It’s been nine months since David Ortiz retired from the Red Sox. Since then, his former teammates have done their best to make up for his loss. The Red Sox currently hold first place and might run away with the AL East. But it’s clear to everyone that it’s not the same without Big Papi. Seeing the Red Sox lost without a leader hurts the team. If a clear leader doesn’t emerge soon the Red Sox will be like a battleship without a rudder.
There isn’t anyone on the Red Sox right now who has the qualities of a leader. Hanley Ramirez can’t lead. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are too young. Chris Sale is too much of a loose cannon. Dustin Pedrioa, despite his leadership qualities, doesn’t have what he needs to rally his teammates. Pedrioa comes off as being too strict, not knowing when to relax and have fun. Additionally, his response to the post-slide Manny Machado incident in Baltimore last April didn’t win him any friends.
Red Sox Lost Without Ortiz, But How Do You Replace Him?
David Ortiz delivered on and off the field in ways that would intimidate most other ballplayers. He was a clutch hitter who knew how to drive in runs. He knew exactly what words to say in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. Plus Ortiz knew how to handle himself with grace and agility. Even if Betts, Bogaerts, and Bradley Jr. hit 60 homers and won a bunch of MVPs, they’d still stand in Ortiz’s shadow. They haven’t had the chance to experience what Ortiz endured throughout his career
Red Sox aren’t leaderless. It’s that Ortiz left such a enormous void that no one will fill it for a long time. The problem is that nothing is collectively taking its place. Fans and players alike notice the vacuum Ortiz’s absence has created and while the standings don’t show it, the lack of enthusiasm at Fenway this season is overwhelming. Red Sox fans are happy to root for the team, but there’s no one who can bring us together like Ortiz could.
Ever since David Ortiz announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2016 season many have wondered who will bear the Red Sox leadership torch. After all, Ortiz’s shoes will be hard to fill. Not only is Oritz a member of the 500 Home Run Club and a 9 time All-Star, but he’s the last remaining Red Sox player on the current roster who was on the 2004 World Series team— the team that broke the curse and won a title for Boston for the first time in eighty-six years. Whoever takes the baton from Ortiz as the next leader for the Red Sox will have the weight of the team on his shoulders.
Many are looking at Xander Bogaerts as the one who will take the torch from Ortiz after this season. Boegarts moved to no. 3 in the lineup last season ahead of Ortiz, a sign of the faith manager John Farrell has in him. After winning the Silver Slugger Award for hitting .320 last season, Bogaerts stands out as one of the more dependable hitters in the lineup. After I personally saw Bogaerts hit his first career grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays last September, I became convinced right then and there that he could be the next Red Sox leader, especially since both he and Ortiz can hit in clutch situations.
Who Else Could Play A Red Sox Leadership Role?
Mookie Betts is another name that’s starting to emerge in connection to Red Sox leadership as he continues to improve his hitting and fielding. While Betts hit a respectable .281 with 18 home runs last season, it was his fielding that made Red Sox fans and foes’ jaws drop as they jumped out of their seats. Last September in a game against the Orioles, Betts robbed Chris Davis of a home run in the top of the 9th when he leaped against the Red Sox bullpen wall to catch the ball. Red Sox players and fans erupted in cheers as Betts came back to earth with the ball firmly in his glove. Betts is also a danger on the base paths after stealing 21 bases last season. Being at least a three-tool player for the Sox would make him a strong model and inspiration for the rest of the team.
Finally, I think another strong contender is Brock Holt. Yes, he’s not quite the power hitter we’d like him to be, as he only hit 2 home runs last season and has a career total of 6, but his solid batting average and all-star appearance last season makes him a dependable player who has what it takes to rally the team when they need it most.
Red Sox leadership isn’t anything to be taken lightly. Whoever takes over Ortiz’s spot will have a lot to live up to. But if any of these three players listed above continue to play as well as they do, it’ll only be a matter of time before one of them emerges as a natural leader. Before you know it, he’ll be leading the Red Sox to another World Series.