David Ortiz was a 10-time All-Star and a pivotal member of three World Series champions, including the curse-shattering 2004 Red Sox.
He’s also one of only four players with at least 500 home runs and 600 doubles, and had a .947 OPS in 85 career postseason games.
That’s the résumé of a Hall of Famer.
Or is it?
Hall of Fame voting closed Dec. 31 and the results are scheduled to be revealed at 6 p.m. on Jan. 25. Through Tuesday, 134 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America had made their ballots public and 110 included a vote for Ortiz.
That puts Big Papi at 82.1 percent, well above the 75 percent required for induction.
But that’s no lock for Cooperstown. Ryan Thibodaux, a baseball fan from the Bay Area, has tracked public ballots since 2014, and invariably the percentages drop once all the votes are revealed.
Larry Walker received 79 percent of the votes in the 2020 election. Thibodaux and his team had him at 83.2 percent of the ballots made public.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were at 73 percent before the announcement last year. They fell to 61 percent when the results came out.
There’s no one reason for this. But in general, younger voters are more likely to make their ballots public and less inclined to disqualify candidates who are linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
They’re also more analytically minded and willing to vote for candidates whose credentials require an open mind to appreciate. They’re “large Hall” voters.
Voters who keep their ballots private are usually older, make fewer selections, reject players they suspect of drug use, and aren’t particularly interested in analytics. They’re “small Hall” voters.
It gets even more complicated with Ortiz, who was primarily a designated hitter. The American League has had a DH for nearly 50 years, but some voters hold Ortiz’s role against him.
“No designated hitters,” wrote a columnist from Philadelphia.
Ortiz made 87.8 percent of his plate appearances as a DH, which would be a record for a Hall of Famer.
But Edgar Martinez (71.6 percent), Frank Thomas (56.5 percent), Jim Thome (46.6 percent), and Paul Molitor (43.9 percent) all spent considerable time as a DH and were elected by the BBWAA. Molitor, Thomas, and Thome went in on the first ballot.
Any stigma against DHs is clearly fading, but one or two votes could make a difference this year.
Ortiz’s ties to PEDs are surely another factor. He allegedly tested positive in a 2003 survey test that was designed to be anonymous.
For voters determined not to vote for drug users, that’s enough.
But once MLB started its testing program in 2004, Ortiz played until 2016 without a positive. Commissioner Rob Manfred also has suggested that the 2003 test was likely inaccurate and should not be held against Ortiz.
Rather than wade through the muck of allegations and suspicions, many voters have dealt with the PED issue by drawing a line at when MLB started testing.
Clemens was widely suspected of PED use. But since 2015, the former Red Sox righthander has climbed from 37.6 percent to 61.6 percent.
But Manny Ramirez, who was suspended multiple times, has topped out at only 28.2 percent in five years on the ballot. Alex Rodriguez, suspended twice, is on the ballot for the first time this year and has received only 47 percent of the votes made public.
By Jan. 25, Ortiz’s vote total will reveal much about how the electorate is evolving.
That Ortiz will be elected at some point seems certain. But being a first-ballot Hall of Famer is added recognition. An estimated 392 votes were cast this year. Ortiz needs 294 of them for that honor.
As a player, Ortiz made a career out of coming up big when it counted. At 46, he seeks a final walk-off and a place among the immortals in Cooperstown.
Hall officials said earlier this week that they’re still collecting ballots and the counting hasn’t started.
“All I can do is wait,” Ortiz said last month. “I did all I could do when I was playing. Now we’ll see what happens.”