Ortiz began his big-league career with the Twins back in 1997 after the team acquired him in the 1996 offseason from the Mariners organization. Over the next six seasons, he became a regular in the Twins line-up, and he helped the Twins win the division for the first time since 1991. During his Twins tenure, he hit .266/.348/.461 (.809) with 169 extra-base hits in 455 games. He wasn't on a path to Cooperstown, and Terry Ryan faced a tough decision.
Ortiz would start getting expensive through the arbitration process with an expected salary close to $2 million. The Twins front office had multiple reasons for non-tendering Ortiz. Matt LeCroy was an adequate replacement for Ortiz as the team's DH. Also, the club wanted a roster spot to make a Rule 5 pick. Minnesota was being cheap, but there is no guarantee Ortiz would have followed his HOF path if he stayed in Minnesota.
After signing with Boston, Ortiz immediately transferred himself into one of the game's best hitters. He finished in the top-5 for AL MVP in his first season outside the Twins organization. Over the next 14 seasons, he hit .290/.386/.570 (.956) with 483 home runs. Ortiz was a 10-time All-Star, a 7-time Silver Slugger winner, and he finished in the top-5 for AL MVP in five straight seasons.
October is where Oritz shined as he led the Red Sox to three World Series titles. He played 85 postseason games in his career and posted a .947 OPS with 41 extra-base hits. Ortiz won the ALCS MVP as part of the Red Sox's remarkable comeback over the Yankees in 2004. In 2013, he won World Series MVP as he went 11-for-16 with four extra-base hits and six RBI in the series. He was truly an October legend.
Even with his on-field accomplishments, Ortiz wasn't seen as 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 Ortiz 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, but voters were able to look past Ortiz's steroid ties.
Congratulations to Ortiz on a Hall of Fame career!
Other Twins On the Ballot
While other former Twins were on the ballot, many didn't have a chance at being elected in the current cycle. In fact, many were in danger of falling off a crowded ballot. Torii Hunter made his second appearance on the ballot, and the two halves of his career make him an intriguing candidate. He received 21 votes (5.3%) and will remain on the ballot. Joe Nathan is one of the best relievers of all time, but relievers are historically underrepresented in Cooperstown. Nathan finished with 17 votes (4.3%) and fell three votes shy of staying on the ballot.
The other former Twins on the ballot were expected to be one-and-done candidates. Justin Morneau was a great player, especially to the current generation of Twins fans. Morneau was named on five ballots (1.3%). AJ Pierzynski played many years at a grueling defensive position, but he doesn't have the resume of other enshrined catchers and he received two votes.
HOF Class Includes Oliva and Kaat
The Minnesota Twins will be well represented in Cooperstown this summer. Former Twins Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat found out last month that they will be part of the current Hall of Fame class. It was a long time coming for both players as they had waited decades and multiple votes before finally getting the call. Following his election, the Twins also announced that Jim Kaat will become the ninth member of the organization to have his number retired. That ceremony will take place this summer at Target Field.
Bonds and Clemens Question
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens entered their tenth and final year on the ballot with their best chance at enshrinement. Leading into the ballot announcement, both players were tracking at over 75% of the announced ballots, but that was no guarantee that they would get the famous call from Cooperstown.
There is no question that Bonds and Clemens are two of the best players in baseball history. However, the steroid cloud has surrounded them, which has prevented them from being elected by the writers. Bonds finished second behind Ortiz on the 2022 ballot with 260 votes (66.0%). Clemens was three votes behind Bonds (65.2%). Now, both players will have to wait for their chance on the committee era ballots.
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