Six Boston Red Sox players were named to the 2016 All-Star Game, four actually played, two helped lead the A.L. to victory, but David Ortiz stole the show.
Petco Park in San Diego, California was packed to the gills, waiting in anticipation for the best players in baseball to shine. One man in particular was given the love during the player introductions, almost as much as the San Diego Padres players who were shouted for with great passion and sincerity. With an arm draped around his young ballplayer escort, showing his love for people and the game itself, David Ortiz came out of the dugout to an excellent ovation.
And, while Fox Sports was on a commercial break and didn’t have the ‘pleasure’ of seeing one of The Tenors go ‘lone wolf’ on his group and change the lyrics to the Canadian national anthem to express his political views, the players focussed on how big the moment was for them to play in front of the entire world, last night. Since the winning league would have home field advantage in the World Series, their performances counted a great deal.
The Boston Red Sox were well represented on the field. They had four players crack the starting lineup. Since the American League was considered the home team for the event and would bat second, everyone got to see the prowess of Jackie Bradley Jr. (playing left field), Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts on defense to begin the game. The three men played pretty flawlessly, Bogaerts vacuuming up ground balls and making pin-point throws to first base, while Bradley ran across the field past center fielder Mike Trout to cut off a ball and held Bryce Harper to a double when it should have been an easy triple. Betts didn’t have to do much except look as pretty as always in right field.
Sadly, even though Steven Wright was named to the squad for his fantastic pitching this season, including a 2.68 ERA, he was not utilized by A.L. All-Star manager Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals. Apparently, a knuckleball pitcher was not someone Yost had in mind to put into a close game. That’s not directly from the source; however, when one leaves the best A.L. pitcher for ERA on the bench, people start to wonder if it’s a bit of a slap in the face.
Craig Kimbrel was also named to the All-Star team but he went on the disabled list for weeks with an injury and could not perform.
In terms of scoring, the Red Sox may not have cashed anyone home but they were a big reason why the A.L. won the game. After Eric Hosmer answered the Kris Bryant home run with a solo-shot of his own to tie the game, Betts drilled a sharp single to center field, showing why Boston leads the majors in on-base percentage (.359). Salvador Perez did the rest, as he destroyed a pitch from his former teammate Johnny Cueto over the fence in left field to take the lead 3-1.
Ortiz helped pad that lead, although not directly. The shrewd hitter that he is, Big Papi showed his experience as he earned a walk from young pitching stud Jose Fernandez. Ortiz took seven pitches, wearing down Fernandez, who finally let a curveball get away from him and almost hit Ortiz in the leg. It was very unintentional, and Ortiz laughed it up heartily with Fernandez as he took his free pass to first base.
That would be it for Ortiz and his 10th All-Star appearance. The feeling seemed to be to take Ortiz out of the game early so that he could just enjoy the rest of the night, with everyone coming out of the dugout to celebrate his retiring achievement. Edwin Encarnacion, a good friend of Ortiz, came into the game to pinch run for him and the rest of the A.L. squad showered him with hugs, high-fives, and well wishes all the way back to the king’s throne in the dugout. A standing ovation came from the crowd, marking the last time that Ortiz would ever play in an MLB All-Star game.
Meanwhile, a game happened to keep playing. Bogaerts helped Encarnacion reach third base on a double demolished to left field. Hosmer proved why he would later be named the game’s MVP by singling to score Edwin for a 4-1 lead. Hosmer ended his night 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs.
Not to be left out, Bradley went 2-for-2 on his night, before being substituted on defense in the sixth inning. His first hit was a dribbler that National League catcher Buster Posey left to go foul, but it actually stopped dead on the foul line halfway down to third base, making him safe at first. Not like a throw would have beat Bradley’s lightning speed, anyways. Bradley’s second at-bat showed why he was put on the All-Star team for his offense as well as his defense. He fought off two nasty pitches from Drew Pomeranz to finally single to left field. However, both of his hits did not factor into the scoreboard. Still, a good, short night for Bradley at the plate.
The biggest takeaway from a decent yet mainly uneventful night was Ortiz:
In his interview with Fox Sports, Ortiz looked satisfied with where he is in his life, but he also had some advice for the baseball world. He mentioned that his time in New England, not just Boston, was the best thing to happen to him and his family. He said that he “earned it,” meaning a position on the A.L. roster, saying how he was very proud that it was not just given to him because it was his last season. Ortiz also said that the reason why he was able to do some amazing things in his career, including leading multiple batting categories this year, because he played “fearless” and that he never put pressure on himself in any situation. He said that young players need to learn how to play like that, because life is bigger than baseball and what will be will be.
However, it wasn’t like Ortiz didn’t have his A-game ready. Instead of laying back and just enjoying the moment, Ortiz said that he cautioned the A.L. players to play their hearts out. The All-Star game, whether justly or not, gives the winning league the right to home field advantage in the World Series, and “there’s nothin’ like playin’ at home!” If people were looking for Ortiz to reveal his legacy, it is in those words. Ortiz is all about family, friends, and baseball coming together to make something special. That’s what makes Ortiz special and one of the most beloved players in MLB history.