A baseball player whose career is best known for the time he reacted to being called out on strikes by whining about it, getting ejected, then taking his bat and destroying a dugout phone at Oriole Park at Camden Yards was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. In results announced on Tuesday night, that notorious vandal, David Ortiz, was named on 77.9% of ballots. He was the only candidate to clear the 75% threshold required for election.
Certainly it was not Ortiz’s career batting line against Brian Matusz (.138/.167/.241 in 30 plate appearances) that will get him a plaque in the museum in Cooperstown. Indeed, Ortiz performed worse against the Orioles than any other American League East division foe. This fact must have come close to disqualifying Ortiz all by itself.
One imagines that it was probably not Ortiz having slightly more career WAR than Kevin Appier or Ian Kinsler, or slightly fewer career hits than Garrett Anderson or Steve Finley, that got him elected either. The voting members of the Baseball Writers of Association passed on 15 players whose career WAR numbers exceeded Ortiz in this round of balloting, including three who more than doubled Ortiz’s career value.
With that being the case, other obvious explanations present themselves, like Ortiz’s place as the leader on MLB’s all-time career list for televised, intentional destruction of stadium property. It is apparent that the BBWAA voters placed high value on Ortiz’s VORP (Vandalism Over Replacement Player) in making their decisions, rather than things like Wins Above Replacement.
In that sense, this is unquestionably a historic election. Surely no one who witnessed Ortiz repeatedly taking his bat to the phone box in Camden Yards, sending shards of shrapnel flying nearby that probably endangered his teammates unprotected faces, could have imagined that night that the author of that tantrum would end up on a Hall of Fame trajectory. And yet here we are. The writers have elevated that tantrum to historic proportions. You witnessed something legendary that night.
Ortiz received a trifling fine of $5,000 from MLB for this dangerous outburst, somehow escaping a suspension entirely. The Orioles later presented Ortiz with the destroyed phone as a retirement gift.
Among candidates who will appear on next year’s ballot, the player who came closest to election was Scott Rolen, who was named on 63.2% of the 405 ballots returned this time around. The best WAR among newcomers to next year’s round of balloting belongs to Carlos Beltrán at 70.1. We will find out in a year’s time how much the Astros trash can banging scheme sticks to Beltrán, who otherwise might have waltzed into the Hall of Fame right away.