David Ortiz didn’t change much when he hammered a double into the left-center field gap Wednesday to record his 1,689th hit as a designated hitter. He simply reaffirmed that he’s one of the greatest Red Sox players of all time.
Ortiz’s performance against the Mariners on Wednesday was fitting. Not only does Ortiz now hold the all-time record for hits by a DH with 1,690 following a 2-for-3 effort, but he also broke the record in the city that another great designated hitter called home for 18 years.
Edgar Martinez put together a fantastic — perhaps Hall of Fame-worthy — career while playing nearly two decades for the Mariners. He owned a .312 career average, an unprecedented .418 on-base percentage and a .933 OPS that’s right on par with Ortiz’s career mark. In other words, he stands as the only DH in the history of baseball who rivals Ortiz.
But while the whole Ortiz vs. Martinez debate will rage on, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s also an incomplete argument. We can go over the head-to-head stats, bicker about which DH has meant more to his organization and so on and so forth, yet one half of the squabble is still adding accolades and making an impact. Ortiz might be at the tail end of his career, but with the way the 37-year-old is swinging the bat this season, it’s impossible to pinpoint when exactly he’ll slow down.
Ortiz may or may not be the greatest designated hitter of all time. It’s a debate that’s complicated by the differing styles of the two hitters, as Martinez was an on-base machine whereas Ortiz’s most daunting quality has always been his ability to hit the ball out of park. What isn’t debatable, however, is that Ortiz isn’t done leaving his mark on the Red Sox organization or baseball as a whole.
With nine All-Star Game selections in 10 years, Ortiz has become a model of consistency. His nine selections are the most among all major leaguers over the last 10 seasons, and he’s tied with Bobby Doerr for the third-most All-Star selections in Red Sox history. Ortiz trails only Carl Yastrzemski (18) and Ted Williams (17) when it comes to Red Sox All-Star prestige, which speaks to his status within the club’s storied history.
Ortiz was written off by many back in June 2009. He had just one home run through the first two months of the season, his average sat at a putrid .185, and it appeared that the big fella’s best days were behind him. Ortiz’s self-confidence never wavered, though, and the slugger got back on track and never looked back.
Among designated hitters, Ortiz is the all-time leader in hits (1,690), runs scored (1,018), doubles (432), home runs (370), extra-base hits (819), and RBIs (1,209). Above all, he is a two-time World Series champion who, after 11 years with the Red Sox, is still being heavily relied upon to produce some much-needed pop in the middle of the lineup.
Nowadays, the designated hitter role is typically reserved for aging players who have a little something left in the tank offensively but are unable to play the field. Ortiz might be aging, and he doesn’t play the field, but his offensive prowess and game-changing ability are still at an elite level.
Ortiz, arguably the greatest DH that baseball has ever seen and undoubtedly one of the greatest players that the Red Sox have ever seen, didn’t need a hits record to validate his status. But Ortiz can at least toss the achievement onto his resume, which seems to grow every time he steps into the box.