Is Big Papi Fighting Discrimination?

I have to say, here's something I didn't think I would read in the middle of April, with the Red Sox fighting to escape the basement ... A discussion of David Ortiz and the Hall of Fame, courtesy of John Tomase (via the Boston Herald):

At the start of this season, Ortiz passed the great Edgar Martinez for most RBI by a designated hitter (1,004) and his 307 homers out of the spot are also tops all-time.

With Ortiz' career still going strong, he's a decent bet to reach 400 home runs and 1,400 RBI for his career ...

--snip--

As strong as Ortiz' numbers are, though, he's never discussed as a Hall of Fame candidate. It certainly doesn't help his case that he, too, was tainted by PEDs when his name landed on the list of 103 players who failed drug tests in 2003, though it should be noted that he has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

It's entirely possible that regardless of any possible drug use, though, what's really working against Ortiz is something else.

"I don't think about the Hall of Fame at all," he said. "Especially with all the negativity that people talk about when it comes to the position I play."

Maybe I'm not listening well enough, but I'm not really hearing all the negativity.

There haven't been enough DH candidates to be negative about.

If we count Frank Thomas as a designated hitter -- he played slightly more games there, than at first base -- there are currently only three career designated hitters with even a remote Hall of Fame argument: Thomas, Edgar Martinez, and Harold Baines. And I'm including Baines only because he finished just 134 hits short of 3,000. Really, he wasn't a great player, or a good Hall of Fame candidate; he was a good player, and an exceptionally marginal Hall of Fame candidate.

Which leaves only Thomas and Martinez.

Big Hurt won a couple of MVP Awards, has black ink all over his Baseball-Reference.com page, and finished his career with 76 Wins Above Replacement.

Edgar's not far behind, with 67 Wins Above Replacement. That might surprise you, considering that he didn't hit as many home runs or draw as many walks or score as many runs or drive in (nearly) as many runs as Thomas. Oddly, Martinez gains an edge on Thomas because he DH'd more. Thomas's WAR would be higher except he loses a chunk for being such a lousy first baseman; according to the method, Thomas would actually have been a more valuable player if he'd never played an inning of first base.

Which might be a flaw in the method. Personal taste, I guess.

Anyway, Thomas is probably going to be elected when he's eligible, or shortly thereafter. Martinez hasn't fared particularly well, garnering 36 percent in his first try for the Hall and 33 percent in his second. But the ballot's pretty crowded, and 30-some percent really isn't the worst place in the world. Particularly considering that Martinez, fairly or not, probably suffers from steroid suspicions.

Meanwhile, David Ortiz currently has 31 Wins Above Replacement.

That's right. He's not even halfway to Edgar Martinez.

Granted, Ortiz will probably get some extra credit for all those clutch hits. But at 35, he's still got a lot of work to do before we should even consider him a serious Hall of Fame candidate.

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