David Ortiz is performing at an unbelievable level and the discussion has ramped up by the media and fans about him potentially playing one more year. Through 37 games, Ortiz is batting .320 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI. His .695 Slugging % and 1.101 OPS lead all of Major League Baseball. In other words, David Ortiz has been the best power hitter in baseball in 2016. He has had many highlights over the course of the season, but there were none better than Saturday’s game vs. the Astros. After hitting a home run earlier in the game, Ortiz hit a game tying triple with two outs in the 9th inning and then won the game with a double in the 11th inning. Ortiz’ performance in this game was the perfect example of how this player has been the best clutch hitter in baseball over the past 15 years. There really isn’t a close second. Ortiz also became only the third player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs and 600 doubles. The other two players are Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. We could go on and on about Ortiz’ place in history. However, today’s post is going to focus on Ortiz’ retirement and if there’s any potential of him returning for the 2017 season.
Ortiz announced his retirement well before the start of the 2016 season. He made it clear that this would be his last season. At the time, the decision was not overly surprising, but this player did hit 37 home runs with 108 RBI last year. There was really no sign of slowing down. In other words, the decision was probably not performance based. Ortiz is 40 years old. It takes a lot for him to get into shape to play baseball. Perhaps, we don’t know exactly how much he puts into it and if it has a toll on his body. Having said that, he certainly doesn’t look like a guy who is ready to retire. His performance speaks for itself. In addition, he looks like he’s having a lot of fun this year. It could be because he knows it’s his last year and he wants to take it all in one last time.
When Ortiz announced his retirement, the Red Sox were coming off consecutive last place finishes. In 2014 and 2015, the Red Sox were out of contention by mid-July and they played the majority of the second half of their season with no chance for the postseason. Ortiz continued to come to the ballpark every day and produced in the second half of the season. In fact, in 2015, he led the American League in RBI in the second half of the season last year with 65 RBI. He could have very easily mailed it in like many older players do when their team has nothing to play for. Why is this relevant? When Ortiz made his decision, he had come off of two consecutive years where he was on a team that had nothing to play for in August and September. Remember, this is a player who thrives on the big stage. He’s a player who is used to winning and helped lead the Red Sox to three championships in a ten-year span. Ortiz cares about winning and he didn’t experience it at all in the last two seasons.
In 2016, Ortiz looks like he’s having a lot of fun. For starters, the Red Sox are much improved. They currently stand at 24-14 which is tied for first place in the American League East. Not only is the team playing better, but the players appear to be having a lot of fun this year. Look at the highlights of Ortiz at third base and the Red Sox bench after he hit the triple to tie the game on Saturday. That says it all. Big Papi is asked daily about whether or not he is reconsidering retirement. He’s sticking to his answer. However, the decision has to be more difficult for him than it was last winter after days like Saturday. Will there be a reconsideration? Only he can answer that question. Granted, it’s still early and this question may be discussed more later in the season. A lot can happen now and then. Can Ortiz continue to hit like this? Will the Red Sox continue their winning ways? Time will tell.
Right now, the decision on retirement is one Ortiz is sticking by. His performance and the winning have to make it harder for him. Here’s another thing that could make it harder. Ortiz currently is finishing out a two-year, $32 million contract in which he’s making $16 million this year. The Red Sox have a team option for $10 million next year. Hypothetically, what if the Red Sox were to tear up that option and present Ortiz with a one-year contract for double of that option was? Now that would certainly be a lot for a Designated Hitter. However, if anyone is worth it, it’s Ortiz. The Red Sox have the money to spend and the overall impact Ortiz makes on the franchise is evident.
If the Red Sox decide they want Ortiz back, they’re going to need to make him a tremendous offer to reconsider. If Ortiz is considering coming back at all, the Red Sox could make it a more difficult decision. Perhaps, it won’t matter. Maybe his mind is made up no matter what. But, if he keeps hitting like this, the Red Sox keep winning, and he enjoys himself this season as his did in previous championship seasons then it might be harder for him to walk away.
David Ortiz’ retirement is very unique. How many players have retired when they are at the top of their game? While many players hang on for too long, there aren’t many that retire when they are still elite at what they do. Barry Sanders may be the only example. For David Ortiz, it may not be about performance. It may not be about money. It may just be the right time for him. If that’s the case, then good for him and he will leave the game on his terms after an amazing career. It’s going to be hard to imagine the Red Sox without Ortiz when he’s producing like this.
Many fans are asking why is Ortiz retiring. The only thing that matters is whether or not Ortiz is also asking himself that same question.