As Red Sox fans celebrate David Ortiz’ 500th home run, it’s a good time to discuss Ortiz’ overall impact in Red Sox history. Ortiz joined elite company last night. Not only has Ortiz put his name on the 500 HR list, but he has made a significant impact on all three Red Sox championships. An argument could easily be made that the Red Sox would be in year 97 without a championship without David Ortiz. As we discussed in a post earlier this year, Ortiz is under appreciated in Boston. There’s a lot of negativity around him and the reality is that his impact on Boston sports is right there with Tom Brady. Here’s the link to that post.
When most Red Sox fans consider the top players in Red Sox history, the names that normally come up are Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, and Pedro Martinez. It’s now time to add Ortiz to this list if he wasn’t already there. Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice have recently had their numbers retired. Ortiz has blown past both of them. Williams is going to top the list. He’s arguably the best hitter in the history of MLB. Williams posted a career .344 average, 521 home runs, a .482 OBP, and a 1.1116 OPS. These are just ridiculous numbers. Although Williams never won a World Series, he is the elite player in the history of the Red Sox.
After Williams, many fans would argue that Yastrzemski is next on the Sox all-time list. Yaz posted a .285 career average, 452 home runs, and a .841 OPS. These are very impressive numbers. In addition, Yaz was an elite defender in the outfield for the majority of his 23 year career. The knock against Ortiz is that he doesn’t play the field. Here’s where Yaz gets a significant edge.
Here’s where Yaz doesn’t have the edge over Ortiz: Everything else. Stats? Ortiz has a career .284 average, 500 home runs, and a .925 OPS. That’s a significant difference. These numbers were also in four less seasons that Yaz. Believe it or not, David Ortiz is a better hitter than Carl Yastrzemski was. In terms of overall impact on the team, you could make the argument that Ortiz tops everyone in Red Sox history. Has there been a more clutch hitter in the team’s history including Williams?
Ortiz’ numbers improve significantly in the postseason. He has a .295 average, a .962 OPS, 17 home runs, and 60 RBI’s in 82 career games. Yaz posted outstanding postseason numbers as well. He had a .369 average, a 1.047 OPS, 4 home runs, and 11 RBI’s in 17 postseason games. He played very well in 1967 and 1975, but he wasn’t able to lead the Red Sox to a championship like Ortiz did. Granted, the 1967 team was not loaded with talent like the 2004 Red Sox were. While very talented, the 1975 team had to face a very strong Cincinnati Reds team and fell short. Ortiz’ teams did not face a team like Cincinnati, but the 2004 Yankees were very strong as were the Cardinals teams that the Red Sox defeated twice in the World Series.
From a Red Sox all time player standpoint, it may come down to this. With the game on the line, who do you want at the plate? This is similar to the Bird vs. Magic debate in basketball. Take the stats and championships out of it. Who do you want to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line? You’re taking Larry. In this debate, I’m taking Ortiz. He has been the most clutch hitter in baseball in the last 20 years. The Red Sox do not win the 2004 World Series without his two walk off hits against the Yankees in the ALCS. They do not win the 2013 World Series without him batting .688 in the series. This to go along with his grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS. Yaz had his great moments as well, but none were as big as Ortiz’.
Many fans would argue that Pedro Martinez is #2 on the all time list for the Red Sox. That’s a fair argument. No one was more dominant than Pedro in a seven year span. From a positional player standpoint, I’m taking Ortiz after Williams. His numbers, impact, and clutch play all outweigh the fact that he is a DH. He brought three World Series to a team that went 86 years without one. The impact this player has made is underrated and under appreciated because he doesn’t play in the field.
Get ready for the “Ortiz is done” talk next May if he gets off to another slow start. Until then, enjoy what you are watching. You may not ever see another player like him again.