Big Papi elected to Hall on 1st ballot

January 26th, 2022

In the batter’s box and in some of the biggest moments in October history, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz had a presence even larger than his 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame. And so it is with the man known as Big Papi’s presence in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022.

Ortiz was the lone player elected into the Hall of Fame by the vote of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in results unveiled Tuesday night on MLB Network. He will be joined by the six selections of the Golden Days and Early Baseball Era committees -- Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva and the late Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Minnie Miñoso and Buck O’Neil -- in being inducted into the Hall on Sunday, July 24 at 1:30 p.m. ET in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“I was the type of player that I know I’ve got the talent, but all I was looking for was the opportunity to be an everyday player,” Ortiz said. “Thank God at some point it came true, once I got to the Red Sox, and the rest is history. I feel so thankful and grateful for being able to accomplish what I was able to accomplish and, thank God, have the career I have.”

The selection of the 46-year-old Ortiz on his first ballot prevented the BBWAA from going consecutive years without a Hall entrant for the first time in the voting body’s history. Ortiz is the first solo selection from the BBWAA ballot since Reds shortstop Barry Larkin in 2012.

Ortiz had his name checked on 77.9 percent of submitted ballots, clearing the 75% threshold required for entry. He needed 296 votes and received 307. Controversial candidates Barry Bonds (66.0%), Roger Clemens (65.2%), Curt Schilling (58.6%) and Sammy Sosa (18.5%) all fell shy of election in their final year of eligibility, while Scott Rolen (63.2%) continued to make important gains, and Todd Helton (52.0%) and Billy Wagner (51.0%) both crossed the 50% mark for the first time.

Though he is the 58th first-ballot Hall of Famer -- and the 14th just since 2014 -- Ortiz, a native of the Dominican Republic, stands alone as the only “true” designated hitter to get into the Hall on his first try. Frank Thomas (elected on his first ballot in 2014) was the DH in 56.4% of games he played in and Edgar Martinez (elected in his 10th year) spent 71.4% of his starts there, but Ortiz filled the bat-only role in 84.2% of his 2,408 games played, topping them both.

Ortiz overcame any stigma associated with the DH duties -- as well as some voters’ concerns about his reported inclusion in the 2003 PED survey testing list that was not intended for the public (Ortiz never tested positive in any of his 13 seasons in which MLB had formal drug testing) -- by amassing gargantuan offensive numbers. Traded by the Mariners and designated for assignment by the Twins, he emerged in Boston as a 10-time All-Star and seven-time Silver Slugger winner. Ortiz had a career .286/.380/.552 slash, a 141 OPS+, 541 home runs (17th all-time), 632 doubles (12th all-time), 1,768 RBIs (23rd all-time), 2,472 hits and 1,319 walks (T-41st all-time). He had 10 seasons of at least 100 RBIs, finished in the top five of the AL MVP voting in five straight seasons from 2003-07 and finished his career by leading the Majors in OPS (1.021), ranking sixth in the MVP vote in that age-40 season of 2016.

But Ortiz truly cemented his place in Red Sox and baseball lore with his performance in the postseason. He was instrumental in Boston breaking the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004, and he also helped power the Red Sox to titles in 2007 and 2013. In 85 career postseason games, Ortiz slashed .289/.404/.543 with 22 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, 61 RBIs and 51 runs. In perhaps the most consequential playoff series in franchise history – the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees – he went 12-for-31 (.387) with three homers and 11 RBIs in seven games, with the walk-off RBIs in Games 4 and 5. Nearly a decade later, his inspiring speech and play in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the club’s subsequent title run was testament to his importance to both team and town.

Among those Ortiz thanked Tuesday were fellow Hall of Famers Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Joe Torre -- along with the Yankees, in general -- for the impact the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry had on his career.

“Sometimes you think the competition at that level, you need to panic, you look at things in the wrong direction,” Ortiz said. “[But] it was fire to me. Every time we played the Yankees, it was like Goliath against David. We are David, so we’ve got to bring our best to beat Goliath. … They got the best out of me. I tried to do my best.”

Ortiz already joined three legends -- Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson -- in becoming just the fourth player with at least 500 career home runs and three or more World Series titles.

Now, he joins them in Cooperstown.

Here are a few other quick takeaways from the 2022 Hall of Fame ballot results:

Schilling support shrinks
After falling just 16 votes shy of election in 2021, Schilling, whose inflammatory rhetoric complicated his Hall case, asked to be removed from the ballot. The Hall of Fame board members did not honor that request, but quite a few writers took him up on it. In his 10th and final time on the ballot, Schilling finished with 54 fewer votes than he did a year ago.

Bonds, Clemens run out of time
As was the case in each year since 2015, Bonds and Clemens got more support on this ballot than the previous one. But they still fell well short of 75%. Bonds picked up 12 more votes from his 2021 total, while Clemens gained 10. But, as with Schilling and Sosa, their only hope of future induction will be the small-committee nomination and voting process.

Rolen keeps rolling
Three years ago, Rolen was named on just 17.2% of submitted ballots. But the eight-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman and seven-time All-Star has seen a dramatic surge in support on the last three ballots, jumping to 35.3% in 2020, 52.9% in 2021 and 63.2% this year. This puts Rolen, who will be on the ballot for the fifth time next year, in good position to potentially get the Hall call one year from now.

Helton, Wagner making moves
Helton is on a very similar trajectory to Rolen, having been checked on 16.5% of ballots in his first year of eligibility in 2019 before jumping to 29.2% in 2020, 44.9% in 2021 and 52.0% this year. Having played his entire career in Coors Field, Helton posted fantastic offensive numbers (.953 OPS, 369 home runs) that have faced greater scrutiny than they otherwise would. But voters are clearly warming to his case.

As a reliever with only three years of eligibility remaining, Wagner faces a taller order than Helton. But going from 46.4% to 51.0% continues his recent climb. Wagner ranks sixth in career saves with 422.

Andruw Jones saw an uptick of 27 votes to go from 33.9% to 41.4%, while Gary Sheffield treaded water (40.6% in consecutive years).

A-Rod, Rollins advance
Among the 13 first-time candidates on this ballot, only two received the necessary 5% support to remain on next year’s ballot -- Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins.

Rodriguez’s admitted PED use undoubtedly affected what otherwise would be a slam-dunk statistical case for the Hall of Fame. A-Rod’s 34.3% support is comparable to what Bonds received (36.2%) in his first year on the ballot in 2013.

Rollins was checked on only 9.4% of ballots, but that’s enough to keep his Hall hopes alive. In 14 full seasons with Philadelphia from 2001-14, Rollins ranked first among MLB shortstops in Wins Above Replacement (47.6).

Vizquel loses ground
Unsurprisingly, allegations of domestic abuse and sexual harassment drastically affected Omar Vizquel’s support on this ballot. Last year, the first report of allegations made by his ex-wife were made public during the voting process, and his support slipped from 52.6% in 2020 to 49.1%. This year, Vizquel fell all the way to 23.9%.

Ballot breakdown
The average ballot in the 2022 election contained 7.11 names, up from 5.87 last year, with 33.8 percent of the voters using all 10 slots, up from 14.5 percent a year ago. Six voters returned blank ballots. The total of ballots cast marked a 97.3 percent return rate of the 405 ballots mailed to voters.