Perspectives: Some PED’s, I Guess Are Not Bad When It Comes to the Hall of Fame
by Paul Semendinger
January 26, 2022
I love baseball history.
I love the Hall of Fame.
But, year-after-year-after-year, this whole thing is becoming more and more of a joke. The rules change. The standards change.
The 2022 BBWAA writer’s announcements are in. David Ortiz is now a Hall of Famer.
The lone player on the 2022 ballot to get in was David Ortiz. Big Papi.
He’s a legend. He’s a great guy. He’s Big Papi.
He also tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. That’s not me saying it, it’s the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” (ESPN) saying it.
Here’s the article, from 2009:
Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were among the 104 major league players listed as having tested positive for performance-enhancing substances in 2003, lawyers with knowledge of the results told The New York Times. The two were key members of the Boston Red Sox World Series championship teams in 2004 and 2007. The lawyers did not name the substances for which Ramirez and Ortiz tested positive, the Times reported.
As far as I am concerned, that’s it. Period. They tested positive. If PEDs keep a player out of Cooperstown, so be it, then David Ortiz should be kept out, but it seems that PEDs only keep some players out.
If you’re a fun-loving Red Sox slugger, you can test positive for PEDs and it doesn’t matter. The writers will let you in.
Good for you Big Papi, not only are you a Hall of Famer, they also make special exemptions for your supposed PED use while holding the same standard against many others.
Many others who are more deserving of being in the Hall of Fame.
For the record, I think a Hall of Fame case can be made for Big Papi.
He helped break the Curse of the Bambino. He hit 561 home runs. He was a legendary player. He personifies the word “Fame” that is the most important word in “Hall of Fame.”
David Ortiz was one of those players who I couldn’t root against. He was fun. He was clutch. He smiled a lot.
I enjoyed watching Big Papi play.
For his sake, I’m glad he’s in.
But did David Ortiz deserve to go into the Hall of Fame over the other players left out these many years because of their use (or supposed use) of PEDS? No, no way.
I guess the rules apply to some, but not all of the players.
According to Baseball-Reference, David Ortiz has a lifetime WAR of 55.3. That makes him smack in the middle of a borderline Hall of Famer.
He’s close. He’s not a sure thing member, no way.
Let’s compare two players:
Bonds – 57.9 WAR
Ortiz – 55.3 WAR
Yes, it’s close. It’s very close.
Bonds, of course played in the field. He played 1, 736 games in the outfield.
Ortiz played a grand total, over his entire career, of 278 games in the field. When Big Papi played, he hit. He was a designated hitter in 2,028 games. Ortiz did one thing, and he did it well, he hit. But he was not, by any sense, a complete ballplayer.
He wasn’t Bonds…And I don’t mean Barry. I’m talking about his father, Bobby. Bobby Bonds.
Bobby Bonds was a much more complete ballplayer than David Ortiz. Bonds could run, he could field, he could throw. Ortiz could do none of those things. No one is suggesting that Bobby Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame, but by many standards, Bobby Bonds was a better player than David Ortiz.
Let’s look at a different player…
Sammy Sosa was just denied entry to the Hall of Fame for the tenth year in a row. Why? PEDs. Sosa’s WAR (58.6) is also higher than Ortiz’s. He also hit more homers.
How is David Ortiz, a one-dimensional ballplayer, more deserving of the Hall of Fame than Sammy Sosa, who critics claim was simply a one-dimensional ballplayer?
Sosa played 2,203 games in the outfield. He also wasn’t terrible out there. Sosa has six seasons where he posted a positive dWAR. The most games Ortiz ever played in the field in a season was 70, all at first base (with the Twins). Once he went to the Red Sox (and made his Hall of Fame case), the most games in a season that Big Papi ever played at first base was 45. After 2004, he never played more than 10 games in any season in the field.
Ortiz was just a slugger. I guess they didn’t hold that against him.
Oh, and Sosa could also run. In eight seasons he stole more than 15 bases, five times topping 20, three times topping 30. David Ortiz stole 17 bases in his entire career.
Who was the more complete player? It was Sosa. Absolutely.
This, also from ESPN in 2009:
Sosa tested positive in 2003
Sammy Sosa tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003, The New York Times reported Tuesday on its Web site, the latest in a string of baseball stars implicated in the sport’s steroids scandal of the past decade. The Times said Sosa is one of 104 players who tested positive in baseball’s anonymous 2003 survey, which has been the subject of a protracted court fight. The paper did not identify the drug.
Does that not say basically the exact same thing as the reporting about Ortiz’s positive PED test referenced above?
Why is this held against Sosa, but not Ortiz? Or, argued differently, why is it not held against Ortiz, but it is held against Sosa?
Different standards for different players… or so it seems.
Let’s look at another player, also with a higher WAR than Ortiz.
Andy Pettitte’s WAR is 60.2. This is also higher than David Ortiz. Pettitte used PEDs (HGH). He admitted it. Ortiz denies using, for the record. (Sosa too.)
Pettitte came clean. His now “confirmed use” is held against him. (I guess the character clause doesn’t include honesty, owning one’s mistakes, and such.)
Also, for the record, many of the arguments for David Ortiz’s election also hold true for Andy Pettitte. In fact, they hold truer for Andy Pettitte than David Ortiz.
Ortiz won three World Series. Pettitte won five.
Both were stars on baseball’s biggest stage and had huge World Series moments.
But, Ortiz hit all those homers. That’s the difference some might say. And he did. 541 home runs to be exact. But you know what, Andy Pettitte won 256 games, which in the modern era is a much more impressive feat than hitting a bunch of home runs.
Modern Players with 500+ Home Runs:
Barry Bonds 762
Alex Rodriguez 696
Albert Pujols 679
Ken Griffey, Jr. 630
Jim Thome 612
Sammy Sosa 609
Mark McGwire 583
Rafael Palmeiro 569
Manny Ramirez 555
David Ortiz 541
Frank Thomas 521
Gary Sheffield 509
Miguel Cabrera 502
Modern Players with 250+ Wins:
Greg Maddux 355
Roger Clemens 354
Tom Glavine 305
Randy Johnson 303
Mike Mussina 270
Jamie Moyer 269
Andy Pettitte 256
C.C. Sabathia 251
During the Hall of Fame announcement yesterday evening, a lot was made about David Ortiz being on three World Series teams. If that’s a characteristic that helps his case, why do five World Series championships not help Pettitte’s case?
When standards are not applied in a similar manner, it brings the voting voting process into question.
What is interesting about the home run list above is the fact that there are six players who hit more homers than Big Papi who are not in the Hall of Fame all because of one main reason… PED use.
Big Papi is in the Hall of Fame, even though he failed a PED test.
To me, this just makes no sense. It seems unfair.
It seems arbitrary.
It seems that different rules apply to different players.
And that’s just not right.
If PEDs make a player ineligible for the Hall of Fame, then that standard should apply to all players, not just some – not just the players the writers don’t like.
One last thought on this.
Please refer back to the article above. Note the date for when David Ortiz tested positive. The year was 2003.
Prior to 2003, David Ortiz had never hit even 21 home runs in a season. Over his first six Major League seasons, David Ortiz hit a grand total of 58 homers. 58. Here are his yearly home run totals:
1997 – 1
1998 – 9
1999 – 0
2000 – 10
2001 – 18
2002 – 20
And then 2003 comes around, the same year he tests positive, for something…
Here are his home run totals from 2003 on:
2003 – 31
2004 – 41
2005 – 47
2006 – 54
2007 – 35
2008 – 23
2009 – 28
2010 – 32
2012 – 23
2013 – 30
2014 – 35
2015 – 37
2016 – 38
David Ortiz total homers before 2003 = 58
David Ortiz total homers from 2003 to 2016 = 483
The argument against Sammy Sosa was that he just wasn’t a power hitter before his suspected PED use. (This also doesn’t make sense because if Sosa’s PED use came in 1998 when he hit 66 homers, it wasn’t like he wasn’t slugging homers before then. Sosa’s first big home run year was 1993 when he hit 33. The following are Sosa’s home run totals in the years before his biggest seasons:
1993 – 33
1994 – 25
1995 – 36
1996 – 40
1997 – 36
The leap for Sosa to 66 homers wasn’t as much of a stretch as it was for Ortiz. Sosa first reached 30 homers as a 24-year old player. Ortiz didn’t reach that mark until he was 27. Sosa was already a power hitter before his power explosion. Ortiz was not.
It just seems like many writers had a narrative for David Ortiz that they did not apply to other players.
The counter argument against Barry Bonds is that even though he hit 445 homers before the year 2000 when he became Superman, those stats are negated because of his suspected PED use that came after that point. .
People argue, “Players just don’t have an aging cycle like Bonds had. They just don’t suddenly hit homers.”
Please refer back to David Ortiz’s numbers above. He was 27 years old and in his 7th season before he started hitting homers. He had a late start to finding his power groove. Then look a little closer at the end of Ortiz’s career. For six years, from 2003 through 2103, he averaged 27.5 home runs a year. He never topped 32 and only hit 30 one other time. Then he reaches his ages-38, 39, and 40 seasons and suddenly he averaged 36.6 home runs a year.
Suddenly, when he was old, he became a great slugger again.
Trends like that are used to argue against other players, but for David Ortiz, they just seem to be ignored.
Again, I liked David Ortiz.
I think he’s at best a borderline Hall of Famer. He’s now in. Good for him. I mean that sincerely – good for him.
But it sure does seem that the writers held David Ortiz to a completely different standard than some of the equally and even more worthy players of his era… all because of PEDs.
PEDs. More worthy players are held out of the Hall of Fame for PEDs…
Yeah, what ESPN reported that David Ortiz tested positive for.
I guess the writers apply the PED standard to some players, not others. And that’s not right. It’s making the whole discussion about the Baseball Hall of Fame a joke.
And that’s a shame for the sport and the players and the fans. Once you destroy the credibility of an institution, that institution fails to be credible.
That’s a problem. It’s a problem now for baseball. A big problem.
And as someone who loves the sport, who loves the discussions, who loves the Hall of Fame, all of this makes me very sad.