David Ortiz is by far one of the most revered athletes in Boston.
A street and bridge adjacent to Fenway Park, the home stadium of the Red Sox, are named after him. His team for a 14-year career soon removed the number 34. He was the character who was in charge of haranguing a traumatized city, days after the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon.
The Dominican’s next big moment will be a ceremony at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Fueled by his prowess on and off the diamond, the “Big Papi” appears headed for exaltation in his first year of eligibility in the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) ballot.
At dawn on Friday, Ortiz was close to almost 84% of the support, according to Ryan Thibodeaux, the fan who in recent years has been in charge of keeping a tabulation of the votes of the journalists who make them public in the days prior to the official announcement of the results.
For now, Ortiz would exceed the minimum of 75% that is necessary to be elected. But nobody knows if his percentage will stay at that level or will be lower in the end.
Today, he would be the only one capable of preventing anyone from being elected in the BBWAA vote for the second year.
The Hall of Fame will announce the results of the vote on Tuesday. Those who get enough endorsements will join Cubans Minnie Miñoso and Tony Oliva, as well as Jim Kaat, Gil Hodges, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil, who were elected by the baseball era committees.
This author participates in the vote and this is his eighth year doing so.
Ortiz appears in the group of 10 players — the maximum allowed — that I have selected.
In alphabetical order of last names, the others are Bobby Abreu, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, and Billy Wagner.
I ruled out Manny Ramírez and Omar Vizquel, who were on my shortlist last year.
It is not an easy vote due to the divergent positions and the heated debate that it generates.
Achieving big numbers and a level of stardom used to open doors to Cooperstown. Now, the statistical revolution puts players who can go unnoticed, like Abreu, Helton and Rolen, in another dimension.
You also have to beware of stigmas that in the past have stopped candidacies. Relievers used to be downplayed for their load of innings pitched, and this helps Wagner.
Ortiz seems to have neutralized the questioning of the job of a designated hitter, benefiting from Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas getting inducted via the BBWAA vote in recent years.
And everything seems to indicate that Ortiz’s alleged positive result for the use of doping substances — as part of a study with anonymous tests that was carried out in 2003 — does not seem to affect him as it has happened with Bonds, Clemens and Alex Rodríguez.
Clemens and Bonds are in their 10th and final year on the ballot. They exceed 75% for fair, but both have traditionally seen a decline in the final result. Last year, for example, the two finished with 61%.
The 2003 study was done to determine if MLB should initiate tests that would result in penalties. Ortiz amassed most of his numbers during the testing era, and has always denied taking steroids. Current commissioner Rob Manfred has defended him, going so far as to say that it would be unfair to sideline him from Cooperstown for it.
It’s another story with A-Rod and Ramirez.
A newcomer to the ballot this year, Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 2014 season for his involvement in the Biogenesis Clinic scheme, which distributed banned performance-enhancing substances. He also acknowledged that he doped while playing for the Texas Rangers.
I had voted for Ramírez in the previous three years, but this time I decided to remove him because of his record. Outfielder Ramírez tested positive for a drug test in 2011, his third drug incident.
The Hall of Fame’s instructions to voters stress that several factors must be taken into account, not just the player’s numbers. It is what led to the removal of Vizquel, who during the year has been accused of domestic violence and sexual harassment.
As for Ortiz, it all comes down to a mix of formidable offensive numbers and timely playoff contributions.
He was the vital piece in the conquest of three World Series championships, including the MVP in the 2013 edition. In 2004, when Boston ended an 86-year drought without being crowned, Ortiz had three hits that sentenced victories in the playoffs .
He is a monumental figure in baseball in the first two decades of this century and someone whose great personality made him one of the most recognized players. Your income could wait a year, but it will come.