If you’re getting sick of me writing about David Ortiz, too bad. Find another Red Sox blog to read.
In case you’re new here, or just not as much of a baseball stats/stories nerd as I am, here’s a little background on the most clutch player to ever wear the Red Sox uniform…
The Red Sox have been around for 115 years, and nobody has ever hit more home runs in a single season than David Ortiz. In 2006, at 30 years old, Ortiz blasted 54 homers in just 151 games, setting a team record for long balls. He led the Red Sox to three World Series championships in 2004 (their first in 86 years), 2007, and 2013 (their first at Fenway Park since 1918). In his thirteen seasons with Boston from 2003 and 2016, he hit countless grand slams, homers, and walk-offs, all while becoming the most beloved player in franchise history. He cemented himself as an icon when he delivered the now-famous, “This is our fucking city” speech after the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, and then he followed it up by having the greatest postseason any 37-year-old hitter has ever had.
For all of these reasons and more, David Ortiz’s retirement from the Red Sox was harder on me than almost every breakup I’ve ever had. I know I’m not the only member of the ‘Nation who still feels his absence every game. I’m sure it’ll get easier, but not yet, especially with the Red Sox playing about as well as a pile of hot garbage melting in the sun in these first two games of the ALDS.
Somehow, the Red Sox spent most of the season in first place, though they went down a sharp decline towards the end of the season, taking a few too many games to clinch the East. And regardless, when I think postseason, I think David Ortiz, don’t you? He’s one of the most clutch hitters in postseason history; he’s definitely number one in our franchise’s history. He passed the 500 HR milestone in 2015, becoming only the 27th player to achieve such a feat, and with 541 HR, he’s 17th on the list of players with the most homers in MLB history. He’s the only player who was with the team for all three of this millennium’s World Series Rings, joining only a handful of men who could say the same from 1912-1918, including Babe Ruth, whose curse he helped break eighty-six years later.
When it came to our hated rivals, Papi was especially clutch. In games where the Red Sox really had no chance of beating the Evil Empire, Ortiz gave us hope and hits. He’s ranked 4th for highest career OPS versus the Yankees and is one of the few people to ever really have Mariano Rivera’s number. In Game 4 of the ALCS, when the Red Sox had already lost the previous three games, David Ortiz hit a walk-off in the 12th inning, winning the game at 1:22 AM. He did it again the following night in the 14th inning. He homered in Game 7, too, helping the Red Sox become the first team in Major League history to come back from a 3-0 postseason game deficit. After Papi led us to that Game 4 win, the Red Sox didn’t lose another game for the entire postseason. When he retired last year, the Yankees told him they were relieved.
And 2013. In the 2013 postseason, at the age of 37, which is like 100 in baseball player years, David Ortiz carried the Boston Red Sox through the World Series, batting an astronomical .688. He was so good that in the final game, the Cardinals pitchers blatantly intent-walked him at every AB, bringing his average down from the 700s. When it came time to decide the MVP, there was no doubt or question that it would be Big Papi, our hero and beacon of hope.
And now we have to face a hard truth: we’re staring down the barrel of a postseason gun, we’re about to lose Game 2 of the ALDS, and our top man is gone. Not only that, he’s left an absolute disaster in his wake. But hear me now, reader, I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS HIS FAULT.
To put it bluntly, this kind of playing wouldn’t have flown with David Ortiz still piloting the plane. Not only would he have set an example with his bat, but I’m certain he wouldn’t have tolerated this kind of bullshit playing from his teammates. He simply would not have been cool sitting around for an entire season of weird wins and embarrassing losses. Papi would’ve whipped their asses into shape.
Now, I’m not going to pull a Xander Bogaerts and say this team is blowing chunks because Papi retired. That’s not what I’m saying, and anyone who says so is being extremely unfair. The man deserves to be done with this team, even though he isn’t. I’m saying something different altogether; I miss David Ortiz on this team so much. I miss the way he inspired his teammates. I miss the atmosphere when he was captain of the ship, and I think the Red Sox were infinitely better off with him. But none of those things mean that this season or the past week are his fault. It just means his absence is felt, and oh man, when I see José Altuve pulling a Papi, it hurts so bad.
Even worse, David Ortiz is still rooting for us. He posted the above Instagram video before today’s game, calling them “my Red Sox, my boys.” He’s been rooting for them, cheering them on all season, he’s coming back to the organization, and this pathetic team is letting him down. They let him down in last year’s ALDS, his final shot at a postseason, and they’re doing it again this year. Papi deserves better, and so do we.