COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- David Ortiz's complicated Hall of Fame case moved into the spotlight for a moment on Saturday, when Hall of Famer electee Ken Griffey Jr. endorsed the retiring Red Sox legend for a spot in Cooperstown."Do I think he's a Hall of Famer? Absolutely," Griffey said Saturday on
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- David Ortiz's complicated Hall of Fame case moved into the spotlight for a moment on Saturday, when Hall of Famer electee Ken Griffey Jr. endorsed the retiring Red Sox legend for a spot in Cooperstown.
"Do I think he's a Hall of Famer? Absolutely," Griffey said Saturday on the eve of his own induction. "The numbers that he's put up, three titles, the list goes on of the accomplishments that he's done on the field. You can't take that away from him."
Fellow Hall of Fame electee Mike Piazza sees a more complicated question with Ortiz, a 2016 All-Star who has said he will retire after this season.
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"I think David Ortiz is one of the most charismatic players to come along in the game in a long time," Piazza said. "Putting his numbers aside, I think he's a great guy. He's obviously great for the city, and as I said, very colorful, fun to watch. I agree with Kenny, but I also believe that there's a process that you have to respect. Only speaking for myself, I know there are going to be debates out there on numbers and everything. It's really individual choice. You just have to respect the process and let itself play out."
Without doubt, the 40-year-old Ortiz's numbers speak loudly. A .286 hitter over 20 seasons, Ortiz has clubbed 527 home runs (and counting) to go along with a .931 OPS. He, Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron are the only players in history to amass at least 600 doubles and 500 homers. And Ortiz played an instrumental role in each of Boston's three most recent titles.
But Ortiz has played more than 84 percent of his games as a designated hitter, which would be unprecedented in Cooperstown. Of those currently in the Hall, only Frank Thomas (56 percent) spent even half of his career as a DH, while Edgar Martinez (68 percent) has struggled to gain Hall of Fame backing despite standout offensive numbers.
Further complicating Ortiz's case is his positive performance-enhancing drug test from 2003. Although Ortiz was never suspended for the violation because it took place as part of a survey program before Major League Baseball revamped its testing protocols in 2004, many Hall voters abstain from selecting players linked to PEDs in any way.
Both are arguments that will percolate for at least the next five years, with Ortiz becoming eligible for the Hall for the first time in 2021. But if he does make it at that time, he will have allies on the inside.
"David was a Mariner, drafted by the Mariners, so I got a chance to see him young," Griffey said. "He wasn't Big Papi, he was Thin Papi at that time. So to watch him do the things that he's done over the years, he's become one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. He's done an incredible job in that city."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com.