Friday, July 31, 2015

Ortiz, Ramirez, Schilling All Should Join Martinez In Cooperstown

Pedro Martinez was billed as a future Hall of Fame pitcher the day that Dan Duquette traded Tony Armas Jr. and Carl Pavano to the Expos for him and he lived up to those expectations in his seven seasons in Boston.  Sunday's induction ceremony in Cooperstown was a mere formality as anyone who ever watched Pedro pitch in his prime, which includes his last season in Montreal when he won the 1997 N.L. Cy Young award, knew he would be immortalized with a plaque on the wall of the Hall of Fame.

Three of his teammates with the Red Sox also deserve to one day join him as Hall of Famers.  Here are my arguments for the inclusion of David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Curt Schilling in Cooperstown.

David Ortiz

While the numbers he produced in his first six seasons as a member of the Minnesota Twins will help his case in the end, Ortiz made his case for the Hall of Fame in his 13 seasons with the Red Sox.

Since coming to Boston before the 2003 season - imagine, he was a bargain bin free agent that was signed to backup Jeremy Giambi and Kevin Millar - Ortiz has produced numbers second only to Ted Williams in Red Sox history.

A batting average of .287 to go along with an on-base percentage of .384 and a slugging percentage of .562 make for an impressive "triple slash" in his Boston career (through last night's game) that match well with his career line of .283/.377/.543.  He has crushed  428 home runs with the Red Sox and currently has 486 for his career.  He also has 1589 career RBI (1351 in Boston) with 564 career doubles (456 with the Red Sox).  With at least one more season to go in his career to go along with the rest of 2015, Ortiz is likely to finish with over 500 home runs, 1700 RBI, and 600 doubles.  Those are Hall of Fame numbers.

Ortiz' Hall of Fame case is bolstered by his performance in the biggest moments.  He has countless big hits in clutch situations that have helped lead the Red Sox to win three World Series titles.  His playoff "triple slash" of .295/.409/.553 tops that of his regular season production while his World Series "triple slash" of .455/.576/.795 is off the charts.  He also has 17 home runs and 60 RBI in 82 career postseason games.  In 2004, he was named MVP of the A.L.C.S. and was World Series MVP in 2013.

One of the cases against the nine-time All-Star is that he has been primarily a designated hitter but the Hall of Fame did open its doors for Frank Thomas in 2014 and Ortiz' body of work will match well with that of the Big Hurt and his playoff pedigree will further his candidacy.

The other case against Ortiz is his association with Performance-Enhancing Drugs.  While Ortiz has never failed a drug test, he did participate in a 2003 voluntary drug screening done by MLB and was then one of four players who had their names revealed as failing that test in 2009.  Ortiz still claims he never knowingly used PED's and in an interview with the Boston Globe this year during Spring Training he claims that he is regularly tested - including one random test administered at 7:30am in his home in the Dominican Republic in February - and he has never failed an official test.

Ultimately, I believe that Ortiz will be enshrined in Cooperstown.  I also believe that the stars who are more closely linked to PED's - like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds - will also enter the Hall of Fame. Cooperstown is a museum and the great players of each generation deserve to have their accomplishments be a part of the history of the game.  For that matter, Pete Rose will one day be admitted despite his gambling issues.

Manny Ramirez

In the case of Manny Ramirez, his history with PED's will delay (or prevent) his entry into the Hall of Fame. After failing two PED tests, in 2009 and 2011, Ramirez will have to wait for the voters to change their stance on the players associated with PED's before he gets in.  I do believe that at some point that will happen but it will be a matter of time.

Statistically, Manny Ramirez is a Hall of Famer.  The 12-time All-Star posted a "triple slash" of .312/.411/.585.  He accumulated 2574 career hits, including 555 home runs, and drove in 1831 runs.  His 165 RBI in 1999 with the Indians led the majors, he led the A.L. in 2003 with a .349 batting average, and he also topped the A.L. in home runs with 43 in 2004.

Ramirez was one of the greatest sluggers of his generation well before the PED problems.  Ask any pitcher that had to face him in the late 1990's or the 2000's.  Combining with Ortiz on the Red Sox from 2003-2008, Ramirez was a part of a middle of the order duo that rivaled the great Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

While Manny never won an MVP, it's pretty hard to ignore his seasons in 1999, 2000, and 2004 when talking about the greatest individual performances of all-time.

1999: .333/.442/.663, 44 home runs, 34 doubles, 165 RBI
2000: .351/.457/.697, 38 home runs, 34 doubles, 122 RBI
2004: .308/.397/.613, 43 home runs, 44 doubles, 130 RBI

Like Ortiz, he produced great numbers in the postseason.  hitting 29 home runs and driving in 78 runs in 111 career playoff games.  In 2004, he was named World Series MVP.

For Manny it will strictly come down to how the baseball writers decide to vote for any player who was proven or alleged to be involved with PED's.  If they do decide to allow those players in to Cooperstown, then his numbers will get him in to the Hall.

Curt Schilling

When Curt Schilling was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Red Sox he said that, "I want to be a part of bringing the first World Series in modern history to Boston and hopefully more than one over the next four years."

Schilling's quote was prophetic.  He helped pitch the Red Sox to championships in 2004 and 2007, solidifying his reputation as one of the great playoff pitchers in the history of the game.  That reputation for performing when the games matter the most is why Curt Schilling should be in the Hall of Fame.

216 wins over 20 seasons (16 as a starting pitcher) may not be Hall worthy and his 3.46 ERA does not scream out "Hall of Famer," even when you consider that he pitched during the height of the PED era.  He also never won a Cy Young award, although he did finish second three times in 2001, 2002, and 2004 and was a six-time All-Star.

The real case for Schilling is when you combine his very good regular season statistics with his excellent postseason numbers.

Schilling's teams appeared in the playoffs five times and all three teams he pitched in the playoffs for made it to the World Series at least once.  In 1993, he was N.L.C.S. MVP in pitching the Phillies in to the World Series where they would lose to the Blue Jays.  In 2001 he teamed with Randy Johnson to lead the Diamondbacks to a World Series title over the Yankees, sharing World Series MVP with his co-ace.  Those two playoff performances alone make a good case for his Cooperstown candidacy.

Then came his run with the Red Sox.  He embraced the pressure of trying to help lead a team to a championship that had not won one since 1918 and had a history of losing in memorable fashion.  Even when an ankle injury threatened to end his 2004 season in the A.L.C.S., Schilling risked the rest of his career to have a procedure administered to suture a tendon to the bone that allowed him to pitch and win against the Yankees in Game 6 of the A.L.C.S. and the Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series.  The job he was acquired to do - win a World Series for the Red Sox - had been accomplished.

After an injury plagued 2005 season and a pretty good 2006 season, Schilling ended his career in 2007 by helping the Red Sox win a second title in four years.  His regular season was mediocre but once again he was at his best in the playoffs, save for a poor start in Game 2 of the A.L.C.S. against the Indians

In his series clinching win over the Angels in Game 3 of the A.L.D.S. over the Angels, Schilling pitched seven shutout innings.  He bounced back from his poor start in Game 2 in Game 6 of the A.L.C.S., scattering two runs over seven innings while forcing a Game 7.  In his lone start in Game 2 of the World Series against the Rockies, Schilling pitched 5.1-innings and allowed just one run in an eventual 2-1 win that set the Red Sox up for another title.

Over 19 career starts in the playoffs, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.968 WHIP.  In the World Series he was 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA and 0.896 WHIP.  Most importantly, his teams won the World Series three times.

Schilling has not yet received more than 40% in the Hall of Fame voting - 75% is required for admission - and will face a tough road to enshrinement.  Hopefully voters will consider his playoff performance more than his regular season performance while also taking into account that he pitched in the PED era when hitters produced numbers not seen before in baseball history and reward one of the greatest pitchers of his generation with a spot in the Hall of Fame.

No comments: