There’s never an improper time for the Red Sox to appreciate the services of Big Papi.
I can still remember October 18th, 2004.
I was only in fifth grade at the time, so staying up till 11:00 p.m. on a Monday night was unheard of for me. My parents had sent me to bed, but what they didn’t know (or acted like they didn’t know) is I was listening to Game 5 of the 2004 American League Championship Series on the radio by my bed. Every time the Red Sox came up to bat, I would sneak out of my room, stand right outside their room in a spot they couldn’t see me, and watch the game on their TV just waiting for something to happen.
In the bottom of the 14th inning, it did.
With two outs, Johnny Damon was on second base with Manny Ramirez behind him at first. In stepped David Ortiz. Less than 24 hours removed from Ortiz hitting a walk-off home run to win Game 4 for the Red Sox, lightning struck twice. On the tenth pitch of the at-bat, Ortiz knocked a base hit into shallow centerfield. I remember mouthing “YES!” with my arms raised as Joe Buck said “Damon, running to the plate, and he can keep on running to New York. Game 6, tomorrow night”. I ran back into my room, pretended I had been sleeping, then acted shocked when my dad came in to tell me the Red Sox won. For me, it was the start of something big.
Say what you want about Game 4, but Game 5 was the night the legacy of David Ortiz was truly born. Sure, he hit the walk-off home run in Game 4, but that will always take a back seat to Dave Roberts’ stolen base. Winning Game 4 meant the Red Sox were still trailing 3-1 which, unless you’re playing the Cleveland Indians, is still tough to overcome. Now, trailing 3-2, momentum was in the Red Sox favor while heavy pressure was preparing to take its toll on the New York Yankees. It was mostly thanks to the man who was about to become the face of the franchise.
A Realization of the End
I also still remember November 18th, 2015. I had a little bit of down time at work so I decided to check my phone. It was blown up with notifications that stunned me. David Ortiz had announced that the 2016 season would be his last. I was shocked. Ortiz signed with the Red Sox when I was eight-years-old. I didn’t really know what it was like to watch an Ortiz-less Red Sox team. I, along with the rest of Red Sox Nation, immediately thought the team had to win one more World Series for him.
The 2016 season saw the David Ortiz Retirement Tour. Much like Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter before him, it felt like the entire season was his victory lap. He was given gifts and good-bye’s as he played his final regular season games in opposing teams’ ballparks. It was a huge storyline. The other storyline? The Red Sox won the American League East and found themselves ready for one final postseason run with David Ortiz leading the charge.
The Red Sox drew the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. It’s been overlooked, but the Indians actually had the better season and earned home field advantage against the Red Sox. The David Ortiz storyline incorrectly casted Cleveland as a simple stepping stone to bigger things. The Indians jumped out to a 2-0 lead, leaving the Red Sox quickly facing elimination. It was not time to panic yet.
Fast forward to the bottom of the 8th inning of Game 3. The Red Sox are trailing by two runs. With Mookie Betts on first, in stepped the tying run in the form of David Ortiz. It seemed like the perfect Hollywood script. With one swing of the bat, Ortiz could tie the game and save the Red Sox like he had done so many times before. Then, on the fourth pitch of the at-bat…he drew a walk. He was then lifted for pinch-runner Marco Hernandez, meaning unless the Red Sox tied the game, his final moment in a Red Sox would be an anti-climactic four-pitch walk. The Red Sox failed to tie the game and just like that, the 2016 season and career of David Ortiz had come to a sudden end.
Are the Red Sox Able to Win Without Him?
There was suddenly a very big hole to fill in the Red Sox lineup. Many fans were begging for a big move like signing Edwin Encarnacion to replace Ortiz. Instead, the Red Sox put together a big package and traded for White Sox ace Chris Sale to bolster the pitching rotation. They also added first baseman Mitch Moreland, who was put in the unfortunate role of being compared to David Ortiz at first. The 2017 season rolled on with the Red Sox winning the AL East for the second season in a row before being eliminated in four games by the Houston Astros in the ALDS. Another disappointing finish.
The 2018 team saw a few big changes. Most notably, manager John Farrell was fired and replaced by Alex Cora and J.D. Martinez was signed in hopes of him becoming the next Red Sox slugger. They did not disappoint. The 2018 Red Sox won a team record 108 games and the American League East for the third consecutive year. They made light work of the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers on their way to winning the World Series with what looked like ease. They rewrote the script.
New heroes were born. Mookie Betts won AL MVP. J.D. Martinez became the first player in MLB history to win the Silver Slugger Award for two different positions in the same year. Brock Holt hit for the first cycle in MLB postseason history. Multiple clutch hits from Rafael Devers, Eduardo Nunez, ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr., Mitch Moreland, and World Series MVP Steve Pearce. Great pitching performances from Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi, among others. We certainly can’t forget one thing….DAVID PRICE WON A PLAYOFF GAME!
We can officially and properly close the book on the legacy of David Ortiz as a member of the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox will never truly replace the human being that is David Ortiz, but they’ve proven they don’t have to. No more “what ifs”. Success is the best way to get over a loss. The Red Sox have found success and can move on. Now we can truly take a moment to appreciate what David Oritz meant to them.
So thank you, David Ortiz. Thank you for years of clutch hitting. You were truly a superstar with an irreplaceable personality. You raised the standard here. The impact you had on this organization and community will never be forgotten. Thank you for 2004, 2007, and 2013. There are many memorable moments from the 2004 postseason, to smashing the Baltimore dugout phone, to the big grand slam against Detroit in 2013. But if there’s one moment that sums up what you meant to us best, it has to be The Speech.
This is our f—-ing city, and this is your f—-ing legacy.
Gear Up: Sox Sphere Christmas!