David Ortiz Hits 500th Home Run! | NECN
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David Ortiz Hits 500th Home Run!

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015)

    David Ortiz hit his 499th and 500th home runs Saturday off Matt Moore of the Tampa Bay Rays.

    The Red Sox slugger is the 27th player in baseball history to hit the milestone. The home runs were his 33rd and 34th of the season.

    The 39-year-old's 2015 season got off to a slow start - through his first 51 games, he hit just .219/.298/.375 for a .673 OPS, knocking out just six homers in that stretch.

    But from June 9 on, going into Saturday's game, Big Papi has been back - hitting .307/.398/.657 with a 1.055 OPS and 26 homers in 78 games.

    Ortiz's career has been a storied one. A leader, a fan favorite and a legend in Boston sports, he has been named to nine All-Star teams since 2004, the year the Red Sox ended their 86-year championship drought.

    The 500 bombs have not taken away from his stellar, well-rounded offense. He has hit .284 in his career, and with 1,230 walks at press time, his career on-base percentage is an excellent .378. And his .546 slugging average is multi-dimensional – his 578 doubles, a product of being a great power hitter who plays half his games at Fenway Park, tie him with Albert Pujols for the most among active players, both in a three-way tie with Hall of Famer and former Red Sox and Yankees third baseman Wade Boggs for 20th of all time.

    All that combines to give him an elite career .924 OPS.

    Only two factors call into question an otherwise slam-dunk Hall of Fame induction for Ortiz. One is alleged performance-enhancing drug use – it was leaked that his name appeared on a list of 104 players who tested positive in 2003. This came before use was banned by MLB rules, and considering the vast majority of the names on that list remain sealed, that should not be an indictment in the first place. Plus, Ortiz says he "never knowingly took any steroids."

    Still, a refusal by BBWAA members to elect Ortiz based on that is at least comprehensible. What is not remotely so is a large number of writers who would refuse to induct one of the greatest hitters of a generation solely because of his position.

    To date, only Paul Molitor and Frank Thomas have played more games at DH than any other position and made it in. Many writers have expressed a belief that, since only position players are able to contribute in both halves of an inning, they are more important to a team's success and have a better case for election.

    Here's the problem with that: "designated hitter" is a "position." It's not as though Ortiz doesn't play defense because he's slacking. American League teams have a DH slot, as they have now for 43 years. So why in the world would the players who play in that slot not be as deserving of commemoration, even when they hit .284/.378/.545 with 500 homers and plan to keep going?

    Edgar Martinez ended a long career with the Seattle Mariners with 309 homers and a .312/.418/.515 line (.933 OPS). 2015 was his sixth year of eligibility, and he received 27 percent of the vote.

    What happens five years after Ortiz's retirement is anyone's guess. But one thing is for sure - the last 13 years of baseball in Boston have been a lot better because of him.

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