David Ortiz is headed to Cooperstown as the lone member of this year’s BBWAA Hall of Fame Class. Ortiz’s election is well-deserved with many crediting the former World Series MVP as one of the greatest clutch hitters of all-time. On top of his postseason accomplishments including three World Series rings, Ortiz was also a revered figure in Boston, rallying the city after the devastating events of 2013’s Boston Marathon bombing, a tragedy that left four dead and hundreds injured.
Still, Ortiz’s candidacy was clouded by past allegations of steroid use stemming from a failed PED test in 2003. However, the validity of that test has been debated, with commissioner Rob Manfred himself absolving Ortiz of wrongdoing, dismissing the results as inconclusive. While that was enough to convince the 77.9 percent of voters who checked Ortiz on their ballot, others remain skeptical, finding it curious Big Papi got elected before two of the greatest players in history, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
Clearly, voters were able to differentiate between Bonds, the subject of a government investigation that culminated in a 2007 perjury indictment (though charges were later dropped), and Ortiz, who, other than the leaked result from 2003, was never proven to have used PEDs. Former Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who played with Ortiz from 2012-14, shared an interesting anecdote, claiming Ortiz was subject to more PED tests than any player he ever saw.
“I played with him for three years, ’12, ’13 and ’14, and I never saw another player get tested more than David Ortiz,” said Middlebrooks on Wednesday’s episode of Rake and Take, a podcast he cohosts with CBS colleague Danny Vietti. “There were weeks when he would have three tests in a week. There were players on the team that had two tests all year.”
Those suspicious of Ortiz would point to his sudden improvement upon joining the Red Sox in 2003, immediately becoming one of baseball’s most feared sluggers following a forgettable six-year stint with Minnesota. Of course, it should be noted Ortiz averaged just 282 plate appearances during that span and enjoyed a mini-breakout in his final season with the Twins, showing signs of the player he’d eventually become with 20 homers and a respectable .500 slugging percentage.
“This isn’t just me defending a friend. If you look at his body from 2002, 2003, it’s the same body type. He’s not jacked, he’s just big,” insists Middlebrooks. “He doesn’t have abs. He’s not ripped up. It’s not a six-pack. It’s just a keg.”
Ortiz will be officially inducted at a ceremony July 24th along with Veterans Committee selections Buck O’Neil, Bud Fowler, Minnie Minoso, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva.