It was obvious after last season that the Red Sox needed to make wholesale changes. A certain foundation needed to remain intact, though, and Ben Cherington thus made the key decision to re-sign David Ortiz.
Ortiz, who turns 38 in November, hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. The hulking designated hitter has mashed all season, and he added to his impressive resume by reaching a familiar milestone in the Red Sox’ 12-3 victory over the Orioles on Friday.
Ortiz smacked his 30th home run of the season in the eighth inning Friday. The three-run blast put the Red Sox ahead 11-3 at the time, so it was far from the most important homer of the slugger’s 17-year career, but it dropped him in with some very elite company.
Only Ted Williams (eight) has more 30-home run seasons than Ortiz, who now has seven such campaigns after launching home run No. 30 on Friday. And only Williams (nine) and Jim Rice (eight) have more 100-RBI seasons than Ortiz, who reached the 100-RBI mark for the seventh time on Wednesday in Colorado. Ortiz and Williams are tied atop the Red Sox’ all-time list with seven 30-homer/100-RBI seasons.
In other words, Ortiz’s legacy just keeps growing.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Ortiz said Friday of reaching the 30-homer mark for the first time since 2010. “All I try to do is be consistent. I know I’m one of the forces on this ballclub.”
Ortiz has been a force since Day 1. He enjoyed a breakout season with Boston in 2003, and then capped a terrific 2004 season with a bunch of playoff magic that helped the Red Sox secure their first World Series title in 86 years. It was clear at that point that Ortiz would forever be held in high regard around Boston, but his legend is beginning to reach new heights with each bit of success. After all, it takes a special player to get grouped in with Teddy Ballgame.
It seems like just yesterday that there was talk of Ortiz being washed up. In 2009, at age 33, Ortiz had a poor season by his standards, and the whole idea of him continuing his career in Boston wasn’t exactly a foregone conclusion. And while Ortiz silenced critics from there, a new contract again wasn’t a foregone conclusion this past offseason, as Cherington needed to determine whether the Red Sox — a team desperately needing fresh blood — were better off cutting ties. Now, with Ortiz spearheading Boston’s remarkable 2013 success, the mere idea of Papi playing elsewhere seems ridiculous.
Ortiz is hitting .308 with a .395 on-base percentage and .960 OPS. Even despite missing the first 15 games of the season with an injury that he suffered in 2012, Ortiz has managed to play in 136 of Boston’s 160 games. The Red Sox’ newcomers have played a huge role in transforming the Red Sox, but Ortiz has been a rock in the middle of the order — as he’s been for 11 years in a Sox uniform. It’s quite possible that Boston wouldn’t have enjoyed its incredible turnaround this season without Ortiz being part of the mix.
Earlier this season, Ortiz collected his 2,000th career hit during a 20-4 rout of the Tigers at Fenway Park. After the game, he said that joining the Red Sox was the best thing that ever happened to him. As Ortiz keeps padding his resume en route to what he hopes is his third World Series title, it’s obvious that him signing on the dotted line back on Jan. 22, 2003, was also one of the best things to ever happen to the Red Sox.
We didn’t need Friday’s milestone to prove anything. But watching Ortiz slug the big 3-0 once again offered a reminder of just how consistent he’s been, and how things might have been much, much different if he actually took his talents elsewhere.