Friday, June 23, 2017
The Boston Red Sox will retire David Ortiz’s No. 34 in a pregame ceremony tonight, making him just the 10th Red Sox player to receive the honor.
Big Papi joins Wade Boggs, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez, Johnny Pesky, Jim Rice, Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski as Red Sox icons who have earned this distinction. However, Ortiz will become the first Red Sox player to have his number retired within a year of his final game.
Ortiz’s place in Red Sox history, and in major league history, is cemented.
A 10-time All Star over his 14 years in Boston, Ortiz was instrumental in the Red Sox' 2004, 2007 and 2013 World Series titles, coming through with huge clutch hits that propelled the team to each of those championships. In fact, Ortiz was the MVP of the 2013 World Series.
Ortiz famously holds the Red Sox single-season record for home runs with 54, which he set during the 2006 season.
He is also in the top five in most offensive categories on the Red Sox' all-time list. For example, only Williams hit more homers (521) for the Red Sox than the 483 belted by Ortiz. And Ortiz ranks third in RBI, behind only Williams and Yastrzemski.
Ortiz had 10 100-RBI seasons with Boston, passing Williams for the most in franchise history. He joined Babe Ruth, Albert Pujols, Hank Aaron and Lou Gehrig as the only players with 10 or more seasons of at least 30 homers and 100 RBI for a single team.
Yes, Ortiz is more than just an all-time Red Sox great; he proved himself to be one of the game’s all time greats.
Consider this: throughout the game’s history, more than 15,000 men have taken the field as Major League Baseball players.
Ortiz finished his illustrious career ranked:
8th in extra-base hits (tied with Ken Griffey Jr.)
10th in doubles
17th in home runs
22nd in RBI
24th in slugging
30th in OPS
31st in total bases
40th in walks
Those achievements, against the background of 15,000 historical players, put his remarkable career in perspective.
Big Papi was great over a sustained period and was a premier player right until the very end. He concluded his career by having the greatest season for any 40-year-old in baseball history, and his most productive since 2012. Ortiz established single-season records for players over the age of 40 in home runs, RBI, doubles and extra-base hits. In fact, he recorded the most home runs and RBI by any player in his final season, and many of the game’s great players retired earlier than age 40.
No, Ortiz didn’t go out with a whimper, as so many aging athletes do. Instead, he went out with a bang. In 151 games, the Sox legend slashed .315/.401/.620 with 38 homers and 127 RBI, which was tied for first in the AL. Ortiz also led all players with a .620 slugging percentage, a 1.021 OPS and 48 doubles.
His 38 homers – which included 16 of the go-ahead variety – and 127 RBI were his best totals since 2006.
For those exploits, Ortiz earned another Silver Slugger award last season, an honor that goes to the top hitter at each position in his respective league. It was the seventh Silver Slugger for Ortiz, the most by any DH in history.
Ortiz also won the Hank Aaron Award for the American League, given to the best offensive performer in each league. It was the second time Ortiz won the award, previously collecting the prize in 2005.
However, Papi's greatness may never have been more evident than this year, when he hasn’t played a single game.
With Ortiz at the helm, the Red Sox led the Majors in runs scored last year. This season, Boston ranks 17th in runs and 27th in home runs.
The Red Sox biggest challenge this season has been attempting to replace Ortiz’s offensive impact. Pitchers feared and respected Ortiz. Last year, he walked 80 times, leading to his stellar .401 on-base percentage. Who in the current lineup do pitchers truly fear?
As the Red Sox have discovered, there is no replacing David Ortiz. From his personality and charm off the field, to his presence in the clubhouse and dugout, Ortiz has left some very big shoes to fill.
Tonight, the Red Sox and their fans will say a hearty "Thank You" to Big Papi for the three championships and all the great memories through the years.
It's a chance for all of us to say, "We salute you, David!"