As a witness of baseball for longer than most people have been alive there are few surprises left. In 2013 I got one thanks to David Ortiz.
There is no need to regurgitate his statistical history as that is well documented. Ortiz is the public persona of the team. A larger than life figure that is creating a legend in these parts that will last for generations. The emotional outburst that say what we are thinking and, of course, the flip side where you get the annual contract hullabaloo. Ortiz and contract talk is a seasonal occurrence and is a harbinger of spring training.
The considerable contract talk certainly provides a nice amount of baseball fodder for the media, barstool fans and bloggers. Makes me really question the intent. Is this just some type of mutual management-player ploy to keep the team in the news? So much for conspiracy theories.
Where my surprise came with Ortiz is the fact he even had a 2013 season and then amp that up by the type of 2013 season he had. The reason why is observing him in the later stages of 2012 and in spring training of 2013.
I have had three (count ‘em) Achilles ruptures and one total reconstruction. Watching Ortiz brought back some rather vivid memories of how debilitating the road to rupture – as I refer to it – can be. I spent a good portion of 2013 expecting to see a Ryan Howard sprawl at any time. So maybe it was not a surprise but a shock – especially considering Ortiz is not the most svelte of body types.
So where does Howdy Doody fit in? Step right up, Darrell Evans. Baseball has some great nicknames such as “Death to Flying Things,” “The Heater From Van Meter” and “Howdy Doody’ for Evans.
Evans, to me, had a remarkable late career performance. Bill James once called Evans “probably the most underrated player in baseball history.” Evans actually led the AL in home runs at age 38, oldest AL player to ever do so, and was a key performer for several very good Detroit Tiger teams of the 1980s. Evans, unlike Ortiz, did spend considerable time at first base in addition to his DH duties. Evans was never a high average hitter like Ortiz, but he did ring up some impressive numbers in the same age bracket Ortiz is in. So have many others but for some reason I have linked Ortiz in my mind to Evans these last few seasons. Maybe the left handed swing? Maybe the power?
To me the risk of signing Ortiz to an extension is minimal. Ortiz has recovered from some dismal early season starts a few seasons back and has managed to overcome some significant physical adversity. I would much rather see this end with him in Boston than see another Luis Tiant or Dwight Evans situation. I do not diminish the risk of signing an Ortiz for an extra season. Contracts both short and long term are a risky investment for any player who is long in the baseball tooth, but this is one risk I’d take. I’ve underestimated Papi in past but not again. Sign that extension.