It’s hard enough to be a millennial in the post-David Ortiz era of the Boston Red Sox.
Don’t get me wrong, the new guys are great (sometimes).
But for those of us who grew up in Big Papi’s town, it’s hard not to compare every slugger to him. To wish he was still here when the bases are loaded with two outs. To wonder what the 2021 ALCS looks like with him in the lineup. For 14 years, we didn’t have to worry about any of these things, because he was here.
But what if he hadn’t been? What if his time in Boston had been much shorter? Ahead of Ortiz’s Hall of Fame induction this weekend, his longtime teammate Dustin Pedroia blew up their former team’s spot, informing WEEI’s Rob Bradford that early in the 2009 season, an injured Big Papi’s future with the team was at risk:
"“His thing was, ‘Uh, well they are talking about releasing me.”"
Pedroia says he kept a level head and erased his teammate’s concerns:
"“I was like, ‘David, if they are talking about releasing you, you just go over to the Yankees and you’ll be hitting 60 home runs against us. It would have been the dumbest move in all of baseball.”"
Dustin Pedroia says Red Sox considered releasing David Ortiz in 2009
The Red Sox releasing David Ortiz. Can you imagine? The ripple effect is enormous, beyond comprehension.
If the Sox release Ortiz in 2009, they’re not the Wild Card team that fall. His 500th career home run is in another uniform. His leadership guides other players. His October greatness lifts another team to glory.
Most of all, there’s no “This is our bleeping city.” No Boston Strong. No 2013 World Series. No reclamation of Boston after the devastation of the Marathon Bombing.
It’s a Boston Red Sox twilight zone too horrifying to even consider. One in which the absence of Ortiz also almost certainly guarantees the absence of other stars, acquired to build around the big man. And the Yankees, whom he demolished with back-to-back walk-offs in the 2004 ALCS, absolutely would have scooped him up.
The Baltimore Orioles’ bullpen phone might be safe, though.
Thankfully, it never happened. Ortiz found his swing, hitting 28 homers that year and breaking the record for career home runs by a designated hitter. Most importantly, he stayed with the Red Sox until his very last game. He became one of the greatest players this franchise will ever see. His #34 hangs at Fenway Park, never to be worn by another. The bridge that brings fans from Kenmore Square to the ballpark bears his name, as does Gate 34 at Boston’s Logan Airport. And this weekend when he is enshrined in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, his bronze plaque will immortalize him wearing a Red Sox cap.
This is his bleeping city.
But Pedroia’s revelation about his soon-to-be Hall of Famer teammate should serve as a cautionary tale for today’s front office, currently lowballing Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, as they often did to Ortiz.
What will this team look like without them?
May we never have to find out.