Longtime Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was the lone former player to hear his name called during Tuesday's BBWAA Hall of Fame election announcement, rewarding a career that saw a curse broken three times over.
In his first year of eligibility, Ortiz received 307 out of 397 votes (77.9 percent), putting him over the required 75 percent threshold. Here's video of him finding out he had been elected, with Hall of Fame teammate Pedro Martinez by his side:
Ortiz's Hall of Fame case was simple. Not only was he one of the most feared hitters in the game during his time in Boston, his career overflowed with postseason heroics as well as the status of being one of the most beloved Red Sox heroes.
That started with Boston's famous 2004 World Series run, in which he supplied three walk-off hits — one ending the ALDS and two during the team's historic ALCS comeback — while totaling a .400/.515/.764 line at the plate. He was similarly effective in the 2007 and 2013 postseasons, helping transform the previously cursed Red Sox into arguably the most successful team of the 21st century so far.
Over the course of a 20-year career that started with the Minnesota Twins, Ortiz earned three World Series rings, 10 All-Star nods, a World Series MVP, an ALCS MVP, seven Silver Sluggers and two Hank Aaron Awards. He was effective late into his career, leading the AL in slugging percentage in 2016, his final season.
Ortiz will be the fourth player from the Dominican Republic to be enshrined.
Ortiz bumps Hall of Fame class to 7 players
Joining Ortiz in the 2022 Hall of Fame class will be Minnie Miñoso, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Buck O'Neil and Bud Fowler. The Hall of Fame announced in December that those six players had been elected via its Golden Days Era and Early Baseball Era committees.
Miñoso, Hodges, O'Neil and Fowler will be enshrined posthumously.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling run out of eligibility
In addition to Ortiz's enshrinement, Tuesday's announcement confirmed that four of the biggest names left on the ballot won't make the Hall of Fame via traditional voting.
Barry Bonds (66 percent), Roger Clemens (65.2 percent), Curt Schilling (58.6 percent) and Sammy Sosa (18.5 percent) all fell under the 75 percent threshold in their 10th and final year of eligibility. Their lone way into the Hall of Fame is now the committee route, though the clouds of controversy over each of their cases won't be going away.
— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) January 25, 2022
Bonds and Clemens sat tantalizingly close to enshrinement for years, crossing the 50 percent mark on the 2017 ballot and trending upward each year. Their resumes spoke for themselves — Bonds as MLB's home run king (on paper) and Clemens as a record seven-time Cy Young Award winner — but their long-standing allegations of steroid use formed too high a wall to clear. The Hall of Fame itself also didn't seem eager to open its doors to them, reducing the window of eligibility from 15 years to 10 years during their time on the ballot.
Of course, Ortiz making the Hall is some interesting timing as the Red Sox great was not free of performance-enhancing drug allegations either, though his case is hardly comparable to Bonds and Clemens.
Ortiz was reported in 2009 to have been one of more than 100 players to have tested positive for PEDs in a supposedly confidential survey meant to gauge the extent of such drug use among players. Ortiz denied every taking such drugs and said legal supplements may have caused the result, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has since said it's "entirely possible" Ortiz didn't actually test positive.
Shortly after the voting results were announced, Clemens tweeted a statement saying he had long accepted he would not be elected:
Hey y’all! I figured I’d give y’all a statement since it’s that time of the year again. My family and I put the HOF in the rear view mirror ten years ago. I didn’t play baseball to get into the HOF. I played to make a generational difference in the lives of my family then focus on winning championships while giving back to my community and the fans as well. It was my passion. I gave it all I had, the right way, for my family and for the fans who supported me. I am grateful for that support. I would like to thank those who took the time to look at the facts and vote for me. Hopefully everyone can now close this book and keep their eyes forward focusing on what is really important in life. All love!
Sosa faced a similar headwind but never came close to clearing even 50 percent, while Schilling was an entirely different case. Ortiz's curse-breaking teammate also seemed to be trending toward enshrinement thanks to a resume of excellence on the mound and iconic moments in the postseason, but a litany of post-retirement controversies — including a tweet advocating for journalists to be lynched, an endorsement of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and a transphobic meme that got him fired from ESPN — significantly hurt his chances.
Schilling came 16 votes short of election last year, and later requested he be taken off the BBWAA ballot so he could be elected via the veterans committee. He was kept on the ballot and finished 65 votes short as a result.
Bonds, Clemens debate won't go away next year
About that veterans committee. The Baseball Hall of Fame now actually uses four separate committees that each consider a different era of the game. They rotate through a cycle, with only one committee making selections each year.
The Today's Game committee that considers players from 1988 to the present will be making choices in December for the class of 2023.
That means Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and company will disappear from the writers' ballots, but they could still be the hot topic of conversation. The committees also require candidates top a 75% threshold, but it is a much smaller group of voters. They have, in recent years, been more generous with their votes than the writers. That has had the effect of adding long overdue names like Buck O’Neil and Minnie Miñoso to the Hall this cycle and also occasionally making an eyebrow-raising choice like Harold Baines.
The committees, however, have yet to seriously wade into the steroid era superstars, so it remains unclear how tough a road they will face, while Schilling will be another argument.
Alex Rodriguez could be facing similar fate
Alongside Ortiz, the most well-known player to hit the ballot this year was Alex Rodriguez, who carried a superstar legacy tainted by steroid allegations similar to Bonds and Clemens.
In his first go-around with the BBWAA, Rodriguez received 34.3 percent of the vote. If Bonds and Clemens are to be taken as precedent for Rodriguez's chances, that number doesn't bode well considering that Bonds received 36.2 percent of the vote in his first year.
The former New York Yankees star has a long way to go before he gets to Cooperstown, and he may require a similar detour through the committee.
Who's on the Hall of Fame Ballot next year?
Just as four controversial players exit the writers' ballot, one more is coming in 2023.
Among players newly eligible for the Hall of Fame next year, Carlos Beltrán stands out with 70.1 career WAR (as calculated by Baseball Reference) across 20 seasons, but his eligibility figures to be a test case for how much voters will be holding the Houston Astros' cheating scandal against the players.
Beltrán was reportedly the ringleader of the 2017 sign-stealing scheme the Astros rode to a World Series championship, and the resulting scandal has already cost him the New York Mets' manager job. We'll see how it affects his chances at Cooperstown.
Other players scheduled to enter the ballot are Jered Weaver, John Lackey, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jayson Werth and Matt Cain.