The Hall Of Fame Mishap: Not Fault Of “Big Papi”


I am not a member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) and do not get an opportunity to submit eligible names on the annual Baseball Hall of Fame ballot that is distributed. Unfair, of course, that those who cover baseball on a regular basis don’t get the privileged opportunity.

Then again, the BBWAA has become an organization of who they want. Unfortunately, I am not a member and concluded the process of a fight and let others pursue their opportunity. It’s not fair because I cover a significant amount of ball games during the season and last count many more than some of their current membership.

But, I will leave that for another time. I lost the fight. David “Big Papi” Ortiz, though, he did not have to fight and his first ballot selection as the newest inductee has caused a controversy that has the voting process, Hall of Fame, and the game of baseball in controversy.

There is definitely a question about the criteria here and the first ballot induction of Davd Ortiz. If I had the privilege of submitting a Hall of Fame ballot, he gets a check mark. That does not mean he deserved a first ballot election nor does it mean he meets the 75 percent threshold.

But the writers may never get it right. It took decades for the late Gil Hodges to get his call to the Hall. He along with Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, and Minnie Minoso will be inducted in July and give that credit to the Golden Era Committee.

Why it took 53 years for Hodges, the beloved Brooklyn Dodger to get inducted is difficult to understand.

Ortiz, perhaps the premiere modern day designated hitter and fourth Dominican to be enshrined, certainly had the numbers. He met the criteria but the shadow of a steroid era and his possible involvement of using PED’s (Performance Enhancing Drugs) has posed questions and a dark shadow about the Hall of Fame voting process.

Because Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, arguably the modern day best hitter and pitcher, were shut out again, and no longer eligible for consideration. That brought to light, the integrity of the voting process, the Hall of Fame, and baseball overall.

Though, Ortiz was bound to be a Hall of Famer. If it wasn’t this year, there would have been nine other chances on the ballot and a sure lock to gain enshrinement.

But writers can also look at criteria. They have done that in bypassing Bonds and Clemens. They may never give the necessary 75 percent threshold for Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, or Mark McGwire to qualify and get their day up in Cooperstown because of their alleged involvement with using PEDs, that went beyond reasonable doubt.

Alex Rodriguez who would later admit guilt, received a one-year suspension, then with the Yankees. That was more than reasonable doubt for writers to deny him a vote. He also involved a Yankees team physician in a lawsuit that tarnished a potential Hall of Fame plaque.

Regardless, they were implicated during a dark period for MLB. Bud Selig, the commissioner at the time, was a culprit as he allowed home run balls to leave the ballparks at a record pace. Baseball needed fans to return after a bitter labor war between the owners and players.

I always said, if Pete Rose has been banned from baseball and also from the Hall of Fame, because he wagered bets on the Cincinnati Reds as a manager and former player, then Bonds, Clemens and others should be barred from the Hall because of their alleged involvement in that dark steroid era of baseball.

And alleged here needs to be examined, though review the numbers before and when PEDs dominated that ugly steroid era.

Rose surely would get my first ballot nod as the all-time hits leader in baseball. Again, as I have written many times, you can’t take away the accomplishments away from what Pete Rose achieved on the field. Perhaps the same can be said about the steroid era of players that have been implicated and denied their enshrinement to the Hall.

Then again, there are still questions about the allegations and proof despite the Congressional committee investigations that put MLB and the game on a pedestal.

Ortiz, recall, was mentioned numerous times in the Mitchell Report of that 20-month investigation about PED use in baseball. I revisited that report Tuesday evening, hours after Ortiz celebrated with fellow Dominican Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez in the Dominican Republic.

Ortiz, then, and still denies his involvement of using PEDs but will always be associated with the steroid era and the investigation which has caused this uproar about his first ballot. It caused an uproar again with Bonds and Clemems being bypassed.

Ortiz said about Bonds and Clemens, “Not having them join me is hard for me to believe, to be honest with you. These guys, I did not even compare myself with them.”

But that brings up the integrity of this voting process and how to resolve a future nightmare for the Hall of Fame and baseball. Another example is a denial for Curt Schilling, perhaps more known for his postseason accolades that helped the Red Sox to a long awaited World Series championship.

But, Schilling was an adversary to the writers with his far right political views that had nothing to do with baseball. He slandered writers and requested to be omitted from the ballot for future consideration. He got his wish.

Omar Vizquel earned 11 Gold Gloves at shortstop in 24 seasons and two All-Star nods but his numbers at the plate would not add to the Hall of Fame number. Though, popular with the writers and baseball world that marveled at his accomplishments, Vizquel fell in bad flavor with a domestic violence incident and sexual misconduct charge during his time as manager of the Birmingham Barons.

Ortiz has always been popular with the writers and overall media. Now he’s taken on a new career as an analyst with FOX Sports.

In other words, despite what has been published, popularity will win some votes with the writers. Though it should all be about the numbers and integrity, as per some of the bylaws that govern the writers, they still get the final say as to who is in or who is out.

In the end this may never be resolved. But there is more reason now to open the floor and possibly change some of the criteria so that the Hall of Fame and baseball avoids another nightmare next year and thereafter.

Perhaps for those that have an integrity issue, Bonds, Clemens, even Pete Rose, and those who lost eligibility, will have another chance. The Today’s Game Committee evaluates players from 1988 to present and will conduct their votes in December for the Class of 2023.

I always said, a solution to this mess is to induct steroid users and Pete Rose. Create a separate wing up in Cooperstown. Note their accomplishments and put an asterisk on the plaque.

In the meantime, David Ortiz is headed to Cooperstown. In July, all will be forgotten about this controversy.

Rich Mancuso Twitter@Ring786, Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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