As he nears the age of 40, David Ortiz just keeps hitting for the Boston Red Sox. As play opens today across the Major Leagues, the savvy charismatic basher from the left side sits at 491 home runs in his career; not bad for a man who was released by the Minnesota Twins back in 2002 and picked up by the Red Sox after his friend Pedro Martinez put a call in. What has he done since?
A little bit. Some work perhaps. Ortiz has helped the Red Sox win three World Series titles, make more than a few All Star games, and become the face of Boston. If Tom Brady has any challenge for supremacy in Boston, it’s Big Papi. Ask anyone in Boston, baseball fan or not, and they know who he is. After all, it was right after the Boston Marathon bombing that he took the microphone in the middle of Fenway Park and proclaimed, “This is our fucking city”. Take the bat out this man’s hands and he has the power of a rock star mixed with a President.
Part of what makes Ortiz so lovable is his outgoing magnetic personality. There are closed off superstars who can do wonders on the field yet appear as if they are being stalked by the CIA the minute they leave the field. Ortiz is the opposite, welcoming in an entire city and treating them like family. A family man himself with a wife Tiffany that has been by his side since before the Majors became a reality, Ortiz is humble and never forgets where he came from. He donates time and plenty of his earnings to the David Ortiz Childrens Fund, which helps under privileged kids in his hometown of Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic find all the medical help they need. Ortiz’s ability to connect is what makes him special.
The other part of his legend belongs on a baseball field in October. As a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, I have first hand knowledge of Ortiz’s skills. He picked up a dying Red Sox team in 2004 and sent a dagger into the New York Yankees, who had a 3-0 lead on the Sox. He then carried that into a World Series against my Cards, which lasted a total of four games. That’s right, Ortiz’s Sox won 7 straight that October. 2013 was worse. The Cards refused to pitch around Ortiz and he burned them. Ortiz’s lifetime OPS(on base percentage plus slugging percentage) in the playoffs is .960, and that covers 82 games and 295 at bats. He has 17 home runs and 60 RBI in those games, and many of them have been clutch or walkoff fashion. His opponents can respect his talent and his teammates treat him like a god of the sport. Would you not?
People will take their shots. They complain about his emotions after a bad at bat or ejection. The PED positive drug test back in 2003. The short field he plays in at Fenway. The DH spot he now resides in. The fact that they think Ortiz is older is particularly funny. If Ortiz is indeed older(no proof to back that up) then what he is doing is EVEN MORE IMPRESSIVE. Ladies and gents who pick away at this need a hobby. Ortiz is great. Face it and respect it. As a Cardinals fan, he is the last guy I want to see in a late and close situation.
As August rolls past its midway point, Ortiz is 8th in home runs and riding towards another successful year. He is on pace for 35 home runs, 101 RBI, and an .860 OPS. In the month of August, covering 48 at bats, Ortiz has 19 hits, 5 home runs and 15 RBI. On the season, he has 57 walks to only 67 strikeouts in 395 at bats. Not too bad for a near 40 year old.
Just remember this. Ortiz has 3 World Series rings and in each one he has played a heavy role. He has 9 All Star selections. He is still a 30 home run/100 RBI guy. He has option seasons for the next two years in Boston, so he doesn’t have the comfy long term contract to ride out on. His base salary is 11 million the next two seasons. In a terrible season for the Red Sox that has taken on another level of agony with manager John Farrell’s battle with cancer, Ortiz has been a bright spot. He has gotten better with each month, hitting 12 home runs since July 1st and driving in 37 runs. For some players, that’s a decent three month season.
David Ortiz is something else and if there is one thing I wanted to do with this article, it’s put the ball in people’s court outside of Boston who may have forgotten how great this guy still is. After a rough start to a career(getting released after a 20 HR season) that took 7 years to truly engage, Ortiz will retire as one of the greatest Red Sox players of all time, right up there next to Yastrzemski, Williams, Fisk, Clemens, Martinez and others.
Even a victimized Cardinals fan can recognize and appreciate the wide ranging and long term effect Big Papi has had on the city of Boston and baseball as a whole. How can you not love that smiling face?