The Seattle Mariners originally signed David Ortiz in 1992, so the Twins weren't the only team to let him go before he reached his full potential. He played three seasons in the Mariners system, and he hit 18 home runs in the Midwest League as a 20-year-old. That's where his Twins' journey began.
In the 1996 offseason, Minnesota liked what they saw in Ortiz, and he was dealt from Seattle as the player to be named later in a trade for Dave Hollins. He flew through Minnesota's three highest minor league levels during the following season, and he even made his debut by the season's end. In 140 minor league games, he cracked 31 home runs, drove in 124, and posted a .940 OPS. He was only 21-years-old, and it looked like he might be one of the players to help turn around Minnesota's losing ways.
He played part of six seasons in Minnesota while hitting .266/.348/.461 (.809) with 58 home runs in 455 games. He wasn't exactly on a course for Cooperstown. Minnesota non-tendered him following the 2002 season because he was set to make close to $2 million in arbitration, Matt LeCroy could fill the DH role, and they needed a roster spot to make a Rule 5 pick.
When David Ortiz played his final series in Minnesota, Twins GM Terry Ryan didn't beat around the bush regarding the Ortiz decision. "Obviously, it's a situation that I watch, and I've observed, and I see what he's done, and I see what he's meant to the Boston Red Sox. Ok, I screwed it up." That's easy for Ryan to say at this point, but it wasn't as big of a mistake as it has been made out to be.
It's not as if Boston was beating down the door to sign Ortiz as he was inked for $1.25 million, which was almost half of what he would have made in arbitration. The Red Sox took a flyer on him, and that forever changed their franchise. He finished in the top-10 of the American League Most Valuable Player voting seven times. He was a 10-time All-Star selection and seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
In October, Ortiz really left his mark as he appeared in 18 Postseason series over nine seasons with the Twins and Red Sox. In 85 games, he hit .289/.404/.543 (.947) with 41 extra-base hits and 61 RBI. He was a three-time World Series Champion, and he was named MVP of the 2004 ALCS and the 2013 World Series.
Even with all of his on-field accomplishments, Ortiz isn't a lock for Cooperstown because of the looming steroid cloud. Back in 2003, 100 players failed a supposedly anonymous steroid survey test. Six years later, The New York Times reported that he was one of the players that failed the survey test. Other players tied to steroids have struggled to reach the 75% threshold needed for election, and Ortiz will add another intriguing debate.
However, commissioner Rob Manfred has talked differently about Ortiz than other players that failed the survey test. When Ortiz was retiring, Manfred told Boston reporters, "There were double digits of names — so, more than 10 — on that list where we (the MLB Players Association and the league office) knew that there were legitimate scientific questions about whether or not those were truly positives…. Back then, it was hard to distinguish between certain substances that were legal — available over the counter and not banned under our program — and certain banned substances." While not fully exonerating him, it is certainly something for the voters to consider.
In the end, Ortiz had a long career with lots of memorable postseason moments. Will that be enough to push him to enshrinement? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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