January 25, 2022

David Ortiz Is A First-Ballot Hall Of Famer (And Now It's Official)

David Ortiz was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Big Papi was the only player elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America to be named on 75% of the ballots. 

Ortiz was named on 307 of 394 ballots (77.9%) and will be inducted with six others on July 24, 2022. The Golden Days and Early Baseball Era committees selected Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Minnie MiƱoso and Buck O'Neil.

Barry Bonds finished second (66%), Roger Clemens was third (65.2%), and Curt Schilling was fifth (58.6%). All three players failed to receive the necessary 75% in their tenth and final years on the ballot.

Ortiz spent his first six major league seasons in the Twins organization before being released on December 16, 2002. About one month later, on January 22, 2003, the Red Sox (at the urging of pitcher Pedro Martinez) signed Ortiz as a free agent to a one-year, $1.25 million contract.

Ortiz did not become a fixture in Boston's lineup until May, but once he was given a chance, he provided powerful evidence he belonged. From May 14 to June 14, Ortiz batted .433 in 19 games, with an OPS of 1.174. Only two of his 29 hits were home runs, he also smacked 12 doubles and drew five walks while striking out only nine times. The taters came later: eight in July, 11 in August, and eight in September.
"I was the type of player that I know I've got the talent, but all I was looking for was the opportunity to be an everyday player. Thank God at some point it came true, once I got to the Red Sox, and the rest is history. I feel so thankful and grateful for being able to accomplish what I was able to accomplish and, thank God, have the career I have.
The Large Father's heroics in his first five seasons in Boston were many. From his legendary clutch performances in the magical and still-hard-to-believe-it-happened 2004 postseason to setting a Red Sox single-season record with 54 home runs in 2006 (which led the American League, as did his 137 RBI, 119 walks, and 355 total bases) to leading the led Red Sox to another championship in 2007.

His performance in the 2013 World Series was transcendent: 11-for-16, with eight walks.  a .688 batting average (the best average in WS history of anyone with 16+ PA) with and a 1.948 OPS. In 25 plate appearances, he struck out only once as Boston won its third World Series championship in a decade. 

In his final season  2016, at age 40  Flo led both leagues with 48 doubles, a .620 slugging, and a 1.021 OPS. He also topped the AL with 127 RBI.

To the very end, pitchers were wary of facing him in clutch situations. Ortiz led the AL in intentional walks in three of his final four seasons.

In three World Series, Ortiz hit .455 (#5 all-time), with 14 RBI and 14 runs scored in 14 games. He also had 14 walks - and only five strikeouts. with a 1.372 OPS (#4 all-time).

Ortiz's Ranking (World Series, Season)
#2 Batting average: .688 (#1 of anyone with 16+ PA)
#2 On-base percentage: .760  (#1 of anyone with 16+ PA)
#8 Slugging percentage: 1.188 (#2 of anyone with 25+ PA)
#7 OPS: 1.948 (#2 of anyone with 25+ PA)
#7 Walks: 8 (Of the 16 players with 8+ walks, Ortiz had the fewest plate appearances (25))
(All stats from 2013 World Series)

Ortiz's Ranking (World Series, Career)
#5 Batting average: .455
#6 Slugging percentage: .795
#2 OBP: .576 (#1 of anyone with 31+ PA)
#4 OPS: 1.372 (#1 of anyone with 31+ PA)

Ortiz also holds the all-time Division Series (26 seasons, since 1995) records for best average (.714), on-base (.846), slugging (1.571, tied), and OPS (2.418), all accomplished in 2007.

Ortiz really made his mark among Red Sox fans in walkoff situations. From 2003-16, Ortiz came to the plate 106 times (in 85 games) with a chance to win the game. He went 27-for-79 (.342), with 12 home runs. Ortiz had 20 career walkoff hits (23.5% of games), including the postseason, with thirteen of those coming in a three-season stretch (2004-06).

Here's a mind-boggler: Ortiz delivered a game-winning hit in six consecutive games in which he had a chance for a walkoff hit: his final opportunity in 2005 and his first five chances in 2006 (I cite #6 below). I'm not completely sure, but I feel confident that's unprecedented in baseball history.

In June 2017, I wrote:
Back in 2005 and 2006, when Ortiz came to the plate at Fenway Park with a chance to win the game, he never made an out. That is barely an exaggeration. When I compiled the data for the first version of this post (August 1, 2006), I noted that from the end of the 2004 regular season through July 2006, Ortiz came to the plate 19 times in a walkoff situation  and made only three outs. He had a .786 batting average (11-for-14) with seven home runs and 20 RBI!
His July 31, 2006 home run off Cleveland rookie Fausto Carmona (later known as Roberto Hernandez) may be my favourite non-playoff Ortiz walkoff hit. Big Papi was on an amazing streak of winning games and had hit an extra-inning game-winner only two days earlier. With Boston down by two runs and two men on in the ninth, I probably would have bet my year's salary on Ortiz winning the game if someone had asked. It felt like everyone in Fenway Park knew it would happen, including Carmona. Maybe especially Carmona. The Cleveland pitcher threw two balls to build a little tension and then  BAM!  Ortiz crushed a three-run homer to center. All I could do is stare at the TV and laugh.
Ortiz  being human  couldn't keep batting almost .800 in walkoff situations. And at times, he was (admittedly) no longer that guy, the slugger who made pitchers quake in their cleats, but his past heroics remained in the back of everyone's mind when he spat in his batting gloves, clapped those big mitts together, and dug in. For years, a game-winning hit always seemed (to me, anyway) extremely likely.
Of course, the walkoff opportunities listed below tell only a small part of Ortiz's story. But it is a huge part of Big Papi's legend . . .

I also noted that those walkoff stats do not count the numerous home games in which Ortiz tied the score or gave the Red Sox the lead in the 7th or 8th innings and they also do not include any clutch hits on the road. Additionally, home games Ortiz could only tie in the bottom of the 9th (or extra innings) are not included.

A personal Ortiz memory: On May 1, 2013, I was on the field at Skydome, waiting to have a quick chat with Ortiz, to explain that I was (along with Bill Nowlin) writing a book about the 2004 postseason and we would love to have him sit down with Bill at Fenway Park at some point. (Two weeks earlier, on April 19, I had met Kevin Youkilis in the Yankees locker room before finding a quiet place to talk about his memories of his rookie season.) About a dozen Red Sox players milled about nearby; some were running sprints off the first base foul line. At some point I looked up towards the infield and Ortiz was walking in my direction. No one was close enough to me to hear my audible intake of breath. Seeing Jacoby Ellsbury or Koji Uehara was cool, but they didn't come close to jolting my senses or get my heart racing. Ortiz was something else entirely; he seemed larger, more majestic than anyone else (because he was), like a mythic creature emerging from dense fog. The Red Sox PR person went up to Ortiz and then motioned us towards the dugout. I took a seat. Ortiz sat on my right and listened to my spiel about the book project and our wish for a bit of his time in the near future. He listened politely, nodded and said a few words of agreement, and shook my hand. That was it. I did not have a ticket to the game, but I hopped into the stands and selected a seat from which to watch the Red Sox cruise to a 10-1 win. (Bill talked to Ortiz on May 24.)

The 2004 season changed Red Sox fans (and Red Sox fandom) forever. Because of that, there will never be another player who can match David Ortiz for Red Sox heroics at the plate. My interest in the Hall of Fame has shrunk to pretty much zero, but I'm still thrilled to see Ortiz get elected  and on the first ballot.


Zenslinger said...

Things like the effect of the DH on his WAR may have made his HOF candidacy a little difficult, but David Ortiz made it easy -- very easy -- for me to choose my favorite baseball player of all time. And I don't expect my choice to change.

FenFan said...

Although I've been a Red Sox fan now for 40 years (!), I never bought a baseball jersey until I picked up a David Ortiz jersey in 2003 from Olympia Sports at the local mall. He impressed me so much in his first year with Boston that it was a no-brainer decision. Papi is VERY deserving of being inducted in his first year of eligibility for all the reasons you wrote. He was key to every championship the Red Sox won during his tenure, and his last year, despite not reaching the pinnacle of team success, did a lot, I believe, to end all questions of whether he should be in Cooperstown.

hrstrat57 said...

Great post Allan thx!

laura k said...

Thanks for this!