Photo Credit: Boston
As David Ortiz walks off the field at Fenway Park after being eliminated from the playoffs, he cries. He cries tears of joy because of the past 20 seasons he spent as an MLB player, and his dream of being an American coming true.
After the Minnesota Twins released Ortiz after the 2002 season, the Boston Red Sox decided to snag the designated hitter from the free agents list. Just as Theo Epstein hoped David Ortiz would perform, he did, expected, even up until his last season. He had a .288 batting average, with 31 home runs and 101 runs batted in to finish the season 5th in AL MVP voting in 2003, his first season with the Red Sox. With hopes to end the curse of the Bambino, the Red Sox fell just short in 7 games to the hated New York Yankees.
After this disappointing loss, David Ortiz wanted revenge on the Yankees. In the 2004 season, he finished 2nd in the AL MVP voting with a .301 batting average, 41 home runs, and 139 runs batted in. That 2004 season did not end for him after the last game of the regular season. In game 3 of the ALDS against the Anaheim Angels, he hit a 10th inning walk-off home run to advance to the ALCS to once again play the rival Yankees. Soon after game 3 of the ALCS ended, all hope looked lost for the Red Sox when they lost 19-8 and went down 3-0 in the series. After coming back against perhaps the greatest closer of all time in Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning, David Ortiz stepped up to the plate in the 12th inning and a hit a walk-off home run that would define his carrer. It only seemed right in game 5 that he would step up to the plate in the 14th inning and a hit a walk-off single that sent the Red Sox back to New York for games 6 and 7. The Red Sox ended up winning the series and David Ortiz was named the ALCS MVP for his historical heroics. It didn’t stop there, as Boston swept the 105-win St. Louis Cardinals for their first World Series since 1918.
Before the season started in 2005, the Red Sox presented David Ortiz with a plaque that read: “The Greatest Red Sox Clutch Hitter of All Time”. After failing to win the MVP award with numbers a .300 batting average, 47 home runs, and 148 runs batted in, Ortiz and the Red Sox fell short to the eventual champions Chicago White Sox in the playoffs. After his latest near-AL MVP season, Ortiz was set out to destroy the MLB again. He batted .287 with 54 home runs and 137 runs batted in the following season, finishing 3rd in AL MVP votes. His contract was up after the season, so the easy move for Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein was to re-sign him for to a 4-year $54 million contract.
The 2007 season showed so much promise for young players like Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and other surrounding players to help David Ortiz and the Red Sox win their 2nd World Series title in four seasons. Even though David only finished 4th in the voting for AL MVP, he still finished top 10 in all three major batting categories, racking up .332 batting average with 35 home runs and 117 runs batted in. In the postseason, he had a .370 batting average and indeed helped the Red Sox win their 2nd World Series in four years. The 2008 season was a very disappointing season for the power hitter. He only played 108 games and hit a low .264 batting average with 23 home runs and 89 runs batted in. For the first time in years, he had a slump to start off a season in 2009, but it was brought to a halt after he hit 7 home runs in 7 days.
The 2010 season did not produce much excitement for Ortiz aside of winning the home run derby against former (and future) teammate Hanley Ramirez in the final round. Ortiz batted a .270 average with 32 home runs and 102 runs batted in, finishing once again top 10 in the AL MVP voting. In a down year of power during the 2011 season, Ortiz only hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 runs batted in. On July 16th, 2012, David Ortiz suffered an Achilles tendon injury. He only ended up playing 90 games that season but, still bat .318 with 23 home runs and 60 runs batted in.
If one year truly defined his career, it would be 2013. Not only did he show that age is a just a number in the postseason, but he also gave an inspiring speech to the city of Boston after the horrific terrorist bombings in April. In the ALDS, he went deep on Rays’ ace David Price twice. He also hit a grand slam in game 2 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, which would help the Red Sox tie the series and eventually go on to win it. In games 1 and 2 against the Cardinals in the World Series, Ortiz went deep twice. The Red Sox went on to win their 3rd World Series in 10 seasons, and Ortiz was named World Series MVP.
The 2014 season was an average year for Ortiz. He batted a .263 average with 35 home runs and 104 runs batted in. The Red Sox signed him to a 1-year $16 million extension for 2015. In 2015, his stats were similar to 2014 batting a .273 averaed with 37 home runs and 108 runs batted in. At the MLB All-Star game in Cincinnati, he was announced one of the Red Sox “Franchise Four”, voted for by the fans. He also hit his 500th home run this season.
The 2016 season will be remembered by fans forever. At age 40, David Ortiz defied the odds of his age. It seemed his bat would not stop after batting an impressive .315 batting averaged with 38 home runs and 127 runs batted in . On October 2nd, 2016, the Red Sox decided to retire his number starting in the 2017 season.
One thing Ortiz did not expect was to be swept by the Cleveland Indians in this season’s ALDS to end his career. However, his charity and good soul will forever be remembered by the baseball and sports communities.
Thank you Big Papi!