Red Sox DH David Ortiz vs Broncos QB Peyton Manning


Comparing the legacies of two of the top athletes of this generation, Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz and Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

When Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning steps out on to the field for Super Bowl 50 it very well may be for the last time in his storied career. Here in this neck of the woods we have an athlete who is also expected to play the last game of his prolific career in 2016, Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz.

How do you compare the legacies of two of the top players of their generation in their respective sports? Let’s break down their resumes.

Peyton Manning

5-time MVP award winner
14-time Pro Bowl selections
71,940 passing yards (first all-time)
539 passing touchdowns (first all-time)
96.5 passer rating (5th all-time)
1 Super Bowl title (aiming for his second this year)
1 Super Bowl MVP

David Ortiz

Five top-5 finishes in MVP voting (highest was second place)
9-time All-Star
6-time Silver Slugger
503 home runs (27th all-time)
1,641 RBI (30th all-time)
51.4 Offensive WAR (154th all-time)
3 World Series titles
1 World Series MVP

At first it would appear that Manning has the better career numbers in a landslide, but we have to factor in that Ortiz’s career rankings are against every hitter that has played the game for well over a century. The NFL’s record books don’t date back nearly as far, while Manning is only competing against fellow quarterbacks in the above mentioned categories, not all offensive players. Ortiz also has one more season left in the tank, where he can add to his resume and climb those all-time lists.

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If we were to consider their legacy based exclusively on the position they play, Ortiz makes a strong case for being the best hitter to ever spend the bulk of their career in the designated hitter role. Only Edgar Martinez comes close to challenging Ortiz’s statistical resume among the best DH’s in history, but Ortiz’s power numbers and postseason accomplishments give him the edge. Manning is undoubtedly one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, but he’s not at the top of the list. That spot is reserved for a certain quarterback that resides here in New England, while legends like Joe Montana and John Elway are among those that warrant consideration for being ahead of Manning on that list.

Ortiz has never won a regular season MVP award, but that’s partially due to the bias against designated hitters. Even in his best seasons, some voters refused to put him at the top of their ballot because he doesn’t provide any defensive value. Manning doesn’t play defense either, but he does play a position that is arguably the most important in all of sports in terms of how much he impacts the game. This is why the MVP winner is almost always a quarterback, while no player in league history has more MVP trophies than the five that sit on Manning’s mantle.

Where Ortiz does have Manning beat is in the postseason. Big Papi has played a significant role in each of the three World Series titles that the Red Sox have won during his tenure with the franchise, while establishing himself as one of the best playoff hitters ever. Ortiz is at his best on the biggest stage, with a .962 OPS in the playoffs that is above his career mark in the regular season. His 17 career postseason home runs are the 7th most all-time and he finds himself in the top-10 on postseason lists for RBIs, walks, hits, doubles and total bases.

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Manning needs a win in Super Bowl 50 to prevent having a losing record in his postseason career, while even if he does win he’ll still fall one title short of Ortiz. Instead of stepping up his game in the playoffs the way Ortiz has, Manning’s passer rating falls from 96.5 in the regular season to 88.1 in the postseason. That’s still good for the 15th best playoff rating in NFL history, but a steep drop from what we’ve seen him do in the regular season.

It’s clear that the statistical resume that Manning has compiled in his career is more impressive than what Oritz has accomplished, but Ortiz has had more postseason success. He’s a lot like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in that respect. Brady may not catch Manning’s passing records, but he’s still the greatest of all time when you consider his four Super Bowl titles and far superior playoff record of 22-9, giving hi the most playoff victories of any quarterback in history.

Both of these remarkable athletes are bound for the Hall of Fame in their respective sports. Manning’s legacy will be captured in the record books, but flags fly forever. If winning a championship is the ultimate goal then Ortiz’ contributions to those three titles gives him the edge. Manning can improve his legacy and close the gap with Ortiz with a Super Bowl win on Sunday. Perhaps he’ll follow in the footsteps of his team’s executive vice president, John Elway, by riding off into the sunset as a champion.

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Even if the Broncos win on Sunday, don’t count out Ortiz’s chances of adding another title to close out his own career. With a revamped pitching staff the Red Sox are poised to become contenders again, potentially giving Ortiz the chance to end his career as a champion and cement his status as one of the greatest postseason performers ever in any sport. That’s the legacy he’s striving for and one Manning can’t quite touch regardless of what happens in this year’s Super Bowl.