No MLB player who has been considered a designated hitter for most of his career has ever made the MLB Hall of Fame.
David Ortiz might be the first, though, after setting the MLB record for career hits by a DH (1,688) on Wednesday, putting him in the conversation with Harold Baines and Edgar Martinez as the only DHs with HOF-worthy careers. Ortiz also owns records for runs scored (1,018), home runs (370) and RBI (1,208), to name a few.
Most DHs have gotten bad raps since the position was instituted in the American League in 1973. A lot of National League cats and baseball purists view the position as one for half-ball players, washed up vets and power hitters with suspect gloves.
The majority of qualified HOF voters are old school and still view the DH as a glaring Scarlet Letter on a player. Younger perspectives argue that immortal DHs deserve HOF billing like any other position player at the top of their respective food chains.
Before Big Papi and his to-date 420 career homers stepped on the scene, only Baines, a current Chicago White Sox coach, and former Seattle basher Martinez (the first “Papi”) were considered HOF “prospects.”
Baines, a lethal lefty, batted over .300 eight times in his 21-year career (1980-2001), the first 10 of which were in the pre-steroids era with the White Sox.
He was a six-time All-Star and crazy-clutch, batting .324 in 31 postseason games. He ranks first among MLB DHs all-time in games played (1,652) and held the record for career homers as a DH (236) until Martinez snuffed him out in 2004.
Martinez was a prolific hit machine, feared batsman and high-average dude during his 18-year career with the Mariners. His best years were from ’92-’01 (the heart of the Steroids era), but at 6´0, 175 pounds, the only thing enhanced about Martinez was his career batting average (.312) and hits count (2,247). Hitting .330 was nothing. He had seasons of .343, .356 and .337, was a seven-time All-Star and a two-time batting champion.
Yeah, the stats are like “Whoa,” but DHs are treated like juicers when it comes to entrance into baseball’s VIP section. Baines only appeared on the HOF ballot five times and never received more than 6.1 percent of the vote. Edgar Martinez received a DH-high 36.5 percent of the vote in ’12, still extremely short of the 75 percent needed for induction.
The numbers aren’t adding up for those cats. It’s up to Big Papi, who toiled in Minnesota for six years before transforming into The Dominican Babe Ruth in Boston, to set it off. PED rumors are always in the air, but while cats around him have dropped like wack CDs thrown from the 45th floor of a Manhattan record office, Papi has avoided the guillotine. In fact, he’s raised his cult-icon status with timely hitting and his uplifting profanity-laced rant against terrorism following the Boston Marathon bombings.
“There is nothing that guy does that amazes me,” Boston catcher Jared Saltalamacchia told the AP, after Ortiz capped his record-breaking night with a two-run homer. “He goes out there every day and is so consistent that you almost expect it. You kind of feel bad whenever he goes (hitless) and you’re like, ‘Come on man, are you kidding me?’”
That’s what a lot of folks in MLB will be saying if Ortiz, a 37-year-old All-Star hitting .331, doesn’t get into the HOF following his retirement. With his past postseason surges as the centerpiece of two Red Sox WS titles, plus his outside chance to reach the exclusive 500-homer club, it’s looking good out here for Big Papi.