David Ortiz was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first turn on the ballot, while steroid-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were denied entry to Cooperstown in their final year under consideration by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Ortiz, a clutch slugger and 10-time All-Star over 20 seasons mostly with the Boston Red Sox, was named on 77.9% of ballots unveiled Tuesday night, clearing the 75% threshold needed for enshrinement. He’s the fourth primary designated hitter voted into the Hall.
Big Papi was among baseball’s most recognizable faces through the 2000s and 2010s. His enormous grin endeared him to fans, but the Dominican’s hulking frame menaced pitchers, especially in the late innings. He had 23 game-ending hits, including three during the 2004 postseason while Boston ended an 86-year World Series drought.
Ortiz batted .286 with 541 home runs with Boston and Minnesota while making 88% of his plate appearances as a designated hitter, the most by anyone in the Hall. He passes Edgar Martinez, who was a DH for 71.7% of his plate appearances. Frank Thomas and Harold Baines are the only other Hall members to DH more than half the time.
He’s also the fourth player born in the Dominican Republic, joining Juan Marichal, Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero.
Ortiz also has PED baggage, but enough voters chose to ignore a positive test that came during survey testing in 2003 that was supposed to be anonymous. Ortiz has denied using steroids, and Commissioner Rob Manfred said in 2016 “I think it would be wrong” to exclude him from the Hall of Fame based on that lone test.
The three-time World Series winner has remained in public view in retirement as a studio analyst for Fox Sports’ postseason coverage. He was briefly sidelined in 2019 after being ambushed and shot in the Dominican Republic. His recovery required three surgeries, and doctors removed his gallbladder along with parts of his intestines and colon. He returned to the air during the postseason four months after the shooting.
Ortiz will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24 along with era committee selections Buck O’Neil, Minnie Miñoso, Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat and Bud Fowler.
Bonds, Clemens and Curt Schilling were all rejected in their 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot. Bonds is the sport’s career home run leader and Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards, but voters denied them the game’s highest honor over suspicions they used performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds got 66% of the vote, and Clemens was at 65.2%.
Schilling’s support dropped off sharply after he finished 16 votes shy in 2021. Many voters chose not to back the right-hander due to hateful remarks he has made in retirement toward Muslims, transgender people, journalists and others.
Schilling asked the Hall to remove him from this year’s voting, but he remained an option. He was named on 58.6% of ballots, down from 71.1% last year.
Bonds, Clemens and Schilling are done on the BBWAA ballot, but they will be considered again next year by the Today’s Game era committee. The 16-person committee of Hall members, executives and veteran media members will convene next December to consider players who played between 1988-2016 who are no longer eligible for BBWAA selection.
Among other first-timers on the ballot, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins got the most support.
Rodriguez won three MVPs and hit 696 homers but also has PED use clouding his case. He was banned by Major League Baseball for the entire 2014 season after violating the league’s drug policy. Voters named him on 34.3% of ballots.
Rollins, a four-time Gold Glove winner with Philadelphia, appeared on 9.4% of ballots and was the only other first-timer to earn the 5% necessary to remain under consideration. Joe Nathan, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Howard were among 10 one-and-done players.
The only others to earn more than 50% support were third baseman Scott Rolen (63.2%, up from 52.9%), first baseman Todd Helton (52%, up from 44.9%) and reliever Billy Wagner (51%, up from 46.4%). Outfielder Andruw Jones also made gains, rising to 41.1% from 33.9%.
Next year’s ballot will introduce a new wrinkle of controversy when Carlos Beltrán joins the list. The nine-time All-Star was punished by MLB prior to the 2020 season and fired as manager of the New York Mets for his leading role in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
Beltrán is likely to be joined on the ballot by John Lackey, Jered Weaver, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jayson Werth.