David Ortiz, primarily a designated hitter who helped the Boston Red Sox win three World Series after an 86-year drought, was the only player elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday.
Snubbed for a 10th and final time by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America were all-time career and single-season home run leader Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens.
Ortiz received 77.9% of the votes, clearing the threshold of 75% necessary for induction. Bonds and Clemens, inarguably the best hitter and pitcher in their generation yet inextricably tied to the steroid era, received 66% and 65%, respectively.
Ortiz became the 268th player enshrined and only the 58th elected in his first year of eligibility despite having tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003 when baseball conducted survey testing that was supposed to remain anonymous.
Other players on the ballot with ties to steroids didn’t gain nearly the traction of Ortiz, Bonds or Clemens. Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa all received far less than 50% of the vote and Sosa will drop off the ballot along with Bonds and Clemons.
Baseball writers are given these guidelines: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Nevertheless, opinions vary widely on whether proven or suspected users of performance-enhancing drugs should be enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The same can be true of other behavior writers believe clearly violate the guidelines. Curt Schilling, an accomplished pitcher who turned off many writers with comments and social media posts that some considered vile and inflammatory, asked to be removed from the ballot ahead of this year’s vote, his final year of eligibility.
“I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player,” Schilling wrote on his Facebook page.
The Hall of Fame board of directors voted to leave Schilling on the ballot and his vote percentage dropped from 71.1% to close to 60%.
Bonds, Clemens and Schilling could be considered again for the Hall of Fame as soon as next year. The Today’s Game Era Committee — one of four committees that can vote in players overlooked by the baseball writers — will meet in December and consider induction for players and managers who made their mark from 1988 to 2016. Manager Bruce Bochy and first baseman Fred McGriff are considered the favorites to gain induction.
Two committees voted in six men last year. The Golden Days Era Committee elected players Gil Hodges, Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, and the Early Days Era Committee elected pioneer/executives Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil. Those three committees and the Modern Baseball Committee each meet twice in a five-year period.
No one was elected by the Baseball Writers in 2021, with Schilling coming closest.
Ortiz hit 541 home runs — 17th on the all-time list — and was a 10-time All-Star in 20 seasons. He entered the major leagues in 1997 with the Minnesota Twins, who released him after the 2002 season. The Boston Red Sox signed him and he was a fixture in their lineup until his retirement after the 2016 season.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Ortiz was signed by the Seattle Mariners in 1992 and traded to the Twins for Dave Hollins after four minor league seasons. He hit only 58 home runs in six seasons in Minnesota but blossomed immediately in Boston.
Ortiz was in the top five in most valuable player voting in each of his first five seasons with the Red Sox. He helped them to their first World Series title since 1918 in 2004, was ALCS MVP during another World Series title run in 2007 and was the World Series MVP when the Red Sox won their third title in 10 years in 2013.
Outgoing and popular with teammates, fans and the media, Ortiz served as a designated hitter in 2,028 games and played first base in 278 games in his career. He will be the second designated hitter enshrined in the Hall of Fame, following Edgar Martinez in 2019.
Gaining traction among voters was third baseman Scott Rolen, who continued to climb after seeing a 17.6% increase to 52.9% in 2021. Another player experiencing an upward trend is first baseman Todd Helton, who has been on the ballot for four years.
With Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Sosa dropping off the ballot, players such as Rolen, Helton and reliever Billy Wagner could be added to enough ballots to gain entry. Writers are allowed to vote for a maximum of 10 players each year.
Carlos Beltrán, the top candidate in the 2023 class of new players, likely will trigger a fresh round of discussion regarding fitness for the Hall of Fame: He was found to be a primary villain in the Houston Astros trash can-banging cheating scandal in 2017.