The Hall of Fame ballot arrives via the mail and that’s how you’re asked to send it back. There are no PDFs, passwords, or encrypted sites required, just a postmark by Dec. 31.
It’s everything else that’s complicated.
David Ortiz finished his career with 55.3 career WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference.com. That’s tied for 244th all time, below Dwight Evans (67.1), Luis Tiant (66.1), and Johnny Damon (56.3) to name a few.
Damon was on the ballot for one year and got eight votes. Evans lasted three years. Tiant received 31 percent of the votes in 1988 and never more than 18 percent over the 14 years that followed.
But it’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Statistics, and few baseball players are more famous than Ortiz. He was a 10-time All-Star, a three-time World Series champion, and a World Series MVP.
Only Ortiz, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera have that on their résumé. Throw in 500-plus career home runs and it’s Ortiz and Jackson.
That’s an easy checkmark, right? But there is no certainty Ortiz will be a first-ballot choice. There has been a stigma against players who were primarily designated hitters, something that held Edgar Martinez out for 10 years before he broke through in 2019.
The DH has been around since 1973. It’s probably time to get over that.
Ortiz also has a complicated issue with performance-enhancing drugs to overcome. In 2009, the New York Times reported he tested positive for a PED six years prior in what was supposedly an anonymous survey test.
Both MLB and the Players Association backed Ortiz’s denials, saying the test results may not have been accurate. Commissioner Rob Manfred reiterated that in 2016, saying Ortiz could have been a victim of a false positive.
“Even if your name was on that list, it’s entirely possible that you were not a positive,” Manfred said at the time. “I don’t think anyone understands very well what that list was.”
Manfred said it would be “unfair” to include that test in any judgment of Hall of Fame worthiness.
Now five years later, we’ll see how many voters remember what the commissioner said.
A few other thoughts on the Hall of Fame ballot:
▪ Scott Rolen climbed from 10.2 percent to 52.9 percent in four years. Outside of Gil Hodges and players still on the ballot, every player to get at least 50 percent has eventually landed in Cooperstown via the BBWAA vote or some form of the Veterans Committee.
Billy Wagner, who reached 46.4 percent last year, is next. His statistics compare favorably with those of fellow closer Trevor Hoffman, who was inducted in 2018.
Mark Teixeira could take a similar road. He had 409 home runs and an .869 OPS as a switch-hitting first baseman who also won five Gold Gloves.
▪ As a member of the screening committee for the ballot, those left off include Michael Bourn, Coco Crisp, Juan Uribe, and Javier Lopez.
Bourn played 11 seasons, was a two-time All-Star with two Gold Gloves, helped four teams make the playoffs, and earned $63 million. That’s a heck of a career.
Lopez, who was with the Red Sox from 2006-09, appeared in 839 games over 14 years (43rd all time) and has four World Series rings along with 33 playoff appearances.
▪ There are nine former Red Sox players on the ballot. Along with Ortiz and Wagner, Roger Clemens, Carl Crawford, Jonathan Papelbon, Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, Manny Ramirez, and Curt Schilling.
Papelbon probably won’t get many votes. But he’s 10th in career saves with 368 and allowed three earned runs over 27 innings in 18 postseason games.
Pierzynski is ninth all time with 1,936 games as a catcher. His stint in Boston was short (72 games in the fractured 2014 season) and grouchy.
Peavy was on a Hall of Fame path for six seasons with the Padres before injuries got in the way. But he has two rings and a pitching Triple Crown along with being one of the best teammates in four clubhouses during a 15-year career.
Two memories of Peavy: No player on the 2013 Red Sox was more genuinely thrilled to win the World Series than he. Peavy wandered around Fenway Park after Game 6 in a sleeveless white T-shirt hugging everybody he could while tugging on a can of beer.
Peavy also threw batting practice at Fenway one afternoon to the great Jason Isbell, who was playing across the street at House of Blues that night. Isbell knew what he was doing in the cage.
▪ As somebody who has voted for Schilling nine previous times, voting for him one final year is an easy call. He deserves to be enshrined based on his accomplishments on the field, although it’s not an ironclad case.
Were this a crowded ballot, it would be tempting to leave Schilling off and honor his request not to be included in the process. But better to stay consistent.
For all his fanciful claims that the writers are out to get him, Schilling received 71.1 percent of the votes last year. That would be a landslide in any political election.
There’s a possibility Schilling could be the only player elected by the BBWAA this season. But both the Early Baseball and Golden Days committees will meet next month to consider candidates.
Dick Allen, Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Buck O’Neil, and Tony Oliva are the leading contenders.
Red Sox can’t skimp on rotation additions
Chaim Bloom made it clear the Red Sox weren’t comfortable going to $77 million for Eduardo Rodriguez. The market for the lefthander was such that they let him sign with the Tigers without much of a fight.
“We have to be comfortable with how far we’re willing to extend,” Bloom said.
That doesn’t suggest the Sox will be chasing after Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray, or Marcus Stroman. They all figure to command deals worth at least $110 million.
The Sox have gaping holes in their rotation. Rodriguez, Martín Pérez, and Garrett Richards made 75 starts last season, throwing 367 innings. It’s not enough to think a full season of Chris Sale and some combination of Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock can account for that.
It doesn’t matter if it’s by trade or free agency, the Sox need a legitimate No. 3-level starter and not some amalgamation of Michael Wacha types.
Sign Rich Hill, trade for Frankie Montas, and go into the season with real depth.
A few other observations on the Sox:
▪ It was telling that Rodriguez said, “For me, I feel like now it’s time to move on,” when asked about his time with the Sox.
Business is business and Rodriguez got a better deal with Detroit. But there was some suggestion he was ready for a fresh start. Alex Cora was the manager Rodriguez needed in 2018, but their relationship soured at times in 2021. Cora was frustrated with how Rodriguez pitched at stages of the season and it was telling that he publicly scolded him during Game 3 the ALCS for an innocent gesture poking fun at Carlos Correa after he pitched a strong six innings.
Would Cora have reacted the same way if Nate Eovaldi did that?
▪ Is Yankees bust Clint Frazier worth a one-year deal at short money? The Sox liked him in the 2013 draft, but Frazier was taken fifth by Cleveland and the Sox took Trey Ball two picks later.
At the time, Frazier said he thought he would land with the Red Sox. The Sox certainly wish that had happened given that Ball washed out of pro ball after six seasons in the minors.
Frazier’s personality suggests he’d welcome the opportunity to prove himself with the Red Sox. He’s only 27 and had an .844 OPS in 108 games from 2019-20.
The Sox lack outfield depth and Frazier could be worth a shot.
▪ The 13th annual David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic raised $1.36 million this month for the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, which provides heart surgeries for children in the Dominican Republic and New England.
Hall of Famers Barry Larkin and Jim Rice were on hand, along with ex-Bruins Tuukka Rask and Shawn Thornton. Adam Jones, who was playing in Japan, pledged $10,000 via a video call.
▪ Ortiz on the Red Sox picking up Cora’s two-year option: “You know how I feel about Alex. I hope he’s with us for a long time. His coming back made the whole organization better. He says the things the players need to hear, especially the young guys.”
Ortiz and the other Sox alumni were not allowed to attend spring training last season because of the pandemic. He hopes that will change in the coming season.
“I want to be around the team, and I know other guys feel the same way,” he said. “We have something we can add with our experience in Boston. But I understand why they decided what they did.”
Canada really cracking down
You hear “that’s a personal decision” a lot when an athlete is asked about his vaccination status. But it could become a team problem in the American League East next season.
Earlier this month, Canada’s minister of public safety, Marco Mendicino, said unvaccinated professional athletes would no longer receive exemptions for travel into the country starting Jan. 15.
Only three NHL players and 4-5 NBA players are believed to be unvaccinated.
The numbers are much higher in Major League Baseball, with the Red Sox one of the teams that didn’t reach the 85 percent mark required to have relaxed protocols last season.
The Sox are scheduled to play 10 games in Toronto next year, including the final three games of the season. If Chris Sale — or any other player — remains unvaccinated, the Sox would have a lesser team for those important division games.
MLB is aware of the decision but has not yet decided what the roster implications would be. But can you imagine the blowback if a team loses a series because a key player is sitting home?
Executives will never acknowledge it on the record, but vaccination status has become a factor to be considered in trade and free agency decisions.
The Twins won 101 games in 2019 and lost 89 games this past season. Were they a good team that had a bad season or were fundamental weaknesses exposed? “I hope so on the first one. I hope we weren’t that far off with our assessment,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “Other GMs have said they couldn’t figure out what happened with us. I hope that wasn’t just to make me feel good. Is there some variance that went in the wrong direction and it was one of those years? Could have been. But we can’t just rely on that. It’s our job to see what we could have done better.” The big question is do the Twins build around Byron Buxton or trade him? For now, he’s healthy again . . . Jackie Bradley Jr. hit .163 with a .497 OPS this past season for the Brewers. His OPS was the lowest among 188 players with at least 400 plate appearances. “Have we examined it? Absolutely,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “Can I tell you I know exactly what happened there? I can’t. I think he’s a player who cares a lot and got off to a rocky start and sometimes that just snowballs. As it continued, his playing time became less and it can be tough to get yourself out of a rut.” Bradley signed a two-year, $24 million deal with Milwaukee. Stearns also thinks Bradley had trouble adjusting to a new environment after spending 10 years in the Red Sox organization . . . Utility player Scott Kingery, once a top Phillies prospect, is available in the Rule 5 Draft. But he’s certain not to be picked. Kingery was signed to a six-year, $24 million deal in 2018 and is owed $15 million over the next two seasons. Kingery was designated for assignment in July, cleared waivers, and was outrighted to Triple A after hitting .144 with a .454 OPS since the start of the 2020 season. Kingery is good friends with Red Sox first baseman Bobby Dalbec, a teammate at the University of Arizona . . . The Rays are trying to move ahead with the idea of playing half of their games in Montreal, a plan that would involve building two smaller open-air ballparks in each city. It sounds far-fetched. But then so is averaging the third-fewest fans a year after winning the pennant. Every team had pandemic-related attendance issues, but the Rays averaged only 9,513 fans. The lease at Tropicana Field runs through 2027 . . . MLB and the Players Association agreed to move the nontender date to 8 p.m. Tuesday instead of Thursday. Why? The collective bargaining agreement expires Wednesday and the expected lockout by the owners would freeze transactions. The nontender deadline primarily affects arbitration-eligible players. That includes eight Red Sox, but all were contributors in 2021 and will likely be tendered contracts . . . Albert Pujols already has played 10 games for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League and is full speed ahead on playing in 2022 at age 42. He’s a free agent and won’t lack for opportunities after hitting .294 with a .939 OPS in 146 plate appearances against lefthanders while a member of the Dodgers. One of Pujols’s teammates in the DR is Red Sox minor leaguer Franchy Cordero . . . Boston College landed a commitment from outfielder Tony Humphrey, one of the best high school players in the state of New York. But the junior is leaving Iona Prep in New Rochelle after an ugly incident. Humphrey, who is Black, decided to run track to work on his speed and the school’s assistant athletic director remarked he was already fast enough thanks to running from the police. The staff member resigned and students at Iona Prep staged a walkout Tuesday to support Humphrey, who transferred to Walter Panas High in his hometown of Cortlandt, N.Y. . . . Happy birthday to John Burkett, who is 57. He was 25-17 with a 4.85 ERA with the Red Sox from 2002-03 before retiring. Burkett was a part-time professional bowler, too. Pedro Astacio is 53. He pitched in the majors from 1992-2006 and won 129 games, but has his only World Series ring thanks to a five-game stint with the Red Sox in 2004.