MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Ortiz shines bright as ever in farewell season

Slugger's sustained success might lead to landmark Hall of Fame vote

Ortiz shines bright as ever in farewell season

On his 40th birthday last Nov. 18, David Ortiz announced his plans to retire following the 2016 season, which included the admission, "I wish I could play another 40 years."

Maybe he can. Hope he doesn't.

The numbers would certainly be an endorsement if Ortiz were to change his mind and decide to hang around another year or two. Just past the quarter-way mark of the season, he again has been a catalyst to a Red Sox revival, helping them take over first place in the American League East with a season-opening effort that is reminiscent of prime-time Big Papi.

Papi's two-run single

And just last week, Ortiz did drop a hint he might reconsider, telling Yahoo! Sports, "Hopefully nobody comes to me and offers $25 million."

Stranger things have happened. Ortiz, after all, has become a celebrity since his arrival in Boston in 2003, shortly after being released by the Twins.

The rest is history -- which is still being written.

Already the career leader among designated hitters in virtually every offensive category except triples and stolen bases, Ortiz is going out in style. He entered Wednesday with a .333 batting average with 11 home runs and 41 RBIs, while leading the AL with a .686 slugging percentage and 1.099 OPS.

Ortiz's four hits, near cycle

If Ortiz is able to maintain that kind of production throughout the season, rest assured there will be increasing cries for him to return for another year.

But why? What is wrong with going out on top?

Willie Mays is arguably the greatest player of all-time, but too often mention is made of Mays stumbling on a fly ball during the 1973 World Series with the Mets. Gaylord Perry eventually found his way to Cooperstown, but not before a career-ending season in 1983 that he split between the Mariners and Royals, compiling a 7-14 record, the worst in the final 20 seasons of his 22-year career, and a 4.64 ERA, the second highest of his career. At the other extreme, Sandy Koufax led the National League with 27 wins, a 1.73 ERA, 27 complete games, 323 innings pitched and 317 strikeouts in 1966, and then retired, feeling that his left elbow problems were too severe for him to compete at the level he demanded of himself. George Brett didn't have a farewell season like the one Ortiz might be putting together, but at the age of 40, he retired following a 1993 season in which he hit .266 with 19 home runs, his most in five years. He avoided being talking into staying around for another year by his long-time teammate Hal McRae, the manager of the Royals at the time.

Brett said he knew it was time to move on when on one afternoon, he climbed in his car to drive to Royals Stadium, and admitted that given a choice, he would have instead stayed home and spent time with his family.

Brett's last MLB at-bat

And in 1999, Brett became a first-ballot Hall of Famer, along with Robin Yount and Nolan Ryan.

Could a call from the Hall await Ortiz five years after his final game? It wouldn't be a surprise, but it also won't be as easy for him as it was for Brett, Yount or Ryan.

Ortiz will need to overcome two obstacles that have blocked others from induction.

Ortiz was among the players found to have tested positive in drug testing done in 2003, which was supposed to be private, and which led to the adoption of MLB's Joint Drug Policy a year later. As overpowering as the career accomplishments of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were, there is a segment of the members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who refuse to list either on their annual Hall of Fame ballots.

Can Ortiz, whose outgoing personality has made him a fan favorite and media darling, lift that enigma from the voting process?

And Ortiz is a DH in the truest sense. He made the 2,298th appearance of his Major League career on Tuesday night against the Rockies, 1,928 of which have been as a DH.

Voters have yet to endorse a career DH for enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Edgar Martinez, who is second to Ortiz in almost every DH category and after whom the DH of the Year Award is named, was on the Hall of Fame ballot for the seventh time last December. He received his strongest support yet, but the 43.4 percent of the ballots on which he was listed came 31.6-percent shy of enshrinement.

Martinez not elected to HOF

Just how big Big Papi has been in his career will be told by just how big a voter turnout he receives in his eventual Hall of Fame candidacy.

If Ortiz gets elected, he would open the door not only for DHs, but also for those with PED suspicions hanging over them.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.