On Wednesday, Red Sox great David Ortiz announced that he will retire following the 2016 season. After a career full of drama and glory, Big Papi will hang up his spikes next fall, closing one of the greatest chapters in the history of New England sports.
Ortiz broke the news in a video for the Players’ Tribune, ending twenty-four hours of mounting speculation. “Every single one of us, athletes-wise, runs out of time at some point,” said Ortiz on the day he turned 40-years old. “After next season, I’m going to be done with my career and playing baseball.”
Of course, the name David Ortiz has been firmly etched into Boston sports lore for more than a decade. A bargain basement pickup from the Minnesota Twins in 2003, Ortiz was resurrected at Fenway Park, forming with Manny Ramirez the deadliest three-four punch in the modern game. Papi famously hauled the Red Sox to success with unprecedented heroics in the 2004 postseason, before establishing a new franchise single season home run record of 54 in 2006. He was also the heart and soul of championship teams in 2007 and 2013, becoming just the 14th Red Sock ever to win three World Series rings.
Along the way, David Ortiz became a hero to Red Sox Nation, adored as a fuzzy caricature of fun all over the world. Yet, I always found his on-field performance more impressive. Only five people have ever played more games for the Red Sox, and only two have hit more home runs, Carl Yastrzemski and Ted Williams. Ortiz also ranks seventh in hits, third in doubles, and fourth in RBI, although he could move up those lists with another productive season.
To that end, attention now turns to the Red Sox’ front office. Theoretically, Ortiz’ impending retirement should strengthen its conviction to go all-out and try to build an elite team capable of providing Big Papi with one last taste of October baseball. After all, David Ortiz is synonymous with those juggernaut Red Sox teams of the mid-2000s, so giving him a final shot at the championship would be a fitting token of appreciation. Only two players, Harry Hooper and Heinie Wagner, have ever won four World Series rings with The Olde Towne Team, and Ortiz deserves a shot at joining them.
Ultimately, 2016 will be a strange season as the retirement of a legend looms over the Red Sox. An entire generation has grown up knowing nothing other than David Ortiz in the middle of Boston’s lineup. Accordingly, it will be sad to see his career winding down, his star fading away, like an old friend moving out of town, like a favorite pet losing its spark. However, I’m determined to enjoy whatever remains of the Big Papi story, which hopefully includes a few more autumnal nights under the postseason lights at Fenway Park, where the man carved his legacy, and where his spirit will always reside.