David Ortiz doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, if you believe that the Hall of Fame has standards.
It's all fun and QED if you do, since the average total WAR for enshrined hitters sits at 68 even, and Ortiz's career WAR of 44.2 puts him below the standard for even a replacement-level Hall of Famer. The soon-to-be-38-year-old would need to equal or exceed the 4.4 WAR of his 2013 campaign for the next two years to have even a fringe candidacy, and he hasn't managed that feat since his prime in the mid-aughts. Even shorthand standards don't favor Ortiz as he's short on symbolic power-hitter frippery like an MVP award or 500 home runs. Oh, and Ortiz is a career designated hitter, the one position that has yet to produce a Hall of Fame player.
The inherently unquantifiable subjectivity of comparing career designated hitters to true position players has already manifested itself as major lulz at the expense of Edgar Martinez, the best career DH of all-time. Despite a cumulative WAR of 68.3 and a Hall of Fame-pretty slash line of .312/.418/.515, Martinez has yet to break the 40 percent mark in voting after four years on the ballot. Given this entrenched bias, to even discuss Ortiz as a viable Hall of Fame candidate is an affront to reason, which, duh. It's the Hall of Fame.
For all the myths and b.s. that the sport manufactures, few measure up to the child's notion that the baseball Hall of Fame has standards. Consider the farce that was the 2013 vote, which refused admission to everyone from Barry Bonds to Roger Clemens to Mike Piazza for reasons ranging from "I don't like that guy" to "Maybe used steroids" to "No, I don't think Hank Aaron should be booted out for using amphetamines. Wanna fight about it?"
These are more-or-less the same folks who made Kirby Puckett a first-ballot Hall of Famer based on capricious favoritism poorly disguised as statistical projection. By those standards, there's a case to be made for Tony Conigliaro -- and at least he was never accused of domestic violence on multiple occasions. Really, the Hall of Fame is little more than a retrograde Uber-Dad joke complete with blenching punch-line, which is precisely why Ortiz must be voted in.
Consider what even the most advanced of metrics cannot capture about Ortiz. There is the incalculably baller $250,000 white gold and diamond-encrusted necklace that he wears (on the field!). There is his ascetic dedication to fastidious head-bound follicle management that marks him as an apex example of Pristine Latino Male Grooming. There is his perfect "Uh, I dunno?" response to steroid use allegations. This set of criteria is subjective only if you discount the fact that Babe Ruth never hit a home run with 55 carats of ice on his neck.
Sure, it all sounds ridiculous, but the underlying reason why anyone is even discussing Ortiz's candidacy is that we like him. He's a cuddle-bear who hits baseballs dumb far and became an icon in one of America's most historically racist sports towns. If being swallowed up by a David Ortiz hug isn't on your bucket list, then I don't know what sport you're watching.
The facile counter-argument that allowing Ortiz in would only add another layer of fabulous contradiction to the Hall assumes that this broken institution can be fixed, which, no. Burning the whole thing down and starting anew with an artificial intelligence as the sole voter is the best fix there is, but that's maybe a touch unrealistic. In the interim, the best we can hope for is that the institution's biases will work against it.
An Ortiz Hall of Fame induction would bring into sharp relief the selective moralism of voters who look down on players so much as accused of using PEDs, never mind confirmed users like Ortiz. On a purely pragmatic level, the glaring hypocrisy of a David Ortiz Hall of Fame plaque would at least help along the cause of players needlessly contemned for (maybe) using PEDs. And if not, it would at least move the Hall one step closer to losing the public cachet it never earned.
Really though, these problems are largely imagined and the result of a collective need to impart importance upon institutions claiming to be arbiters of grand metaphysical truth. Looking at the Hall through that lens guarantees the gradual evolution of a cynical, biting perspective on what amounts to little more than the National Museum of Dudes Playing a Weird-Ass Game. Here's a spoiler alert for anyone who hasn't been to Cooperstown: The actual museum, not the Hall, has all the cool stuff.
The Game exhibit alone can consume any baseball nerdlinger's entire day, what with its shockingly comprehensive visual timeline of baseball and offshoot exhibits covering everything from the Negro Leagues to baseball in Latin America. And, like any good museum, the exhibits are not informed by some self-imposed elitist standard, but by a simple desire to chronicle history. Walking through the museum is about as close as an adult can get to feeling the child-like wonder that first informed their fandom. Given that, narrow debates about who gets a gold star for baseball feel like the polar opposite.
Seriously, just go to Cooperstown and enjoy it for what it is: one of the better museums in America. David Ortiz would fit right in, with or without a plaque. I just hope his necklace gets its own exhibit.
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Tomas Rios is a freelance NYC-based writer who has covered MMA for The Classical, Deadspin, The Pacific Standard and Slate. You can find him @TheTomasRios.