was the first player to integrate the American League two months after Jackie Robinson debuted. However, Doby saw limited action in 1947 and did not become full-time until the following year, and despite a fine career he has always languished in Robinson's shadow. His induction into the Hall, by the Veterans Committee, goes beyond the playing field.

When Lou Brock retired, he was the all-time leader in stolen bases, and his joining the 3000-hit club helped to ensure that he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Tony Perez piled up a lot of RBI as one of the key components of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine, and it is hard not to think that his election by the writers, on his ninth ballot, was acknowledgement of his contributions alongside teammates Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan more so than for his excellent if not elite record. Orlando Cepeda is another excellent if not elite first baseman who missed the Hall of Fame by 1.5 percent of the vote in his fifteenth and final year, but he was elected by the Veterans Committee in 1999.

Meanwhile, Jim Rice must have picked up Cepeda's 1.5 percent ten years later because Rice squeaked in on his fifteenth and final try in 2009 with 76.4 percent of the writers' vote. Rice's bWAR is near-identical to Ortiz's current value, although FanGraphs is more bullish on Rice and less so on Ortiz, while Rice's other qualitative statistics are just below Ortiz's, and considering that Rice has been regarded by many analysts as a gratuitous Hall of Fame pick (I do not think he makes it past the threshold), that may have an impact on Ortiz.

However, the player in our sample who may be the closest match to David Ortiz is Willie Stargell. Stargell was a feared slugger and top run-producer in his prime. Ortiz is likely to pass Stargell on the career home run and RBI list this season, and probably the career hit list as well.

But Stargell's postseason heroics are just as legendary as Ortiz's, at least they were in 1979. Already in his age-39 season in 1979 and known affectionately as "Pops" in the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse, Stargell spurred the Bucs to the postseason with an MVP-winning regular season (he shared the award with Keith Hernandez) that, while excellent (.281/.352/.552, 139 OPS+, 32 home runs, 82 RBI), was based as much on his inspiration as his on-field performance. Stargell simply exploded in the postseason, though, unleashing a .455/.571/1.182 slash line with two doubles, two home runs, and six runs driven in as the Pirates swept the Cincinnati Reds in three games of the then-five game National League Championship Series. (There were no Divisional Series in 1979.)

However, the Pirates' World Series opponents, the Baltimore Orioles, were not going to roll over—far from it. Each team won one of the first two games, but then the Orioles won the next two games, taking a 3–1 lead into Game Five and pushing the Bucs to the brink of elimination. The Pirates, though, rallying behind Stargell, won that game, and then Game Six to set up a Game Seven in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. The O's grabbed a one-run lead with a Rich Dauer leadoff home run in the bottom of the third inning as pitcher Scott McGregor held the Pirates scoreless. Then, with one out and Bill Robinson aboard with a single in the top of the sixth, Stargell crushed a McGregor offering over the right-field fence to give the Pirates the lead, a lead they held, adding a pair of insurance runs in the ninth inning, until they recorded the final out and became World Champions.

In addition to being a co-winner of the MVP award in 1979, Stargell was named the MVP of both the NL Championship Series and the World Series, hitting again at a torrid clip: .400/.375/.833 (that is not a misprint of the on-base percentage—Stargell hit two sacrifice flies), four doubles and three home runs, seven runs scored and seven runs batted in. It is the only time the same player has won all three MVP trophies in a single year.

Is David Ortiz a Hall of Famer? The Verdict

Here is where David Ortiz seems to fall with respect to the Hall of Fame: somewhere between Willie Stargell and Jim Rice. Both of those Hall of Fame players are on the bubble, with Stargell much closer to the threshold than Rice by dint of his 57.5 bWAR as compared to Rice's 47.4 bWAR, which is just a tick behind Ortiz's 47.7. (And while FanGraphs is more bullish on both Stargell, with a 62.9 fWAR, and Rice, with a 50.8 fWAR, it dings Ortiz a few wins of value: 43.4 fWAR.)

Analyst Jay Jaffe's JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system), which uses bWAR to evaluate players' qualifications for the Hall of Fame, lists Stargell as the 15th-best left fielder in MLB history, his JAWS measurements below the average of all left fielders in the Hall, while Rice is listed 26th. Ortiz is listed as the 32nd-best first baseman, behind Tony Perez (26th) and Orlando Cepeda (30th), but Ortiz's ranking is almost meaningless because Jaffe's system does not evaluate designated hitters as a position, and Ortiz barely qualifies as a first baseman in terms of playing time at the position, let alone for a qualitative assessment.

In his prime, Rice earned the reputation of being one of the league's most feared hitters—or was that a public relations campaign?—and he certainly has the record to lend credence to that claim. He was the runner-up in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 1975, finishing behind teammate Fred Lynn, who had a legendary rookie campaign, becoming the first player to capture the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the same year. (Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 is the only other player to accomplish this feat.)

Rice won the AL MVP in 1978 when he led the league in nine batting categories (eleven retrospectively, as OPS and OPS+ were not officially recognized statistics in 1978) including hits (213), triples (15), home runs (46), runs batted in (139), and total bases (406). No hitter before or since has ever led his league in triples, home runs, and RBI in the same season, while Rice was the first AL hitter to total 400 or more bases since Joe DiMaggio bagged 418 in 1937, and only Hank Aaron managed the feat, with an even 400 in 1959, between DiMaggio and Rice.

Rice finished in the top five for MVP voting five more times as he led the AL in total bases three more times, in home runs twice more, and in RBI and slugging percentage once more each. For a 12-year period, from 1975 to 1986, Rice delivered a .304/.356/.520 slash line while averaging, per season, 179 hits including 27 doubles, 6 triples, and 29 home runs, while scoring 92 runs and knocking in 106; his OPS+ during that time was 133, and he generated a 3.9 bWAR average per season for that 12-year period. But by his age-34 season in 1987, Rice's OPS+ had dropped to 101—he was now a league average hitter, and after two more mediocre years, Jim Rice retired after playing in only 56 games in 1989.

Jim Rice was an outstanding hitter, and campaigns such as his 1978 season fostered the perception that he was a Hall of Fame-caliber player. But once you start to ask questions from the Keltner List—" Was he the best player on his team?," "Are most players who have comparable career statistics in the Hall of Fame?," "Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?," and so on—you have to question Rice's bona fides for the Hall. (By the way, the Keltner List is yet another invention of Bill James's.) Certainly, Rice's ordeal to get into the Hall of Fame lasted until the very last minute, and even retrospective analyses, such Wins Above Replacement assessment (either Baseball Reference or FanGraphs), don't position Rice as one of the best left fielders in baseball history, only as one of the very good ones.

David Ortiz's career trajectory looks much different—it's a roller-coaster ride as he struggled in the Twins organization, enjoyed an auspicious spike in his first five years with the Red Sox, then slid into a trough in his mid-30s before cresting for three seasons, or perhaps that is four, if his 35 home runs and 104 RBI in 2014 are any indication.

The following table illustrates Ortiz's top 100 career rankings in various quantitative offensive categories through the 2014 season.

Quantitative Category

Value

Ranking

Doubles

547

28

Extra-base Hits

1031

29

Home Runs

466

33

Strikeouts

1569

41

Runs Batted In

1533

47

Bases on Balls

1162

65

Total Bases

4140

76


The following table illustrates Ortiz's top 100 career rankings in various qualitative offensive categories through the 2014 season.

Qualitative Category

Value

Ranking

Slugging Percentage

.547

27

At-bats per Home Run

16.26

34

On-base plus Slugging (OPS)

.926

42

Runs Created (Baseball Reference)

1598

67

Adjusted OPS (OPS+)

139

80

Weighted Runs Created (wRC+)

138

85


Ortiz is clearly one of the best sluggers in baseball history: He is within the top 50 in power-hitting counting numbers (doubles, home runs, extra-base hits) and in runs batted in, and he is sure to climb higher on those lists if he continues to stay healthy and produce. Ortiz is also in the top 50 in power-hitting qualitative evaluations (slugging percentage, at-bats per home run, OPS).

David Ortiz Pointing Skyward

Ortiz celebrating in 2009. (Photo "Ortizpoint" courtesy of Toasterb at the English language Wikipedia project.)

If a designated hitter is supposed to hit with power and drive in runs, as has been the popular perception since the position was introduced in 1973, then David Ortiz looks stronger than Edgar Martinez even though Martinez presumably has greater value in helping his team win games, as measured by WAR. Yet Ortiz has posted a number of excellent regular seasons and has distinguished himself in the postseason on more than one occasion, helping to lead the Boston Red Sox to three World Series championships since he came to the team in 2003. On performance alone, and although Wins Above Replacement doesn't reflect it, David Ortiz is one of the best designated hitters ever to play the game, and for that he has earned his spot in the Hall of Fame.

Of course, this leaves aside the bias against the designated hitter, as well as any allegations that Ortiz used performance-enhancing drugs, which was the primary focus of Ortiz's post on The Players' Tribune website. But who knows? When David Ortiz finally becomes eligible for Hall of Fame consideration, these obstacles may have been removed by then, with Edgar Martinez having been elected to the Hall already and thus setting the precedent for designated hitters.

But I wouldn't bet on it.

Ten years. That is the new maximum length of time a player can remain on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, effective for the current (2015) ballot and for future ballots, a one-third reduction in eligibility length from the previous maximum of 15 years.

Oh, sure, there were other changes announced by the Hall on July 26 of this year: The voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), those who are actually eligible to vote for the candidates on the ballot, must complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct before they can receive a ballot, with the code of conduct stating explicitly that the member will not transfer the ballot to another person or entity, and with the penalty for doing so being a lifetime ban from voting on a Hall of Fame ballot.
You know how hard it is to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame? In 2013, with a ballot brimming with qualified candidates, not one player received the 75 percent of the votes needed for admission. (I identified 14 likely Hall of Famers on the 2013 ballot.)

Granted, 2013 was the first year of eligibility for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both poster boys for performance-enhancing drugs (PED), bringing to a head the contentious debate about "cheaters" and their admission into the Hall. But there were certainly several "clean" players on that ballot, and a few of those, such as 3000-hit-club member Craig Biggio, would have been uncontroversial picks in any previous year.

And although 2014 saw the election of three players—Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas—it was merely the tip of a talent-heavy iceberg (I identified 18 likely Hall of Famers for that ballot), while providing a burn to Biggio yet again as not only did he miss election by one vote (he garnered 74.8 percent of the vote), but three first-time candidates leapfrogged him into Cooperstown.
F. Scott Fitzgerald may have said that American lives had no second acts, but some former baseball players can get a second chance: Even if a player finds no success for the Baseball Hall of Fame on the ballot voted on by the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), he may get a second look from the Veterans Committee to see if he had been unfairly passed over previously. But do any of the candidates on this year's ballot deserve that second chance?

(And if the reference to novelist Fitzgerald sounds like irrelevant pretense, recall that in The Great Gatsby he alluded to the gambler who put in the fix for the 1919 World Series and thus destroyed "the faith of fifty million people," while that phrase became the title of the third "inning," or episode, of Ken Burns's celebrated documentary series Baseball.)
In the words of Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, it's déjà vu all over again because it seems as if I was doing this exercise only a year ago. That exercise is evaluating the fifteen nominees for the 2015 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced on October 9, 2014. (And just to clarify, the inductees will be announced later in 2014 for the induction ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 18, 2015.)

As I did for the 2013 ballot and again for the 2014 ballot, I profile these fifteen nominees and indicate whether I think the Hall voters will vote for them, and whether I would vote for them were I issued that precious ballot as a voting member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
As Martha and the Vandellas once put it, summer's here and the time is right for dancing in your seat.

All right, so the lyric doesn't go exactly that way, but with concerts so regimented these days, you don't get much opportunity to dance in the aisles, let alone dance in the street. But having recently seen three rock acts in concert, one already a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee while one of the two not in the Hall has a huge groundswell clamoring for its induction, You may be interested in how they perform onstage.

What's funny is that in the last few years I had been attending hardly any rock shows. Rather, my taste for live music had run toward jazz, folk, and international acts in smaller, more intimate settings. And as far as classic-rock acts go, I had been leery of the nostalgia circuit. I used to write for the concert guide of a local venue, and I fluffed up my share of articles touting the likes of Iron Butterfly and Robin Trower, acts trading on their glory days (and in the case of a band like Iron Butterfly, that may have been day, singular) while occasionally promoting their latest album, released on a small, independent label, and noticed by few outside the fanbase.

But as I get older and become nostalgic myself, my curiosity gets the better of me. After all, none of us are getting any younger, and didn't I want to see some of these acts before they head off to the great festival in the sky? Even if, at this stage, they are past their prime?
THE SHOW NEVER ENDS: HALL OF FAME-WORTHY LIVE ALBUMS OF THE CLASSIC ROCKAND SOUL PERIOD

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame may not be at the level of inducting individual albums yet, but if it did, this list of live albums from the classic rock and soul period, along with a few honorable mentions, would surely be included.

Why a live album? It is true that nothing can replace the experience of actually being at a concert, but a live recording can be the next-best thing to being there. It preserves the memory of what happened when that music had been created. A quality live recording can be close enough—a reminder of the concert you had experienced, or, more likely as you explore the music of artists from decades past, a sample of music that you'd have never been able to hear in person, anyway. With a live album, the show never ends.
Now we get to the really fun part of this, er, appreciation of science-fiction films from the 1950s: the bad ones. Yes, these are the films about which you cannot say that the acting "could have been stronger," or the effects "lacked realism," or the story seemed "weak." These films are so lacking in quality that you can safely say this: These films are sci-fi stinkers.

Or as Frank Zappa put it, these films all exhibit "Cheepnis," the name of his song saluting sci-fi stinkers that first appeared on the Mothers' 1974 live album The Roxy and Elsewhere. As Zappa explained in the introduction to "Cheepnis," "the cheaper they are, the better they are," and while he noted that a film's budget, or lack thereof, is not necessarily a factor in its exhibiting "Cheepnis," it does help.

The ten films in this, our final list of 1950s sci-fi films, not only have "Cheepnis" but also some kind of lasting notoriety. Because—let's face it—there are a lot of bad science-fiction films and not just from the 1950s, and I'll leave it to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, to memorialize those. For example, The Giant Gila Monster (1959) is certainly bad—the special effects include an obvious model train and an ordinary lizard in a diorama to make it seem "giant"—but no one in the cast had any fame nor went on to any fame, the narrative and dialogue are not memorably atrocious, so it is merely bad but not notably so.
Ten votes for ten candidates. That is the maximum number of votes a member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) can cast on the 2014 ballot that contains players eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, the highest honor a player can receive from the sport. Each vote can be for one candidate only, up to a maximum of ten; a voter is not required to cast all ten votes; in fact, a voter does not have to vote for any candidate.

The problem is that this year's ballot, announced on November 26, 2013, contains 36 candidates—and half of those candidates qualify for the Hall of Fame, at least by my reckoning. The fact is that two issues have plagued Hall of Fame voting in recent years: a logjam of qualified candidates and a backlash concerning players who have used, or have been suspected of using, performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

This reached a head last year, when on a ballot of 37 candidates, not one player received the minimum 75 percent of votes required for election to the Hall. Not one. This includes a ballot that listed Jeff Bagwell (449 home runs, 1529 runs batted in), Craig Biggio (3060 hits, 668 doubles), Barry Bonds (all-time leader in home runs with 762), and Roger Clemens (354 wins, 4672 strikeouts) among the candidates. In fact, the only player inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013 was Deacon White, the catcher selected by Pre-Integration Era committee who last played a game in 1890, and good luck finding anyone who remembers that event first-hand.
Once again the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its nominations for this year's class of inductees, fueling spirited speculation about which artists should or should not be voted into the Hall. As I did last year, I have profiled the sixteen nominees for the 2014 class and have indicated whether I think Hall voters will vote for the nominee, and whether I would vote for the nominee if I were a voting member of the Hall.

The sixteen nominees are the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, Kiss, L.L. Cool J, the Meters, Nirvana, N.W.A., the Replacements, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, Link Wray, Yes, and the Zombies. Five of the nominees are returning from last year: the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, the Meters, and N.W.A..