Look at his seven home runs and 16 RBIs since Aug. 14 as proof.
Look at his sprint down the first-base line to leg out an infield single during the bottom of the fourth inning of the Red Sox’ 9-5 loss to the White Sox on Thursday. Ortiz hasn’t moved that fast since he was a kid chasing the big league dream in the Dominican Republic. Boston was losing 9-0 to Chicago at the time of the 90-foot dash, and Big Papi was hustling like it was the bottom of ninth in a 3-3 game with the Yankees.
Look at his walk-off home run this week. With one swing of the bat, he reminded all of New England that he still knows how to play hero and send everyone to bed in a good mood.
Big Papi is back. And so is his booming personality and charm. Ortiz has smiled more this past month than he has in the rest of the season combined. The Red Sox missed this part of the slugger’s player profile almost as much as his loud bat.
They don’t have to worry about going without either anymore.
With all the stress and distraction of having his name associated with “the list” now a tiny dot in the rearview mirror, Ortiz has been able to focus on hitting baseballs and having fun. And he’s been doing plenty of both.
Don’t underestimate the role Victor Martinez has played in the turnaround. It’s not a coincidence that Ortiz’s return to the happy-go-lucky Papi of old has taken place with Martinez on the roster. Ever since the former Indian walked into the Red Sox clubhouse, Martinez has been a ray of sunshine for the entire team. Especially Ortiz.
Big Papi now has his Manny again — a Latin American brother-in-arms who can provide protection in the lineup and laughs in the dugout. Martinez is Venezuelan, and he and Ortiz have become fast friends. They can talk hitting or smack in Spanish. They can analyze an opposing pitcher’s weaknesses or crack jokes. The two players can relate on a level Papi hasn’t been able to do with a teammate since Manny Ramirez was shipped to the Dodgers. The only difference is that Martinez doesn’t carry any extra baggage. He’s drama-free.
Chemistry is an intangible quality. Some people dismiss it as unimportant or insignificant, but chemistry can change the course of history – for better or worse. In the case of the Red Sox, the addition of Martinez has loosened up everyone in Boston and brought out the best in David Ortiz.
The heart of the Red Sox is beating, and its soul is handing out beatdowns. Joy has returned to Big Papi’s game. He is comfortable again. The pain of watching him look confused in the batter’s box — like he was swinging a sledgehammer at a watermelon seed — has been replaced by excitement and anticipation of what he will do next. The automatic out has been transformed into a rally starter.
Thanks to Martinez, the real Big Papi has reemerged. Just in time to lead the Red Sox down the stretch.