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.

Red Sox Can’t Let Ortiz Retire

David Ortiz came through again in Saturday’s 10-9 loss to the Blue Jays, swatting a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth before Craig Kimbrel blew the save. With each game that goes by it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Red Sox can’t let Ortiz retire after this season.

Ortiz is not only the best hitter on the Red Sox, but also one of the best hitters in baseballRed Sox Can't Let Ortiz Retire. He currently leads the majors in doubles (23), RBI (46), slugging (.720), OPS (1.146) and total bases (121). He’s having arguably the best year of his Hall of Fame-caliber career, and he’s a huge reason why the Sox are in first place.

While Big Papi has said repeatedly that this season will be his last, the Red Sox can’t let Ortiz retire. He’s too important to the team. His bat, leadership skills, and postseason experience are irreplaceable. It’s noble that he wants to walk away on his own terms, but Red Sox management has to do everything in its power to stop him.

How can Boston change its designated hitter’s mind? By offering him more money than he can possibly refuse. Every man has his price, and the Red Sox have the resources to blow Ortiz away. They could double his current salary of $16 million, which would make him the MLB’s richest position player next year. Most of that would be funded by Clay Buchholz’s $13.5 million team option, which Boston seems unlikely to sign if his move to the bullpen becomes permanent.

Ortiz has played for a long time and made a lot of money, but offering him a nice payday should make him reconsider. He’s been paid below market value for most of his career, so it would mean a lot to him to have one of the three highest salaries in baseball. If Ortiz equates dollars with respect, he’d have a hard time saying no.

David Ortiz to Retire After 2016 Season

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.

David Ortiz to retire

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.