When people break records, it often results on everyone trying to find their place in history. When David Ortiz passed Harold Baines as the all-time leader in hits by a DH, it was no different. Did that make Ortiz the greatest DH ever? Did it make him the best hitting DH ever? Did it make him an all-time great hitter? The debate was on.
It’s the “hitter” question that interested me at first. Is he a great hitter? Clearly he’s not the greatest hitter. That title goes to another Boston great. But, even that begs the question. What makes the greatest hitter?
When questions like this come up, I like to go to the source. Whether you agree that Ted Williams was the greatest hitter who ever live, or think it’s just a nice thing to say, you have to at least put him high on the list. When it came to hitting a baseball, Ted did the two things you most want a player to do. He hit the ball a lot. He hit the ball far a lot. That sounds like a logical place to start. A great hitter need to hit the ball a lot, and needs to hit it far a lot.
When you make those rules, you can see how they affect some common “great hitters.” Take Ichiro. Boy does he get a lot of hits. But, most of them don’t leave the infield. That doesn’t exactly fit the standard Ted set. It works the other way too. There are plenty of all-or-nothing guys. How about Wily Mo Pena? Boy could he hit the ball far. But, not exactly a great hitter.
Just as easily, people can leap to mind that are great hitters. Miguel Cabrera certainly fits that mold. Manny Ramirez. Jimmie Foxx.
My gut reaction was to say no. He doesn’t hit often enough. Looking over the numbers, he’s better at it than I thought. I was probably clouded by his recent struggles and by Manny overshadowing his best years. Ortiz was actually batting .290 in his Red Sox career entering this season. That’s pretty good. Not sure it’s great.
Maybe this is where Red Sox fans get in trouble. When you cheer for a team that has had bot Ted Williams and Manny Ramirez, are other hitters dwarfed? Like Pedro ruining Jon Lester?
Maybe. But, I still think I have to put David Ortiz as a very good hitter. But, not one of the greats. That average still bugs be just enough.
Still glad he’s on the team.