The illustrious career of the Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz has come to a close. Given what he has meant to one of the flagship franchises of Major League Baseball for the past 14 years, his departure will create a crated-sized void. He will leave behind quite the legacy; one that had never been seen before and will never be seen again.
Getting it out of the way right off the bat, Ortiz is a Hall-of-Famer and nothing can be said to change my mind of that opinion. There is no need to go over the numbers, as they are not only impressive but have been reviewed with microscopic precision by many before me. People can pick at his record and how it compares to others all they want. They can point to the vast majority of his career being spent as a designated hitter. However, taking his entire body of work, both on and off the field, there is no way he can be denied baseball’s ultimate honor.
As someone who saw most of Ortiz’s games in a Boston uniform over the years, I can say with confidence that he is the most important player I ever saw don a Red Sox uniform. It goes well beyond his statistics. He was an integral part of three teams that won the World Series, including the memorable 2004 squad that took the title 86 years after the team had won its last championship. His gregarious personality and leadership not only defined those teams but also served as a connecting link to the trophies that were won over the span of a decade. The Red Sox probably have had more talented players in their past, such as Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, but none have combined results on the field and in the community with success quite like Ortiz has.
With the admission that the “clutch-ness” of a baseball player cannot possibly be measured, Ortiz has over and over again passed the eye test that can be given. It’s not just his .455 batting average and 1.372 OPS in 14 career World Series games, it’s the countless times he came through when the odds were long and the pressure high. Perhaps no moment was more memorable than the game-tying grand slam he hit in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, which occurred when the team was struggling to scratch out base hits let alone score runs.
Ortiz wasn’t perfect. His much-discussed alleged failed PED test in 2003 has long cast a cloud on his otherwise pristine career. Although he has never been proven to have taken steroids, the suspicion has lingered ever since. However, Commissioner Rob Manfred recently indicated that there is no reason to believe the validity of the test.
Ortiz’s passion also sometime led him to taking things to debatably appropriate lengths, such as arguing a scorer’s decision after a game, or making it known that he was not pleased with the status of his contract. However, at the end of the day, he was human and always represented the Red Sox and the city of Boston to the best of his abilities.
Ortiz would be eternally memorable simply for his feats on the field. His “Big Papi” persona only makes him all the more unforgettable. Adored by adults and children alike, he inspired commercials and Saturday Night Live bits that brought him to a more national and international stage. He used that extended reach to do myriad charitable work, and was best known for his ability to touch the lives of kids.
There is no doubt that Ortiz has left an indelible legacy now that his 2016 season has come to an end. The 40-year-old slugger has provided Boston fans with 14 years of success and amazing memories. Fittingly, he is going out just as strong and productive as when he first joined the team in 2003. It seems like he could play forever but all good things must come to an end. David Ortiz was the best and he has decided it is his time to walk away—a decision he earned the right to make many times over.
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