Have you seen David Ortiz, lately? The Boston Red Sox designated hitter has been on fire with his bat, scorching the competition with some mighty blasts in the outfield and even over the fences. Yet, the excitement doesn’t stop there. Even though the Red Sox are suffering from a miserable losing season, Ortiz and his fans have something to cheer for before the end of the season: he’s only nine away from 500 career home runs.
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It’s a very significant milestone. Ortiz nailed two homers against the Miami Marlins yesterday, to sit with 491. The mark put him just two shy of a tie for 27th place with Fred McGriff and legendary New York Yankee Lou Gehrig. Not bad company. However, hitting 500 would put him as the 27th person to ever reach that feat. Albert Pujos (550) and Alex Rodriguez (678) are the only two active players who have more home runs than Big Papi.
Ortiz is, of course, happy with the possibility of being in that select group, but he’s not gunning for it. At least, he’s not admitting it. Ian Browne of MLB.com covered the story, and he reported Ortiz saying, “I’m just going to keep on swinging […] I’m not trying to put any pressure on myself. I’m just trying to put a good swing on it when I’m at the plate. Hopefully I’ll get there.”
In the last seven games, Ortiz has led the Red Sox offence with five home runs and nine RBIs for a .407 batting average and a .484 on-base percentage. His slugging is a perfect 1.000 in that span. The lefty Dominican, who now lives in Boston, has 25 homers and 68 RBIs for the season.
MLB.com has projected his totals for the remainder of the season, and expects Ortiz to hit another eight home runs before he’s done. If that’s the case, it would put him just behind former Orioles first baseman Eddie Murray (504), who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. If Ortiz hits the milestone, and the decision hasn’t been already made, he will have cemented his spot in that same hall in Cooperstown, New York shortly after he retires. Whenever that will be is anyone’s guess:
"“Hey, look, I’m not trying to really accomplish any personal thing […] I’m just trying to play the game the way I’m supposed to play it. If I’m swinging the bat good, I’m going to try to put a good swing on the pitch every time. That’s me. That’s how I play the game. But that’s all I can do, all I can control.”– David Ortiz, via Ian Browne of MLB.com"
Aug 12, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman David Ortiz (34) hits a solo home run at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The nine-time All-Star has played 19 seasons in the majors, 13 of them with Boston, and is set on playing at least another two if the front office in Fenway decides to pick up his team options. If so, Ortiz will be paid $21 million, with the chance to increase that pay if he has 475 at-bats or more. These options were put in place in case Ortiz was injured too much or too often to continue hitting at a high rate. Instead, he’s kept his grasp of the golden sceptre as the leader of the franchise.
Will that title be considered for the greatest Red Sox offensive player ever? Likely not. A couple of guys named Ted and Carl had careers that would take issue with that kind of a claim. However, when it comes to home runs Ortiz is in the debate, even if he still loses to a fan base that has been raised to praise tradition and history. Ted Williams hit 521 home runs in 7706 at-bats; Carl Yastrzemski hit 452 homers in 11988 at-bats; Ortiz, if he earns the nine homers to break the 500 mark by the end of 2015, would do it in approximately 8120 at-bats. That means Williams hit homers at a rate of 6.76%, ahead of Ortiz’s 6.16% and Yaz’s 3.77%.
Still, if Ortiz plays two more years, Williams’ total is not out of the question. And hey, there’s always the Red Sox RBI lead; however, Yaz leads Boston’s all-time mark in that category with 1844 to Ortiz’s current total of 1601. A big 243-foot mountain to climb for Big Papi, but not impossible.
For now, let’s just enjoy the man’s current success. It’s not like there’s been much else to celebrate. Red Sox Nation is proud of its history, and Ortiz is about to add another chapter on his own legendary legacy.
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