TORONTO — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said his recent comments regarding David Ortiz and his positive drug test during survey testing in 2003 weren’t meant as an implicit endorsement of the retiring slugger’s induction in the Hall of Fame.
But Manfred, speaking before Tuesday night’s AL wild-card game between the Orioles and Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, nonetheless still didn’t sound opposed to the idea.
“I would never presume to give guidance to the baseball writers on Hall of Fame votes,” Manfred said. “I think over time the writers have done a phenomenal job making judgments about who belongs in and who doesn’t belong in given what the Hall of Fame criteria are.”
Manfred said he was “a little surprised” how much traction his comments in Boston received, though he probably shouldn’t have been.
Addressing the media Sunday, before Ortiz’s final home game at Fenway Park, the commissioner said there were at least 10 false positives during that survey testing and didn’t rule out that Ortiz might have been among those.
Manfred said Ortiz never has failed a test since MLB initiated its drug testing program in 2004, which has been toughened a handful of times since.
“Even if your name was on that [anonymous] list,’’ Manfred said, “it’s entirely possible that you were not a positive . . . I don’t think anyone understands very well what that list was.”
Hall of Fame voters, made up of writers from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, have shown an overwhelming disinclination to vote in players who have been caught using performance enhancing drugs, or been suspected of using them.
“I see a huge difference between players who are caught, suspended, whether it’s because of a positive test or some investigation on the one hand,” Manfred said Tuesday night. “Writers have to make a judgment about what that means. On the other hand, I do think that it’s unfair to base a decision on rumor, innuendo, or what I regard to be an ambiguous piece of information [the leaked names] that was never intended to be public in the first place.”
Ortiz, whose Red Sox face the Indians in one ALDS starting Thursday night, had a remarkable final season, posting a .315/.401/.620 slash line with 38 homers and an AL-best 127 RBIs. His 541 career homers and consistent standout performances in the postseason make him a candidate for the Hall.
Manfred addressed several topics during his meeting with reporters Tuesday. There were several questions about the Basic Agreement between players and owners, which expires on Dec 1. Manfred said he could not answer whether this offseason would operate under the old agreement if a new one isn’t reached by the time free agency starts, shortly after the conclusion of the World Series.
“My hope would be that we would resolve the new agreement before the free-agent market starts,” Manfred said. “There have been years, not this past agreement, but the one before where we actually finished the deal during the World Series. And the last time around in 2011, we actually extended a couple of deadlines in the free-agent market in order to allow us to finish up. I do think there’s a natural deadline there, the idea of operating under the new agreement is an appealing one, so let’s hope that we do it again.”