Teammates and rival players have always sought out David Ortiz, because beyond his big-swing, big-moment stardom, he exudes a warmth and geniality that soften his sometimes blunt messages. The F-bomb that Ortiz dropped into the middle of a speech at Fenway Park in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings inspired a mantra -- This is our f---ing city -- so perfect that even social media's profanity mafia, normally easily offended, stood down.
On another noteworthy stage on Tuesday, during a news conference held for the newest Hall of Fame inductee, Ortiz again made himself perfectly clear: "Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are Hall of Famers," Ortiz told reporters. "They did amazing things for baseball. They both deserve to be in the Hall of Fame."
Bonds is arguably the greatest position player in baseball history, and Clemens is in the conversation as one of the best pitchers of all time. But on Tuesday, at about the same time that Ortiz got the call that he was voted in, the Hall revealed that Bonds and Clemens were given a thumbs-down by the baseball writers -- a third of them, anyway -- for the 10th and final year.
Moving forward, Clemens and Bonds can only gain induction through a special committee, and Ortiz' immediate endorsement could help set the tone for that conversation.
Ortiz is one of the few figures in sports whose honesty, even on controversial topics, might make him even more likable. In a phone conversation on Thursday, one of the only others -- an outspoken Hall of Famer in a different sport, Charles Barkley -- said that meeting Ortiz is on his bucket list. "I hope people like me as much as Big Papi," he said. "I don't know anybody who doesn't like Big Papi."
And Big Papi is even better positioned to deliver words of perspective now that he has earned Hall of Fame immortality. Ortiz is the youngest of the 75 living Hall of Famers, and his willingness to speak out could be the first sign of an inevitable shift that could lead to Bonds and Clemens gaining induction -- perhaps even by year's end.