Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro are just a few of the more famous players that have been dragged through the mud by the national media and the public for their admitted or suspected steroid use. One player who has largely skated by while other players have been eviscerated is David Ortiz, the face of the Boston Red Sox. In 2009, the New York Times reported Ortiz was on a list of players who tested positive for steroids in a 2003 survey. The results of the survey were meant to be anonymous but they were leaked and Ortiz was exposed, right or wrong. However, it looks like as Ortiz approaches 500 HRs, (he’s 11 away from the milestone), when he decides to retire he may get into the Hall of Fame while the above players languish at the bottom of ballots with no hope in sight to get into the Hall.
The Legacy Of Big Papi
Since the Times reported Ortiz’s name was on the list of positive tests he has sworn his innocence. Early this season, Ortiz was back on his soapbox this time penning an article for the Players Tribune, “I never knowingly took any steroids.” “I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame,” Ortiz wrote. Ortiz went onto write that since 2004 no one has been tested more than him and “I have never failed a single one of those tests and I never will.” It is conceivable that Ortiz took some over-the-counter supplements and didn’t know that some ingredients were banned by MLB. It is equally conceivable that Ortiz is just simply trying to pull the wool over our eyes like many players prior to try to get himself a plaque in Cooperstown. Going against Ortiz’s tale is the fact that players such as Palmeiro, Rodriguez, and Ryan Braun have sworn their innocence only to be exposed as not only cheaters but liars.
As judge and jury, the final call on Ortiz’s legacy comes down to the BBWAA. The issue of steroids should be the only thing that puts a doubt into the writer’s minds as Ortiz does possess a Hall of Fame resume. Edgar Martinez is the only other DH with an Ortiz-like resume and he has yet to be voted into the Hall. If writers believe Ortiz’s story, his .283 career average, .921 OPS, 9 All-Star games, 3 World Series titles and a HR total over 500 should put Ortiz ahead of Martinez. The writers are clearly reluctant to put in a DH as the vote total over the years for Martinez has illustrated, but as arguably the best DH of all time and a historic October performer Ortiz should get the 75 percent needed for entry. Unfortunately for Ortiz, the reluctance of writers to put in even suspected steroid users may doom him to rot in Hall of Fame purgatory.
Regardless of 500 HRs and his results when his name appears on ballots, Ortiz’s legacy among Boston Red Sox fans is sterling. A Mount Rushmore of Boston athletes would potentially see Big Papi carved in stone. However, even without the criticisms leveled on other steroid users by the national media, for fans outside of Red Sox Nation, Ortiz will never be an all-time great and will always be a cheater.