David Ortiz has had a tremendous impact on the Red Sox success over the past twelve years. He’s received his fair share of praise for his contributions to a team that has won three championships and, for the most part, has been an annual contender. That last part may not relate right now to the team we’ve seen on the field the past two years, but that will be a story for another day. Ortiz has been regarded as one of the top power hitters in the game and a player who comes through in clutch situations. He was the only player on the team for all three championships and his performance in the playoffs was praised. Given everything he has done for this team, you would think his legacy would be more positively noted. Over the past six years, there has been a lot of negativity around Big Papi. We’ve been hearing more negative publicity than positive. Given his impact on this team and the city of Boston, Ortiz deserves better.
Let’s start with some of the reasons why there’s negativity around Ortiz. I’ll say this: He brings some of it onto himself. His constant arguing over balls and strikes has been getting old for a long time. It never looks good and it has even cost his team with multiple ejections and suspensions. He also has made his fair share of negative comments through the media. Whether it’s about his contract status, the umpires, or steaming in on Francona’s press conference in 2011, he doesn’t do a great job of keeping these thoughts internal. Lastly, he doesn’t run hard to first base. If he hits a ground ball and he knows he’ll be out, he jogs to first. He’s certainly not the only player that does it, but a lot of fans have a problem with that. Boston is a city of hard-working people, and when those people hear someone complaining and not running hard to first, they have a tough time relating to that.
In April 2009, David Ortiz began to get a lot of negativity in Boston. This was not because of any of the reasons listed above. It was regarding performance. He hit .230 with no home runs for the month. In May, it got worse as he hit .143 with one home run. And so it began. David Ortiz was done. We heard people talking about trading him or not even being able to. We heard that he should be benched. As it got worse, we heard that he was too old and should just retire. At just 33 years old, it was over… Ortiz went on to hit .238 with 28 home runs and 99 RBI’s that year. Not bad for a guy that many people wanted on a bus out of town. .238 was obviously well below expectations, but he hit 27 home runs in four months. At the beginning of the following season, it happened again. He hit .143 with one home run in April of 2010. What happened in the final four months in 2009 was perceived to be a fluke and this time it was over! This was until he hit .363 with 10 home runs are 27 RBI’s in May. The amazing part about this was fans were surprised that he rebounded in May and had another great season. The final numbers were .270 with 32 home runs and 102 RBI’s. Since then we’ve all been wondering “is this the year”? Six years since this was being discussed, we’re discussing the same topic this year. He has delivered year after year. Granted, this will all end one year and it could be this year. He’s 39 years old. The point is that David Ortiz has proven many people wrong over the past six years. Don’t give up on him just yet.
In my opinion, there should be a lot more focus on the positives with Ortiz. Do you remember what it was like to be a Red Sox fan before 2004? Remember what the Yankee games at Fenway were like? The mocking, the chants, the entitlement? After the Aaron Boone home run, many people, including myself, wondered if the curse was real. The 2004 team was loaded with talent and that was a team effort that we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives. Let’s be clear: None of it happens without David Ortiz. If he didn’t carry that team on his shoulders with clutch hitting in Games 4 and 5 against the Yankees, there would have been no bloody sock, no Damon grand slam, and no celebration at Yankee Stadium. The same is true for the 2007 and 2013 championships. The 2007 team was the best in baseball from start to finish and Ortiz was a driving force through the regular season and the playoffs. He batted .332 with 35 home runs and 117 RBI’s. He then went on to bat .370 in the playoffs. Similar to 2004, 2013 isn’t even debatable. The grand slam in Game 2 vs. Detroit is what won that series. That series would have been over if the Red Sox lost that game and headed to Detroit down 2-0. He was the MVP of the World Series, batting .688. .388 would have been a great number here. .688 is just flat out ridiculous. The intangibles that sometimes work against him worked for him this time, as he was the leader in the clubhouse and he gave a speech to the team in Game 4 that helped rally the team and turned that series around for the Sox. Has there been a Boston player who has contributed anything close to this who has gotten more criticism?
Without David Ortiz, the Red Sox are now in year 97 of not winning a championship. It would be the same as it was in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. Strong, contending teams with a lot of talent who couldn’t win the championship we all coveted and needed. We would all be in fear of what it would be like to go to Fenway in 2018 against the Yankees to hear their chants of 100 years with no championships. “1918!” The Red Sox would be ridiculed even worse than they were after the 2003 playoffs. Dent, Buckner, Little… The impact this player has had goes far beyond just the performance on the field. He changed everything. Still want to talk about jogging to first?
Ortiz’s impact to the Red Sox is very similar to Tom Brady’s impact to the Patriots. One could even argue that it had more of an impact considering the need there was for a Red Sox championship. This is not suggesting that Ortiz is as good of a player as Brady. He’s not. However, if you look at Brady’s impact in terms of winning and championships, it’s probably safe to say that the Patriots don’t win a Super Bowl without him. In terms of clutch play in big games, Brady has had his moments, but no one has done more in the clutch than Ortiz for any Boston team in the past 15 years. Brady changed the Patriots. Ortiz changed the Red Sox. Both teams went from being viewed as losers and are now winners at a level that puts them at the top of their respective sport over the past 15 years. They have combined for seven championships during this period and have made our sports experiences better than we ever could have hoped or imagined. Brady gets this recognition and the support for him has never been more clear than right now. This support stems from everything he’s done on the field to make the Patriots a winner. It’s about his production and impact on winning. Ortiz’s production and impact on winning has done the same. Simply put, he does not get the credit he deserves for the impact he has had.
Do you think David Ortiz would get the same support Brady is getting right now?