No October Dramatics, One Fitting Goodbye for David Ortiz

We romanticized about the notion as we watched David Ortiz’s final season.

At 40, in his final season with the Red Sox, Big Papi would not only get the regular-season MVP after a 38-homer, 127-RBI regular season, he would carry the Yawkey Way Kids to one final World Series championship, slugging home runs into the cold, October night.David Ortiz But that’s the danger of romanticized notions. The downfall of hope and faith. We romanticize all the time. It makes us smile. Gives us hope the world can turn out just as we like it.

But it’s self-indulgent. Fictions of our own hearts. The ending we choose rarely plays out. It certainly didn’t this October with Ortiz and the Sox. Ortiz was supposed to lead the Red Sox to their fourth World Series this century and coast off into a sunset as beautiful as the advertisements for resorts in his native country. In reality, it was all romantic notions.

Cleveland swept the Red Sox out of the American League Divisional Series, finishing off the job Monday night, Oct. 10, at Fenway Park in a 4-3 win. Papi was hardly a factor in the series — one hit, one RBI, no homers. We wanted another Hollywood Ortiz script. Instead we got cold, hard reality: good pitching beats good hitting.

Nothing wrong with reality. We’re little creatures on this earth with big dreams that sometimes fall short. Reality for the game of baseball is that most of the time, the ball does not land safely between the nine defensive players on the diamond. Most of the time, the wind knocks down the ball seemingly destined to go over the wall. Not all nine players are in sync on one night.

David Ortiz: In the Finale, He’s Human

In the final playoff series of his career, Ortiz finally proved he was human all along, a little creature in this big world just like us. His performance kept our romanticized notions trapped in our hearts, stowed away for later use for another Boston star.

There were no home runs on this October night, only an RBI sacrifice fly and a walk in Papi’s final at-bat. Nothing poetic there. Papi, the Yankees killer, Senor Octubre, upstaged in his final professional baseball game by old friend Coco Crisp, whose two-run homer into the Monster seats was the difference. How unceremonious for Papi.

But did this story have a bitter ending? Was this that heartbreaking? Maybe the real victory in this Red Sox season simply was being able to HAVE hope one last time in October. Hope that Ortiz put the ball into the visitor’s bullpen to tie the game. Hope that Papi’s troops would rally around him.

Maybe just having David Ortiz around for three more games in October was the perfect ending. Maybe watching him rise from the Sox dugout after Game 3 ended to cries of “Papi!” “Papi!” throughout Fenway Park for a final curtain call on the pitcher’s mound was all we really needed.

David Ortiz got a proper goodbye to Boston in a place he called home for 14 magical years. No words, just a two-plus-minute, teary salute to the home crowd. No dramatic October home runs to celebrate.

Just one epic, fitting goodbye. Maybe that was our perfect ending after all.

Ortiz Celebrations Overdone? Not So Much

The worst argument of all-time: “They’re doing anything for a buck.” I’ll defeat that argument right now: We all are. You’re no Sherlock Holmes if you determine that a for-profit business wants to make money. This discussion has come up a lot lately on Yawkey Ortiz celebrationsWay. The Red Sox in the home-opener against Baltimore Monday, April 11, began what will be seven months of David Ortiz celebrations. The Red Sox are honoring, pretty much serenading, the slugger who’s playing in the last of his 20 Major League Baseball seasons.

They’ll have themes for upcoming games, all kinds of apparel and are sure to do dozens of events and marketing campaigns around the slugger’s swan song season.

My take: So what?

You hear the cries from the fellowship of the misery in and around Yawkey Way: “This is too much.” “They’re all about the money.” “Even Yaz didn’t have this.” The naysayers think they’ve cracked the code on the Red Sox and ownership: They just care about making a buck and filling the seats.

Farewell Tour: Are the Ortiz Celebrations Too Much?

Guess what? You’re right. This is a business. They do marketing. They practice commerce transactions. The sell tickets. They want revenue. They care about other things outside the baseball diamond. If that means leveraging the face of their brand as often as possible this season, I say go for it. Call it overdone, over the top.

The fact is, most Red Sox fans will eat up each and every Ortiz celebration. They’ll buy the T-Shirts and bobbleheads. They’ll post pictures in hashtag campaigns.This is called customer engagement.The Red Sox are smart. They have a great marketing and events team (I recently interviewed one of their events executives).

I say let them do their jobs. And let the Ortiz good times roll, flyovers, bobbleheads and all.

At Fenway, a celebration short on words, but not class

Fenway Park Ring ceremony Ortiz

Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Red Sox outdid themselves Friday at Fenway Park with their Opening Day and World Series ring ceremony under a sun-splashed sky and chill that for two centuries has defined April baseball on Yawkey Way.

The ceremony was classy. It was touching.

The irony? Hardly a word was spoken. And that’s the best part.

The Red Sox’s 2013 World Series celebration didn’t need words. Just images. Smiles. Hugs. Laughter. Tears. Applause. Goose-bump music.

On the big screen in center field, the Red Sox simply showed each player’s 2013 montage as that player emerged from the dugout and received their World Championship rings. No announcements necessary.

On the field itself, the Red Sox brought out Boston Marathon bombing victims, their families and heroes from that day, like Carlos Arredondo, who leaped into action last April and saved lives. No introduction needed. Everyone knows Carlos. Everyone feels for the families, especially the Red Sox, whose players greeted each family member as if they were their own.

Also on the field was the Boston Fire Department, including members from Engine 33, Ladder 15 — the very same crew that serves to protect Fenway. They lowered the American flag in center field at half-mast in honor of their fallen firefighter brothers, Michael Kennedy and Ed Walsh, each of whom died fighting a fire in the city last week.

And of course, there were the iconic sounds synonymous with Boston music: The Boston Pops Orchestra and Dropkick Murphys. Conductor Keith Lockhart and crew belted out an awesome rendition of Richard Strauss’ 1896 “Also Sprach Zarathustra” as massive world champion banners from 2004, 2007 and 2013 were draped over the Green Monster. The Dropkicks performed “Shipping up to Boston” with help from the Pops.

This is all we needed. Sights and sounds.

Words? Not on this day.

We don’t even need to say “Boston Strong” anymore. It’s inherent in Bostonians now. In our veins, like it always has been, even before the marathon bombings.

The Red Sox reminded us of all this with one awesome ceremony and one very touching scene from Fenway Friday. Even if it was short on words.

Yankees — the New Red Sox Cash Dumping Ground

yankees ellsbury

First it was the Dodgers. Now it’s the good ole Bronx Bombers.

When the Red Sox needed to trim their budget, and take out some major trash, the Dodgers were there to take the three bums: Gonzales, Crawford and Beckett.

Now, enter the Yankees. They signed this week Jacoby Ellsbury (sorry, Pink Hats) to a $153 million, seven-year deal. Two-time World Series champion center-fielder — gone just like that.

And I love it.

Sure, the Sox weren’t necessarily willing to dump Ellsbury on anybody. They may have kept him with the right deal.

But when Cashman’s Kids came calling with the third largest contract ever handed to an outfielder — crazy, right? — the Sox had to be relieved. They didn’t want him this bad – not with JBJ, or Jackie Bradley Jr., waiting in the wings.

Isn’t this awesome? The Yankees are the ones taking our players? Needing our players? Thinking they stole our players when they did us a huge favor?

So they took the Babe from us. So they took A-Rod from us (not too bad after all there). Youkilis. Damon.

This is GREAT. They need us. We don’t need them any more. They’re falling. They’re scraping. Look at all the money the Sox have saved with LA and New York taking on these guys.

Toss in the newly-acquired catcher, AJ Pierzynski, and the Sox are ahead of the Yankees already — just like they were most of last year in the AL East.

You know what, though? Do we even care about the Yankees any more? Are they even an obstacle? Rival? I don’t think the rivalry will ever “end,” but the fire is close to out, isn’t it?

Hey– as long as this doesn’t include a game-winning home run to win an ALCS (Aaron Bleeping Boone), I don’t care what the Yankees do – even if it means stealing a fan favorite every now and then.

A 2099 Red Sox Bedtime Story

Red Sox World Series

2099, KENMORE SQUARE, BOSTON –

It’s the sixth inning of Game 7 of the 2099 World Series between the Red Sox and Cardinals, and Matthew, 4, starts to doze off. He’s not making it to the ninth.

So his father, Dom, carries him upstairs in their Kenmore Square apartment, puts him under his Red Sox comforter and bed sheets, and turns off the lights.

“Dad?” Matthew says as his father’s about to walk out of his room.

“Yes, Matthew?” his father replies.

“Can you tell me the Red Sox bedtime story?”

“The one about the World Champions of 2013?” Matthew’s dad asks. Matthew nods his head.

“OK. But I really need to get back to the game, Matthew.”

Dom had his reasons. It has been 86 years since the Red Sox last won the World Series — in 2013. Dom has never seen it happen. 2067. 2075. 2086. The Red Sox had been in all of those World Series, each of them, though, ending in heartache.

Yawkey Way was on edge. Generations of Sox fans have come and gone, each without ever seeing a celebration like they had in 2013 in and outside of the old Fenway Park, built at the site of the new, state-of-the-art Fenway II.

“There once was a baseball team in the year 2013 called the Red Sox,” Dom begins as he sits on Matthew’s bed and flips up a Red Sox-labeled baseball. “This was a team that finished in last place the year before, and all those in Baseball Land thought they would not be much better in 2013.”

“But these Red Sox were not believing it. They worked very hard from Day 1 and became the bestest of friends. They did everything together. They even grew beards together for fun – long and crazy beards: Jonny had one, Mike, David, Jacoby…even the Boston fans who came to the game wore fake beards to try to be like them. It looked like Halloween every day at Fenway Park, where they Red Sox played their games.”

“How long were the beards?” Matthew interjects.

“Oh, they were long,” says Dom, showing Matthew a picture of Mike Napoli from his Wikipedia page that he had been reading from.

“They had many great players, and pitchers like Jon, Clay, Koji and Brandon did wonderful.”

“But the leader of their team was a man they called Big Papi. He was a big man with a big heart and he could hit the ball very far – waaaaaay over the fence.”

“Many say Big Papi – whose real name is David Ortiz – was one of the best players to ever play baseball. The baseball guys give him a special prize for playing so well in the 2013 World Series.”

“Candy?” Matthew asks with a last gasp before he’s about to fall asleep.

“Not quite,” his dad replies. “They gave him a nice trophy for doing a great job.”

“The Red Sox beat the Cardinals to win the World Series, and people dance in the streets for hours and hours. Even Big Papi dances for a long time. And instead of shaking hands, these Red Sox shake each other’s beards! This is the third time they won the championship in nine years. And all were happy on Yawkey Way.”

“THE END.”

Dom knew Matthew had to get to bed soon.

“OK, close your eyes, Matthew. Time to sleep.”

“But how will I know if they win tonight?”

“If this baseball is in your bed when you wake up,” Dom says, showing him the baseball he had flipped up and down during the story, “they won.”

The next morning, Matthew wakes up and doesn’t see the baseball. Something, though, is bothering his back. He rolls over on the bed. It’s the baseball. Matthew grabs it and runs downstairs. At the foot of the stairs blares the headline from the Yawkey Way Report, “SOX WIN! SOX WIN! First time in 86 years!”

Matthew runs to the kitchen to his father, who is clutching pictures of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

“This World Series,” his dad says, “is for them. They never saw this happen, Matthew. Your great-great grandfather Dom did, though. In fact, he saw three of them. I wonder what it was like back then, to watch three World Series championships in such a short time. 2004. 2007. 2013. Boston must have been the capital of the baseball world, huh?”

“Yep,” Matthew says. “Can I have some breakfast?”

Dom gives Matthew a big bear hug as the sounds of jubilation outside rule the Boston streets, just like it did 86 years earlier in 2013 when a man named Big Papi got the party started and the great-great grandfather of young Matthew and thousands of other Red Sox fans watched with joy.

“I wonder,” Dom tells Matthew, “if those fans like your great-great grandfather knew just how lucky they were.”

Mr. October: Reggie or Papi?

mr october jacksonmr October Ortiz

Let’s end that debate right now – Reggie Jackson AND David Ortiz are “Mr. October.”

The lefty sluggers have carried their teams in the postseason, Reggie doing his magic at the plate in the 1970s and ‘80s and Papi leading the way in the 21st Century.

Who’s more clutch? Shouldn’t even be a debate, really.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t compare the two – especially now that each of them have played exactly the same number of postseason series at 17.

First, no one may have a better World Series – EVER – than Papi’s run right now. He’s batting 11-for-15 (.733) with two homers and six RBI as the Sox lead the Cards, 3-2, and hope to close out the series on Yawkey Way Wednesday night.

Reggie’s best World Series was 1977, when his Yankees beat the Dodgers and he went 9-for-20 (.450) with five homers and eight RBI. Jackson, of course, went deep three times in Game 6 as the Yankees closed out the Dodgers in the Bronx. He was named Series MVP.

Overall, in three World Series, Big Papi is 20-for-43 (.465) with three homers and 14 RBI. The Sox are 2-0 in World Series with Ortiz heading into this current series with the Cards.

Jackson, meanwhile, in five World Series is 35-for-98 (.357) with 10 homers, 24 RBI and a 4-1 record in the Big Show.

In the postseason, 17 series for each of them, it’s pretty much a dead heat for Ortiz and Jackson.

Ortiz is 87-for-294 with 17 HR, 60 RBI and a .296 batting average. Jackson is 78-for-281 with 18 HR, 48 RBI and a .278 batting average.

Mr. October. Senor Octubre.

Call them what you want – as long as you call EACH of them by the moniker.