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Papi, Bernie or both? It makes for an interesting HOF debate

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published November 03. 2013 4:00AM

Is David Ortiz a Hall of Famer? Ooooh. Good topic. Let's discuss.

Ortiz's potential candidacy grew legs during the postseason of 2013, mostly because Ortiz was Ruthian during the postseason of 2013. Ortiz will get consideration because he cemented his reputation among the great clutch hitters in the history of baseball.

Problem: I'm not sure the sabermetricians who are hijacking the way we watch baseball would lower themselves to consider "clutch hitting" a worthy metric. But sports are about the "when" as much as the "how," "what" and "why," even if the geekery can't find a corresponding number for the concept of clutch.

So here are the articles of my belief:

Is David Ortiz a Hall of Famer? If he is, so is Bernie Williams. For the same reason. The postseason.

Shall we explore?

Postseason runs scored: Williams 83, Ortiz 51.

Postseason hits: Williams 128, Ortiz 87.

Postseason homers: Williams 22, Ortiz 17.

Postseason RBI: Williams 80, Ortiz 60.

Postseason OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage): Williams .850, Ortiz .962.

Postseason average: Williams .275, Ortiz .295.

Note: Williams played in 121 postseason games. Ortiz has played in 82. Some of you may believe that skews the comparison. Sorry. Team success counts, especially if Williams was responsible for it.

Regular season runs scored: Williams 1,366, Ortiz 1,208 (Ortiz has played one more season).

Regular season hits: Williams 2,366, Ortiz 2,023.

Regular season homers: Williams 287, Ortiz 431.

Regular season RBI: Williams 1,257, Ortiz 1,429.

Regular season OPS: Williams .850, Ortiz .930.

Regular season average: Williams .297, Ortiz .287.

Other notables:

Williams won four Gold Gloves, a batting championship and an ALCS MVP. He hit two game-ending homers in the playoffs. He is first in career postseason RBI and second in career postseason runs, hits, total bases and homers. He played on 12 playoff teams and for nine division championship teams, seven league championship teams and five world championship teams. His "moments" include the game-winning homer in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS and game-winning homer in Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS.

Ortiz owns the highest batting average in World Series history and has been an ALCS and World Series MVP. He won a home run title, two RBI titles and played on eight playoff teams, two division champions, three league champions and three world champions.

His "moments" include the game-winning homer in Game 4 of 2004, the game-winning single in Game 5 of 2004 and the grand slam in Game 2 of this year's ALCS.

This is a lot to digest. But I honestly don't see how a voter could distinguish one over the other. Once the immediacy of Ortiz's 2013 postseason dissipates, a clearer view of the big picture keeps emerges, the truth above the roar.

Williams' postseason numbers are better. His regular season numbers are not. But add the defensive element, four Gold Gloves, and maybe Bernie has an edge.

Maybe you have dismissed Williams as a very good player who's not worthy of Cooperstown. Look at the numbers. They're really good. So are Ortiz's. What they share is the penchant for delivering when time grows desperate.

I haven't mentioned the suspicion around Ortiz for performance enhancing drug use. It's a factor, although it's unfair to start throwing against the wall now in the wake of Ortiz's 2013 postseason. Do I think Ortiz was popping Vitamin E and his name mistakenly appeared on the infamous list? Please. But the media's had years to unearth something. Regenerating this now without any proof is irresponsible.

Would I vote for David Ortiz? Yes. He's the best clutch hitter of his time. He would have changed the way the opponent pitched to the Red Sox in this World Series had Mike Matheny been coherent. Plus, Ortiz has become an iconic figure that can't be measured.

But I'd also vote for Williams, who was the every bit as important to the Yankees' run from 1996-2000 as Derek Jeter.

Good fodder for debate, no?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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