David Ortiz, designated hitter extraordinaire of the Boston Red Sox, has dropped the “R” word upon Red Sox Nation – and that “R” is for retirement. This latest non home run bomb from Papi appeared via Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports via Twitter.
Ortiz is in the last year of his current contract that pays Papi $16 million for 2016, so if Ortiz holds to his word we will miss out on the annual Ortiz contract theatrics that are as much of spring and early summer as the flowers blooming in our garden. That will be a disappointment.
This announcement also brings some question into a farewell tour that Papi has expressed he wishes to avoid. With this advanced warning, Ortiz will undoubtedly be honored by the various teams in baseball that have fallen victim to his prodigious production numbers such as last season’s .273/.360/.553 with 37 home runs and 108 RBI. Not bad for a then 39-year-old.
The highlight of the dismal 2015 season for the Red Sox was the trek to 500 home runs by Ortiz, which he accomplished with relative ease. Another milestone to be attached to his exception history of clutch performances and being a key cog in three Red Sox World Series Champions.
With the potential retirement of Ortiz – and I am one to never say it is over until it is over – brings in question the potential opening at DH. With Hanley Ramirez shuffling to first base that DH slot could open up for HR in 2017.
For me, the Ortiz years bring into some very vivid memories and I will avoid the ones related to his hitting skills since BSI would need a new bank of servers to detail those heroics. Here are a few, and that will be expanded as 2016 goes forward.
• The speech after the Marathon Bombing was a classic and quite appropriate considering the circumstances. Ortiz is known as an excessive user of questionable language and that certainly spiked it to all of us.
• The barging in on a Terry Francona press conference. Ortiz – miffed over a scoring decision – became the victim of a prank by the impish Dustin Pedroia and left Tito smiling and scratching his head. Pedroia apparently delights in poking a rather large hornet’s nest with a stick.
• I have serious doubts about PED use. Vitamins? Seriously? Yes – I think Papi dabbled in using banned substances.
• His play at first base. Ortiz was simply not a stiff. Granted – at his size the mobility would not have Ortiz making it through the first round of “Dancing With The Stars,” but the big bopper had good instincts and could catch the ball. Think of that heads up play in the World Series against St. Louis.
• The bat flip. Ortiz was a certified bat flip instructor and you can see the results – Jose Bautista is a skilled student. Ortiz had that flipped mastered and he rarely came up short. Nothing like a player flipping a bat and trotting as the ball careens off a wall.
• The sub-set of the bat flip is the home run trot. With Pablo Sandoval this is the home run waddle, but Papi could have his trot measured with an hourglass. There was a stat once showing that Ortiz was “The leader” in time to trot.
• Did Papi ever have a called third strike? Or second? Or first? Literally every strike – be it a corner cutter or right down Broadway would be questioned. The very last thing “Blue” wants is to have a player turn around and sneer after a called strike. Ortiz personified that nasty little habit.
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• The spit. Is Ortiz part camel? Does he load up with a two-liter bottle of water before each at bat? The routine is rather clear – step out, place bat under his arm, spit into batting glove and rub hands together. This is followed by a return to the batter’s box and after another pitch the process is repeated.
• The home run trot is one thing, but that trot on a pop-up, fly ball or grounder just doesn’t cut it with me. I do believe that even the best of hitters should put in a reasonable effort at doing the very basics. Complete every play is the standard coaching philosophy that seems to disappear as players move up the professional ladder.
• The shift. Oh the complaints about hitting into the shift or not bunting to take advantage of the shift. Ortiz is a gifted hitter and he did occasionally attempt to place a bunt or a ground ball towards a vacant third base. However, I have noticed as he matured (euphemism for getting old) that Papi certainly was able to drive the ball the opposite way consistently and with power. Ted Williams rarely did that when faced with the shift.
• The Koji Uehara bear hug. I am probably 99.99% sure that any injury time Koji has suffered is the direct result of Ortiz treating the diminutive closer like a Raggedy Andy Doll.
• Respect is a word often misplaced, but Ortiz has that in buckets. You see it in those dugout shots and post-game celebrations. This is also into that category of leadership.
• A weighty issue. Ortiz was drifting off into Orca territory a few seasons back and got the message. Weight is a life issue and also a professional one. Ortiz trimmed down and has stayed there. Now if only another player got the message?
• The annual golf tournament and other charitable functions. Ortiz has a heart as big as his home run total.