David Ortiz built Hall of Fame career with 500 homers, playoff stardom

BY TOM VERDUCCI

f you needed one sentence to understand why David Ortiz has had a Hall of Fame career, try this: He is the only player in baseball history to hit 500 home runs and win three world championships without playing for the Yankees. If you do include Yankees, he joins only Babe Ruth (who played on seven championship teams), Mickey Mantle (seven) and Reggie Jackson (five, including the 1972Athletics, when Jackson missed the World Series due to injury).

The Bambino, the Mick, Mr. October and Big Papi. That’s it. How’s that for a Mount Rushmore of legendary sluggers, the kind so famous even a casual fan could identify them without use of their given name? Is that not real, enduring fame?

Now let’s rank them according to where they stand on the all-time list of greatest postseason hitters, using OPS and setting the minimum at 40 games:

1. Babe Ruth (1.214)
6. David Ortiz (.962)
14. Mickey Mantle (.908)
17. Reggie Jackson (.885)

If you ranked all 500 Home Run Club members by postseason OPS, the top looks like this: 1. Ruth; 2. Albert Pujols; 3. Ortiz.

Now think about how Ortiz was an integral part of changing baseball history, especially the perceived raison d’etre of the Boston franchise. From 1919 through 2002, the Red Soxreached the postseason nine times and never won a World Series. From ’03 to ’13, they reached the postseason seven times and won three World Series. How important was Ortiz in that run? The Red Sox won 45 postseason games in that decade, only three of them without Ortiz getting on base; he drove in 22 runs in the 17 games when Boston faced elimination, with the Sox winning 13 of those 17 elimination games; he hit .313 in the nine clinching games in Boston’s three titles runs; and so on and so on.

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