Among other Boston Red Sox questions, ESPNBoston.com writer Gordon Edes poses the quandary of whether we should care about how designated hitter David Ortiz, the face of the franchise, does in March. Big Papi’s 6’4″, 230-pound frame is 39 years old, as he prepares for spring training. Will his body hold up, or does his skill shine through, regardless?
Edes wrote, “Ortiz missed all of camp in 2013 because of a sore Achilles tendon and had the best April of his career, posting a ridiculous .500/513/.917 /1.429 slash line. Last spring, he batted .054 (2 for 37) and hit safely in 10 of his first 12 regular-season games, hitting 5 home runs and knocking in 14 runs for the month.”
The native of Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, now resides in Massachusetts, and is approaching free agency in 2016. Baseball-Reference.com shows that after the $16 million he will make in 2015, the team has $10 million options for the next two years, if he reaches 425 plate appearances this season and the next. You would think that Ortiz would then be worried about his body, getting it in prime condition for another campaign and prove why he deserves these team options and another contract. However, does it even matter? Has he not done enough already?
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After his 18 years in MLB, 12 with Boston, Ortiz has hit 1533 RBIs, including 466 home runs, with a career batting average of .285 and a .379 on-base percentage. In the age of
what have you done for us lately?
, Ortiz put the team on his back in 2013, and won the World Series MVP award by hitting two home runs and six RBIs. He struck such fear in the St. Louis Cardinals’ pitchers that they walked him eight times, after he hit .688 against them, thereby helping to win the championship for a third time in ten years.
Even within the disaster of the 2014 Red Sox season, Ortiz still hit 35 home runs and 104 RBIs. second only to Nelson Cruz‘s 40 home runs and 108 RBIs, for the DH role. Ortiz also ranked eighth for all MLB hitters for RBIs, according to ESPN, with Adrian Gonzalez, seven years Ortiz’s junior, leading with 116. This Dominican freight-train of power shows no signs of slowing down, at least in terms of production.
The only thing that could keep him from continuing his dominance is injury. Achilles injuries or surgery can be a tricky thing, especially in terms of weight-balance and coordination. With all the twisting and turning a batter does at the plate, hitting with your legs can be quite laborsome, if the recovering patient does not keep himself fit, even years later. Some days, the tendon feels great, but as the Achilles is never fully healed, regardless of treatment, it can feel stiff or painful some mornings.
Yet, does that stop Ortiz? Well, let’s think examine a different question: how should a professional athlete treat his body? Many athletes treat their bodies like a temple, never consuming anything that would endanger their health or their careers. Ortiz, on the other hand, could hardly be accused of the same regiment. That’s not to say he is being lazy, either. He hits the weights and works on his game, like any professional baseball player. Yet, he also likes hamburgers. Wahlburgers, to be precise.
Earlier this January, NESN reported that Ortiz appeared on the reality television series “Wahlburgers” to help Chef Paul Wahlberg “with concocting a burger for the heart and soul of the Red Sox — no pressure there. Paul traveled to Ortiz’s house, so the two of them could get cooking together.” Ortiz wanted it to have a Dominican style, putting his own homemade salsa onto the burger. As Chef Paul said in the episode on A&E, “What Papi wants, Papi gets!”
Chef Paul is one of the famous Wahlberg brothers from Boston. Donnie, from the boy band New Kids On The Block, and Hollywood actor Mark affectionately call their brother Paulie, while producing and starring in the show. As Bostonians, they understand how important curses, superstitions, and routines are to its people, especially concerning the Red Sox. As they each take turns explaining this part of Boston’s culture, Chef Paul is seen driving the Ortiz burger each day to the DH’s house before games. Ortiz makes light of their claims that the burger is part of a superstition of how he will play each night, but, yet, he continues to ask for it handmade and delivered each time by Chef Paul before each game, throughout the episode. That’s a lot of burger days for anyone, let alone a professional athlete.
Former Philadelphia Phillies position player and current ESPN Baseball color analyst John Kruk once said, when someone asked him about his off-field regime, “I ain’t an athlete, lady. I’m a baseball player” (Wikiquote.com). When it comes to David Ortiz, his skillset spells athlete. When it comes to that strength, however, is the magic in his muscles or in the beef, peppers, and onion rings?