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Opinion: David Ortiz's Hall of Fame election muddles argument for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens

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Well, after arguing, screaming and publicly shaming one another these past 10 years on baseball’s great debate whether Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens deserve to be elected into the Hall of Fame, leave it to David Ortiz to muddle the argument.

Ortiz became the first baseball player in history Tuesday to test positive for performance enhancing drugs in his career, and still be elected into the Hall of Fame, receiving 77.9% of the vote in his first year on the ballot.

Sure, Ortiz’s drug test was supposed to remain anonymous in 2003, just like the 103 other positive tests.

Maybe it was a false positive.

Maybe it was something he really took over a GNC counter instead of an actual steroid.

Well, whatever it was, the Baseball Writers Association of America chose to ignore it.

So, Ortiz is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and will join baseball’s all-time greats for induction on July 25, in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Bonds, Clemens and Sammy Sosa, all linked to performance-enhancing drugs, are now left off the BBWAA ballot forever with their 10-year eligibility expiring.

Aw, nothing like the latest chapter of hypocrisy in baseball.

Ortiz, of course, never had to testify in federal court like Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. He wasn’t accused of steroid use by his trainer. His name never appeared in any drug laboratory paperwork.

It was just an anonymous drug test, reported by the New York Times, with commissioner Rob Manfred going out of his way before Ortiz’s retirement ceremony in 2016 to declare there might have been 10 false positive tests, including possibly Ortiz.

Maybe if Bonds didn’t break Hank Aaron’s home run record, he would have been elected into Cooperstown. Maybe if Clemens wasn’t winning Cy Young awards in his 40s, he’d be in too. Maybe if Sosa started hitting home runs earlier in his career, he would have had a shot.

MORE: How Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens can still make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame

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David Ortiz helped the Red Sox win three World Series titles.
David Ortiz helped the Red Sox win three World Series titles.

Instead, Ortiz is the writers’ lone selection, and even he felt that Bonds, along with Clemens, were unfairly snubbed.

Ortiz idolized Bonds going back to the mid ‘90s when he was playing in the minor leagues with the Seattle Mariners and his name was David Arias, and his admiration only blossomed over the years.

“Barry Bonds, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a human being capable of doing what he did when he played,’’ Ortiz said. “He’s special. Sometimes, it’s going to be hard for people not in this game to understand that. Barry Bonds, to me, separated himself from the game at the highest level.

“I know there’s a lot of things going on, but to me, he was a Hall of Famer way before all of the talk and all of those things. This is a guy who played the game at a whole different level. Same with Roger, the Rocket. When I see these guys, I don’t even compare myself to them. I saw those guys so many times performing, and they were very special.’’

But, unless they’re one day elected by the Today’s Game Committee, which meets in December and twice every five years, they’ll never enjoy the celebration and glory that will be feted upon Big Papi.

“Not having them join me at this time is something that’s hard to believe to be honest with you,’’ Ortiz said. “Those guys did it all. It is what it is. There’s nothing I personally can do about it.’’

Ortiz’s career, unlike Bonds and Clemens, didn’t take off until later. He hit just 58 homers in six years with the Minnesota Twins when he was non-tendered. He hit 31 homers with 101 RBI his first year with the Red Sox in 2003, the same year as the anonymous positive test.

He emerged into one of the greatest designated hitters in history, hitting .286 with 541 homers, 1,768 RBI, .931 OPS. He led the Red Sox to three World Series championships, hitting .455 in 14 World Series games with nine extra-base hits and 14 RBI. He joined Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson as the only players in history with at least 500 homers and three rings.

His heroics put him in the Mount Rushmore of New England sports icons with Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, Ted Williams and Tom Brady.

“David Ortiz is the most important player to ever wear a Red Sox uniform,’’ Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said in a statement. “He came to Boston in relative anonymity, and with his captivating personality and his formidable bat, he shattered expectations and paved the franchise’s future in championships and Duck Boat parades.’’

Ortiz also never again tested positive for PED use, or was disciplined by Major League Baseball, you know, like Bonds and Clemens.

“What does that tell you?’’ Ortiz said.

Well, it tells you that it pays to have the commissioner lobbying on your behalf, as well as being one of the most affable and congenial players in all of baseball.

The man was beloved not only throughout New England, but across America. Well, except maybe New York and Detroit where he broke the hearts of Yankees and Tigers fans.

While Ortiz can now be forever celebrated, and Bonds and Clemens forever punished, maybe now the debate will end on whether those linked to steroid use belong in the Hall of Fame.

The voters have spoken.

There’s no need to even discuss Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz or anyone else suspended for performance-enhancing drug use whether they belong in Cooperstown.

If Bonds and Clemens, two of the greatest players in the history of the game are out, topping out at 66% and 65.2%, respectively, so are those who ever violated MLB’s drug-testing policy.

The only controversy we’ll have next year is the candidacy of Carlos Beltran, whose career will be tainted over his role in the 2017 Houston Astros’ cheating scandal. He’s the only newcomer on next year’s ballot that will receive serious consideration, likely opening the door for the likes of Scott Rolen (63.2%), Todd Helton (52%) and Billy Wagner (51%).

The Hall of Fame steroid debate is mercifully over.

Maybe, even as hypocritical as the voting results may appear, it’s actually quite comforting to celebrate the finality of baseball’s infamous steroid era.

Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: David Ortiz, not Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, reaches Hall of Fame