It’s finally here! Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season is today. The Red Sox open their season on Monday at Fenway Park. After another overhyped snowstorm this past weekend, baseball fans along with just about everyone in the Boston area are ready to move to spring. Monday is the day that happens. Opening Day brings life into the city. It presents hope for 70 degree weather and also for another great season of Red Sox baseball. Opening Day is an event. It’s more than just a game and in a city as rich in tradition and winning as Boston, it’s a lot of fun. With all of the hype and anticipation of spring, there will be something missing tomorrow. While his presence may be between the lines for the festivities, David Ortiz will not be in the Red Sox lineup in 2017. This is the first time since 2003 that Big Papi hasn’t been part of the Boston Red Sox roster.
David Ortiz was to the Red Sox what Tom Brady is to the Patriots. He was an elite talent. He seemingly always came through in the big moments. He was a winner in every sense of the word. And now, he’s gone. Much has been made about how the Red Sox replace Ortiz production. We’ve all heard it. No one player can replace Ortiz production, but they will be able to do it as a team. Of course, this is very true. The Red Sox are loaded with young talent and these players continue to improve year after year. This should prove to be no different this year. But, there’s more to it than production, right? The big question is who’s the next face of the organization?
While the Red Sox struggled for 86 years to win a World Series before Ortiz played his first game in a Sox uniform, there was certainly no shortage of elite players on this team. Ted Williams was the face of the organization for 19 seasons. He passed the torch onto Yaz who led the team for 23 years. Towards the end when Yaz’ production dipped, he had elite players like Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, and Carton Fisk to help carry the weight. From there, it was Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens. Then Nomar and Pedro. Pedro passed the torch to Ortiz and he’s held it ever since. So, who’s next?
The answer most fans would give is Dustin Pedroia. He’s a true leader. He’s the guy sets the right example for the rest of the team with his extraordinary effort and leadership by example. However, at this point in his career, Pedroia is not a player that other teams fear like Williams, Yaz, Boggs, Clemens, Pedro, or Ortiz. The Red Sox have that guy already, but many fans just don’t realize it.
Mookie Betts is not just the best player on the Boston Red Sox. He’s also the best player in Major League Baseball. Think that’s a stretch? Well, he won the Sliver Slugger Award and the Gold Glove Award for his position last season at age 23. He hit .318 with 31 home runs and 113 RBI while spending most of the season hitting leadoff. He also had 42 doubles and 26 stolen bases. He led the American League in Total Bases with 359. He finished 2nd in the league to Mike Trout in the MVP voting and he probably should have won it. Again, remember the age. This is a player who now is just 24 years old. He’s not even close to his prime yet and he’s signed for the next five seasons with the Red Sox.
Does Mookie Betts have the leadership qualities, personality, and clubhouse presence that David Ortiz had? Of course not. Ortiz didn’t have it when he was 24 either. In fact, when Ortiz was that age he was a platoon player for the Minnesota Twins. What the Red Sox have here is a special talent who may be unlike we’ve ever seen in Boston. The only players in Red Sox history who can really compare to Betts overall five tool season that Betts had last year would be Fred Lynn in the mid-late 70’s or Yaz in his peak years.
Winter is over. David Ortiz’ career is over. It’s time to spring forward and pass the torch at Fenway Park tomorrow to the next all-time great Red Sox player. Mookie Betts.