After being swept by the Cleveland Indians last week in the American League Divisional Series, the Boston Red Sox’s turnaround season came to a screeching halt. Though the best offense in baseball could not bail out the shaky pitching of the starting rotation, most presume that the team will be back in contention for years to come as the young core of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, Travis Shaw and others mature and develop alongside veterans like Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, Rick Porcello and David Price.
However, the leader of the team, the clean-up hitter for the best offense in the game, the heart and soul of the franchise and greatest designated hitter in the history of baseball will not return with them.
With 20 seasons under his belt, David Ortiz has donned a major league uniform for the last time.
Before the 2016 season, the New England icon announced his intention to retire at the conclusion of this campaign. Nevertheless, even while accepting congratulatory gifts such as, among other things, a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, authentic barbecue sauce, a cable car bell, a custom surfboard, a top-end parka and a destroyed dugout phone, rumors swirled regarding whether Ortiz would or should consider postponing his retirement for another year. After all, in the end, he finished the season with a .315 batting average, 38 home runs, 127 runs batted in, 48 doubles and a 1.021 OPS – the last two of which led the MLB.
Big Papi has chalked up his need to retire to injuries he has accumulated over time, in particular, a worsening pain in his legs and feet. Even still, his phenomenal season proved his hitting prowess was still at the very top of the league, and he set records across the board, for both a player in his final season and a player age 40 or older.
Rather unbelievably, at age 40, the former World Series MVP, 10-time All-Star, six-time Silver Slugger award winner and three-time champion still deserves Most Valuable Player award consideration, though he will probably be written off by petty DH-opposed voters.
Not even Father Time could catch up to the Large Father. Ortiz posted record-breaking numbers while carrying the best offense in the league through a bounce-back season and all the way to a division title.
Papi’s tremendous walk-off season puts a bow on his illustrious career. His totals include 2,472 hits, 1,319 walks, 541 homers, and 1,768 RBIs, but fans will remember him for far more than his incredible statistics.
Ortiz helped reverse the 86-year curse that tormented the Boston faithful from 1918 to 2004. He engineered comeback after comeback in the regular season and the postseason against most every team, especially the hated rival hailing from our own Bronx borough. He delivered time and time again, providing numerous iconic moments and maintaining his signature home run celebration, unique batting ritual, and familiar smile all the while.
The King of Clutch will be sorely missed, not only by his teammates on the field and in the clubhouse, but also by fellow players, media and fans. While detractors will attribute his success to PEDs or diminish his accomplishments with the anti-DH argument, he played an integral role in changing the culture of a historic franchise and a notorious fan base, and deserves, without question, to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. See you in Cooperstown, Big Papi. Congratulations and farewell.