In discussions about Red Sox slugger David Ortiz's Hall of Fame candidacy, opponents have often brought up two key arguments - that he's a designated hitter who does not have to play defense and that he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance in 2003.
In an op-ed piece for The Players' Tribune, Big Papi sounded off on critics citing the latter.
"Some people still look at me like I'm a cheater because my name was on a list of players who got flagged for PEDs in 2003," wrote Ortiz. "Let me tell you something about that test. Most guys were taking over-the-counter supplements then. Most guys are still taking over-the-counter supplements. If it's legal, ballplayers take it."
In the largely-publicized survey, players agreed to the survey on the condition of anonymity. In the summer of 2009, however, the New York Times published a report that Ortiz and former teammate Manny Ramirez were two of the 104 players to test positive.
While the Times noted that Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Jason Grimsley and David Segui had been "tied to positive tests from that year," the great majority of the names on that list have remained un-leaked.
"In 2003, MLB wanted to measure what players were taking and figure out some kind of standard. We all got tested and MLB sealed the results," Ortiz wrote. "The next year, they said, 'Okay, you can't take any pills with this, this and this,' - all kinds of stuff that was previously in supplements that anybody could buy. They used our tests to figure out what should be considered a performance-enhancer. Okay. Fine. Great. Clean it up."
Ortiz asserted that the supplements he took were on the up-and-up.
"I'm not driving across the border to Mexico buying some shady pills from a drug dealer," he wrote. "I'm in a strip mall across from the Dunkin' Donuts, bro."
What Ortiz tested positive for has not been disclosed - to the media or to Big Papi himself. While that fact does not mean Ortiz has played his entire distinguished career clean, and while we should no longer be surprised to learn that anyone who played the game since the late 1980s was on something, the slugger explained why the world should believe him.
"In some people's minds, I will always be considered a cheater. And that's [expletive]. Mark my words: Nobody in MLB history has been tested for PEDs more than me," Ortiz wrote. "You know how many time's I've been tested since 2004? More than 80. They say these tests are random. If it's really random, I should start playing ther damn lottery."
Since 1997, the 39-year-old has played in 2,111 games, batting .285/.379/.547 for a .926 OPS, smashing 466 home runs. He was an important factor in three World Series runs, and in his age 38 season, he managed 35 homers. Looking at the numbers alone, his Hall of Fame case is open-and-shut.
Will the stigmas from not playing the field and from the leaking of less than 2 percent of the names on a vague list combine to keep him out of Cooperstown? We won't learn that until at least five years after Ortiz retires, and at 39, he continues to be an anchor in the Red Sox lineup.