NEW YORK — Everybody loves Big Papi. We have seen it for years, and now, in his final days, Ortiz is officially the Father Christmas of Baseball.
Ortiz is loved in every city. He is loved by all rival players. At the age of 40, he’s finishing his career with an MVP-type season. He leads the universe in OPS and hugs from opponents. He’s had to expand his pregame routine to allow for endless tributes and gifting ceremonies. When he hits a homer, it takes more than a minute to round the bases because he gets a man-hug at every station.
Oh, and here’s one more thing I’ve learned during the last waltz of Papi-palooza: David Ortiz is loved even by the vaunted BBWAA.
That’s right, folks. David Ortiz has cracked the code. He has broken down the last barrier. He is embraced by the toughest graders of all: the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. And this BBWAA love is going to land Ortiz in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Big Papi is going to be the first guy to test positive for PEDs and still cruise into Cooperstown. This should knock down the walls for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and the rest of the cartoon numbers gang.
How do I know this, you ask? Simple. I polled the toughest guys I know — New York baseball writers. Veteran New York baseball writers. And most of the guys I spoke with Tuesday at Yankee Stadium are ready to vote for Ortiz when he shows up on the ballot five years from now.
It’s easy to find Boston writers who say they’ll vote for Ortiz. It’s also easy to find young BBWAA members who don’t fuss about the “character” clause on the ballot. They vote for anybody who has Hall numbers. Swell.
New York guys are different. They practically invented the BBWAA. They birthed the winter awards dinner. The Big Apple has served as unofficial headquarters of the BBWAA since the roaring ’20s. They do not suffer fools or cheats. And most of them love David Ortiz.
Kevin Kernan of the New York Post is almost older than me. He’s been covering big league ball since the 1970s. Here’s what he said when I asked him if he’ll vote for Ortiz: “Yes. No doubt. I think he’s there and I’ve come to a conclusion: I was a total anti-steroid guy from Day 1. But now with what’s going on in baseball . . . with MLB dropping this issue in the writers’ laps and the Hall of Fame doing the exact same thing . . . my days of being judge and jury are over. I’m voting on impact. I’ve been around and seen this guy his while career. I look at him and think ‘Hall of Fame player.’
“I’ve withheld [voting for players suspected of PED use] in the past. All of them. Clemens, guys like that. Now I’m inclined to go all out and just vote for the guys with the numbers. I know how much it impacts the game. It impacts the game terribly. But nobody from MLB or the Hall of Fame wants to do anything about it, so I’m done. Leave it to someone else. I’m off the wall.’’
Barry Bloom (MLB.com, BBWAA since 1992): “I will absolutely vote for him. Even with the inferences about PEDs, whatever, I’ve always voted for Bonds, Clemens, [Mark] McGwire. At one time or another, I’ve voted for every one of them. I don’t think that should be an impediment. David’s a great player. It was that era. If the Hall wants to do anything about it they should put a little asterisk on the plaque and say they played during that era and that everyone was questionable playing under those circumstances. Secondly, I think my colleagues have to get to a point where we understand that DH is a position. It wasn’t David’s fault that Tito [Terry Francona] and [John] Farrell decided he was a better fit in that position than playing first base. To use that against him in a Hall of Fame vote is crazy. You’ve got to move on. I don’t have any question in my mind about voting for Ortiz.”
Tyler Kepner of the New York Times and Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News both have covered big league ball for more than 15 years and both said they would vote for Ortiz if they had a vote. Times writers are prohibited from voting in the Hall election. Feinsand is slated to cast his first ballot this year.
Here are some responses from members of the New York Chapter:
Anthony McCarron (New York Daily News, BBWAA since 1999) : “I absolutely will vote for him. I’m not one of those anti-DH people. I think he’s been a transcendent player. His impact to me is obvious on that team. He should have gotten close, if not won an MVP a couple of times. He’s the greatest DH who ever lived. I have withheld [PED players], but I look at my vote as ever-evolving and I voted for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for the first time this past election. I voted for Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, who I know people had suspicions about. In my view now, whether they did or they didn’t is not an impediment. If I had to guess on whether he did or didn’t, I don’t know what the answer is. There is something there, but there is no official paper on him.’’
Ron Blum (Associated Press, BBWAA since approximately 1989): “Yes. He’s one of the all-time great players. I have not withheld [PED suspects] in the past, but I would say looking ahead in my mind I would draw a distinction between pre-testing rules and post-testing rules. In Ortiz’s case, nothing’s proven. You don’t know if those test results were given from the lab. Nothing was adjudicated. Nothing was looked at to test the process. It’s never been proven that he’s in it, but assuming he’s in it, the test results are neither here from the survey test. So I don’t know how in a system of jurisprudence I could hold something against you that tenuous.’’
Peter Botte (Daily News, BBWAA since approximately 1997): “My general voting practice has been to not vote for players with strong PED suspicions, so I have not cast ballots for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, etc. To me, Ortiz is going to be a tough case in that regard. I have voted for players such as Mike Piazza. Many people suspected him, but there was no smoking gun. Ortiz is going to be a tough case. These next five years I am going to have to think long and hard. I know his name was leaked in the survey testing. He hasn’t failed any tests since baseball implemented its testing system. He’s going to be a tough case. If you asked me right now, at this second, I would say no, but I reserve the right to change my mind.’’
Jack O’Connell (BBWAA secretary/treasurer, BBWAA since 1975): “I won’t answer that question for five years. I have voted for Clemens. I have voted for Piazza and I have voted for Bagwell. I may vote for Ortiz, but I don’t want to commit now. I’d rather concentrate on the people that are on the ballot now. They deserve that from me. I have no DH bias. I vote for Edgar Martinez every year.’’
So there. Eight veteran New Yorkers. Six yes, one no (on the fence about changing his mind), and one abstention.
If you can make it here you can make it anywhere. David Ortiz is going to be the one to break down the wall for designated hitters and those suspected of PED use. Big Papi is going to Cooperstown.
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Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.